The Struggle Is Real – A Songwriter’s Journey

by Marti Jane Dodson
Aug 5, 2016

Hi! I’m here to introduce myself as a guest blogger here in SongTown
…I know my name is already familiar, as I am the blondest
member of the Club For People Named Marty/i Dodson. As well as
sharing a name and friendship with your illustrious SongTown
founder/mentor Marty Dodson, I also share a love for great songs and a
passion for helping out lost, confused, and wayward souls. (Hint: If
you’re looking to make it in the music business and you’re not lost,
wayward, or confused – ­just give it time.) Also, you don’t have to be
named Marty/i Dodson to read this blog. It would help, but it’s not a

I thought I’d use my first post to explain a little about myself and how I
came to be here. I’ve been on many sides of the music business, and
these days I’m primarily employed as a songwriter for a publisher here
in Nashville. I have, however, been a recording artist with a deal, a teen
model at age 27 (some suckers at a teenage clothing store put posters
of me in all their stores nationwide, dressed like I was late for the prom
when I was actually just late with my car insurance payment), a
hair/makeup artist, a stylist, a background singer, and perhaps most
unfortunately, a deliverer of singing telegrams.

At the tender age of 19, I recall having a tearful argument with my mom
near the buffet line at a Ponderosa in Ashland, Kentucky. The argument
of the day was, remarkably, not the recently acquired tattoo of a giant
fairy on my lower back. No, on that particular rainy summer day, I was
sobbing and telling my mother how I knew­I JUST KNEW ­that I was
meant to make it in the music business. Over a well cooked sirloin, my
poor mom bravely tried to steer me towards careers that provide things
like ‘paychecks’ and ‘health insurance’­but I had this voice that I knew
was destined for big things. When I started listening to the Indigo Girls, I
traded my college textbook money for a $125 guitar and spent most of
my class time looking out the window and writing songs. My dreams of
hemp necklaces, flowing skirts, and screaming fans singing along to my
lyrics would not be denied.

Fast forward a few years, I was gigging around campus at Ohio State,
and started a duo that eventually morphed into the rock and roll band
that opened every door for me. Saving Jane started as a cover band
playing around town to make money, but our intention was always to be
an original band and get a record deal, so as our popularity grew, we
slipped more and more original material into our sets (the old bait and
switch!). We played songs from artists that we thought our music
sounded like, everyone from No Doubt to Alanis Morissette to
Fleetwood Mac, and yes, The Indigo Girls. When we had fans of those
artists following us, we began introducing them to our music.
Miraculously, our plan worked! Through shows around our hometown,
we eventually scored a standing gig as the house band for our local
Top 40 radio station. Our ties to the radio station led to us getting a
management deal, which led to us eventually getting a record deal,
which led to a couple of Top 40 hits worldwide. Someday we’ll talk more
about that process. ­Along the way, there was plenty of blood, sweat,
tears, beer, and bar fights ­but that’s the Cliff Notes version of How I Got
To Be A D List Rock Star.

In the early days of Saving Jane, my method of songwriting was to write
melodies and lyrics in my head, which I would then take to my band and
have them play chords around the melodies I sang while I said “yes…
no…that’s the one!” When we began working with a manager, he
suggested I try my hand at co­writing, and sent me to Nashville to meet
an old friend of his, Walt Aldridge. At that time, I didn’t know a
songwriter from my elbow. I’m embarrassed to say now that for my very
first cowrite, I sat in a room with the man who wrote “Holding Her And
Loving You” with no knowledge of his career, other than that he was my
manager’s college buddy and a nice person. On that trip, I learned for
the first time that there were people who pursued songwriting as a
profession. It was mind blowing for me. I had always wanted to be an
artist that wrote my own songs, and that was my only frame of
reference for songwriting. It was basically my diary, set to D chord
progressions. I didn’t know that you could write songs and want
someone else to sing them!

As my career as an artist grew and I did more and more co­writing, I
signed an administrative deal with a publishing company in New York.
They sent me on a writing trip to Sweden to work on material for my
new record. Stockholm is a mecca of beautiful people with glowing skin
and astoundingly great pop writers and producers. Out of that trip,
some of the songs I wrote were pitched to and cut by other European
artists.This was the first time I realized I could be one of those
songwriter people ­that whatever I was writing, might be relatable for
other artists as well.

In a story as old as the music business itself, it didn’t take long for me to
get chewed up and spit out by the machine. After some awesome but
short lived success, I lost my record deal. It took a few years for me to
start thinking about giving up on that artist dream and realize that my
heart had always been deeply invested in the writing process anyways.
I was a commuter to Nashville for several years, coming to town one or
two weeks a month and then heading back to Ohio and trying to
convince people there that songwriting was a ‘real job’. In the
meantime, my old manager would throw me some work with his new
young artists. While I was out on the road myself as an artist, doing
photo shoots and tv shows, I learned a lot about makeup and styling.
So for several young female artists, I wore many hats­. I wrote songs
with and for them, then I did the hair, makeup, and styling on their photo
and video shoots. When it came time to record their albums, I did all the
backing vocals. It was a bizarre, backwards way to live my dream,
especially having already had some success, but it helped me pay the
bills and kept me close to the music business. Also, for all of that time, I
continued to work with the publisher in New York.

After some soul searching and major life changes, I decided to make
the leap and move to Nashville in the fall of 2012. My New York
publisher hired a wonderful person here to work with my catalog. As
time progressed, not much was happening, and it was costing them
quite a bit to just keep one writer active in the country music scene,
while most of their revenue came from pop music and older catalogs.

We parted ways in 2014, and as fate would have it, that wonderful
person they had hired to represent me, had moved on to take a job in a
major publishing house. When my deal was up and I was a free agent,
the person who had championed me signed me to BMG, and that’s
where I happily write every day lately.

My first real foray into the country world was a song with Canadian
artist Kira Isabella called “Quarterback” in 2014. It didn’t make much of
a splash in the states, but suddenly at the end of the year, it started
appearing as the best country song of the year in several American
magazines. That didn’t pay the bills, but it did help me not stick my
head in the oven for a little longer! My next move is a single coming out
this summer with Thompson Square. In the meantime, I keep at the
writing grind every day, dreaming big and aiming high. I’ve gone from
working a day job as a Social Worker while I played in a band at night,
to being on MTV, to waiting tables at night so I could afford to write
songs during the day (‘yes that was me on TRL, can I get you a refill?’),
to being a writer with a deal, in a town where a publishing deal is
something many deserving people hope for, but don’t have yet.

My journey hasn’t been a linear one­. I’ve been way up, way down, and
coasted on some wavy lines in the middle ­but I’ve never flatlined. I
hope to use my time at SongTown to share some of the struggles and
successes with my fellow big dreamers out there. Look, people, the
bottom line is if I can succeed with this giant fairy tattoo on my back,


Marti Dodson

Marti Jane Dodson

Marti Jane Dodson

Marti Jane Dodson attained pop stardom as the lead vocalist of Saving Jane with the hit anthem “Girl Next Door.” She has written songs recorded by Luke Bryan, Terri Clark, Kira Isabella, Carter Winter, and Thompson Square. She is also a sought-after mentor/instructor at


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