Creating Moments With Your Songwriting

Tom Jack-creating moments-songtown


A few years ago a friend of mine introduced me to Tom Jackson; a top live music producer. Tom has worked with artists as diverse and popular as Taylor Swift to Casting Crowns to Shawn Mendez. He has an uncanny ability of teaching performers how to pull “magical moments” out of a song (performance), and in turn, create a show that people walk away remembering forever.

As I learned more about Tom’s “Moments” approach, it occurred to me that this is valuable inside stuff for songwriters!

Once this crazy pandemic is behind us,  singers will be looking to record and perform songs that allow them to create these magical moments in their shows. Therefore, the odds of that artist recording yours or my song go way up if we understand these moments, right?

I was lucky enough one night to witness this kind of ‰moment‰ in a Texas stadium. It was full of people singing along to one of my songs as country music artist Clay Walker belted out the notes I had written. Yes, Clay sang a song written by another clay (me). But even crazier, the publisher’s name was Clay also! lol

clay walker-fall-songtown
Clay Walker – Top 5 single “Fall”

I had heard my song was a big moment in the show, but I didn’t really understand why.

I mean, my co-writers and I had written it sitting in a small room on Music Row on our small acoustic guitars. How could that translate into an important moment in a huge stadium?

As Clay Walker sang the chorus to “Fall,” the whole crowd swayed and sang along. Okay, I get it, I thought: a big melody and words people can pour their heart into and sing. That’s how we felt. A wonderful moment for me for sure! But…

…when Clay got to the last line of the bridge: “Hold on, Hold on, Hold on to me……” he milked that last bridge note for all it was worth! Then he stopped.

He looked to the side of the stage where I stood and grinned. The crowd went nuts in anticipation of him singing that last chorus of the song. Though it was only a few seconds, it seemed like time was standing still. He hit that first note of the chorus and the crowd erupted in a frenzy!

Finally, I understood. I had witnessed an unforgettable “magical moment,‰ the kind that Tom Jackson helps a singer find in a song.

Every person in the stadium that night went home and remembered their role in that moment, when the song stood still as if time had frozen for a moment.

Though we had not realized it in the writing room, we had instinctively written “magical moments” into “Fall.‰ Great artists recognize these moments. They want to record and perform these songs. Since learning of Tom’s approach, I have built it into my yearly Melody MasterClass. It has been a big help to former students with landing staff writer deals and major label cuts.

So, as we all write today, let’s all aim to create those  “magical moments‰” in our songs.

Write on! ~Clay


Clay Mills is a co-founder of and a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter. He has 2 Grammy nominations and is the co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.  New book, Mastering Melody Writing, coming in 2021!

15 thoughts on “Creating Moments With Your Songwriting

  1. Thank you Clay, that is a new angle for me to ponder in my songwriting & performing! Donna C.Benjamin Merry Christmas! 🎄

  2. I’ve been writing songs for years using Tom Jackson’s training as a guide to make them work in a live show.

    I remember writing one song with Benn Gunn where we decided we’d make a call and response in the chorus the big live feature in the song.

    When we were writing it we were thinking “this song is stupid!”

    Now Benn plays that song at every live gig because every time he plays it the audience starts singing the response part…even if they’ve never heard the song before and often in the first chorus.

    Writing for the live show gets you cuts and live performance royalties and Tom Jackson’s training is the best I’ve seen at understanding how a live show should be crafted.

  3. One of my songs that I wrote had a “magical moment”. It took me singing that song for an entire year to find it. I didnt put it there with intention, but somehow it was there. Thx for pointing out one of those things we do that we dont know we did..

    2nd time it’s happened. The first was a “melodic twist” pointed out to me by the late C.J. Watson I knew I liked it, but didn’t ow thats what you should call it, duh. Lol….

    Thanks for giving me another new songwriting word and tool!

  4. Tom is genius when it comes to planning a show! I was lucky enough to take one of his classes. I purchased his materials and used them years later when I wrote all of the songs and dialogue(script) for a one woman cabaret style show that I performed in NYC. It received rave reviews and I have to say that it largely was in part due to Tom’s superior training and brilliant concepts!

  5. This is really inspiring stuff ..helping make good songs great .. Sometimes a song comes along that seems easy to write (well sometimes) but if you don’t have the listener in mind and think about how they could react and be included in the performance, then you’ve lost that connection. It’s a different perspective that a songwriter doesn’t normally think about, so thanks 🙂

  6. Thank you, Clay.
    Magical moments have come to me a few times when I perform a song and feel it in my heart..Get outside of myself and belt out the idea with love for the listener.

  7. I started out (as I suppose a lot of songwriters do), performing my own songs. I worked with Tom over several years because I just loved his approach. You could watch a performer or band transform before your eyes. Of course, you have to work the method and make it yours. That takes time and focus.

    Working with Tom, as weird as it may sound, was the single best thing I ever did for my songwriting (he makes it very clear he’s not a songwriter). I improved by leaps and bounds. He teaches you to pull apart a song and recognize where those moments can be built in. I strengthened verses, choruses, and bridges musically and lyrically with that insight. As a writer, you can anticipate those moments you want to create and actually set out with a vision and a plan for how to create them with your writing.

    Songwriters can definitely benefit from looking at their songs this way. Want people to sing along in the car? Want them to be dancing in the aisles? Write every song with that vision in your head. It’s powerful stuff.

  8. Thanks Clay! You are lucky to have been fulfilled like that! Great advice from a great writer! “I have that CD and “Fall” is my favorite!

    Someday, maybe I’ll feel something close!

  9. In Australia over 95% of artists in the Australian country charts are indies.

    I’ve been a student of Tom Jackson’s live method for quite a few years and I find it’s a huge key to helping artists write better songs and different types of songs to go on their albums.

    I’ve found artists listen really closely when I start talking about writing the song so it will work better when performed live.

    There are so many things a sophisticated musician might do writing a melody that can actually get in the way of an audience enjoying it and singing along for example.

    A huge portion of the advice you’ll get from professional songwriters relates to writing radio friendly songs but most artists are looking for songs that work live.

    Tom Jackson’s live training helps connect the two.

    It also helps you understand what works live and why and that definitely makes you a better songwriter.

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