MARC-ALAN BARNETTE - SONGWRITER COACH
Many great ideas have been generated across the country from workshops. One idea in particular that has created a lot of interest and provided a high degree of development for songwriters came from Cliff Nelson of the Orange County Songwriters group…”Write-Up” lessons.
This idea came out of a need expressed by one of their members who mentioned that “It’s one thing to get constructive critiques. That is very helpful. But, it would be even more helpful to learn certain rules and pathways as we are writing, instead of on the backend.” So the “Write-Up” lesson was born.
Now, hundreds of songs later - with a number on hold and / or currently in play – songwriters who have participated in the Write-Up lessons have a much better understanding of songwriting from a focused Nashville perspective.
How do Write-Up lessons work? They are a concentrated 2-hour appointment where the songwriter brings in ideas for songs and I work with them to develop their ideas and teach them how to effectively co-write. The best songs come from conversations and real life experiences. Although each song is different, there are rules that are followed. I help the songwriters to “get outside” themselves and look at the subject in a variety of ways…finding a twist or hook that makes the song memorable and better.
For example, during one lesson a songwriter wanted to write about how he had been hurt by a girl who did not return his affection. The first thought was to write a “poor, poor, pitiful me…you hurt me” song. Instead we gave it a twist, turning it into an up-tempo rocker called “It’s Gonna Be Me.” The guy in the song is oblivious to the girl brushing him off, with the best line stating “What the heck’s a restraining order?”
Another example is from a guitar player for the legendary Frank Zappa. He needed to adjust his guitar playing style to fit a country format. The result was a killer song that came from a conversation he overheard in Nashville. A waitress who had waited on Hank Williams in the 50’s is still remembering him today and is still… “Waiting on Hank.”
These Write-Up lessons have also been very beneficial for songwriters who haven’t written for years and need updating in their form of lines and present tense.
In all cases, my role is to bring sensibilities of looking at subjects in a variety of ways and styles. I’m able to lend my experience from what I’ve learned from the industry’s best through the years and applying it during the Write-Up lessons.
What happens after the Write-Up lesson? We spend time taking an objective look at all the songwriter’s songs. If creating a demo is a goal, we determine which songs warrant a demo and to what extent (Guitar vocal? Full demo?). This helps the songwriter best use their time and money when they take their song(s) into the studio.
Once the demo is complete, I pass all the songs by my song plugging contacts in Nashville. If the song catches the interest of a plugger as being “pitchable”, they take it from there. Because we take the time up front to create the song, then present it at its best on a demo, many songs are pitched. Since this represents people’s hopes and dreams, I take it very seriously and provide the best end product possible.