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.
Songwriting is a terrible career for control freaks. Sorry. It just is. There is just so much that’s out of your control, and you need to make peace with that.
You control a few things. You control how hard you work… and that’s about it.
You don’t control your natural talents. For example, I can work really hard on my singing and melody-writing, but I’m never gonna be great. So that means I have to give up some control. It’s not me singing the demos or up on stage at the Bluebird. It’s not me writing the melody. Sure, I have input and cowriter approval rights, but it’s not total control. It’s collaboration.
If you don’t have solid producer chops (or communication skills), you don’t have full control over what happens in the demo session. It’s not you playing every lick on every instrument. You just have to hire the best and hope for the best, giving your input along the way.
Once you start pitching the song, you don’t control the reaction of anyone who might hear it. You can’t tuck them in bed the night before to make sure they’re awake and focused. You can’t keep a bad-news email from hitting their inbox just before your meeting, etc.
And if your song makes it to the artist and they like it, you can’t control if they just cut a similar song the week before so they pass on yours.
And you sure don’t have control if an artist takes your song into the studio to cut it. You don’t hire their musicians. They don’t have to cut the song just like the demo. And the artist doesn’t have to sing it exactly like you want.
And you don’t get a vote on whether your song makes the final album or gets singled.
So many things can happen to derail your song. But that doesn’t mean you’re not doing your job. Your job is to work really hard, write the strongest songs you can, and do your best to put them in a position to win.
At the end of the day, that’s how you should evaluate your success:
Did I work hard?
Did I write the best song I could?
Did I do what I could to get my song in front of someone who can say, “yes?”
If so, you controlled what you could. Make peace with the rest. I know it’s hard, but when you stop spending all that emotional energy on being a control freak, you have more energy to devote to your life, your family, and to working on things that matter.
THE PRO KNOWS
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