Are Your Songs Stuck On "Nice"?

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

The Kiss on The Cheek

I’m coaching songwriters, worldwide, every week and one of the most common complaints I hear in the beginning is they feel stuck. Not talking writer’s block in this case, more that they’ve been digging in, learning tools, getting their songs out there and the feedback they’re getting is the dreaded “nice” comment. Nice is a kiss on the cheek, nice is “good effort”, or “you really know your craft”. Nice is “I like it, I just don’t LOVE it.” Nice is good and good is the enemy of great. To get to that next level your song needs to be great. Period.

Maybe when you’ve hit this stage you feel writing has gotten harder or not as much fun as it was when you took joy in just being able to come up with a fully formed idea. The more tools you’ve been picking up, the more knowledge you’ve accumulated the more tough choices you have. All good until you find yourself hitting a wall. It becomes a battle. “My song is as good as what I’m hearing on the radio”, “my friends love my song”, “ I’ve put in the hours”…may all be true but you still get the “nice” comment more often than not.

Original ??

Good place to stop now and remember you’re no longer dealing with just the music, you’re dealing with the music business. You might be getting heard by the powers-that-be who are hearing tons of songs every day in a place like Nashville for instance. You might be ticking every box except for one. The one labeled “original idea”. You can write the most heartfelt love song, killer melody or even come up with a “radio ready” demo but if that person behind the desk sniffs out the least bit of “I’ve heard this before” you’re headed for “nice”. It hurts sometimes because it usually isn’t for a lack of craft or talent at this stage. It’s just not an original idea. I don’t mean gimmicky, I mean the idea or twist in the idea, that makes someone want to love it. 

I know you could argue that lots of what you’re hearing is not great, or not all that unique and you could have a case but…if you’re hoping to stand out from the crowd, including the signed writers, be objective and see if your song is fresh. Fresh is better than nice every time.

If you’re at this stage you know how to write a song. Don’t let the competition part cause you to lose that sense of play. The next step is to play great, don’t play nice!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

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Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

Mark Cawley

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 through 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. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.