NOTICED IN NASHVILLE by Brett Beavers
How do you get your songs noticed in Nashville? First things first. Get yourself noticed in Nashville. The smart way.
Present to win
We’ve all heard it. I heard it on my first trip to Nashville, but it didn’t sound like the secret I wanted to hear. (There is no secret) It’s been read and said so many times it’s lost its zip. So how about a tweak. You need to be local to win. Make Nashville your home town. Find your grocery store and your church and your group of friends. Settle in. Maybe you come to town with songs already in your pocket. Maybe you’ve yet to write your first song. Either way you need to be where it happens - Nashville.
Write every chance you can
It is a craft you need to develop, which you will get better at by doing it over and over. While you’re stacking up songs, know what is going on in current country music (radio, streaming, etc). You don’t have to like the songs that are hits, but you need to learn from why they are hits.
Learn to co-write (and bring ideas; be positive; be humble)
Nashville is a co-writing town. At first, write with a lot of different people until you discover your best fits. Here you will begin to create probably the most important element in your career; your network. Find your role in the song. I’ve been the lyric. I’ve been the melody. Sometimes just the cheerleader. I’ve been the driver and the passenger. Take those days when you are the driver as a deposit for those days when you’ll be the passenger. Regardless, be a joy to work with in the room and don’t discount the power of enthusiasm and positivity. I’ll quote my brother, who was quoting someone else (I don’t remember). You may not always be the force that gets a song written; just make sure you’re not the force that keeps one from getting written.
And…remember the song is the star
Leave your ego at home and serve the song. Don’t be afraid to say something stupid. It’s like a brain storming session, not brain surgery. Toss ideas around and keep the flow going.
Work your way up the ladder
Bottom rung - you, without a publishing deal, writing a song alone in your apartment.
Top rung - you, with a sweet publishing deal, writing with Keith Urban.
(fill in the ladder, and keep looking for the next wrung up)
Find your crew
It is a people business and your network is key. This takes time, but since Nashville is now your home it’s the best investment you can make. Places like NSAI, BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC are a few of the places that can help build a network. The music business is like a pinball machine, and you’re the ball. Shoot yourself into the game and bumpers will bounce you all kinds of places you can’t predict. Stay bouncing around. After long enough you just might make a few lights flash.
Find a mentor
If you ever get the opportunity to write with someone that’s been around town a while and had plenty of hits; bring ideas, musical and lyrical. Be humble and enthusiastic, but you don’t have to bow down at their platinum records…just get to work. Don’t come in with nothing. Make them want to write with you again. You can learn valuable wisdom from them about the business, as well as songwriting. You don’t have to call them your mentor, but look at them like one. (Thank you Steve Bogard, who wrote with me early on. He’s one of the best and I learned a lot from him. I’ll never be the lyricist he is. A treasure in town).
Create in the moment
Serve whatever song you are working on that day. Don’t let past songs and your questions about why they haven’t been cut cloud your present. Don’t let the good possibility that what you’re writing won’t see the light of day stop you from writing like it will. Jadedness, cynicism, jealousy, or a chip on your shoulder will not help the writing process. (Network killer alert).
Put your songs behind you and move on
It was always hard for me to do this, but it can help your sanity. If you stay focused looking back at the pile of songs you have, and wonder why they aren’t cut, and what you’re doing wrong, you’ll become discouraged and not be able to focus on the work at hand. Writing your songs and building your network. (I lied earlier. There is a secret. Keep showing up.)
Do it wrong enough
…and you’ll slowly, subconsciously learn to do it right, if you’re paying attention. The process to me seems like this sometimes: go through all the wrong lines or melodies enough and you’ll recognize when the right one lands. This is a skill you can learn. It will take years. Or…sometimes it comes out exactly right the first time.
Go back to “write every chance you can” and repeat the steps.
P.S. Learn to play an instrument
- Just do it. What’s the down side?