Songwriting

A Songwriter’s #1 Weapon: Do Something Real

by Marty Dodson
Jul 12, 2017

One time, I was playing a songwriter show in Las Vegas and had one of the funniest, yet most profound experiences of my musical life.

After the show, the hotel’s entertainment booking person wanted to have an “after party” with all of the writers who played and some of her special guests. So, after the show, we head over to the casino’s piano bar to hang out, shake hands and talk to the people that brought us there.

The other writer who had played the show with me was a big pop/country producer who had also written a number of hits. We were starving, so we ordered some food and continued to schmooze.

Before our food came, Judy, the booking person, brought in 4 guys that were in a band she was working with. They all had facial tattoos and piercings. They were dressed in leather and either wearing bandanas on their heads or had spiked up mohawks. Chains from their wallets to their pants. Metal spikes on the boots. You get the idea. I’m not judging. Just describing.

We met the guys and hung out with them for a few minutes before our food came. When the food arrived, we snuck off to a corner booth to try to eat in peace.

The band followed. Since we were eating, they decided to play us some of their music. The bar was loud, so they moved in WAY too close into our personal space and insist on us leaning in to their iPhone so that we can hear their music.

While we listened, the lead singer begins to pick up and eat food from our plates with his FINGERS. At this point, we begin to wonder if we are on candid camera. It’s just getting too weird. One of the other band members offers me a sip of his Johnny Walker Blue ($35 per shot) and tells me that I should order several of them like he did because “Judy is paying and we’ve earned this”.

While I was pondering exactly how he had “earned” anything since their record still had not come out and he hadn’t made anyone a penny, the profound moment came.

The lead singer withdrew his iPhone after one particularly bad song and asked my friend – “So, if you were us, what would you do?” My friend, in a moment of sheer brilliance, said “I would take off my halloween costume and do something real.”

The band sat in stunned silence and walked away. Why? Because they knew they had just been given the best and most true advice of their lives. They were trying to create these characters full of bluster and bravado. They didn’t really even believe the charade themselves.

I see so many writers chasing something that they are not. People that grew up in a major metropolitan area trying to write “tailgate and dirt road” songs. People coming to town and putting on their cowboy boots and hats at the county line.

And, my advice has become a steady stream of “take off your halloween costume and do something real”. You don’t have to be somebody else to succeed in Nashville or anywhere else. You just have to figure out how to market the “real” you. And you have to become the best you that you can be.

If you figure out how to market yourself and your real songs. And if you figure out how to connect your story to the story of millions of other people, then you’ve got a very real shot.

Keep it real, MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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