Tag Archives: Alan Jackson

It Takes A Lot Of Songwriting Swings To Get A Hit

Don’t give up on your song if the first publisher doesn’t love it. And don’t give up on that publisher if they don’t love your first song. You usually have to swing the bat a lot of times to get a hit. Here are a few of my stories that prove that.

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I hope these stories from my songwriting journey inspire you on YOUR journey.  And there are some lessons in this we’ll get to at the end.

*Back before I had any success as a songwriter, I cold-called Major Bob Music, a publisher. They said I could drop off a comp (a comp is a few songs on a CD). I never heard back from them. Months later, a mutual contact in the industry, Chad Green, recommended me to them. We eventually sign my first publishing deal.

*My first meeting at ASCAP was with Mike Doyle. He saw potential in a couple of songs, but he probably forgot about me the minute I walked out of his office. About five years later, he’s my songplugger at Major Bob.

*Years later, a different publisher didn’t believe in my song, “Crickets” enough to demo it. My cowriters did a guitar/vocal, anyway. I pitched it to Joe Nichols’ label. They passed. More pitches. Eventually, it got put on hold for Easton Corbin. Didn’t get cut. Joe Nichols got a new record label. Pitch. Cut. Title track to his album, “Crickets.”

*I had a song idea and lyric called, “Monday Morning Church.” This was back in Little Rock, Arkansas. I showed it to (at the time) my main cowriter. He never did anything with it. I showed it to another potential cowriter. Nothing happened. Then I met Erin Enderlin. She loved it. We wrote it, and Alan Jackson made “Monday Morning Church” a top five hit.

What does this mean for you?

It means you shouldn’t give up!

What if I had given up on “Monday Morning Church” because the first few potential cowriters passed on it? What if I’d given up on “Crickets” because my publisher didn’t love it? What if I had given up on Major Bob Music because they apparently didn’t love the songs I dropped off or because one of their songpluggers didn’t do backflips over me five years earlier?

Nobody will believe in you or your music… until they finally do.

I’ve heard stories of producers who had to hear a song 3, 4 or 5 times on separate occasions before they finally “got it” and cut it. What if those writers had given up after only one try?

The people who succeed in the music business are the ones who don’t give up. I know the feeling. I know it’s frustrating. You write a song that you really believe in… and the first publisher you play it for skips to the next song halfway through the chorus without any comments. Or you finally get that first publisher meeting- and they say you need to “dig deeper.”

It hurts.

But if you want to be a pro, you have to act like a pro. And pros will take an honest look at themselves and their writing. Then they’ll get out the guitars and write another song. Then demo another song. Then pitch another song. Then call another publisher. Eventually, they’ll call the same publisher back. Or they’ll pitch that same song again. Why? Because…

Pros know that their songs probably won’t be “the right song at the right time” the first time.

We also know WE probably won’t be the right songwriter at the right time the first time, either. I sure wasn’t the right songwriter the first time I met Mike at ASCAP. But I WAS the right songwriter at the right time a few years later at Major Bob.

You’ll never hit home runs if you don’t keep swinging the bat.

So, what about you? Is there a song you believe in that’s been passed over? Maybe it’s time someone hears it again. Maybe you’ve been passed over as a writer. Maybe it’s time to put yourself out there again.

Let me help.

I’m hosting Songwriting Pro’s Play For A Publisher event next month. Now that I’ve done a few of these, I’ve seen some cool stuff happen. I’ve seen a songwriter who didn’t make it to one Play For A Publisher – make it to the next. I’ve seen the same song NOT make it to one Play For A Publisher, then make it to the next.

Maybe THIS time is the right time for you. CLICK HERE to learn more, submit your song, and take another swing.

Tim Hunze is coming back to do another Play For A Publisher event in June!  He’s a successful publisher with Parallel Music in Nashville, Tennessee.  Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited.  CLICK HERE to check out all the details and submit YOUR song for Tim!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

SWP 4

You’ll Probably Regret Not Bringing This To Your Next Cowrite

This is an encore edition of a recent blog post.  I’m re-releasing it for two reasons: 1) it’s a really important topic and 2) I have a great opportunity for you at the end of it.  Thanks! -Brent

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Let me tell you a tale of two cowrites, both from my early “pro” days. First… the bad cowrite.

I was signed with Major Bob Music at the time, and “Monday Morning Church” had recently been a top 5 country hit for Alan Jackson.  But in spite of having a publishing deal and a hit under my belt, I was still pretty much a newbie trying to figure things out.  (I still feel that way to be honest.)  Anyway, Major Bob hooked me up to cowrite with a legit hit songwriter.  This guy had many cuts and hits to his credit, and I was honored to get in a room with him.

We met at his publishing company on Music Row.  After a little chit chat, he got that familiar look on his face.

“So… got any ideas?”  No.  Not really.

I mean, I had a bunch of hooks and some ideas, but nothing great.  Nothing I was busting a gut to write.  And I apparently didn’t have anything that impressed him, either.  After I threw out several “shoulder-shruggers,” he said, “Man, we need an idea like ‘Monday Morning Church.'”  Too bad.  I must have left my stack of “Monday Morning Church” ideas at home that morning.

We chatted some more, eventually moving out to the porch where he smoked a cigarette and I watched my hopes of making a good impression going up in smoke.  We called it a day.  I call it a failure of preparation on my part.  We’ve never written again.  For me, I was embarrassed and in no hurry to risk wasting his time again.

Now for the good cowrite.

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I met Byron Hill at Chad Green’s ASCAP Country Workshop.  And, if I remember correctly, Carla Wallace at Big Yellow Dog Music also helped connect us.  We got a cowrite on the books, and I was pumped.  Byron has written a bunch of hits including, “Fool Hearted Memory” for George Strait, “Born Country” for Alabama, “Politics Religion & Her” for Sammy Kershaw and many, many more.

I did my homework.  I pulled together several ideas and lyrics that I thought he’d like.  I really wanted to make a good impression on him. When Byron asked, “So… got any ideas?” I was ready.  He loved a lyric sketch I brought in called, “Ring On The Bar,” and we were off to the races.

This first cowrite led to some success and more opportunity.  While “Ring On The Bar” hasn’t been a big hit yet, it’s been recorded by John Pierce (RCA), James Dupre’ (The Voice), and has been on hold by several artists, including Brad Paisley.

But the big thing is that Byron and I went on to write several more songs together, including the 2014 Canadian Country Music Awards Single Of The Year (and my first #1) “When Your Lips Are So Close” with Gord Bamford.

Good thing I showed up with a good idea on that first day, huh?

And that brings me to the point of these two stories.  I believe that a strong idea is the most valuable thing you can bring to a cowrite (other than Kris Kristofferson).  “Well,” you might say, “how come these big-time songwriters didn’t throw out any of THEIR ideas?”  Here’s why:

A great idea is really the only thing a newer songwriter has to offer a seasoned pro.

Let’s face it, if you get to write with an established pro songwriter, what do THEY need from YOU?

new songwriter offer pro

They have a more valuable name in the business.  They have more connections.  They most likely bring a higher level of songwriting skill.  The only thing they need is a fresh, cool idea or melody.  Unless you’re swinging around a big fat record deal, your job is to bring in the idea or the start of a song.

If the pro has a great idea, he surely has several proven, established cowriters who could write it with him.  Why risk giving 50% of HIS idea to a songwriter who might not contribute very much?

Let me tell you, it’s more fun (and profitable) when you have a strong answer for “got any ideas?” – and I want you to be prepared when that question comes your way.  And that question doesn’t need a good answer ONLY if you get a pro cowrite.  That question comes up in EVERY cowrite.  Every time you step into the writing room, you have the opportunity to blow away your cowriter with a great nugget or idea.

Feeling like I have a stack of strong ideas allows me to walk into any cowrite with confidence.  We might not always write my idea, but I came prepared… and my cowriter knows it and appreciates it.

I want YOU to have that confidence – and those results, too.  I want your cowriters to be glad they showed up to write with you.  But I DON’T want you to have to go through years of trial, error and the occasional embarrassing cowrite like I did!  That’s why I dive deeply into the topic in my upcoming web-workshop series in August called “Song Ideas: From Blank Page To Finished Lyric.”

Blank 2 Finished

This course is designed to take you from a blank page to a new song idea to a fully developed concept to a finished lyric. You’ll learn a repeatable process you can use to discover and develop strong song ideas again and again. And you’ll also learn how to frame and focus those ideas for maximum commercial impact and appeal.

This course is INTERACTIVE! You won’t sit back and just stare at me talking for an hour-and-a-half. You won’t be some number on my dashboard. No. We’ll be face-to-face. You’ll have exercises to practice outside of our sessions. I’ll ask you questions. You can ask me questions. We’re in this thing together. That’s why I keep the workshops small- I want to get to know YOU!

Tickets for this event are on sale NOW. There are only 11 spots open, and I expect them to go fast- so don’t wait too long and miss your chance to take your songwriting to the next level!

I look forward to seeing you in August- CLICK HERE or on the image below to learn more and reserve your spot now!

Blank 2 Finished

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

SWP 4

A Great Way To Get Noticed As A Songwriter

Man vs. PRO

What’s worse than having someone hate your song?  Having them immediately forget it.

It’s easy to listen to today’s country or Christian (or pop, or…) radio and think, “Wow – most of these songs are written within a pretty small box.  Most of them are pretty similar, and there aren’t many risks being taken.  I guess if I want cuts, I have to play it safe, too.”

Or maybe you get so much advice about, “don’t make the singer look bad,” “don’t alienate the listener, etc.” (and I admit I’ve said that, too), that you only want to play your “safe radio” songs for publishers or other people in the biz.

I think playing it safe is sometimes a big mistake.

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Nashville is all stocked up with safe, sound-alike songs.  We don’t need yours.  We already have writers and artists that are really good at writing what’s already on the radio.  And they’re more connected than you.  Plus, most other aspiring hit songwriters are playing the same kind of stuff all up and down Music Row.

You can’t stand out in a sea of sameness by bringing in more of the same.

sea of sameness

You need to bring something new to the table.  Fresh melodies, fresh ideas, crazy tracks.  Bottom line: they’re not looking for what they already have.  Here’s a piece of advice:

Write some songs that feel “too real for radio.”

too real for radio

Write some songs that are so honest that you feel a little uncomfortable playing them across the desk from a publisher.  Don’t just write what you think a songwriter would say.  Tell the truth.  The truth- the raw, honest truth- is always fresh and relevant.

truth relevant

The point is not to make the publisher or whoever stand up and shout, “This is so great, it’s gonna change our whole format!”  No, the point is to make the listener think, “Wow. This person is a songWRITER.”  Let them know that you can access honest, real emotions.  Yeah, sure- also bring in a song or two that shows them you know how to play in the safe commercial sandbox.  But it’s really important to show them that you can draw on things a lot deeper than pickup trucks and riverbanks.

The honest line you want to rewrite because it’s “too honest” is exactly the line that will make the listener feel something.

After all, didn’t you feel something when you wrote it?  Chase that!  If you felt an honest emotion, maybe the listener will, too.

It’s better to be too real than too safe.

I’m not talking about adding in shock value just for the sake of shock value.  No, I’m talking about fearless honesty.  Maybe these aren’t the ones that’ll get cut.  It’s a success if the publisher says, “Wow. That’s great.  It’ll never get on the radio, but it’s great.”  It might feel like a back-handed compliment, but it’s actually a very good compliment.

I had a publisher tell me once, “Too many writers get so concerned about what will or what won’t get on the radio that they knock all the cool stuff off their songs in the writers room.  Don’t worry about going too far- that’s MY job!  I can always reign you in, but I can’t draw you out.”

Oh, and the comment about, “It’s great, but it’ll never get on the radio…”

That’s what people said about my song, “Monday Morning Church.”  And that song became a top 5 single for Alan Jackson.

Hmm…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Have you gotten a “too real for radio” reaction?  Or a “too vanilla” reaction?  Please leave a comment!

If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs or do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE.  I want to help you on your songwriting journey.  I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises.  CLICK HERE TO START HERE.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

SWP 4

The Most Valuable Thing You Can Bring To A Cowrite

Man vs. PRO

Let me tell you a tale of two cowrites, both from my early “pro” days. First… the bad cowrite.

I was signed with Major Bob Music at the time, and “Monday Morning Church” had recently been a top 5 country hit for Alan Jackson.  But in spite of having a publishing deal and a hit under my belt, I was still pretty much a newbie trying to figure things out.  (I still feel that way to be honest.)  Anyway, Major Bob hooked me up to cowrite with a legit hit songwriter.  This guy had many cuts and hits to his credit, and I was honored to get in a room with him.

We met at his publishing company on Music Row.  After a little chit chat, he got that familiar look on his face.

“So… got any ideas?”  No.  Not really.

I mean, I had a bunch of hooks and some ideas, but nothing great.  Nothing I was busting a gut to write.  And I apparently didn’t have anything that impressed him, either.  After I threw out several “shoulder-shruggers,” he said, “Man, we need an idea like ‘Monday Morning Church.'”  Too bad.  I must have left my stack of “Monday Morning Church” ideas at home that morning.

We chatted some more, eventually moving out to the porch where he smoked a cigarette and I watched my hopes of making a good impression going up in smoke.  We called it a day.  I call it a failure of preparation on my part.  We’ve never written again.  For me, I was embarrassed and in no hurry to risk wasting his time again.

Now for the good cowrite.

cropped-SWP-2.jpg

I met Byron Hill at Chad Green’s ASCAP Country Workshop.  And, if I remember correctly, Carla Wallace at Big Yellow Dog Music also helped connect us.  We got a cowrite on the books, and I was pumped.  Byron has written a bunch of hits including, “Fool Hearted Memory” for George Strait, “Born Country” for Alabama, “Politics Religion & Her” for Sammy Kershaw and many, many more.

I did my homework.  I pulled together several ideas and lyrics that I thought he’d like.  I really wanted to make a good impression on him. When Byron asked, “So… got any ideas?” I was ready.  He loved a lyric sketch I brought in called, “Ring On The Bar,” and we were off to the races.

This first cowrite led to some success and more opportunity.  While “Ring On The Bar” hasn’t been a big hit yet, it’s been recorded by John Pierce (RCA), James Dupre’ (The Voice), and has been on hold by several artists, including Brad Paisley.

But the big thing is that Byron and I went on to write several more songs together, including the 2014 Canadian Country Music Awards Single Of The Year (and my first #1) “When Your Lips Are So Close” with Gord Bamford.

Good thing I showed up with a good idea on that first day, huh?

And that brings me to the point of these two stories.  I believe that a strong idea is the most valuable thing you can bring to a cowrite (other than Kris Kristofferson).  “Well,” you might say, “how come these big-time songwriters didn’t throw out any of THEIR ideas?”  Here’s why:

A great idea is really the only thing a newer songwriter has to offer a seasoned pro.

Let’s face it, if you get to write with an established pro songwriter, what do THEY need from YOU?

They have a more valuable name in the business.  They have more connections.  They most likely bring a higher level of songwriting skill.  The only thing they need is a fresh, cool idea or melody.  Unless you’re swinging around a big fat record deal, your job is to bring in the idea or the start of a song.

If the pro has a great idea, he surely has several proven, established cowriters who could write it with him.  Why risk giving 50% of HIS idea to a songwriter who might not contribute very much?

Let me tell you, it’s more fun (and profitable) when you have a strong answer for “got any ideas?” – and I want you to be prepared when that question comes your way.  And that question doesn’t need a good answer ONLY if you get a pro cowrite.  That question comes up in EVERY cowrite.  Every time you step into the writing room, you have the opportunity to blow away your cowriter with a great nugget or idea.

Feeling like I have a stack of strong ideas allows me to walk into any cowrite with confidence.  We might not always write my idea, but I came prepared… and my cowriter knows it and appreciates it.

I want YOU to have that confidence – and those results, too.  I want your cowriters to be glad they showed up to write with you.  But I DON’T want you to have to go through years of trial, error and the occasional embarrassing cowrite like I did!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Have you had similar success or failures?  Please leave a comment!

If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs or do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE.  I want to help you on your songwriting journey.  I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises.  CLICK HERE TO START HERE.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

SWP 4

Use Small Details To Make Your Song More Believable

Man vs Row

There is power in finding images that go deeper than the obvious or cliche images.

I had a publisher tell me once, “write about the truck from the INSIDE THE CAB, not from the OUTSIDE.”

“The truck,” of course, is a metaphor for the situation of the song- the song’s emotion and story.  (Funny how I’ve always remembered that metaphor- it’s probably because it’s wrapped in an image.  Hmmm…)

Too many writers (and I was obviously guilty of this) write about “the truck”- the situation in the song- from the outside. They describe it using imagery and details that anyone who isn’t IN that situation could use. It’s the obvious ones. And, usually, it’s the cliche ones.

Our job is to dig deeper.

Dig Deeper

We need to use our memory, our imagination, research, and whatever we have at our disposal (including our cowriters), to write from the inside of the truck.

That’s what I tried to do with my Alan Jackson cut, “Monday Morning Church,” and it made a big difference.

Once the situation was decided- the man had lost his wife, who was the more spiritual of the two and his anchor- the trick was to figure out “what does this look like from the inside?” The results were the opening lines:

You left your Bible on the dresser so I put it in the drawer

‘Cuz I can’t seem to talk to God without yelling anymore

Yes, the part about yelling at God is a bold, raw, and real way to start off a song. But the first line is really important, too. “You left your Bible on the dresser so I put it in the drawer,” balances the big, bold statement yelling at God by giving the listener something small, real and believable. Plus, the Bible sets up “God” in the second line.

Alan Jackson- Monday Morning Church

Use inside details, but be sure and use details that make sense to the listener. Be inside but not too inside. In our truck analogy, write from inside the cab, which people can understand. Don’t write from so far inside the truck that you’re in the carburetor and only a mechanic knows what you’re talking about.

Also, keep the images relevant. They should add to our understanding of the characters or story, not just be filler. In our “Monday Morning Church” example, the fact that she left her Bible on the dresser is very telling. It’s HER Bible. She reads it often enough that she keeps it out where it’s handy. The next lines show the listener, in pictures, that the singer’s putting it out of his sight because he’s too angry at God.  If I’d started off with something like…

“You left your makeup on the counter, so I put it in the drawer

And I can’t seem to talk to God without yelling anymore”

…the first line wouldn’t be nearly as useful.  Yes, it tells us that she left her makeup, but it doesn’t set up the spiritual aspect of her character or of the song.  It’s just a random image that doesn’t “point to the point” of the song.

So next time you write, take your time. Close your eyes and imagine the situation. Then climb into the truck.

Truck Cab

What are some songs that do a good job of writing from inside the “truck?” Do you find that this comes naturally to you, or is it a struggle?  Please leave a comment- I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Since strong imagery is such an important part of professional-level songwriting, I’ve put together a course on imagery. It’s called, “Use Imagery To Supercharge Your Songwriting (Like The Pros Do)” and it’s available now!

 

By the end of the course, you’ll have the basic skills to:

  1. Effectively use both literal and figurative imagery.
  2. Make your story come to life using imagery.
  3. Prove your character’s personality using imagery.
  4. Make your listener connect to your character’s emotions using imagery.
  5. Hook your listener in the song’s first few lines using imagery.
  6. And to begin more songs (more easily) using imagery exercises as the start of your songwriting process.

If you’re ready to “Use Imagery To Supercharge Your Songwriting (Like The Pros Do)” CLICK HERE or on the image below.

God Bless,

Brent

imagery_square_copy

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.

 

 

6 Words That Changed My Life

Man vs Row

In 2002, I was an unknown lyricist who had just moved to Nashville from Little Rock, Arkansas. Almost zero contacts in the music business. No cowrites with pro songwriters.

Fast forward 3 1/2 years. In 2005, I’m standing on stage at the NSAI Awards receiving one of only 12 “Songs I Wish I’d Written” awards given that year. The next night was the ASCAP Awards, where I’d be receiving an airplay award for a top 5 single. I now had a publishing deal at Major Bob Music and wrote regularly with other pro songwriters.

ASCAP Awards

So what got me from point A to point B? What got me from waiting tables at Cracker Barrel with a name tag that said, “Hello, my name is Brent” to having people introduce me as “This is Brent, he wrote ‘Monday Morning Church’ for Alan Jackson?” Well… God took me from A to B, really. God gets all the credit, because it certainly wasn’t because of my songwriting skills at the time.

Looking back now, it’s almost embarrassing how green I was.

And it wasn’t about my networking skills. I still knew almost no one in the music business. I was at an industry party talking to some guy. This was in 2004 after the song got cut but before it was a single. We were chatting about the song, and he said, “Man, I love that song.” I said, “Oh, you know it?” He said, “Yeah. I cut it on Alan.” It was Keith Stegall, Alan’s producer. A legend in the biz and I didn’t recognize him because I’d never actually seen him in person before. I was so embarrassed. So, no…

I was not a networking genius.

And my success wasn’t about my cowriter’s political pull in the biz. It was her first cut, too. She was still in college at MTSU! She did have a well-established publisher pitching the song, though. But our names had nothing to do with the cut.

What God used more than anything else to take me from unknown lyricist to hit songwriter… was 6 little words I ran across in a poem my mother wrote:

“Empty as a Monday morning church.”

An image. A really great image became the core of my first cut and changed my life.

If you’re like me and want to write songs that get on records and radio and compete for the big money, you’re stepping into a very, very competitive business. There are only a few spots available on the album of a major artist. And there are even less slots available on radio.

In a business this competitive, you need every advantage you can get. Small advantages can bring big results. Adding great images to your songs can give you that advantage. It can make you more attractive and valued as a cowriter. It can get you that second publisher meeting. It can make a record label go from “what else do you have” to “let me keep a copy of that.” Likewise, better imagery can take your song from “let me keep a copy of that” to “put that on hold- I want to play it for my artist.” Or maybe great imagery will even take your song from “I want to put that on hold” to “we want to record your song.”

0 small advantage

Great imagery can even make the difference between getting a $300 album cut or a $300,000 hit single.

0 $300

In a business this competitive, the opposite is also true. Your song that’s being held for an artist might not get cut because they decide to record a song that’s just a little better. Or even if they do cut your song, they might single a different song instead. And the difference between an album cut and a hit single is huge. It’s not just a huge money difference, getting a hit single will boost your status and prestige much more than an album cut ever will.

Don’t settle for images that work. Strive for the BEST images you can get into your songs. It’ll make a big difference in your songwriting. And that big difference might just give you that small edge that turns you pro.

0 best image

Think you can’t write great images? Think you either have to be born with the “imagery-gene” or you’re just out of luck? Put those thoughts away. You CAN learn to get a lot better with imagery-writing. My first songs didn’t have nearly the level of imagery I can write now. What made the difference?

Time, education and practice. Now, I can’t do much about “time,” but I can help you with education. Here’s a video clip that you might find helpful.

MvR Video

What about you? What are some of your favorite images from song lyrics? Please share in the comments!

 

Since strong imagery is such an important part of professional-level songwriting, I’ve put together a course on imagery. It’s called, “Use Imagery To Supercharge Your Songwriting (Like The Pros Do)” and it’s available now. By the end of the course, you’ll have the basic skills to:

  1. Effectively use both literal and figurative imagery.
  2. Make your story come to life using imagery.
  3. Prove your character’s personality using imagery.
  4. Make your listener connect to your character’s emotions using imagery.
  5. Hook your listener in the song’s first few lines using imagery.
  6. And to begin more songs (more easily) using imagery exercises as the start of your songwriting process.

Click here if you’re ready to “Use Imagery To Supercharge Your Songwriting (Like The Pros Do)” or click on the image below.

imagery_square_copy

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

Man vs Row

Are your songs filling the G.A.P.S.?

Man vs Row

I’ll never forget the first time I heard one of my songs on the radio.

“Monday Morning Church” had just been released by Alan Jackson, and it was starting to get some spins. It was to be featured on a local (Nashville) radio station’s song-vs-song challenge (a “Friday Night Knockout” kind of thing). They kept promoting it, so I knew it was coming on around 8pm that night.

A good friend had just arrived from Little Rock, and was in the bathroom when the opening fiddle started playing on the radio in the living room. I yelled, “It’s on!” and she came bolting out of the bathroom- tugging up her sweatpants and almost putting on an indecent display as she tried not to trip over herself in her excitement and hurry.

The song was cranked up, and we were totally amped up. We laughed, hugged, and paced around the living room as the song played. I had FINALLY heard my song on the radio! It was an unbelievable feeling. “Wow… he REALLY released it! It’s REALLY on the dad-gummed RADIO!”

Alan Jackson- Monday Morning Church

I want YOU to have that feeling, too.

Don’t say that it can’t happen to you. Sure, the odds are long. The chance of success are small, I won’t deny that. But I’m just an ‘ol boy from Arkansas. I didn’t have any special connections in the music business. I barely knew anybody when I moved to Nashville. All I brought with me was a dream, a knack for words, and a good work ethic. And I brought a song that filled a gap in Alan’s catalog.

Actually, the song filled one of the G.A.P.S. in Alan’s catalog.

What does G.A.P.S. mean?

G.A.P.S. is a memory device I use to remind me where to aim when I’m trying to get a song on an artist’s album. It points out where there might be opportunity- where there might be an empty space (a gap) that my song can fill. It stands for:

G: Growth
A: Achievement
P: Preaching / Positioning
S: Songwriting

In short, “Growth” reminds me to write based on where the artist is GOING. Artists change over time, they evolve, and it doesn’t do me much good to write a song that fits where they’ve been. They need songs that fit where they’re going.

Achievement” reminds me to try and write something that will take the artist’s career up a level. Most artists are always trying to climb the ladder of success, and they want songs that aren’t just going to maintain their current careers. They want songs that are going to win awards, raise their visibility, and grow their careers.

Preaching” is when an artist speaks to THEIR crowd, THEIR listeners. It’s the old saying of “preaching to the choir.” They want songs that their established fans will love. “Positioning” is when a song identifies who an artist is- what their brand is. It says, “I’m a so-and-so kind of person/artist. If you want this kind of music, come to my show or buy my album.”

Songwriting” reminds me to be aware of what kind of song the artist writes himself, and what kind of song he records that somebody else writes. I have a much better chance of getting a cut if I write the kind of song that the artist doesn’t write, but is looking for.

In the case of “Monday Morning Church,” it filled one of the G.A.P.S. in Alan’s catalog. It was a topic and emotion he hadn’t covered before. It was some new material that still fit within the general scope of what he does. It was Alan’s kind of country sound, but the lyric content was new for him.

So the next time you’re writing a song specifically for an artist (or figuring out which of your existing songs to pitch for an artist), think about how you can fill the G.A.P.S.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about earning something nobody can take away. And I’ll let you know about a special opportunity I have coming up.

If you want to be sure and stay in the loop on all things songwriting, be sure and subscribe to manvsrow.com (at the top right or down below)!  I have some cool stuff coming up, and you won’t want to miss out!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

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Let Your Title Write Your Song!

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If you listen closely and patiently, your title will often tell you what your song should be about. This is important because you want your song to be as strong as it can be. And to be strong, everything in the song needs to pull in the same direction.

Everything in your song needs to point to the core idea of the song, which is usually expressed in the title.

If you don’t listen to your title closely enough, you might try to make it something it’s not meant to be. I can tell you from personal experience that when I try to make a title into the wrong type of song, it’s a bear to write.

Just as a house divided against itself cannot stand, a song divided against itself cannot stand out (not in a good way, anyway).

One time, I had a title that made me chuckle when I first thought of it. I decided to write it as a Lee Ann Womack kind of traditional sad ballad. When I mentioned the title and idea to my cowriter, she chuckled, too. But writing it was like pulling teeth.

It was just slow and painful. We had a verse “finished” when we decided that something just wasn’t working. Then we realized, “Duh! The title made us smile- why are we trying to turn a title that makes us smile into a song that makes us cry?”

We decided to try writing it as a fun, attitude thing instead, and everything just fell into place. Once we stopped working against the title and started working with it, the writing process got a lot more fun. And the song got a lot better, too!

Years ago, I found a phrase in a poem that my mom wrote. The phrase was, “empty as a Monday morning church.” I thought “Monday Morning Church” would be a great title, but what was it about?

I started listening. “Empty” evokes sadness or loneliness. “Church” brings in the spiritual- something serious, something heavy. Those elements led me to write a sad country ballad about a grieving man who was having a crisis of faith following his wife’s death.

That whole song came from listening to my title. It went on to become my first hit- a top 5 single for Alan Jackson.

Alan Jackson- Monday Morning Church

Consider “Must Be Doing Something Right,” written by Jason Matthews and Marty Dodson and recorded by Billy Currington. “Right” is good and positive, which lends itself to being a happy/positive song.

“Something” suggests that the singer doesn’t know exactly what it is he’s doing right to get the positive results he’s getting.

The thought of “I must be doing something right, even though I don’t know exactly what it is,” is all over that song. It leads to the thought that a woman is a mystery- different things please her at different times, etc.

“Don’t know what I did to earn a love like this” is often a throwaway / filler line or thought in a generic love song, but not here. In this song, that line has energy because it supports the title and theme of the song. Good writing.

Knowing simple things like this is how you write stronger songs- and market-smart songs (songs that have a competitive advantage in the market).  If you want to  learn more about how to write market-smart songs, check out my ebook, “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.”  Click on the image below or click here to write market-smart songs.

God Bless,
Brent

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.

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Small Details Make Your Song More Believable

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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.

There is power in finding images that go deeper than the obvious or cliche images.

I had a publisher tell me once, “write about the truck from the INSIDE THE CAB, not from the OUTSIDE.”

Too many writers (and I was obviously guilty of this) write about “the truck”- the situation in the song- from the outside. They describe it using imagery and details that anyone who isn’t IN that situation could use. It’s the obvious ones. And, usually, it’s the cliche ones.

Our job is to dig deeper.

Dig Deeper

We need to use our memory, our imagination, research, and whatever we have at our disposal (including our cowriters), to write from the inside of the truck.

That’s what I tried to do with my Alan Jackson cut, “Monday Morning Church,” and it made a big difference.

Once the situation was decided- the man had lost his wife, who was the more spiritual of the two and his anchor- the trick was to figure out “what does this look like from the inside?” The results were the opening lines:

You left your Bible on the dresser

So I put it in the drawer

‘Cuz I can’t seem to talk to God

Without yelling anymore

Yes, the part about yelling at God is a bold, raw, and real way to start off a song. But the first two lines are really important, too. They balance the big, bold statement by giving the listener something small, real and believable. It also sets up “God” in line three.

Use inside details, but be sure and use details that make sense to the listener. Be inside but not too inside. In our truck analogy, write from inside the cab, which people can understand. Don’t write from so far inside the truck that you’re in the carburetor and only a mechanic knows what you’re talking about.

Also, keep the images relevant. They should add to our understanding of the characters or story, not just be filler. In our “Monday Morning Church” example, the fact that she left her Bible on the dresser is very telling. It’s HER Bible. She reads it often enough that she keeps it out where it’s handy. The next lines show the listener, in pictures, that he’s putting it out of his sight because he’s too angry at God.

So next time you write, take your time. Close your eyes and imagine the situation. Then climb into the truck.

What are some other songs that do a good job of writing from inside the “truck?” Do you find that this comes naturally to you, or is it a struggle?

Knowing simple things like this is how you write stronger songs- and market-smart songs (songs that have a competitive advantage in the market).  If you want to  learn more about how to write market-smart songs, check out my ebook, “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.”  Click on the image below or click here to write market-smart songs.

God Bless,
Brent

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The Story Behind “Monday Morning Church”

Alan Jackson- Monday Morning Church

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

A lot of people ask me about the story behind “Monday Morning Church.” Did I lose someone close to me? Did I just make it up? Stick around and find out.

Back in 1999, I was in the final semester of getting my Master’s Degree in Business at Arkansas State University.

At that point, I was writing songs at night and on weekends.

I went back home to Batesville, Arkansas, one weekend to hang out with the folks. My mom, an English teacher, showed me a poem she had written as an example to her students.

The poem was about a teacher’s day, and it had a line that read, “Trudging wearily through the parking lot, as empty as a Monday-morning church.”

When I saw that line, it about blew the top of my head off! I thought it was a brilliant image. Immediately, I told her I was gonna use it.

Back at school, I started working on the lyric (I don’t write melodies). I remember sitting in my little off-campus apartment at my computer and kicking that title around. With an image like “empty as a Monday morning church,” I knew it had to be something serious.

I settled on the idea of a man who had lost his wife and was having a crisis of faith. The first lines of the song came first:

“You left your Bible on the dresser, so I put it in the drawer. ‘Cuz I can’t seem to talk to God without yelling anymore.”

I remember really liking those lines, even though I knew they might be too in-your-face. As it turns out, they seem to be most peoples’ favorite part of the song, so what do I know?

I’m not sure how long it took me to write the first draft of the lyric- probably a few hours over the next couple of days.

The lyric sat around for a few years…

…with occasional false starts by various cowriters. I eventually moved to Little Rock and met Erin Enderlin, who was a Conway native going to school outside of Nashville.

I rewrote the 2nd verse and showed it to Erin during a cowrite her parents’ place over Christmas break. Thankfully, she liked it. A few days later, she played the melody for me. She’s a great writer.

Erin took our song back to Nashville…

…and played it for her publisher, a guy named Jeff Carlton. He demoed the song I believe in 2003, which was after I had finally made the move to Nashville myself.

Even though I had originally written the lyric with a male artist in mind, Erin sang the demo from a woman’s point of view, and Jeff played it for Keith Stegall, a producer in town. Keith loved it, thank goodness.

In August of 2003, Keith put “Monday Morning Church” on hold for Lee Ann Womack.

It was my first hold.

However, he didn’t end up working on that Lee Ann album, and the song came off hold. Then he put it on hold for Terri Clark. It stayed on hold for her over Christmas.

Word was, she was going into the studio in early March of 2004. On the night of my two-year anniversary of moving to Nashville, Erin called with good news and bad news. The bad news was that Terri didn’t cut our song. The good news was that Alan Jackson had put it on hold.

Well, the rest of that month was pins and needles. Jeff called me with the news that Alan had cut “Monday Morning Church” in late March. It was an unbelievable feeling! Erin and I both finally had our first cuts.

And it only took five years and two states to go from an idea to a record.

God Bless,

Brent

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Sept. 22: KNOW THE ROW with CHAD GREEN

Man vs. Row invites you to be a part of an exclusive Google Hangout with music publisher & former ASCAP Membership Representative, Chad Green. Ask Chad YOUR questions face-to-face as we discus how YOU can get on the radar of a publisher or PRO. To find out more, click on the image below:

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