Songwriters: Don't Keep It To Your Self-ish


A Sharin Thing

I’ve worked in a number of different musical environments over the years. Growing up in upstate New York was pretty fertile ground for musicians , Boston for awhile, The Midwest, Los Angeles for years and the UK. I’ve been in Nashville now for over 16 years and there is definitely something different about the vibe. I think its the sharing thing.

Sounds corny but I swear it’s true. As much as the scene here has changed from pure country to whatever you call country now ( my UK friends sometimes call it Country and Western, love that!) there has always been an openness to the place. If you have something great people are pretty quick to point you to where you need to be, who you need to meet, co-write with or just hang with. Can’t say I ever experienced this much in the other music centers as great as they are. Not knocking them, just a culture thing. Maybe thats it. Maybe it’s a Southern thing, hospitality and all that.

The Retreat

My first real experience with it was years ago when I was in Indiana actually taking a breather from LA and the business after losing a record deal and a publishing deal in the same few months. I was feeling jaded on a good day.

The Reprieve

My phone rings and it’s Tony Brown. He is producing Wynonna's first solo album and she’s in his office. Somehow, someone shared a demo of mine with someone else who shared it with Wynonna who liked it enough to share it with Tony Brown who picked up the phone and called me. Asked if I could come down and share some more songs if I had ‘em. I shared this with my wife and pretty soon I’m driving south.

The next meeting was with Roger Sovine at BMI who likes what he hears and introduces me to a young Clay Bradley who starts picking up the phone while I’m in the office and sharing me with all sorts of amazing folks I’d heard of but hadn’t met. I mean we’re talking days. Nobody was keeping my little bit of light for themselves, locking me up in a bad deal, they were simply doing something I came to find everywhere in Nashville. They were turning someone who had turned them on to someone to someone else.

One more to share. One of the first co-writes for me in town was Mary Ann Kennedy, a terrific singer and songwriter who brought her friend Kye Fleming along and we all ended up writing…a bunch. Some of my favorite songs and two of my favorite people. Kye and I went on to write for a lots of artists, country and pop. No western. 

The Release

I guess it can be easy to want to keep something you discover to yourself, if you give it away it won’t be special right? Believe me I’m not talking about me now, but maybe it’s a connection, a co-writer, a writing trick you learned in your last session that you’re tempted to keep. I know I’ve done it. After all, it will make me look smart won’t it?

Looking back I can’t think of any of those tricks that helped me. Now I’m at the stage ( and age) in my career where it feels good to share something with a young writer and see a light go on. It feels better than good.

In the wise words of the Chili Peppers “ Give it away, give it away, give it away now”

Feel free to share this.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee


Photo: Goggle Images


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About Mark Cawley

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 worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach. In addition he is a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing writer to the US Songwriting Competition , a popular songwriting blogger and from time to time, conducts his own workshops.