by Clay Mills
Feb 9, 2024
When I first started writing songs I was obsessed with listening to records. Songs and sound just turned me on. I was thoroughly engrossed with my favorite artist. I read books about Bob Dylan, I read liner notes and interviews with the Eagles. Deep down, I felt I was part of their world through their music. I spent a lot of time alone doing this. Little did I know that eventually, I would need to find a community for songwriters.
Of course, I had tons of free time as a kid to spend alone doing music.
My mom saw to it that I did my chores, but after that, I lived in a fantasy world where I dreamed of one-day writing songs that played on this magical format called radio. In fact, I am sure barring severe illness, I heard every American Top 40 Sunday Countdown with Casey Kasem from the age of 11 to 17.
As I got older, I felt I was being pulled further away from my first love of music.
There was college, then a respectable job. I had to make a decision to work my day job, and then stay up at night working on my music. But I was doing something I loved, and it gave me energy! A great energy. Still, I didn’t feel connected as I once did to music.
The power of community for songwriters…
What I was lacking was a community for songwriters: a group of like-minded creative soul mates. So, when I was in my early twenties living in NYC, I was invited by a new friend to join a Song Circle. Of course, I had no idea what a Song Circle was, however, I showed up for it because my friend said to trust her. When I arrived, I found a group of nine songwriters sitting in a circle. I joined in and one by one, we all took turns playing our songs for the group.
After each song played everyone in the group commented on the song—comments about what they loved, or what they didn’t get, or comments on how to make the song stronger. I had never experienced this, but it was not awkward in the least.
A community for songwriters has a common goal…
You see, everyone in the room had a common goal: to become the best writers we could be. I knew this just from the energy in the room. I felt it. There is something truly magical about energy, intention, and focus by a group of people with a common goal. And, we all wanted to be the best writers we could be. Eric Beall, Alex Forbes, Shelly Peiken…many in the group went on to write hit songs, produce records, and run publishing companies!
I’ve often thought about what made that group so special. I believe at the heart of it was Intent and Connection.
We checked our egos at the door and connected with a common all-consuming energy to learn from each other. And, boy did we. One person played a dance song, the next, a rock song, and me, with my country songs. We didn’t care, it was all about creating great music and getting better.
SongTown was built on the feeling of belonging…
That’s what Marty and I dreamed of bringing to SongTown—that feeling of belonging. That feeling of sharing the love of songwriting with each other. It’s the same feeling I had as a kid living through the liner notes of a record, only now, I get to do it with my fellow songwriters. I’ve witnessed this same group energy in our online classes as students are co-writing and forming SongTown SongCircles across the globe. In these crazy times, it keeps us all together.
Today, I feel connected to other writers in more and more new ways…
like when a writer reads one of my books like Mastering Co-writing and emails me to share how much it’s helped them. Or when my former student Sara Davis writes the #1 Billboard song in the world, abcdefu, with another SongTown alum Gayle!
So when folks ask me, “How does a songwriter get from point A to point Z in the music business?” I can say with absolute certainty…
It’s not about chasing that co-write with a big superstar artist or the latest hotshot songwriter. It’s done by working together with your friends around you.
The group shall rise together in the Creative River.
Write On! ~CM
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