Writer/Singer/Songwriter

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It’s All About “The Climb”

climbWorking on a country ballad written in third person, I’ve been wondering if that will work or if I should rewrite it to be sung in first person. So I googled “country songs written in third person” and discovered that “The Climb” was originally written in third person and rewritten in first person for Miley Cyrus in the Hannah Montana film.

So I found it on youtube and listened and read the lyrics and thought, “Oh my goodness, this is so timely!” Here are a few lines that really hit home (lyrics by Jessi Alexander and Jon Mab).

I can almost see it.
That dream I’m dreaming, but
There’s a voice inside my head saying
You’ll never reach it
Every step I’m takin’
Every move I make
Feels lost with no direction,
My faith is shakin’
But I, I gotta keep tryin’
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb

I started off 2014 with my first songwriting class curious if my writing and love for music could possibly be combined in a song. And now I’ve got 4 songs in pre-production. I have no idea what the next step will/should be but I keep taking one unsteady step after another. I don’t even quite know what I want to happen. Maybe because it really is all about the climb.

 

 

L.A. Girl in Philly

503512-gwen_stefani_617_409It’s a culture shock whenever I travel back East – let’s face it, I’m a California girl, no matter where I’m living at the time. But, at the same time, it’s a fun adventure, too. For one thing, I stand out and that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. People just know by looking at me that I’m not one of them.

In California, there are so many other girls like me – that’s also a good thing and a bad thing. We get each other but it’s harder to stand out. That’s also okay.

So here we are on the shuttle to the car rental at the Philadelphia Airport and this woman on the shuttle is staring at my shoes. Yes, at Thanksgiving I was wearing a black leather jacket with… sandals. I hate wearing anything that keeps my feet locked up  – they need to breathe – lol!

Then, in her New York accent, she asks me if my feet are cold. I tell her no. And then she continues to talk to me, taking it all in. She was mesmerized by me, I could tell. And it reminded me of the first verse of Candy Apple Red.

“He (she) was staring at my calf… or was it my shoes.”

It was like my song had come to life.

This song was well-received by my L.A. mentor – of course, we totally get what the song is about. The woman in Philly just knew there was something intriguing about me.

I had many similar experiences when we lived in Florida. I’m not sure they’re used to “quiet confidence.” It’s different than being loud. And I think that’s why they find me intriguing. It’s kinda fun and kinda scary at the same time. But maybe that’s why Real Women Wear Red is my bestselling novel – it’s got that same attitude.

I’ve got some more pre-production work to do on the song before it’s ready to take into a professional studio recording session. But I’m hoping it will have a future.

L.A. Girls

I’m still flying high after yesterday’s feedback/mentoring sessions with an L.A. Emmy award winning songwriter who really praised Candy Apple Red. She especially liked the lyrics but she also liked the chorus done in a rap-style and gave me some tips for improving the song for the studio. Wow! That will be the next step – so excited!

So now I’ve had positive feedback for a “Jazz” song and a “Pop” song with one more to submit, which is a “Country” song, I’m curious to see what the outcome of all of this is and what direction it points me. Instead of Nashville, will it be L.A.? Of course, my mother and I are L.A. girls so it makes sense that my attitude in my song might be embraced by the L.A. scene.

LAGirlsPhoto of my mother and her friends on a Southern California beach

I remember when attending a family funeral in the Central Valley, my mother said to my step dad, “Why does your cousin still sound like an Okie and you don’t? Oh, yeah, he’s not married to an L.A. girl.” Yep, being an L.A. girl is all in the attitude.

Read more about L.A. girls, Valley girls, and military romances in Letters on Balboa Island.

Song of the Day: Stay Gold

What if our hard work ends in despair?
What if the road won’t take me there?

What if to love and be loved’s not enough?
What if I fall and can’t bear to get up?

But there is only forward, no other way
Tomorrow was your hope at the end of the day

Stay Gold, First Aid Kit, K. Söderberg / J. Söderberg

I heard this interesting song this morning and knew I had to try recording some rehearsal vocals. As I travel on this music journey, I’m still discovering who I am as an artist – singer and songwriter. This song, about moving forward and not looking back, is the perfect song for where I am today.

Stay Gold, adding my vocals on MixCloud

Kathy Holmes on Mixcloud

Speaking of today, this is the day I submit Candy Apple Red for feedback from a Pop A/C professional in my SongU feedback/mentoring class. In case you don’t know, it was my final project in my Modern Musician certificate program.

I uploaded both songs I’d worked on in class to share that stage of my songwriting journey. I know neither are studio quality. The feedback class will, hopefully, tell me if Candy Apple Red has potential and is something I should continue working on or just let it be and move on as I progress in my journey

Roads That Might Lead to Somewhere

cropped-roadnashville

“The Road to Nashville” is my new metaphor for the road to songwriting – wherever it may lead. It’s pretty intimidating – enough so, at times I think I’m just fooling myself. But I do like a challenge, and it’s fun to chase a new dream.

The pic is that of the Dunedin Causeway leading out to Honeymoon Island in Tampa Bay, Florida, one of my favorite places in the world. We’ve lived in Florida twice (Tampa Bay once and Orlando twice) and both times I got so homesick for the West Coast that we moved back west. However, when I’m standing on the Causeway, I don’t want to be any place else – not even Hawaii.

We moved to Tampa Bay about a year after I met my father and it was a faraway locale where I was able to process my entire life. I wrote a lot there and even secured an agent for my novel, Real Women Wear Red.

So Tampa Bay is a metaphor for healing and dreams and roads that might lead to somewhere.

In the meantime, I’m definitely in the mood for “All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan.” But an NSAI (Nashville Songwriters) membership wouldn’t be bad either. :)

Writing a Hit Song One Step at a Time

Yesterday, I received an email totally by surprise and, if you read it through, you’ll see that this songwriter is telling the story of living in the present, following a dream, one step at a time. I don’t know what my musical goal is nor do I know what God has in mind by bringing this to my attention, but the following story is inspiring, no matter your goals.

I WROTE A HIT SONG WITHOUT LIVING IN NASHVILLE

As a songwriter living outside of Nashville, you may think it’s impossible to get a song recorded by a major country star. You’d be wrong, although not by much. Just because you may have a family, job, or other responsibilities that keep you from making a move to Nashville or one of the other major music centers, New York or LA, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a song recorded. All is takes is growing where you’re planted. And a miracle.

Songwriters in Nashville have a decided advantage over those living elsewhere. They are close to the industry, it’s easier to make those all-important personal contacts in the business, and Nashville is a great place to learn the craft of songwriting. There are very few songs getting cut, even by those living in Nashville. So, no, your odds are pretty awful if you live outside of Nashville and are not at least making regular trips there. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but that’s my observation.

But almost impossible is not impossible. I can’t guarantee that God will open a door for you like He did for me, but here’s my story.

In 2000, after graduation from Arkansas State University, I was looking for jobs in Nashville, which, I hoped, would help in my pursuit of a songwriting career. However, the job offer came from a company in Little Rock, Arkansas, so Nashville would have to wait. But I knew I couldn’t afford to be idle in the meantime.

I dove into the local music and songwriting scene in Little Rock, which by no means qualifies as a major music center. But my main cowriter from back home in Batesville was living there, too, so that was a start. Since I’m a lyricist and not a singer, I helped get my friend, Tim Meitzen, some gigs in town.

Now, what follows is a string of steps that by themselves may seem insignificant. But in the end, each of those forward steps led to my big break.

I was downtown one day and saw a flier for an upcoming songwriter’s night. Well, that was pretty rare in Little Rock, and I immediately signed up my co-writer, Tim. (That was part of my job as the non-singing half of our cowriting team.)

Tim played the writer’s round, and we met a few guys who were starting a publishing company based out of Little Rock. Through the course of that relationship, one of ‘em gave me a cd of songs by Erin Enderlin. Erin was a songwriter from Conway, Arkansas, who was currently in college at Middle Tennessee State University outside of Nashville.

Months later, I saw that Erin was going to be performing in Little Rock. She was in over her spring break, and I went out to catch her show. She’d been writing songs in Nashville and was having some success making contacts in the music business.  I gave her a cd of some songs, and she liked them.

Well, when Erin came back over summer break, we started writing together. Then she went back to school and continued making music business contacts. Then, over Christmas break of 2001, I gave her a lyric I’d had for a few years for a song called, “Monday Morning Church.”  She liked it and wrote a great melody for the lyric. Then she was back off to Tennessee.

Now, I ended up finally making the move to Nashville myself in March of 2002, but it was Erin’s contacts that made the cut of that song possible. She brought the song back to Nashville, where she had begun working with a publisher.He demoed the song, played it for Keith Stegall, and it was eventually recorded by Alan Jackson in March of 2004.

Looking back on it now, it might seem like a straight line to the record store, but that’s only in retrospect.  At the time, I was plugging away, just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I could either find or create. I chased several rabbits along the way, not knowing which one would lead somewhere.

And that’s the point.  You don’t know which small step will eventually lead to where you want to go.  No, the writer’s night at Starr’s Guitars wasn’t the Bluebird.  No, Little Rock wasn’t Nashville.  But taking those small steps, growing where I was planted, led to a hit song and the ability to do this for a living.  At least for a while.

I wouldn’t presume to know exactly which steps you need to take. And I certainly don’t think I was so talented that Nashville couldn’t help but notice me. No, I know ultimately, it was up to God to open those doors. He had me in Little Rock at that time for a reason.

If I’d been idle, just waiting to get to Nashville, I might never have gotten here. God has you where you are for a reason. Maybe it’s for music, maybe not. But I do know that where ever you are, it’s important to grow where you’re planted.

I hope my story encourages you to keep chasing your passions. If you want to read more of my songwriting advice and stories, check out Man vs. Row at http://www.manvsrow.com. Thanks!

God Bless,

Brent

Songwriters: Writing in Multiple Genres

I’ve always struggled with genre – whether in writing fiction or writing songs. My interests are just too diverse to limit myself to any one genre. I’m also not a fan of questions like, “What’s your favorite (fill in the blank).” It all depends. Yes, I love red as an accent color but not red everything. Sometimes I like blue or black or turquoise or even pink.

The beauty of being a songwriter is that you can write in multiple genres. For example, for my first song in Songu’s feedback/mentoring session, the song I’ve chosen feels like a Jazz song. This mentor has a strong jazz background and I thought he would be best for this song. A mentor will tell you if it fits better in a different genre.

Other songs I’m working on and will be scheduling feedback sessions for are Alternative Rock, Pop/AC, and Country.

Preparing for my feedback sessions, I’ve been listening to transcripts from other feedback sessions and one thing the mentors say is to pat yourself on the back or reward yourself for taking a risk and putting yourself out there. It isn’t easy and sometimes I think I’m a fool for even trying. But I’d probably be a bigger fool if I didn’t.

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