Scared Straight Songwriting...Happy Halloween!


No better time than Halloween to write about the things that scare songwriters and artists the most. I have to back up a minute and say one of my favorite things about coaching is the one on one, digging deeper part. We always seem to get around to things that go bump in the night.

Ever wake up wondering if you’ll ever write another song? If you’re really any good? Will you ever get a cut? Will you ever get another cut (this usually comes the night after you get your first one), and do you have any business thinking you belong in this one?

Yeah? Me too.

Even when I’ve gotten past some of the things that used to put me in night-sweats, some new goblin comes along.

I’ve been doing it long enough to be able to look back and know most of the things that scared the crap outta me never came to pass. Maybe they even helped me push to get better. Kinda fun to be scared at least for a minute, gets your blood going. Sometimes for me it’s been going to see another writer and walking away sure that I’m trick-or-treating in the emperor's new clothes. “That guy's the real deal--and I’m naked!”  But that's another dream; it’s a lot less scary the next morning when you get on with writing something new. 

One of my favorite quotes ever came from John Hiatt. In an interview he was talking about the fear that in the past had haunted his songwriting. He finally told himself, “What's the worst that could happen…they put me in songwriter jail?"

Funny thing about songwriters and especially most artists I’ve worked with is that behind the “look at me” side can be some wicked fear. We can be crazy confident on the outside but really we want everyone to love our song, voice, or whatever our focus is. I know I’ve told myself many times that the song is its own reward--even if no one ever hears it, that's ok as long as it kills me and I can’t stop playing it. I lied. I want to write songs that move people…lots of people. Always have. Thats a thrill worth being scared for.



Nashville Tennessee



P.S. Just saw this blog by Seth Godin this morning, check it out!

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Dedicating all my blogs this year to the memory of John Braheny. I still ask every songwriter or artist I coach to pick

up his book before we start talking. 

There is also a college scholarship in John's name, through the California Copyright Conference (John was a past president)'s the link:

Image: Google Images


Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwiide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach.