Words and Music

My Sweet Spot 

“Oh, you’re still doing that?” is a question that I get from certain people in my life regarding the years I have spent in pursuit of a songwriting career. It is not meant to be mean. Quite honestly, I think it comes from a place of cluelessness. Let me explain. Having a singular passion for the better part of my life, I always thought everyone experienced life the same way, and I just assumed that everyone had that one thing they knew they were meant to do. It has taken me a long time to realize it is simply not true. There are a great many folks out there who do not see life through one all-consuming lens. For those “other” people there is no sense in giving one’s energy, time, money, and whatever else it might cost, to pursue a dream for what is perceived as “nothing.” I don’t know which side of the fence you are on regarding this, but even if you are like me and can’t imagine life apart from your passion, a little self-reflection is a good idea every now and then, and I think there are a few questions the naysayers prompt us to ask. 

First, “Could I do anything else and be satisfied?” I firmly believe we are created beings, and as such I believe we each have unique abilities, inclinations, and purposes. I admit there are other things I could do. In fact, I have had opportunities in my life to use my abilities to add value to other kinds of work. Honestly, I have accomplished some cool things unrelated to music and songwriting. However, there is a big difference between the feeling I get from a job well done and the euphoria of a song well done. Let’s call it the “sweet spot.” It is the sense of home that can only be found in a place where passion meets accomplishment. Believe me, there is no feeling in the world quite like it. That feeling is enough to keep you going even when there is no other encouragement or reward for your efforts. This brings me to my second question… 

“Is it truly for nothing?” It is easy to be blinded by the things we value and assume that others value the same things. I think this is the case for those who cannot understand a lengthy pursuit of a dream. Does a passion have to result in monetary gain and recognition to be valid? Are there other rewards? I already mentioned the unsurpassable feeling of being in one’s sweet spot and how that would be enough reason to press on. Relationships are another important “reward” that I have covered in a previous blog. I will simply say that traveling alongside other human beings whose hearts beat for the same purpose as mine makes life richer and more complete. Add the extra blessing of the opportunity to teach and mentor those who are climbing the ladder behind me and you would be hard pressed to get me to give up those relationships for money, stability or even recognition. Another “reward” is knowledge. It has been said that when we stop growing, we start dying. No kind of growing is more enrapturing or relevant to me than learning about the craft of songwriting. In fact, it makes me feel alive. This brings me to the final question… 

“Is there more to learn?” I suppose I should not be surprised that some might think after 30 plus years pursuing a craft that there would simply be nothing left to learn. I guess the thought is, “If you haven’t learned it by now, you never will.” Call me crazy, but I hope I never stop getting better at songwriting. Part of the excitement of chasing a dream is the promise of improvement and seeing my own growth as a writer is one of the greatest encouragements to keep going. One other very important point to make about learning is this, at some point in the process you learn how to be a better learner. I feel as though the last five years, especially with my involvement with organizations like SongTown and NSAI as well as relationships with other writers, have taught me how to learn and that has moved me forward more quickly than ever before. 

So, what about monetary gain? Don’t get me wrong, I want to be paid for the years I’ve given to this passion, and at times I actually have derived an income from this crazy songwriting pursuit. It is definitely part of the goal. However, lack of financial success is just not enough to make me give up all the other rewards I enjoy in the sweet spot. And recognition? I will say it would be very difficult to never be praised. There is something innate in us that craves the occasional “that a boy!” I have been fortunate throughout my journey to have received enough positive feedback to know I am on the right track. Dealing with the negative feedback is one way we improve and expecting there will be both is realistic. Just today I received a glowing review on one song moments after a publisher ran through a list of the defects of another song. You have to take the bad with the good and grow from it.  All this to say, I have reasons for continuing to pour myself into my passion and I believe they are good reasons. So, I press on. At the time of writing this, I am beginning a national radio and marketing campaign on a Christmas song I wrote with an independent band, I am regularly co-writing and pitching songs to publishers and I am launching a new website. Why not? I love every minute of it all.  So, to those who ask, “Oh, you’re still doing that?” I answer unapologetically, “Yes, yes I am!”


I started off the year in the same way I have for the past few years, with a trip to Nashville. It was my busiest trip yet. In fact, with each trip back to this magical city (it really is) I am finding it easier to fill up my calendar. I guess that stands to reason as I make more friends and become more involved with organizations like NSAI and SongTown. I want to recap my itinerary for the week as a sort of self-reflection and a way to remind myself of all that God is doing in my life and to remember to be thankful for it. I figured it could make for an interesting post since some of you might wonder what it is I do here for seven days. Strap in and I don’t blame you if you bail somewhere along the way as I am laying out all the details.

I drove up from my parents place north of Atlanta on Friday and jumped immediately into my first gig for the week. After a brief “freak out” regarding the time (My phone didn’t switch for the time zone change and the clocks in the place I am staying had not been adjusted from daylight savings time leading me to believe that I arrived with a half hour until I was supposed to take the stage.) I played a popular songwriter bar called Belcourt Taps as part of Russ Lacasse’s “Friends” show. It was great to see Russ again and finally meet our SongTown song circle leader Scott Hodgin in person.A writer named Benjamin Beiler, whom I had met earlier in the year at the ASCAP Expo in Los Angeles, stopped by to see me play before catching a plane back to his hometown of Lancaster Pennsylvania. I also got to hang a bit with Ran and Andi Renfree, two great writers and fellow SongTown members who came out to support those of us playing. The funniest story surrounding this show was being booked on the same round as Olivia Pierce. I had first heard of Olivia while visiting my friends the Orsers in Texas this Fall. They told me their friend had moved to Nashville to pursue a career and I should look for her. I told them Nashville was small and we were sure to run into each other. As it turns out we were playing on the same stage together within an hour of me returning to town. 

I spent the better portion of Saturday writing with a friend and fantastic artist named Tolan Shaw. I met Tolan at the Durango Songwriter’s Expo in Colorado a few years ago and although we both lived in Southern California, we never got together to write. He was always at the top of my list, so I was thrilled he had time to get together in Nashville where he has recently relocated. He is a touring artist, and I asked him as we sat down to write what kind of song he might need for his show. His reply was something you NEVER hear in Nashville, “I need a ballad.” So, we jumped on an idea and melody of his, and finished a beautiful little AABA (a short traditional song form for those who don’t know) that feels very heartfelt and real. I am hopeful that it will work well for his live shows and I can’t wait to her him sing it. He is a killer singer and it was fun to harmonize as we worked on the tune. 

Sunday was, as it should be, mostly a day of rest. I attended a church I had heard about called The Belonging Co. It was a good service and worship was led by Christian recording artist Danny Gokey. It is a church formed out of the musician community and the music was great. It was not home, but it was good to gather with other believers. In the afternoon, my friend Larry Vail arrived in town and we had a nice dinner together. 

I began Monday morning at 9AM working with Larry on a song we have been chipping away at for a while. We were able to create a basic track to which he is now busy adding guitars and such. I think we will finalize the melody and have something ready to play very soon. I then headed over to my friend and co-writer Mark Glinsky’s place where we also tweaked some lyrics on a Blake Shelton style song we have been working on for a year. I think the new lyrics are an improvement and I look forward to laying down a new vocal and getting some feedback on it. From there I sat down with Steve Rivers over a cup of coffee. I have worked with Steve a little online and it was good to just shoot the breeze and get to know each other a bit better. I look forward to working with him soon on some contemporary Christian and possibly film and TV tracks. I then stopped by The Commodore Grill to catch Larry’s round and say hi to Debi Champion. Debi is a great supporter of songwriters and runs the writer’s nights at the Commodore. There were so many great moments to this day, but one of my favorites occurred right at the tail end. After the Commodore, I got an urge to get some ice cream. Checking my phone to see what was near me, I found a place about a half block away. As I was in line, I noticed the guy in front of me looked familiar. It turns out it was Adam B. who I had met early last year at the NSAI Tin Pan South Songwriters Seminar and we were scheduled to finish a song on Wednesday. It was great to sit down with he and his wife and have some time to just talk. What are the chances that we would both be in that place at that time? The second instance of “Nashville is a small town.” 

Tuesday was a whirlwind day too. The bulk of the day was spent in Jason Blume’s BMI workshop. More than any other mentor, Jason has been a voice of wisdom and encouragement on my songwriting journey and I always put myself under his instruction whenever I can. This time around he was reviewing about 30 songs in a workshop format and doing a lecture on the little extra things you can do these days to put your great song over the top. I submitted a hybrid country/EDM (electronic dance music) song that I wrote with three talented writers from LA (Flaviya Ke, Tom Pino and Robin Sandoval). This really is a burgeoning genre, I swear.  I knew we were pushing the envelope and Jason explained that to the group as he proceeded to give some constructive feedback on our song, mostly about the lyrical content. Although he did not think it was ready to send on a publisher, he was encouraging as always. Not long after the workshop it was time to head over to Frisky Frog’s to play in the Jammin’ in Jammies SongTown night. This was a funny story because I forgot I had asked to be included in the round. For a couple days I kept seeing my name in connection with this show. I couldn’t figure out why I was a part of it and then when I found out we were going to play in PJs the whole thing just seemed like a weird dream. I did eventually remember asking to be a part of the show and yes, I played in Pjs as did my SongTown LA song circle co-leader Carrie Cunningham even though I think we were the only ones who were brave enough to wear them. The round went well. Marty Dodson, one of the SongTown founders, was there and I debuted the song Tolan and I had written on Saturday. As a matter of fact, Tolan and two other co-writers (Mark Glinsky and Kelly McKay) came out to support me as well! I really appreciate the support of other writers. After the round, I took a quick moment to talk and change and then flew over to The Bluebird Café (no pun intended) where I had tickets for an incredible show. I purchased the tickets not realizing I had a show myself that same night. Although I would have loved to stick around and watch the other SongTown rounds, it turned out to be the greatest show I have seen at The Bluebird. It was a fundraiser for Alive hospice and featured Ashley Gorley, Chris Destefano, Lee Brice and Charles Eston (from the show Nashville). Gorley alone has written 37 #1 country hits and Chris and Lee are no slouches either. It was a rare occasion to see all these guys together and when my bar seat was taken by someone else, they offered me a closer seat with a fantastic view. Just a really inspiring way to end the day. I think I floated home that night! 

On Wednesday I had the morning free and used the time to pay bills and catch up on some church business. At 12:30 a friend and cowriter Kelly McKay was scheduled to play a daytime round at Bobby’s Idle Hour which is a little hole in the wall bar on music row. What I didn’t realize is Bobby’s is an iconic location that is about to be torn down. This was in fact the last Wednesday show that would ever be played there. There has evidently been a campaign to save the historic location, but unfortunately to no avail. It was great to see Kelly play as I really like her writing and it was fun to see her husband join her for a cool tune reminiscent of the early 80s punk/new wave scene. (I kept thinking of early Elvis Costello.) After a quick stop at Hattie B’s (a fantastic hot chicken restaurant and a must visit on each trip) I spent a few hours with Adam Baha who I had run into at the ice cream shop a couple days before. We did some more work on a tune we started six months ago, that is really coming along nicely. Adam has some serious production chops and our song is an R&B/country hybrid. We set a goal to have it finished up by the end of the month. I ended the day by attending a round at the Millennium Maxwell House where a new friend, Smudgie (yes that is her name) was performing and she did a great job as well. We hope to hang out at the Durango Songwriter’s Expo in Ventura in February. 

Thursday morning, I met Scott Hodgin for coffee and we went over to his house to work on a new song. Scott is responsible for coaching the SongTown song circle leaders and although we have emailed and texted, we had never met in person. It was great to get to know Scott as it turns out that we have a lot in common. For example, he was involved in musical theater in his youth and was a worship leader for many years. We shared a common language and it was fun to work together. I look forward to finishing up our modern country song soon. After grabbing some lunch with Scott and talking more about SongTown I headed back to BMI, where I had been the day before for Jason Blume’s workshop. This time I went to hear a lecture by songwriter/teacher Cliff Goldmacher. I always enjoy his succinct and helpful talks. I got some great points to add to my own songwriting lectures. With time to kill before an event at NSAI in the evening (but not enough time to head back home) I decided to hang out at Chewy’s Mexican restaurant on the row and work on this journal blog. I had about an hour and a half to kill and I knew I didn’t want to eat dinner (I was saving that for The Listening room later that night.) So, I sent out a social media post letting people know I was there if anyone wanted to come by for a bit. I though it would be a fun way to get in some more “hang” time. I was thrilled that my friend and former student Luis Escheverria took me up on the offer and showed up after a little while. Luis has recently relocated to Nashville and we didn’t have any time together scheduled on this trip. It was great to catch up and sit with Luis. He is a walking encyclopedia of all things music and it is always fun to hear him talk. We parted ways at 5:15 and I walked over to NSAI, where I had left my car earlier. I knew I was going to hear a speaker that night but didn’t look closely at who it was. As it turns out is was Cliff Goldmacher whom I had heard earlier in the day. I said to someone in the lobby, “I wonder if he will cover the same material tonight,” and Cliff stuck his head out of a doorway and said, “no he will not.” I stayed and heard a great lecture on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of dealing with various kinds of business relationships. I asked Cliff afterward if I could use his handout for my class as it was succinct and informative as always. I was glad I stopped by NSAI as it allowed me to say hi to Bart Herbison (the executive director of the organization) as well as reconnect with two writers I met at events in 2018. I ended my last night in town at The Listening Room (a great place to eat and hear writers) and Larry came with me. I must confess that I had an ulterior motive for going to this place. Apart from featuring some of the best writers in town, the Brussel sprouts are amazing! The round that night featured some talented young writers and three out of four had #1 hits. One guy only played #1 hits and another writes regularly with new artist Kane Brown. Although the show started out a bit slow the guys turned out to be very funny and it was quite enjoyable overall. Of course, the sprouts were killer! 

Friday morning, I stopped by Integrity Music to meet with a publisher who I meet with online monthly as part of the SongTown Christian Edge Group. I always like to deepen relationships by meeting in person and Mike Murray was kind enough to show me around the office and load me up with some CDs and swag to take home. Although only lasting about 15 minutes, this meeting might be one of the more important of the trip. I feel I really have something to offer this company and I was invited to send a song of mine that we discussed as well as let him know when I was returning to town. I felt very positive about our interaction. I then headed back to Atlanta to spend an evening with the family before flying out on Saturday. 

If you made it through all of this, you are a true friend and I thank you for taking an interest in this journey I am on. All in all, this was a very productive trip. I have five new songs nearly complete and I had a great time hanging with friends. Cliff Golmacher defines networking as “like-minded people getting to know each other over time.” I love that definition because it perfectly describes my experience. I came home confident that God is working in and through my endeavors and will continue to provide for and lead me in amazing ways.

Summer Camp 

Did you ever go to summer camp? Do you remember what it felt like to come home? You know, that sinking feeling that nothing about everyday life was ever going to match the electricity of a week of the most real emotional connections a 13-year-old had ever made? Maybe it took days to shake the emptiness of that crater sized hole that was left after you had to say goodbye to your new best friends. I remember coming home from a choir tour once and getting a call from my friend’s mother. She asked if I would talk to him and help get him out of the post-tour funk. Even teenage boys are not immune to the emotional rollercoaster of an intense week of bonding. This is the only way I can describe what it felt like to come home from the Hawaii Songwriting Festival this year. The Brotman family always put on a tremendous event that is fantastic on so many levels not the least of which is the bonding that takes place. It took me a good three or four days to come out of that post festival low (which by the way hurt in that good way like a middle school crush.) I did eventually recover, but I will forever be grateful for the many blessings of the week and I am counting the days until I can experience this life changing event again. 

For me, the event had unique significance this year because I was selected as one of the finalists in the songwriting contest. After performing with several others, I took third place in the competition, winning alongside two fantastic writers! As a winner, I got a looper and a beautiful handmade Cajon’. More importantly, perhaps, was the opportunity to play for those in attendance as well as the many professional industry mentors. As one of the winners, I also had the opportunity to perform in the final concert which featured Kenny Loggins… pretty cool. That opportunity as well as the song I chose (my first co-write with the incredible Warren Sellers, a song simply called “A Daughter”) did a lot to open doors and start conversations for the entire weekend. More than any other song I have written, this one touches people. All kinds of people (not just dads and daughters) go out of their way to talk with me when they hear it and let me know how it moved them. One little boy came up and gave me a hug. His mom said, “he just wanted to do that.” Honestly, I’m not sure why, I guess that is the power of a song. The video of my performance on Facebook has recently reached over 3.4k views, a milestone for me. In addition, the “hang time” was better than ever this year. It is true that friendships grow fuller and richer with time and the weekend was an excellent opportunity to savor the friends around me. The late night at the jacuzzi with 40 people was particularly sweet. Of course, I enjoyed all the new friendships begun and I look forward to enjoying those relationships as they deepen in the future. 

One story really sums up the spirit of the weekend and exemplifies the breaking down of barriers between the mentors and attendees that is so unique to the Hawaii Songwriting Festival. My wife Jen and I had a late flight on Sunday, the day after the conference, and decided to spend a few hours down on the beach. After all, I usually don’t get to spend much time at the water during the weekend, so it seemed like a good idea. After soaking up the sun for an hour or so, we decided to get in the water. As we were getting ready to take a swim. One of the mentors, Steven Ray, borrowed some of our sunscreen and headed to the water with us. We were soon joined by Dree Paterson, a friend and cool “indi” artist. I had not met Steven during the weekend as our paths hadn’t crossed so I was eager to get to know him. I soon learned that not only is he an integral part of pop music history, but he is also a fantastic story teller. As the four of us bobbed in the sea he held us spellbound for over an hour with his stories from working with Michael Jackson on Thriller - Michael singing an unfinished version of “Billie Jean” into his ear- to stories about a favorite band of mine, Crowded House as well as so many others. The more he shared, the more questions I had. I feel as though we connected over music and became friends that day. Honestly, where else could that happen? There is SO much more I could share about this weekend, but it will have to wait till some other time. For now, thank you HSF for existing and for giving a “grown up” a chance to experience again the thrill and sweet ache of summer camp. 

(As I write this I am on a plane out of Nashville. It was a great trip to the NSAI Advanced Song Camp and I will catch you up in the next entry.)

A Basic Update 

When I first set up my raymykrumrei.com website my main goal was to take anyone who wanted to go with me on this journey to getting my first country cut (a song recorded by another artist.) The site has been super useful as it is very easy for me to send folks here who want to hear what I am working on. Somewhere along the way, however, I think I forgot that the purpose of the blog is to keep you all up to date on the baby steps and the triumphs and tragedies (hopefully not too many of those) along the way to my goal. Instead I think I subconsciously didn’t want to write unless I had some deeper comment on life in general. This entry represents a return to my original intent, a simple blow by blow of what has been going on. That is the way I hope to keep it from now on, although I make no promises that a deep comment on life won’t slip in from time to time. Thanks to those of you who read my musings and who have taken the time to sign up for the email list on raymykrumrei.com. 

It is great to begin to see our efforts pay off over time. For me I am beginning to feel the results from the energy that I have put into writing and networking. I am in Nashville on what I think is my sixth trip to the city and it is starting to become my home away from home. In addition to these trips in the last few years I have attended two Durango Songwriter’s Expos and have been to the Hawaii Songwriting Festival three years in a row. I am an active member of the Malibu chapter of NSAI and increasing my involvement with SongTown. These last two are fantastic songwriter organizations that educate and create opportunities for their members. I am having a great time doing what I have always felt made to do. 

Hawaii was very productive and encouraging this year. My writing was very well received by both my peers and the professionals involved with the festival. I was especially encouraged by my favorite mentor Jason Blume, Alan Rich (writer of Whitney Houston’s “Run to You”) and the festival’s founder Charles Brotman. Another highlight was writing my second song with Streetlight Cadence (my favorite band these days… check them out and you will see why) and to find out that the song is scheduled to be included on their 2017 Christmas EP. Apart from Hawaii, I have completed a song with the talented Patricia Bahia called “Heroes.” It was composed with an eye to film and tv and I am very proud of the track. As soon as I have final mixes of both songs, I will post them on raymykrumrei.com. I am also writing with a few others including one of my favorite writers, Warren Sellers. 

So far on this trip to Nashville I have had the opportunity to see Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman as Gary was honored at the County Music Hall of Fame. I also performed at the SongTown three-year Birthday Bash at the Blue Bar and met founders Marty and Clay as well as several others whom I have only known as icons on a screen up to this point. As the week progresses I look forward to writing sessions with some of my favorite writers from that group as well as writers and artists I have met here in Nashville. All in all, things are going well and I always feel immensely blessed. That’s it for now and I hope you also are doing what you are made to do and seeing the rewards of your labor. It is a tremendous feeling. Cheers ‘till next time.

What's in it for me? Them. 

Back in February (yes it has been a while since my last entry) I attended the Durango Songwriter's Expo in Ventura California. I can honestly say that it was the best music conference experience that I have had to date. Strangely enough, it had nothing to do with the location, the speakers or the classes. Don't get me wrong, Jim Attebery did a great job as usual putting together an engaging event in a fabulous location (it was Ventura California after all, and the ballroom view overlooking the Pacific Ocean is pretty spectacular) but the reason the event stood out for me was simply put...the people. That might seem obvious to some, but my bet is more than a fair share of folks attend these events because they hope that some publisher or record producer is going to hear their amazing potential and swoop them up into the wild world of the dream fulfilling music business. Some are probably pretty oblivious to the other writers around them except for maybe a reality check for better or for worse. Heaven knows that I have had that mindset in the past and I see it now in many of the younger, less experienced, writers. Let's face it, that is a pretty inward focused mindset... "what's in it for me?." A lot of folks live their whole lives with this mindset. When we live like this the best we can hope to wind up with in the end is a bunch of what we have spent our time focused on, ourselves. That's not a very rewarding or fulfilling prize for all our efforts. I have been writing songs for a long time (let's not think too much about that :-)) It has only been for the past two years, however, that I have really focused on networking with other writers and maybe it was as recent as February when I finally realized the real benefit of networking does not lie in my success as a writer, but in what I get from networking. What I get is PEOPLE. I have made it to the place where I can walk into a room at these events and usually know several of the faces and often the stories behind the faces as well. The immediate and maybe ultimate reward for throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the crazy mix of creatives that inhabit this songwriting universe is getting to know some amazing people. Rubbing shoulders and sharing your life and a common passion with a bunch of wonderful folks who don't all look, dress or think like you makes you a better writer and a better human being. Remembering this can change the question from, "What's in it for me?" to, "What can I bring to them?" That's a life altering question that changes our focus from inward to outward. For me, it was this change in mindset that made the event in February so much fun. As I spend the next few days here in Nashville, I am looking for opportunities to have some time with friends old and new and I am remembering just how fortunate I am to have each of them in my life.

A Reason to Collaborate 

For five years now I have been teaching songwriting at Antelope Valley College in California. My Facebook feed reminded me of this fact on Wednesday with a flashback to five years prior, the day I taught my first class. Wow, time flies. I think the words I used to describe my experience in my initial Facebook post were "I'm on a cloud." I can honestly and happily say that I feel the same way as I begin this semester, five years later. Apart from faith and family, songwriting is my "why." It feels like what I was meant to do. Knowing one's purpose gives a sense of grounding and fulfillment. I have recognized for the past five years that my enjoyment of songwriting is increased dramatically when I can share it with others. We were designed, after all, to interact with other people and sharing our passion with others makes us feel somehow more human, more connected, more alive. Teaching and sharing my excitement (lets face it, I'm a songwriting geek) is super satisfying and I am grateful for every knowledge hungry student I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Recently I have come to appreciate the experience of co-writing in much the same way that I do teaching. It's not that I haven't done any co-writing before, in fact it was one of the things I enjoyed most during my days with Golden Ticket and when working on writing various stage musicals. For several years, however, I have been flying solo when it came to writing. I am glad to say I have grown and improved my craft during this period and working alone gave me the luxury of time to pour myself over lyrics and melodic phrases until they perfectly represented my vision. However, I teach my students each semester the importance of co-writing and I must confess for a while it has been a "do as I say, not as I do" situation. This year I made a commitment to co-write more often mostly because in Nashville it is the way things are done. Songs there are written by multiple writers and usually completed in a day (For someone who likes to tweak a lyric for six months, this is a challenging new world!) I am happy to report that January and February have proved to be fruitful months in achieving the goal of collaboration and I hope to post the results on my music page very soon. I guess what I want to point out is this: Collaboration is great for all the reasons you might expect... two or more heads ARE better than one and the results of co-writing are most often better than what one writer can accomplish alone. Though this is true, I have found what I think might be an even better reason to collaborate and that is the joy of sharing a passion. Thank you to those who have given of your time to sit with me in a room or by Skype and be open and giving and stubborn and wonderful, sharing the struggle and joy of what you were meant to do. I look forward to seeing most of you at The Durango Songwriter's Expo in Ventura next week and let's work together again soon!

It Began with a Scarf 

It is a small thing, but it is really indicative of my recent trip to Nashville which concluded yesterday. A few days before leaving for the trip, I was wandering the mall while Jen was shopping and I found a cool scarf in a discount bin. I don't think I have ever bought a scarf in my life and even as I purchased it, it seemed frivolous. For some reason however, I really wanted it so I got it. Our first night in Nashville it started to snow lightly and by the morning an unexpected cold front moved in for a few days, getting down to 10 degrees at one point. Jen and I spent a considerable amount of time waiting out in that cold for various reasons and the scarf was a life saver. It was the first of many little things that were evidence in my mind that God was going before me. The trip was great in many ways and even though I didn't plan as far ahead as I would have liked, the days and nights were filled with great music and the opportunities and networking were confirmation that the time was well spent. Four things, in addition to the scarf, stand out as events only God could orchestrate. First, I made it onto the Bluebird Cafe open mic. I hear it is difficult to get through when calling in, as so many people want to play there. Not only did I get on the list but I was among only five (out of 27) chosen by random selection to play two songs. The songs were well received, and several numbers were exchanged. Second, upon arriving early for Jason Blume's BMI workshop, I ran across a writer who I had met in Hawaii last summer. I spent the day with him and we have plans in the works for collaboration. Third, the publisher who was taking pitches at the workshop is the same publisher who I am already signed up to pitch to in Ventura at the Durango Songwriter's Expo in a month or so. A relationship has begun. Fourth, I have been wanting to meet with a particular ASCAP rep but have been having a hard time connecting with him. In an effort to make some contact with ASCAP I decided to take part in a "get to know" kind of event. As it turns out, it was only myself and another writer and the guy running the event was the very rep I have been hoping to meet. He talked with the two of us for TWO HOURS! Needless to say a great trip. It feels really good to make plans, move forward and see results. It is even more enjoyable when you feel God's loving presence on the journey, This time around it all began with a scarf.

Nashville... Now 

Happy New Year Everybody! I hope your holidays were relaxing and filled with family and love. I know mine were. As I look back on last year I realize two things: 1. The steps I have taken towards my goal are moving me forward (details below) and 2. Time can get away from me. In regard to the second of these, I am reading a book called "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore that is really helping me to better understand my work habits and encouraging me to be a "producer" (a term used in the book) in 2017. Last year I did not do nearly enough writing although the songs I did write are being well received. "Change" was taken by Sea Gayle Music at an NSAI publisher pitch and "If I Make it to Sunday" is being recommended for the February publisher luncheon. However, I am beginning the year with a trip to Nashville and I have several writing appointments set up for January, so I am off to a great start in 2017. Although I did not check in with you all as often I would like, I am committing to do more of that too! I feel blessed watching an unexpected snowfall from my hotel room this morning as I begin a week of networking and pitching. I am hoping you all feel blessed as well.

I Made it to Sunday... Finally 

OK, OK, I know I promised this song two months ago. It is simply amazing how time flies. Anyway, I couldn't be more happy with the home demo (work tape) on this song. I spent the entire weekend in the "Awe"ffice (that's my home studio) preparing this track for you. You may recall that this was a song I just had to write. I woke up up from a nap with the chorus almost complete. It has those things that make a song really cool... like grandmas and church. So I hope hope you enjoy this little ditty about faith! Check it out on the music page. Cheers.

A Good Kind of Sidetracked 

Last time I wrote (which was over a month ago, sheesh) I was on the verge of posting a new song called "If I Make it to Sunday." I did make it to Sunday, but the song did not. That is to say I still haven't posted it. Don't fret, the work tape is nearly complete and I am very excited about it. However, the best laid plans... immediately after mentioning the song I did an update to my operating system and the new system didn't communicate so well with my old version of my recording software. I know, yawn. That was the short term delay. What I really want to talk about though is what I have been doing over the past several weeks that has kept me from completing the work tape of "Sunday." It is really quite cool. I have come across an online organization called SongTown.com which was created by hit Nashville writers Clay Mills and Marty Dodson. These two have had some pretty impressive cuts! They offer training and networking opportunities in an online community. A very cool site. Anyway, I took a course they were offering on toplining. For those of you who don't know, toplining is the art of crafting a melody and lyric over an existing track. In other words, the writer does not write the underlying music but rather what goes on top of it. It is a unique skill as you are limited to the structure and feel that the track writer has already created. This is a very common way that pop songs are written these days and country is quickly adopting the process as well. The class was great. I made some new friends, learned some tricks and best of all I came out of it with two (count em') two new songs. The first of which is "Rise" which I posted about a week ago... give it a listen and let me know what you think. The second track is called "Freedom has Wheels" and will be coming shortly. I think I learned two lessons from this experience. First, hit songs are compact meaning the sections are short and tight. This is a challenge for someone as verbose as I tend to be. Second, being sidetracked can be a good thing. I hope you enjoy listening to the new songs as much as I enjoyed writing them and don't worry, "Sunday" is still coming.