Back To The Songwriter’s Woodshed

The Old Woodshed

In the brief time I attended Berklee in Boston the real jazz guys used to refer to practice as “wood shedding” . What this meant was to kind of go back and really hone in on your skill-set or your “chops”.

Now I’ve been writing a looooong time and it’s easy to fall into a mindset of “been there and done that” and feel like I’m pretty well equipped to work on any type of song. After all I’ve got my toolbox, my go-to tricks and if all else fails, my guitar and rhyming apps:-)

I’ve been coaching songwriters all over the world for a few years now and much of that time is spent on ways to be inspired. I still feel we’re only inspired a small amount of time and the rest of our time is spent digging for things to write about. That’s a whole ‘nother subject for another time. What I wanted to talk about today are the things that have been getting me fired up, out of my own head and into the woodshed.

The New Woodshed

YouTube guitar and keyboard lessons.  A beautiful thing and …they’re free. You can go back to them endlessly and no one sees you get frustrated. You can suck and no one’s keeping score! My favorite these last few weeks is this guy, Justin.  Now I don’t know his last name, I guess I could find out but it really doesn’t matter. It’s his vibe. I don’t want to be intimidated and I don’t want to be exposed as the guy who can’t shred. I just wanna reconnect with the songs that I love. I’m talking about everything from “Heard It Through The Grapevine” to “In My Life”. Sure I learned them as a kid and know them by heart but there’s something about actually having someone take you back through them in a simple inviting way. Like reconnecting with an old friend.

Whats In It For Me?

Here’s the benefit for us as writers. It’s tactile, hands on. We know these songs but when you spend an hour actually playing them again, seeing how they were put together it’s really eye opening. I’m spending a couple of hours every day with some of my past. It’s inspiring’s starting to make its way into my writing…today.

There are a million videos out there and I’m trying them all. Some are a waste of time but others are time well spent. 

Reconnect, go back to move forward and head to the woodshed!


-Mark Cawley


Nashville , TN

Pic: Goggle Images

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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 Khan 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 worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach.


Mark Cawley of

Mark Cawley of