What to Look for in a Songwriting Coach or Mentor

What to Look for in a Songwriting Coach or Mentor

Sometimes the best way to learn is to go it alone. Sometimes the best way to learn is with help and guidance. Songwriting, as it turns out, is best learned with a mixture of the two. Let’s talk about why.   Do You Need to Work with a Songwriting Coach? It’s a question I get asked a lot as a songwriting coach, and a good one: is working with a songwriting coach essential? And the short answer to this deeply existential question (for me, at least) is no. It’s definitely not essential. But a longer answer is no, but it’s definitely a great way to make great progress with your writing. With the right mentor you’ll make much better progress than you would alone. With the right mentor what might take you months to figure out one your own, you might figure out in a session or two with your coach. And sure, that old saying is true: songwriting can’t be taught, only learned. But an experienced and skilled coach is going to help you learn all that stuff faster and more efficiently. They’re won’t let you avoid making the mistakes that all songwriters make early on – they’re just going to help you make them faster and make sure you learn good lessons from them. See, if you didn’t know already, making mistakes is the way you really master something. You’ve probably heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s ’10,000 Hours Rule’ – that says the trick to mastering anything is 10,000 hours of practice. Well, let me expand on that with Ed Bell’s lesser-known ’10,000 Mistakes Rule’ – that says...
Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks (And Five Why It’s Awesome)

Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks (And Five Why It’s Awesome)

Sometimes being a songwriter sucks. Sometimes it’s awesome. Let me try to explain why.   — Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks —   1. You never feel good enough You’re too close to the thing you’re working on. You’re the last person on earth who can judge it objectively. And because you made it, you know all the bits that weren’t as good as you hoped. And because you have high standards, there are plenty of them. Worst of all, you can’t just try ‘positive thinking’ your way out of this. Because you’re a great writer, you know the thing you make can always be better. There’s always one more rewrite you can do. There’s always one extra tweak you can make. Ad infinitum. That means at some point you have to call it a day and call the thing done, even if you’re not completely satisfied. That’s all you can do. That, and hope you do a bit better next time.   2. You spend way too much time on your own Most people spend most of their working day surrounded by co-workers (e.g. cubicle dweller), maybe even customers (e.g. ice cream man), maybe even masses of the general public (e.g. town crier). Most writers, on the other hand, don’t. Sure, there are co-writing sessions and meetings and rehearsals and days in the recording studio. But some days it’s just you. Just you and the blank page or screen. Just you and your lingering feeling that you don’t really know what you’re doing. Just you and your thoughts and your optimism that those thoughts might help...
Four Things Nobody Tells You About Writing Songs for a Living

Four Things Nobody Tells You About Writing Songs for a Living

Wow. It’s been quite a year. And I’m not just talking about the crazy world we seem to live in. I’m talking about the crazy world I personally seem to live in. Twelve months ago, I was packing up my Brooklyn apartment ready to move my stuff back to the UK. Since then, as well as actually moving back to the UK, my book was published, a stage show I’ve been working on for over three years ran for a month near Boston, I flew to China to write for an animation studio out there. And I’m now two days away from visiting my thirtieth country, just in time for my thirtieth birthday later this month. (Probably my proudest achievement of them all.) And when I look back, I’m pretty sure 2017 will be the year I decide I really started writing professionally. Sure, it’s not the first year I ever got paid for what I do. And I’m not sure my writing skills are particularly better than they were a year ago. But 2017 was the year the planets really aligned on a handful of big, grown-up projects I’d been working on for a while. It’s been the year really exciting things have started to happen. So I thought I’d share a thing or two about what those things have taught me.   ‘Pro’ Writing Isn’t That Different From ‘Amateur’ Writing Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets given the key to the Executive Washroom? Like, one moment he’s your everyday nobody and then BAM – it’s velvet curtains and marble toilet seats and string quartets...
A British Guide to Good Manners

A British Guide to Good Manners

I had the privilege of growing up in a family and a country where good manners really matter. I now live in a city and work in an industry where you can’t take them for granted. And I’ve learnt a few things. First and foremost: good manners are by no means essential. The world still turns without them. But the way you handle yourself does count. Here’s the bottom line: like attracts like. If you feel like you always end up working on projects with unreliable, rude and disrespectful people, I have news for you: it might be because you’re as unreliable, rude and disrespectful. We tend to build working relationships with people who are like us. Similar level of experience, more or less. Similar tastes, more or less. And, more or less, a similar way of treating the people around them. So if you want to work in high-stress, high-conflict environments where everyone has their back up because everyone treats each other like shit, be my guest. Some people genuinely believe being an asshole is the only way to get ahead in the creative industries. And I respect their right to believe whatever they like. But if you’d rather work in supportive, relaxed and trusting environments where everyone treats each other so well that you can concentrate 100% on creating something awesome together, that’s an option too. Perhaps you’re also the kind of person who believes that people do their best work when they feel happy, valued and supported. If so, congratulations! I’ve distilled all of my British charm, politeness, charisma into six easy ways you can show the world you’re one...
Art Is Not a Competition

Art Is Not a Competition

If you were planning on finding out how insecure you really are any time soon, I’ve got the perfect tip for you: become a writer. With writing there’s really nowhere to hide. To some greater or lesser degree you’re going to know that’s you there on the page. And you may or may not feel comfortable about that. Building a career as a writer is also tough because it takes a long time. Once you start to build a reputation for being good at what you do so many doors start opening. But until that process begins properly, it can be a bit of a crapshoot. How can you prove what you can do without the right opportunity? But if you have to get the right opportunity before you can prove what you can do, how do you get the opportunity in the first place? It’s not all a Catch-22. Some people get a lucky break. More often, some people make their own lucky break. But this period up to and until that happens is a great time to see how uncertainty and insecurity get to you, and with a bit of luck check yourself before you wreck yourself. So to speak. One of the worst ways insecurity rears its cute little head is jealousy. Your best friend does half the work you do but has just been asked to write something for another awesome band. Someone you sort of know is breaking the Internet with posts on Facebook about their upcoming iTunes album release. Meanwhile, you thought you’d landed an awesome gig but the venue just got shut...
The Secret to Good Networking

The Secret to Good Networking

Today’s article is brought to you by a warm smile, a love of your fellow artist, and our industry’s favorite N-word: Networking. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re the most skilled artist around. Let’s suppose your work has the power to capture the hearts and souls of everyone it touches. Let’s even imagine your contribution to your art form is nothing short of mind-blowing. But let’s suppose no one has ever heard of you. Not a good combination. That’s where the N-word comes in. Art is a team game. People get scared when they hear the dirty little word ‘Networking’. It sounds clinical. It sounds formal. It sounds like hard bloody work. It brings up images of corporate schmooze-a-thons where people with no soul unashamedly promote themselves and their work to more influential people with even less soul. But Networking isn’t something to fear. It doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, Networking is just a dirty little word used to describe something that’s actually quite exciting. When it’s done properly, it’s supposed to be a thing people who’ve devoted their lives to something do because they like to engage with other people who’ve also devoted their life to that same something. It’s supposed to be a meeting of like minds, an opportunity for people to connect with people who might be like they are. Nor is Networking something that has to happen at ‘Networking Events’ at a particular time in a particular place. It’s something that happens when a friend introduces you to a friend at a party. Or when you engage with an artist after a gig. Or when...

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