Songwriters: Job One Is To “Be That Guy”

by Clay Mills
Oct 27, 2022

The Horse & Writer Retreat

A number of years back I got an invite from one of my favorite country songwriters, Skip Ewing, to go out to Wyoming and share my knowledge of songwriting at a camp for a week. The event was called Horse & Writer. We rode horses during the morning and worked on the craft of songwriting during the afternoon and evening. Deanna Bryant and Chris Wallin, two more great writers, were also their teaching; and 15 aspiring writers with awesome talent.

I knew this week was going to change my life the moment I arrived at the Lazy L&B ranch. It was nestled in a breath taking valley 100’s of miles from civilization. You felt like you were in an old John Wayne movie. And no distractions- just good music and song talk! And when I say good music, I mean it! Several aspiring writers attending have since become hit writers themselves. Talent like Jaida Dryer and Tommy Cecil who went on to write their own #1 radio songs for major acts!

Trying to get a co-write with a top writer?

The second night we were sitting around a cozy campfire and one of the aspiring songwriters said in frustration “I have been in Nashville 3 years and I don’t feel like I can get the attention of great writers to write with me.” “How do I get a Skip Ewing to write with me?” Skip’s reply has stuck with me for years now. He said, “You don’t want to try to write with me.” “You want to be That Guy that everyone else wants to write with!” You want to write so well that your current co-writers are telling all their co-writers; and they are telling their co-writers who tell their publishers. You want to write so well people seek YOU out. You want to be THAT GUY.

It made me think about how doors opened for myself. And I can tell you that chasing a co-write with that big hit songwriter or artist NEVER worked. It didn’t work for me starting out and it doesn’t work now after I have been blessed with many songs on radio and albums. If Keith Urban is ever going to call me to write, it will be because he has heard a song of mine somehow somewhere and thinks I have something to offer him. All I can really control is writing. And strive to improve my craft daily! Right now, I encourage you to work on the same thing I will be working on. Writing the best songs I can and improving my songwriting. Let’s be THAT GUY or GIRL!

Write on! 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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