20 Songwriting Tips Part 2



This is the 2nd in a series of blogs based on a recent workshop I did for Sweetwater Sound. Had a great time with this short workshop for over 200 people. I had done a full day workshop the Thursday before but this one hour session on Sat June 18th was a chance to try something different. I decided to choose my 20 favorite toolbox tips. These are a little random, some pretty outside the box, some you may have run into but all are my go-to’s.

Here are numbers 1 though 5.

1) “Get Uncomfortable”. Do whatever it takes to get outside your comfort zone. Can be another instrument (don’t be afraid to suck!), setting up a co-write with someone new, trying a foreign technique …anything to shake it up. I love the David Bowie quote that to be an artist you need to wade into the water just far enough to to be scared sometimes.

 2)   “Write prose”. Before you really dig in to writing your lyric take some time to write a bit of prose. Just enough to remind yourself what you’re writing about. We can get caught up in writing a lyric and choose clever rhymes or create new characters and situations but if you keep referring to the prose you wrote you have a better chance of staying on track, writing about that one thing.

 3) “2nd Concept”. Stories and concepts are familiar in Nashville writing sessions but sometimes digging deeper, past the the first thing that comes to mind can be the money idea. If you give it time, your sub-conscious can be a pretty creative co-writer when it comes to this.

 4)  “Housekeeping”. Get in the habit of presenting your lyric, typewritten with the verse in plain text, chorus in bold and bridge in italic. Publishers and session players will love you!

 5)  “Walk away from the instrument for your melodies!” If you play an instrument and you come up with melodies while you’re playing try recording just the chord changes. Take that recording away from your instrument and writing area and the freedom may open up a waaaay better melody. We tend to almost be performing when we try and play and come up with a melody.

Hope these are helpful, more to come!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

July 5, 2016


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About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting, Songwriter Magazine,  , sponsor for the ASA, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.