Sometimes All A Songwriter Needs Is Someone To Believe In Them: When All Else Fails


Yesterday during a mentoring session I was asked the question, “When did you decide to be a songwriter/musician?”

I thought about it a couple moments and realized it was never a conscious decision. It was more like music made me. Music made me a musician by always being there.

When everything else failed, I could pick up my guitar and escape into a world that comforted me. A world that was filled with hope. Music was my drug.

Those moments when friends let me down, those moments when my heart was broken, the moments when I felt alone—music was there.

Many of you have heard me mention I moved to New York City at 19 with small change in my pocket and big dreams. I found a job working at the famous Manny’s Music on 48th St, a small apartment, and set about living life in this new strange world without really knowing anyone! I was barely making ends meet those first few months. One Friday I dropped off my rent to my landlord and headed to work. When I finished that day, they told me that there was an accounting mistake and I wouldn’t get paid till Monday. Then it hit me. I had no money in my pocket to last me until Monday!! I had given my last funds to my landlord. I left work and walked down Broadway wondering if I should call my parents and do the unthinkable—ask for a plane ticket home.

As that thought crossed my mind, I passed a bar with a sign in the window that said “Karaoke Night.” I walked in and wrote my name on the sign-up list. I had never sung karaoke in a bar, but I had come to New York to sing, and if I was going back home, I was gonna at least say I sang in the Big Apple. I waited my turn and when I was called up on stage, I sang my best version of “Sitting On The Dock of the Bay.” The crowd applauded modestly, I thanked them and started to walk back out on the street to find a pay phone to call home. Before I got to the door, a man ran over to me. He said he was the owner of the club and loved my singing. Then, he asked to by me a drink. So we sat and talked, and he said, “Hey, let me buy you a burger.” I said, “Man, you don’t know how much that means.” As I sat there, I explained to him that the music store had messed up my check and I had no idea how I was going to eat that evening. And I was about to call home to ask for a plane ticket to get me back to Alabama. My new friend smiled and said he was really glad I came into his bar. He went over to the cash register, pulled out a $50 bill, and said, “Never give up on your dreams.” Well, I made it to Monday and didn’t give up on my dreams.

I knew that night that music would always be there for me when all else failed. I realized that music and life was making me a musician.

Often, I think about how lucky I have been to call myself a songwriter and make a living creating songs. Marty and I both feel this way. It’s one of the biggest reasons we created SongTown. We want to be that voice offering support to a struggling writer who just needs encouragement to keep them on their path. When all else fails.

Walk On! Write On! ~Clay


Clay Mills - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Clay Mills
Professional Songwriter/Never Giver-upper/Co-founder

20 thoughts on “Sometimes All A Songwriter Needs Is Someone To Believe In Them: When All Else Fails

  1. Great story, it hit me in the center of my heart. I wonder if you worked at Manny’s when I used to go in there. My dad was a jazz drummer from the ’30s through ’50’s and he first brought me there (in the 70’s) to get my first set of sticks and practice pad when I was a kid. It was a place that musicians used to hang out and learn from each other, there was a solid community vibe in the store, at least that’s how I remember it.

    1. SongTown helps songwriters everyday to become better writers, involve themselves in a great songwriting community, and make connections in the business.


  2. I, also, thank you for this story, Clay. I didn’t know that about you and I find it very inspirational. I honor you for sharing this story. Duncan.

  3. Good story for those of us who aspire to become as good as you, Clay and Marty. Thanks so much for sharing your struggle issues, and good for you on not giving up. You made your dreams come true! Well done, and thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Much appreciated! Kind regards. 😌

  4. Clay, I have been writing since I was 12 (1958) and at 70 I still dream of that first major artist cut. So long as God grants me breath my writing will continue. It is my earnest hope that I will be selected for this years Master Class
    Wayne Roy

  5. Good one…man, have I got some tales too. And I’m still weavin’ em. Without those struggles, it would be hard to reach deep down and find songs that resonate with folks…keep on trucking Clay…

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