If I Had To Do It Over: Reflections of a Pro Songwriter

by Clay Mills
Jun 1, 2024

I’ve spent a lot of time this morning reflecting on the past, looking at my career as a songwriter, and thinking about where I’d like to go moving forward.

Call this the reflections of a pro songwriter.

Marty and my top goal since starting SongTown has been to help as many songwriters as we could. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life building SongTown with Marty and all of you. Answering thousands of your messages and questions online. Putting together webinars and classes. Just seeing all the passion you have for your songwriting is awe-inspiring. And it’s taught me a lot!

Each day we try to do something to help another not to make the same mistakes we made when we were coming up through the ranks hoping someday people could turn on the radio and sing along to a song we wrote. It personally took me till I was 40 years old to hear that 3:50 of magic on the radio of my car. 40 years to stop at a red light, roll down my window, and tell the person one car over.. “hear that? I wrote it?” Of course, they thought I was crazy!!! lol

Looking back there are a few things I wish I had done differently.

It’s not easy to admit some of these but here goes:

1) I wish I had not listened for so long to the voices that said don’t chase that crazy dream.

The voices were people close to me and often my own voice. I sometimes still can hear that voice in the back of my head. I’m better at not listening.

2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I will be the first to say it takes hard work to succeed at anything at a high level.

But it didn’t have to be so hard all the time. I could have laughed more, not take everything so seriously as I did starting out. Therefore, I could have enjoyed the people around me a little more and told them more that I appreciated them.

3) I wish I had the courage to express my real feelings more when I started out.

To not shy away from writing the hard personal songs. Later I found out what great therapy it was!

4) I wish I had stayed in touch more with old friends.

Music took me to New York and then to Nashville. It made it hard to maintain those relationships from my high school. The people that helped shape who I am and serve often serve as character templates in my songs.

5) I wish I had let myself be happier.

I kept telling myself for years I’d be happier when I could make my living writing songs. But, I’ll never forget the week I had my first hit on radio… one of my co-writers was grinning ear to ear and slapping me on the back. I simply said “Man, we can’t rest on one song… we gotta keep working hard.” What????????? Well, I won’t make that mistake ever again! If I’m blessed with any success big or small I will allow myself to celebrate.

So there are my 5 reflections of a pro songwriter. And my aim moving forward from here? To change those 5 things forever.

Peace, Clay

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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