11 Tips To Maximize A Songwriter Mentoring Session, Part 1: Before The Session

I’ve been on both sides of the mentoring desk- I’ve been the newbie on a visit from Arkansas, and I’ve been a pro mentor to hundreds of NSAI members.  Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you 11 tips that I believe will help you get the most out of mentoring sessions. Today, let’s start with how to effectively prepare for the session.

Define your goals for the meeting and beyond.

Do you want to write hits or just write better?  Those are two different conversations. Are you writing for yourself or for the radio?  How can a mentor help you get where you want to go if you don’t know where that is?

Write down a list of questions and/or topics you want to cover.

Don’t just make a mental note- write it down.  By the way, write it down- and have it in front of you during the meeting.  When you get into the session, when you get nervous or happy or frustrated or whatever, you’re likely to forget something you wanted to talk about.  Prioritize the list to make sure it’s as easy as possible to get to the important ones.  Did I mention that you should write it down?  Write it down.

Choose your songs.

Decide on your songs based on which are most relevant to your goals.  If your goal is to be a hit country songwriter, but you bring in a novelty gospel song to show your range, it’s kind of a waste of time.  Bring songs that are aiming in the direction of your goals.  Put your songs in order of importance.  You might not get to them all, so play your “must-play” song first.  Burn a CD, even if you plan on playing live- what if you break a string or a finger in the middle of the first song?  What if the mentor wants to play the song for a publisher friend later that day?  Be prepared.  Also, have the labeling on the CD be clear and professional with all your contact info on it.

Type your lyrics.

Make two copies of your typed lyrics- one for you (in case you get nervous and forget them in the middle of your song) and one for your mentor.  Some mentors don’t look at lyrics, but others do.  Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  And I don’t care how much you like your own handwriting- a typed lyric is more professional and makes a better impression.  Also, put all your contact info on every page of every lyric.  It doesn’t matter how awesome your song is if they can’t find you or remember who wrote it.

Research your mentor.

I’m not talking about hiding in the bushes.  But who is going to be sitting across the desk from you?  Have they written a hit?  Knowing some of their cuts 1) makes you look more prepared and professional 2) can spur relevant, helpful conversation (“How did you get ‘Happy In Love’ to George Urban?”).  Also, nothing is worse than badmouthing an artist or song to your mentor then seeing that artist’s album hanging on the mentor’s wall.  Oops.

Hope that’s helpful.  Check back next week, when I’ll be discussing how to maximize your mentoring session DURING the session.  Thanks!

If you’d like to discover much more about how to find a songwriting coach- and get the most out of that relationship- check out my Amazon bestselling ebook, “Hit Songwriting: How A Songwriting Coach Can Fast Track Your Success.”  It will help you prepare for the coaching session- what to do before, during, and after the session- and more!  CLICK HERE TO FAST TRACK YOUR SUCCESS.


Any great experiences with a mentor?  Any nightmares?  Any advice on finding a great mentor?  Leave a comment!


Be sure and tune in to the Canadian Country Music Awards this Sunday night (September 8, 2013).  Not only is my cowriting buddy, Gord Bamford, nominated for seven awards, word has it he’ll be debuting a song he and I wrote with Byron Hill.  Thanks, Gord!


3 thoughts on “11 Tips To Maximize A Songwriter Mentoring Session, Part 1: Before The Session”

  1. Opinions and advice are a dime a dozen. It’s very important to, as the last Knight said in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, “choose wisely”. I went through NSAI awhile back and got mentored by, you guessed it, Brent Baxter. I was told ahead of time to think about and write down what my questions were, what my goals were and what I wanted to accomplish. I went in with fear and trepidation. I was immediately put at ease and made to feel not only comfortable, but as an equal. I came away from the session feeling like “I can do this”. Another person who’s mentored me is Sheree Spoltore at Global Songwriters Connection. This was also a great session and she knew all the right questions in order to give me accurate advice. I believe in mentoring. Not living in the ‘Ville has made it even more important to me. Find the right mentor by lots of questions, asking established reputable organizations such as mentioned and you will get good solid advice. Did I say I was once mentored by Brent Baxter………I did……ok, Brent I’ll expect a check soon. :-). Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.