SongTown: A No Guru Zone- Why We Created Something Real For Songwriters

no guru zone for songwriters - songtown


SongTown – A no “Guru” zone for songwriters…


At SongTown, we’ve been pretty protective of our songwriting community. It’s a private community of some of the best up and coming songwriters around. Marty Dodson and I started it 8 years ago to help grow aspiring writers into world-class writers.

A lot of folks in the music business asked us why we would even do this.

We’ve had collectively over 300 major artist cuts, 16 #1 songs, and still are cranking out 200 plus songs a year with major writers, artists, and producers.

We didn’t need the money, we have day jobs as pro writers for our publishing companies. We’ve been fortunate to have a resume of 100’s of major artist recordings.

For us, the bottom line is we love songwriters, songwriting, and great songs.

We love the energy that great songs bring to the world. And we were tired of seeing “gurus” popping up on the internet promising to show aspiring songwriters the way to songwriting success. Almost every one of these self-proclaimed “gurus” had zero success themselves or had a little success years ago. And the sad part is the advice and instruction they were giving out was just not applicable to today’s changing music scene. Much of it needed to be unlearned to achieve real success. And worse yet, they were telling aspiring writers what they “wanted to hear” to keep them coming back! 

So, Marty Dodson and I created a private community where we were honest with writers. If their songs weren’t good yet, we said so. AND we told them how to make them better. Therefore, We give our SongTown family the tools to write good songs.

As real pro songwriters, we know everything you want to do in the music business is all on your shoulders and how good your songs have to be. So we created a no guru zone… A zero BS zone. 

SongTown members have many different goals but all share one thing in common.

Many of our members just love songwriting and want to be the best they can be. We love giving them the tools to accomplish that and help make their process more fun. IWhile other members seek writing careers. Writers like  Mary Haller, Conner Sweet, Nora Collins, and many others have signed staff writing publishing deals! Blake Griffith even got a Tim McGraw cut recently! The thing that ties this big family together is the support for each other’s goals and talents. We celebrate each other’s success no matter the size. Whether it’s writing their first complete song or landing a song in a major TV show. It’s all about the love of real songwriting.

As long as our members are game, Marty and I are going to continue waking up each day with the goal of helping aspiring writers write great songs.

Through our Members Only website, lesson & course videos, books, and personal mentoring… we put writers in real-world situations to succeed.


Write On! ~Clay


Clay Mills is a co-founder of and a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter. He has multiple Grammy nominations and is the co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing. 

New book, Mastering Melody Writing, coming in 2021!

29 thoughts on “SongTown: A No Guru Zone- Why We Created Something Real For Songwriters

  1. Because of SongTown I have read 2 books by Marty and Clay. I have taken 2 classes and a number of free videos.
    I have written better songs and have met great aspiring songwriters, melody and production people. Meeting the professionals is so inspiring and motivates me to be better at my lyrics.
    SongTown is a family and keeps people like myself busy with their gift of songwriting.
    I also read clays blog on video zoom and google pro for co-writing. For Christmas I have a better set up with my shure podcast and song recording Microphone, table clamp mic holder and cheap interface. Staying busy is good for retired veterans like myself.
    I never thought of myself as a professional but have singers playing my songs.I also strive to get my stuff published in future. I like being around professionals and have them give me pointers for next song. I write 2-4 songs a month but when I start co-writing will put them out faster with a team. I am completely satisfied with SongTown staff and friends, hobbyists and professionals. I am busy at times but will still write and then throw myself back into SongTown kool videos and more songs with friends.

  2. I’m addicted. There is no comparison in where I am in my songwriting now with where I was when I joined songtown about 4 years ago. I feel greatly supported by the amazing members and mentors and there is an endless supply of great learning material and resources available regardless of where one is on one’s journey.
    Being part of Songtown helps me ‘level up’ but also levels out the playing field for those of us who don’t live near a music city and feel that void.
    Well done Clay and Marty

    1. Maybe SongTown can all get together again next fall for our Birthday Bash… if the world starts turning again! 🙂


  3. Songtown has been a Godsend for my life. The amount of meaningful quality content and both you and Marty’s personal input and commitment continuously blows me away. Thanking you doesn’t even come close to how grateful I am for being a part of what you guys created. There’s no other place to study songwriting that even comes close to Songtown.
    You two are amazing. Songtown rocks.

    1. We are fortunate to have you in the community Ave. You not only write good stuff but you help a lot of other members raise their game!


  4. Clay,

    I got a cut too on Tim’s album “Top Of The World” and also now his greatest hits album on there too and I got no credit. This will be long, let me explain cause something needs to be done like an accountability group among all writers not to write another’s idea, especially if it is unique. Let me explain how I feel that I am 100% certain someone at Big Machine as I had pitched song of same title to Tony Brown, Chuck Ainley, etc. I believe someone slipped Jimmy Robbins my hook lines and just rewrote them. My line was “when you’re in my arms, I’m on top of the world. I pitched the song on a mailed CD September 13, 2014. Jimmy and his other 2 writers had it on hold in November of that year, enough time for them to write their’s and demo and pitch. I did tons of research and was crushed cause I knew without a shadow of a doubt they lifted my unique hook writing their “holding heaven holding you” line from my line and following it with top of the world like I did in my lyric and another line about holding forever or something like that. I have a notebook full of about 20 pages where I did research on all the publishers and Jimmy since I found he said he came to the writing session with the idea and guitar intro lick. I also found an old video of him performing at a songwriter’s night and saying with a smirk and laughter that he had lifted a line or two, or twisted a line, from an already recorded song before in his writing, was my understanding. Was not clear exactly what he meant the way he said it but my impression was he is not the most honest of humans when he said that. Don’t remember exactly word for word what he said. I know that “Top Of The World” is a common title and quite a few songs have of course been written from that title. That’s not my point. My point is that I pitched my title and hook lines to the same label as Tim’s and at the same vicinity of time that they get a hold of the same title with my hook line rewritten. Outrageous to say the least. Tim recorded it in April, 2015, the same month my mother died, and it was a huge hit by September October of 2015. If they did take it from my song it is so wrong and this kind of thievery should not be tolerated but still is to this very day in the music business. I guess no one has the courage to stand up for what’s right or rock the boat for fear of retaliation. But I am convinced because of the time table and circumstances and the lines that they took it from me what was mine and put their name on it. And get this unimportant but: They then even sent it up to the space station one morning because of the theme. A little side note: Interesting since my great -great -great grandfather on my mother’s side was Samuel Finley Breeze Morse inventor of the telegraph morse code, and a prolific artist and teacher of art at Columbia University, inventing other things as well and one of the first to even contribute to the type of inventions that would be a forerunner, and effect the music business to some degree, since communication was successful transferring signals through a wire, thus creating sound through a sound device the telegraph. So these writers stole a song hook line idea from a great- great- great grandson of Morse and then got all the profits and recognition and woke up the astronauts that day with a song and an idea that came form me. Unthinkable but it is reality. I don’t say all this about Morse to boast at all, but it’s just the amazing thing with this song that has happened. I recently heard Craig Brichardt say it has happened to him and other situations where his songs were lifted, treated unfairly and Emily Drybrough just said she has pitched a song about ‘I’m more country than you’ to Big Loud Publishing and theirlabel and one of their writers or two decided they could write that and did and had a big hit with it. I am not sure if that song they wrote was “Rednecker Than You” or not. Wish someone with the power and a very honest heart would start an accountability group that would kindly call out any writer or writers that another writer feels strongly that material was stolen by them and money was made; there should be an agreement in writing that the writers that had the original idea should fairly be compensated and listed on the song or record as a writer. I know of course that sometimes writers feel their songs were stolen or part of the idea, and in fact they were not but it was just a coincidence. In my case I feel it was not a coincidence and I know over the years I have had other things taken that just absolutely crushed me. One was a melody that one publisher asked for a copy of a song that Trisha Yearwood had demoed for me – a pretty pop ballad and Al DeLory (producer Glenn Campbell) wanted to show to a friend and Ben Peters too wanted to polish the lyrics with me on it. It somehow became a 30 second TV commercial the melody for Quaker Oat’s commercial and they played it constantly on all channels for around a year. Met with Musicologist Michael Harrington and professor and he said I would have had a good case in court. The commercial even used the same type piano sound and even modulated like my demo, even in just a 30 second commercial!!. I had played the song in 2 weekend songwriter seminars one in Nashville and one in San Diego. Stupid of me to have done that with so many ears listening to one of my best melodies. I did not pursue cause I did not want to sue anyone, and also I don’t know exactly who got the demo to who and how and how it was passed down?

    The copyright laws are not right with the 8 notes exactly the same rule, because a thief can skate around that by ever so slightly changing a note, when you can STILL TELL they stole the unique melodic idea, and also there is no protection in the law, where there should be, when a lyric of a great hook lyric is lifted and rewritten, particularly if no one has ever had such a unique lyric or hook line too, as of yet make money. All writers should be protected during the time they are in process of creating their songs.

    In my case, I am convinced they stole my hook lyric idea matched to the same title of the same time period. Not a coincidence at all and it’s a shame. How much more proof do you need? I am also convinced if I had never existed, then a song with the title “Top Of The World” would not be on 2 Tim McGraw Albums!!

    I just HAD to say all this with the HOPE that some type of songwriter oath accountability organization can be started by either NSAI or someone like you! Where ALL writers take a written declared oath not to rip off the ideas of another writer, profit from it, and that there can be a reasonable way for writers to kindly and professionally confront a writer or writers who they feel have lifted their UNIQUE ideas, hooks melodies, and incredibly unique titles. I remember telling several friends of some unique titles in 2 different situations and they both wanted my titles! There you have it: human nature!

  5. Thank you, Clay for the article. And SUPER thank you for starting Song Town. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the huge quantity and quality of content you make available to people like me that want to get better at writing songs. Plus the pro feedback, plus the opportunity to meet other people in the industry, plus, plus…

    I spend lots of time watching and reading material on the site, and I am continuously getting better. Thank you for that.

    Joe Taylor

  6. I’ve gotten a lot from these articles. I am just a hobbyist. I write in my spare time. But I wrote for 20 years. I am in a local songwriters group of hobbyists – most of whom have no college training in music – just learned how to play an instrument. Our monthly critiques of each other are as much opinion as fact. I recognize your forum is best suited for pros or wanna be pros. We hobbyists can’t always write a song in a day or two so your classes may not work for us. Do you have any thing for the serious hobbyist? ALL the people in my group (about 15 of us) have been writing for years and decades. Sure we’d like to have a major recording, but we also want to just do the best we can. There IS a personal sense of gratification and accomplishment with each song. I am in upstate NY. The ride to NYC is not something I can do casually or often. And who would take me seriously for one-song contracts? Thank you Marty – and please keep the articles coming.

    1. Louis, While we do have members that would like to be pro songwriters, our website is first and foremost dedicated to becoming the best writer you can be. We have many members who are hobbyist. Because whether you want to be professional or hobbyist, learning to be the best writer you can be, make both journeys a lot more fun and fruitful! Also our members love the support they get from each other in our community. The have 1000’s of videos on our website that focus on writing better songs. And local SongCircles in many communities. As well as virtual SkyCircles for our members that don’t have local groups or looking for something SongTown style 🙂


  7. I couldn’t agree more!! This avenue for songwriting is unlike anything else because there are real hit writers not only owning, but helping those of us trying to break into the business of professional writing. My mentor session with Clay is upcoming, and it will be a great joy to be helped, and learn from, someone with “real life” hit writing experience. I can’t thank Marty n’ Clay enough for this wonderful outlet!!!!

  8. One thing’s incredibly clear about you and Marty — no matter what “success” we aspiring songwriters do or don’t achieve, you are truly giving us your coaching out of hugely sincere and generous hearts. I’m so thankful Marty told me about this community. Thank you both.

  9. I loved reading this. I feel like when the student is ready the teacher appears and that is exactly how I feel about Song Town. Just a lucky fluke for me that someone I know mentioned this site to me as I was ramping up my writing and setting my goals. So, so happy I found you guys!!!

  10. In 10 months my songwriting has improved so much! My awareness of what makes a song great is one of the biggest things I learned from being a member of Songtown! Hard Work and writing everyday will hopefully get me to being part of the industry in some way!

    Thank You Clay and Marty and everyone in Songtown!

  11. When Quincy Jones produced “We are the world” back in 1985, he had a sign on the door that said, “Please check your egos at the door”. So true in helping to “keep it real”.

  12. I’ve been customer of a few (no, not quite several) of those other “guru” led business ventures. I have to say every word of this is spot on with my experience has been in SongTown.

    Thank You!


  13. I live in a small town overseas where the music scene is almost non-existent so Songtown has been a real blessing in my life. It’s allowed me to learn how to writer better songs from afar and collaborate with other songwriters. Thank you!

  14. You guys open the doors for songwriters and that is, well, i cant even explain how great that is. I’m so glad somebody out there knows how we feel. Its like the door is usually shut on us of ever fulfilling our dreams, and here you are, ready to help us achieve our goals in life. Thank you guys! You’re 2 in a million! ??

    1. Clay, is it okay to write verses and choruses that rhyme or is that cheesy? I realize that the ‘rhyme’ has to continue to incorporate the meaning or story of the song!

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