Songwriters: Find Your Song Circle

by Clay Mills
Feb 29, 2024

When I was 19 and moved to New York to pursue my dream of being a songwriter.

I was fortunate enough to meet someone who invited me into a song circle. I had no clue what a song circle was or what it would one day mean to me, but I convinced myself to get over my shyness and attend the meeting. (Boy, was I painfully shy back then!!)

When I got to my friend’s apartment, I found myself in a living room with nine other songwriters just like myself sitting in a circle. All of us, just starting out and pursuing this dream of writing songs. We didn’t have big music business connections—nor did we know exactly what we were doing—but we all loved songs. As the meeting started, someone played a cassette (yes, I’m that old!) of their latest song. After it was over, everyone in the circle gave their critique: what we thought worked or not, and suggestions for how to improve. Sometimes we thought a song was perfect the way it was! And, so it went, each week we met for a few hours and played our songs for each other.

cowriting course for songwriters

Looking back, I see the simple brilliance.

We all got the benefit of 10 creative minds helping each other become better as writers. Maybe something about my song bothered me, and I couldn’t put my finger on… but, you can bet someone in the group knew what it was! And, someone else knew how to fix it!! The second benefit was that it got me out of my own head, and let me see how my ideas came across to others. Did they get the meaning or feeling I intended? No? Oh, well, I will go re-write it. My song circle was one of my best teachers! The final benefit came from the connections and friends I made there. We began co-writing and getting to know each other. Today, looking back on our group, it is fun to see how far the Song Circle 10 came: Myself, Eric Beall, Alex Forbes, Shelly Peiken, and the rest. All ten of us got cuts on records, and most even wrote big hits and/or ran publishing companies!

The reason I am sharing this story is to let you know what a wonderful opportunity you have with your SongTown friends to form your own powerful Song Circle.

A lot of you are posting your work in the forum each week and taking the time to review and comment on other people’s songs. Start noticing other writers in town who may do one aspect of writing you really like or do it better than you; this is a great candidate for a future co-write. Imagine if you co-write with 2 or 3 SongTownians down the road and one of them gets a publishing deal. All of a sudden, your songs you wrote together are being pitched to artists by this publisher. This is exactly how it happened in my song circle!

Write on, Write Now! ~CM

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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