month I said I had SO many great books to review, and I truly didn't
know where to start! I
that when I get to that point, the
old stand-by option usually works best ... first come, first
a while I was reading three books at
once, but I realized all too soon that if I wasn't careful you'd read a
review that led you in three different directions at once, and that can
pretty hard on the body and the mind. So, since
Jason's book was the first one of the three that landed in my hands, it
won. I knew I was in for an adventure.
More than Just Another "How-To" Book ...
Songwriting" is so
much more than just another
"how-to" book for songwriters. Jason talks
about the basics and adds his own unique experiences to make them come
alive! Questions are answered from the
perspective of knowledge; knowledge gained from real life experiences
and not just something he may have heard or read somewhere else.
you've ever had
the privilege of seeing and hearing Jason in one of the many
songwriting workshops he
conducts each year, you know about his PASSION for everything he
does. Some may call it intensity, others may call
it focus. Call it what you will, Jason KNOWS what he's writing
and talking about and we're lucky that he also
has the desire to share that with others. The songwriting
community is better off because of individuals like Jason
who give of their time and talents to teach others.
is, above all, honest. Jason doesn't
gloss over the tough parts of
a professional or semi-professional career in the music industry, he
tells it like it is.
art of communication. It may sound harsh, but listeners don't
particularly care what you felt when you wrote your song if they don't
feel it when they listen."
you clearly recognize what you're up against, but, by reading
carefully, you also
realize that you're not up against those forces alone. Others
have trod the road you may be on right
now, and their experiences may be an example of what may or not work
For instance, in
the chapter on "How To Get A Staff-Writing Deal",
Jason offers several possible
suggestions that have worked for others and urges the reader not to get
too discouraged with their own attempts (some discouragement,
frustration are naturally inherent in this business). Before
settling in Nashville, Jason had been a
part of the songwriting community in LA for many years. On one of
his trips to Nashville, he met and
co-wrote a song with A.J. Masters that would begin to turn his
struggles into "some" success. That song was "Change My Mind".
"Three-and-a-half years and more than
seventy-five rejections later,
the Oak Ridge Boys recorded it. The Oaks were enormously
successful artists at this point and our song was set to be their next
following up a Number One hit for them." (For what happened with
the Oak Ridge Boys version of "Change My Mind"
you'll need to read the book.)
Jason was one of the fortunate ones, having co-written "Change My Mind"
and getting a major group to
record it prior to landing his staff-writing deal with Zomba Music.
" ... I wasn't joking when I stated that
the easiest way to secure a
staff-writing deal is to bring a song to the table that has already
been recorded by a major artist. Every writer doesn't have that
opportunity, though. How do you get a staff-writing deal if you
don't have a major track
record and you don't own the publishing on an upcoming major
release? There's no easy, cut-and-dried answer. But when it
gets discouraging (and it will),
remind yourself that every person currently earning a living as a
staff-writer started out with a dream."
Speaking of "DREAMS"
"One of the only guarantees life offers is
that if we don't
dreams, they won't have any chance of coming true."
complete honesty about the business, Jason
the reader to never give up. Sharing his own struggles,
frustrations, even moments (hours? days?) of anger
when his work was rejected, he makes things more real for those who are
Songwriting" puts us behind
the desk of an A&R rep, a
publisher, and even a radio programmer, to discover what their world is
from the business side. Understanding their roles and
responsibilities can help us develop better
relationships with them, which can then lead to better contacts, and
that first published song on
your way to grabbing that first hit. It's not about "using"
people, it's about
developing friendships. And in this business you can never have
many friends in high, low, or mid-level places.
PASSION and PURPOSE
A few months ago I experienced an event that brought me to tears.
family had just recently moved into our town and began attending our
church. Two of their daughters, Sierra (15) and Marisa (13), are
very musically talented and they were invited to play
a piano duet. They had the music in
front of them, but they played more than the notes that appeared on
those pages. They played with such feeling,
from the heart ... with deep PASSION! They hadn't just learned
to play the song,
they had learned it so well that there's no doubt in my mind they felt
composer felt when he wrote it. That's rising to the
level of PASSION in something you love! We all have songs in our
written by ourselves or others) that truly move us. Oh, to write
like that! And, what a tremendous feeling it is when others hear
it, sing it, and love it as much as you
do and want to make it their own!
I've said it before in this column, you HAVE to have a PASSION for this
business in order to have a
chance to survive. The competition's too stiff
to enter into it half-hearted and half-committed. There's
no guarantee of success, or even continued success for those that have
already had a taste of it. You have to be consistently on your
game in order to continue to make a living.
The intrinsic rewards for your effort, though, go far beyond whatever
your financial record says. The feeling you get from writing a
song you KNOW is special, regardless of what anyone else says about it
(including publishers) is tremendous.
lot tougher to write from your
heart, but well worth it.
If your song never becomes a
hit on the radio (and most of them won't), at least you'll have written
something that you're proud of. Write
songs with artistic integrity that mean something to you and will touch
listeners, and you will feel good about your work, even if the only
ones who hear it are your friends and relatives."
"I've read that the 'average' professional
songwriter (there's an
oxymoron for you) typically earns
royalties from only five percent of his or her songs."
"Inside Songwriting" is filled with
experiences that are worth
their weight in gold to Jason; opportunities and events that he
for anything (like being invited to put on a workshop in Jamaica, and
middle of his weekend they tell him Hurricane Iris is rapidly
he has to shorten his workshop by a day but still try to get all the
info into the hearts and minds of all who had paid their hard-earned
attend the workshop).
Along with that, count the valuable lessons learned along the way, like
the one he learned after
winning a songwriting contest and being invited to Ireland to perform
his entry on TV
before a panel of judges and 30 million viewers (with a chance to win
"I stood out on that stage, buck naked
before a firing squad with
thirty million witnesses. Well, that's how it felt."
Why? Well, have you ever forgotten the words to part of a song
before or in the midst of a performance? He learned early on to
ALWAYS carry a lyric
sheet with him!
When All Is Said And Done
"Luck has a habit of visiting those who
don't depend on it, and fate
seems to smile upon those who work hard and are prepared to deliver
when the opportunity presents itself."
If music is our
PASSION, if we truly believe we're destined to be
songwriters, then we must
consistently develop our craft and ourselves, finding our own
(singing has nothing to do with this voice), and then believe
ourselves enough to give ourselves the chance to dream, the chance to
play in the game,
and the chance to fulfill our dreams.
"It takes courage to grow up and turn out
to be who you really are." -
Jason Blume's "Inside Songwriting: Getting To The Heart Of
Creativity" is probably the most well balanced book on the craft
business of songwriting that I've had the pleasure to read. And
I'll be reading it again. Right along with those other two books.
Copyright © 2003 by Jace
a Nashville based
songwriter, music publisher, artist manager, and freelance
As a songwriter and collaborator
much in demand in the
Country market, he also enjoys writing for A/C, Pop, R&B, Smooth
Contemporary Christian, and Cabaret. As a Freelance Writer he has
contributed reviews on new CD's to online newsletters and artist
websites, and occasionally ontributes book and concert reviews
with personal commentary on
music industry to Nashville's Songwriter's
by being selected to be a part of Nashville's Shine
On Foundation, assisting
talented songwriters, artists and musicians.