Writing Songs For Artists

by Marty Dodson
Oct 21, 2016

Writing songs for artists is a guessing game.

When I’m shooting for a particular artist as I write, I’m trying to guess what that artist wants to say.  Not only that, I’m trying to guess what they haven’t already said so that I can help them say something new.

I look at it this way.  If I just started dating someone, and valentines day rolls around, it’s hard to know what they might like.  But, if I’ve been married 30 years to the same person, I’ve got a pretty good idea what kinds of gifts they would appreciate.  The key is history and knowledge of the other person.  How do I get that kind of knowledge about artists?  It’s not as hard as you think!

I read interviews with artists.

I study their past albums, I listen to the ‘voices on the street’ who are talking to the label, the artist and the producers.  I go to the artist’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages.  These sources all have huge amounts of information that can help me learn where the artist’s head is.  For instance, I read one time in an interview that Kenny Chesney was ‘burned out’ from finishing up an 18 month tour.  He said he was going to go to the islands and ‘regroup’.

Knowing all of that helped me write songs that would fit that mindset.  I’ve felt burned out.  I’ve wanted to just escape from it all before.  So, I wrote those kinds of songs for him.  Light hearted.  Fun.  Islandy.  I knew some inside information about Kenny’s current headspace and it helped me write for him.

Nashville Artist – Buddy Jewell

One of my early cuts was a song called “I Want To Thank Everyone (Who Ever Told Me ‘No’)”.  How’s that for a short, easy title.  We had pitched the song all over town with no luck, until an artist named Buddy Jewell won a TV reality show called “Nashville Star”.  Buddy was a middle aged guy that had sung demos all over town for 20 years while trying to get a record deal.  He had been literally rejected by every single label multiple times.  When he won the show, he got that record deal.  Guess what he wanted to say in that moment?  You guessed it.  He wanted to thank all of the people who told him ‘no’ and forced him to keep fighting for it.  So, he recorded my song.

The song fit his situation so perfectly that people assumed he wrote in.  The truth was, we had written it several years prior.  We had just been thinking about all of the people like him in town that had been rejected and kept going.  So, we wrote a song for those people.  When Buddy came along, it was the perfect fit.

When you write for artists, learn everything you can about them.  

Their lifestyle.  Things they like to sing about, or won’t sing about.  Their relationship status (if they just got married, they aren’t thinking about breakup songs or cheating songs, etc).  Where they grew up.  The more you know – the better your chances of writing something so perfect for them that people think the artist wrote it.  That’s the goal and that’s the ticket to a cut with an artist.  If the glove doesn’t fit, they won’t cut-it.

Marty Dodson

Artist who have recorded Marty Dodson Songs



Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


Write Better Songs Faster

Songwriting Success is Clay & Marty's 10-day video series that will help you level-up your songs and finish them faster. Enter your email address to get started!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.