The Shawshank Songwriter

Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

If you feel trapped in your day job- if you feel like you’re locked in a prison, I recommend watching “The Shawshank Redemption.” There is an important lesson in there for folks trying to escape their day jobs for the freedom of their dream jobs.

After years behind bars, Tim Robbins’ character, Andy, was finally able to tunnel his way out. No, I’m not suggesting you sneak a breakroom spoon into your cubicle and dig when your boss isn’t looking. The lesson is not about the tunneling itself, but how Andy went about it.

He was extremely patient and radically persistent.

You see, Andy knew he couldn’t just make a break for the wall and try to climb over. He would’ve gotten shot. He also knew that he couldn’t tunnel out in one night. There was just an impossible amount of work to do.

Andy knew he could only dig and remove a little bit of dirt a day without getting caught. So that’s what he did. Day after day, month after month, year after year, he dug a little dirt and spread it around the prison yard.

I’m sure there were times he must’ve been so frustrated that he was tempted to scream and hammer at the tunnel wall, desperate to finally get out! But he knew that would only lead to him getting caught- and getting caught meant, at the very least, changing cells and having to start all over.

And maybe that’s how you feel at your day job. You’re frustrated because you feel trapped, yet you can only do a little at a time to escape. Some days you want to walk into your boss’s office quit your day job right then… but you can’t. Maybe you don’t have any savings built up. Or maybe you have a family that is depending on you to bring home a steady paycheck, and you know you can’t let them down.

Or instead of quitting, you’re tempted to lock yourself in your writing room every night after work and polish your songwriting chops or stay out late at songwriter nights every night to network. But you have a spouse and children who need you, so you can’t.

So what do you do?

You do what Andy did.

You plan your escape tunnel. Decide how much and how often you can dig without causing certain financial or family ruin. (Notice I said “certain” not “possible.” There will always be risk in chasing your dream, but you don’t have to be suicidal.) Then you start digging at that pace- day after day, month after month, year after year. Dig as long as it takes.

Yes, it’s going to test your patience. Yes, it’ll feel like it’s taking too long. But be patient. Yes, it will take longer than the mad scramble up the prison wall, but it’s worth it to dig a tunnel big enough to bring your family and a little money with you on your escape.

God Bless,



I’ve recently released my 1st book on Amazon- and thanks to those of you who made it a bestseller in the Songwriting and Music Instruction categories!  If you’d like to get your own copy of Hit Songwriting- How A Songwriting Coach Can Fast Track Your Success, it’s available for FREE, IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD at  Or you can click on the image below.  Thanks!

Gift From Brent Songwriting 3

12 thoughts on “The Shawshank Songwriter”

  1. Brent,

    I am sure you get hit up all the time, but if I sent you a link to one of my most recent demos would you be willing to listen? Or at least to a verse/chorus? I have a plugger in Nashville, and do all my demos there so it is not a home recording. We have come very close on some good cuts, but no success yet. I am just trying to make connections and I would very much appreciate your opinion, and that is all I am asking.

    Thanks for your time, and for the Man vs. Row articles.

    Best, Marvin

    1. Marvin,
      Thanks for thinking of me. However, I’m afraid my schedule doesn’t allow me to do much in the way of listening & giving feedback. If you’re interested in a 1-on-1 Skype song-critique session, you can check out – I’m starting to make a few, limited “office hours” available there.
      God bless,

  2. Wow, I love getting your emails. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really do appreciate it. Eric

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. While I LOVE that movie and your comparison is spot on! Let’s hope after we dig the tunnel, we don’t all have to crawl through the sewer pipe as well!

    Also a great parallel was that he literally only stayed alive, because he was very useful to the establishment. I’ve learned that to be a lot better approach than to be one of the many asking for a favor or to listen to a track etc. Be useful contributing to the quality of life and business to those you hope to connect with through any talent/skill set you have. It’s been fun being the “oh, you do music too” guy for the past couple of years. Most think I work for an audio company or news media until an opportunity pops up for me to play and sing a song.

    Great timing on this one! I’m packing up for a week of day job appointments, and I wasn’t going to bring my music creation (personal) laptop.. a guitar, etc. This is a good reminder that I should.

    Lastly, many thanks for the tip a while ago to check out Evernote. I can use that whether on the work laptop/phone or personal, anywhere anytime to make sure I capture ideas, can edit/add to them, and since it’s so widely used in business, it’s always assumed that I’m working 😉 It has really changed how I organize, share and catalog ideas in a very day job friendly manner!

    1. Excellent point, Tommy! Yes, we win by providing valuable service to others. It’s a desperate business with even successful people often don’t feel secure or satisfied. If you can help them out, it’s more likely that they’ll return the favor someday.

      Glad you’re digging Evernote, too!

  4. As I am digging my way out I feel like giving some specifics that help me a lot getting through this:
    1. Use all timeslots available to be creative.
    2. Seek those things that inspire you most.
    3. Be as productive as possible in your duty it’ll free some time up.
    4. Be as productive as possible when writing it make u feel with progress.
    5. Concentrate in one or two skills at a time it is better to develop fully than halfway.
    6. Know what you really need and refrain yourself from things you don’t need. Learn to live with the basics( this is a big one because it involves your family).
    7.Never, ever stop dreaming about your success.
    8.Never, ever stop working towards success.

  5. Thanks so much Brent this will indeed help me to keep on keeping on I really enjoy word play it allows me to always expand my thoughts on varying subjects this gift will come in handy as I try to write my latest lyrics for “Angel In Waiting” kind of good feeling about your gift and the timing of receiving it kind of a fufilling moment!

  6. Thanks so much Brent this will indeed help me to keep on keeping on I really enjoy word play it allows me to always expand my thoughts on varying subjects this gift will come in handy as I try to write my latest lyrics for “Angel In Waiting” kind of good feeling about your gift and the timing of receiving it kind of a fufilling moment! / credentials can be used.

  7. Great write and excellent comparison! Slow and steady. It’s hard to see the little we do that really does make progress over time. Thanks for the reminder. I have to agree with Thomas, though. If at all possible, avoid the sewer pipe 😉

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