Bob Marshall

There are two, very different Nashvilles.  There is the one that folks see in the bars on Broadway and on the television show "Nashville", and there is the real, behind the scenes city.  

Four years ago I wondered into Nashville, without a plan and without any idea of the "real" Nashville.  I went to a NSAI Songwriting camp and was fortunate in meeting with Marc.  The past four years have seen a major change in my songwriting abilities and my connection to Nashville through personal contacts.  Marc is the impetus for those positive changes that have put my music career on a brand new, accelerated trajectory.

If you want someone to blow smoke and feed you lies, MARC IS NOT THAT GUY.   However, if you want a thoughtful and honest evaluation of your present talents and abilities, I can not recommend Marc highly enough.  And...on top of all of that, he is a genuinely nice guy.  

Bob Marshall
Performing Singer/Songwriter/Cowboy Poet

Dave Mininberg - NC

Marc-Alan Barnette probably saved me three years on my learning curve in Nashville.  I was lucky enough to be introduced to him on my first night there and I can honestly say I had NOT A CLUE! With his insight into everything from sharpening my writing skills to understanding how the business actually I figured out a direction.  He opened doors for me.  I now have places to play when I come to Nashville and have met so many kind, helpful songwriters and other people through Marc-Alan. 
While all the introductions to places and people have helped tremendously, it won't matter unless you have quality material.  Marc-Alan helps you find the song within the ideas.  One example is the song "My Second Mom". I had a chance to make a videa of the song before my "second mom" passed away:
Like many songwriters, I have a lot to say.  Some of my songs are longer stories.  That works for live performances in certain venues.  But the difficulty is learning to say a lot in a short window of time.  The goal is to figure out how to tell a real story with real emotion in a format that will work for publishers. Maybe once you have "made it" you can pitch whatever you want but for most of us, that is not an option.  On one of my "tours" with Marc-Alan I was running through some of my songs.  He stopped me when I got to "My Second Mom".  The idea was already there but it wasn't focused yet. My best friend's mother was very important to me while growing up.  She gave me stability and helped keep me grounded through difficult times.  I loved her very much and she was sick with cancer.  I wanted to give her something.  I decided I would, for the first time in my life, create a real video with a song recorded in Nashville.  The problem of course was in finishing the song. We ran through the lyrics I already had which were considerable but still scattered.  With his knowledge and experience, he helped to boil it down to the essential points and come up with the format. The song is my ideas but without his help, I don't think I would have been able to say so much in just such a way as to make it work.  Because of Marc-Alan's help, I was able to finish the song and get the video done before she passed away.  I will be forever grateful for this. He is a coach, a mentor, a tour guide and a friend.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at

Dave Schwalm - New York

Anyone trying to make inroads to Nashville as a songwriter or entertainer without help, should reconsider. We (my songwriter partner and I) have been traveling to Nashville for over 15 years. We have played many venues, at open mikes at midnight, meetings with publishers and producers and lawyers, songwriting camps 1 & 2, BMI meetings, etc, etc, etc. It didn’t do much but waste a lot of time and money, for over 10 years. We had hit a wall. Find some help or quit.

We made contact with Marc Alan Barnette, who we refer to as MAB, through the NSAI web site. We thought what the hell. We’ll spend some more money and give it a shot. Nothing to lose. We set up our first MAB tour. It went so well that we just finished our 5th!

MAB opens doors that an outsider can’t breech and has many, many connections. On this last tour we met 3 hit Nashville songwriters...and not just a hand shake. We got to sit down with each of them for at least an hour and pick their brain. One was a breakfast meeting. One played us our own little concert of one of his hit songs. We had a blast and they are all great people with a lot to give. Our first 10 years, we never meant a hit writer. Try that on your own and good luck.

MAB has set us up playing at several venues around Nashville for us over the past 5 years. As an outsider, forget it on your own. Over the past 5 years we have written several songs with MAB. Some of them are basic and a few are actual hit songs. Wait and see. He teaches the art of songwriting and I consider him a master writer and not a lot of those exist. He has written over 3,000 songs. You will leave your writing session with a real Nashville song.

MAB has introduced us to several local Nashville writers and now when we come to town we co-write with them. Again, try it on your own. It will take years for contacts, if ever.

MAB has taken us to ASCAP and BMI meetings, NSAI and any other place you would like to visit, just ask. He has studio connections and publisher connections and…well…..he’s just connected.

How’s that for a TOUR of NASHVILLE?!

Do yourself a favor. Sign up for a MAB tour. We have spent a lot of money in Nashville, Thousands of dollars. The MAB Tour is the best money we have ever spent
It will save you years of aggravation. There are a lot of scams and scammers in Nashville and this is not one! As a matter of fact, we are bringing MAB and his tours to Central New York, so everyone can learn from his MABness.

If you have any questions on a MAB Tour, you can reach me at

And no, I’m not being paid and no, he’s not my brother.

Steve "OD" Harris - Ohio

RE:  Matrimony....... I mean Testimony

By:   The Old Dog (Steve Harris)


Okay, I was just teasing with the matrimony part (it rhymed so I couldn't resist).  Actually, working with Marc Alan Barnette (MAB) is almost like a marriage in some ways.  It's a love affair of music creating a life long partnership through song.   Ha!!!   Okay, even I agree that was a little creepy, so overlook that part.  The real comparison to marriage and working with MAB; is how you can easily become part of his music family and circle of friends; just like in a marriage.   The relationships with Artists and songwriters through working with MAB, is a benefit seldom spoken about; but the best part of my journey and worthy of a mention.


I'm an older guy from Ohio that loves music, like all of you.  I have a background in music by being a bass player for several bar bands, for over 40 years.  I was a good enough singer to sing harmony parts; but never good enough to sing lead and be a front man in any of those bands.  I barely played rhythm guitar good enough to give me any aid to make the songs I wrote sound worthy of a listen; but I couldn't help but write those songs because of a desire to express my creative side.  I also worked a job, to pay the bills, that I recently retired from; so my newly found interest in wanting to write better songs was not an attempt for a career change by me.


So why on earth would some old guy like me; with limited talent, even think of spending time and money taking a MAB Tour???   My reply:  Why Not!!!


As I read the other "Testimonials" on MAB' webpage, I hear from very talented artist's and songwriter's; most of them professionals in the business.  They give MAB credit for being a positive influence during the early part of their career, and I know for a fact that is true.  That gives MAB a tremendous amount of credibility for his services to help those with a great talent take the necessary steps to further their career.  What about someone with limited talent???  Should they do a Tour???


The MAB has helped me become a much better writer and I have also increased my catalogue with some really good songs, co-written with MAB and a few others.  I also have a long list of friends in Nashville that are like family to me; yes, the MAB family.


So; if MAB can help someone like me, imagine how much he can help all of you with more talent than I will ever have.  So to all of you sitting on the fence about whether to take a MAB  Tour or not.  Regardless which side of the fence you fall; if you get up, brush yourselves off and sign up for a Tour, you will have landed safely.


Steve "OD" Harris - Columbus, OH

Jimmy Bielkiewicz - Nashville

Why Work with a pro writer?

Why would anyone want to spend their hard earned cash to have someone else tell them what to do?

You are living the dream, becoming a songwriter, your family and friends love your songs, however, when you play them for strangers they ignore you. How can this be? You read several books on songwriting, read countless online articles and even forums. Your songs have everything that all those sources say they are supposed to have, yet people just don’t connect with your songs. Now what?

First you are not alone! Every songwriter has been exactly where you are right now!

I thought I could pen a great song, pay $700 to have it demo’ed, and Nashville would come knocking at my door. $700 later I had a great CD of an average song, a song that could be heard all over Nashville and even all over the world, NOT my song, but millions of songs just like mine. Different titles, lines and rhymes but the same story told just a slight bit different.

Heart broke and lost I searched for what to do next. I found “Write with a pro” web sites where I could spend $200 and write one song with a pro, well this would not help me write better. I found a camp that cost $2500 and I got 20 minutes with a pro writer at the end, seemed kind of crazy.

Then I found Marc Alan Barnette, $225 for a whole day and he calls it a tour. Tour? Am I going to see the city of Nashville? NO just the opposite it is a tour of ME, my past, present, and future of songwriting, the mistakes I made in the beginning and why I made them, the songs I am writing now and what can make them better, and then where I wanted my songs to be in the future, which included writing a song with a pro (he has had songs on the radio, in movies and won lots of awards). Sounded very interesting, and three days of one on one with a pro teacher would still be less $$$$ than what I wasted on that first demo.

After my tours with Marc, (which did not happen on 3 consecutive days) I had 5 songs that were my ideas written professionally and “Radio” ready. These songs are still teaching me almost a year later. I often look at them when writing a new song to see how Marc said what I wanted to say. We have all heard the saying the “Gift that Keeps on Giving”, well this is what a few tours with Marc have done for me.

Additionally, Marc introduced me to many of his friends, set up co-writes with writers that could continue to teach me more and help me grow as a songwriter. (No additional cost, it is like your tours never stop)

I still have a lot to learn but now my songs are drawing attention instead of driving it away.

If you are feeling frustrated or stuck, It may be in your best interest to look up Marc, he is on several internet forums giving free advice to anyone just for the asking, however if you are serious about learning to write better songs than the millions of other songwriters out there I would seriously consider spending your money with Marc. In the long run it becomes an investment that saves you cash and grows. Through Marc I have met many “Hit” writers who all say “Nashville is a 10 year town (takes 10 years to make it here), one day with Marc knocks 3 years off of that.”

I hope this helps you in your Journey

Jimmy Bielkiewicz -

Norman Bradley - Nashville

Working with MAB, coming to Nashville for a Tour, but you ain't country?

I met a few  folks who have told know I heard about this Marc-Alan Barnette guy, and something about his Nashville songwriter tours, but like I am NOT country.

Now we could sit here and debate what constitutes as country and what not but thats not my reason for this  POST.

So I said:  tell me what  kind of music do you play and some say  Rock, Commerical POP, blues, folk,  Americana. One said I like older style Rhythm and Blues. One  said  I wanna write contempory Christian cross-over music. BUT most stated  I'm NOT into COUNTRY

OK. Well, I said, tell me what you wanna do with your songs. Some wanna be artists. Some wanna be writers. Some hope to perform on UTUBE, or Internet  Radio and on Social Music sites. Some hope to someday be signed as artists. Some hope to tour around and  play thier songs and gain audiences. Some just wanna write better and perfom at local cafe's. Some said I wanna reach the most people I can with my music, maybe  touch somebody's life, or help them make changes to thier life.

I said well MAB has got you covered and I will tell you why..

Because any one of those styles of music or reasons of writing boil down to a few simple facts. 

Well, tightly written songs, in a formula or format that can speak to the most massess of folks you want to reach. You need songs that will engage them and hold thier attention, and hopefully, touch them somehow and or make them remember you and either want to write with you, perform with you, or follow you and show up at your shows or tune into your Utube perfomances, and want to hear you or your songs again,.

 MAB can teach you how to do that.

Yeah but he is in Nashville, and thats mostly country or country style. Well it's true that the market in Nashville is "Country oriented."  But the Music in this town and the music scene encompasses everything  from southern Rock to blues to POP to Christian Music and so much more. 

Even though some of those same-mentioned styles or genres are maybe not MAB's direct style, writing very tight well written songs are still your biggest asset within those styles, and with that, he's GOT you covered. And if you wanna ASK MAB  what kinda songs he has played or written in his career, you'd be amazed. You'd be blown away at the mix of styles of Artists he has worked with, or opened up for or wrote with.

The bottom line is: a tightly, well written song in any almost field of music, still holds its own.

Norman Bradley -

Will T. Massey - Texas

I was making the transition from focusing on my artist career to focusing on my songwriting career when I met Marc-Alan. He gave me tons of valuable insight into the Nashville scene which will be with me a long time.  We collaborated on a song and it was an honor to witness his remarkable talent for focused writing.  It was just the
kind of number I wanted for my repertoire.  Marc-Alan facilitated a writers night slot for me and helped me make an inroad with the host which bodes well for future trips to Nashville.  If you're new to the songwriting world in Nashville,  Marc-Alan can give you a leg up.

Will T. Massey -

Justin Parker - Texas

The second you meet Marc-Alan Barnette "MAB" you have gained a friend for life. I first met MAB online via a couple different music related message boards. We struck up a conversation and began to talk about songwriting, and the music industry. Truly, his teaching began that day, but seven months later here I sit just a week back from Nashville and a two day tour with him. Those two days had the single greatest impact on my viewpoint of songwriting thus far. MAB has been in the Nashville trenches for much of his life. His desire to teach others not only what to focus on, but what to avoid as well is evident from the first time you meet. Simply put, he cares. Every tour is different, based on what you personally want to accomplish in your own journey. He doesn't try to "direct" you a certain way, but won't let you steer yourself off a cliff either. He will call out mistakes, but then helps you to fix them. He shows you where you may be straying, and most importantly for me would give me the "why" he is suggesting certain changes. His tour is kind of like "boot camp" for the music industry.  No matter where your particular tour takes you, you will come away with a wealth of priceless knowledge. I feel like it's taken me a few days to even begin to digest the information, and it's just now beginning to "soak in." I am a better songwriter for it. Being from Texas, I came away with a strong understanding of the difference between Texas music, and the Nashville bar for songwriting. He spent time, and focused with me personally on the differences between the two and how I could hone my craft to change between the two regional styles of writing, and left with an understanding on how to go about writing in the future with each individual market in mind. His knowledge of music and songwriting was seemingly limitless. That's what was so impressive. As I said at the beginning, I learned more in two days with MAB than the past seven months on my own. You simply can't put a price on that.
Thanks MAB for all you do.

Justin D. Parker -
Spring, TX

Caleb Key - Indiana

If I ever "found the time" to make it to Nashville, I think I finally found the right time, and I'm not so sure it wasn't "destiny". I decided to do one of MAB's songwriter tours, scheduled a date, made plans (although hurriedly) and started off on my journey. This would be my 2nd trip to music city for the purpose of furthering my songwriter career/dreams. I left southern Indiana around 6:45 AM in a beat up old Ford pick up truck, and less than an hour later and about 60 miles from home, my truck decided to give out on me. I limped down the road a couple of miles and there just happened to be a shop open, one guy working, who told me that I had better turn around and try to make it home, cause my truck was not going to make it to Nashville- my transmission was going out. I got back in the truck and before I could even get the door shut it started raining just about as hard as it could possibly rain. I pulled up to the highway. To the right was Nashville, a one on one meeting with MAB, and my hopes and dreams. To the left was a somewhat quick path home, back to reality, another broken hope of becoming something better. Against my better judgement I said to myself "By God I was on my way to Nashville and I'm not turning around here!" I continued south and my truck never missed a lick the rest of the way to MAB's house. It was almost as if it was a test, kind of a "are you really serious about doing this?". I was.

I pulled up to MAB's place only about 20 minutes late. I felt like I had showed up to football practice without any pads or helmet. I hadn't brought a guitar, any lyric sheets, folders with ideas, not even a notebook or pencil to take notes. MAB wasn't impressed and scolded me a little : ) and gave me my first lesson for Nashville (and the boyscout's) before we ever made it inside- "be prepared".

So after a rocky start, a lengthy Q&A session, where MAB answered my questions so in depth and thoroughly that I could scratch 2 or 3 more off my mental notebook afer asking one, and a quick lunch at a cool little indoor/outdoor type sandwich/bbq/cafe joint, we headed back to MAB's place to start on a song.

We had discussed different ideas for some songs I had in mind at lunch, and proceeded to do two things that MAB told me we shouldn't do. 1. Write a song about a topic that a friend of his had written about previously. and 2. Write a guitar song. But against his better judgement, we did it anyway. It was amazing to me, the process that MAB used to get the song off the ground. I just read this evening in one of his other posts, that he gets an idea from a newbie, and then writes the first verse and chorus before he ever picks up his guitar, and all in about 10 minutes. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HE DID! It was like he was in some sort of zone. He closed his eyes, laid his head back, and hummed and moaned and grunted occasionally, all so softly that I couldn't really tell if he was really doing it or if I was imagining it. And then he would type on his notebook for 15 seconds or so, and then go back into his "little world". I really felt as if I was watching a master at work, but finally had to ask after 7 or 8 minutes- "Are you brainstorming and writing or are you just emailing someone?" lol. He said "No, I'm writing", so I continued to watch. By this time I'm thinking "OK mister 'I'm the king of the near miss', Lets see what kind of stuff you are putting out there." And then he prints off a lyric sheet with a title, first verse, and chorus, and picks up his guitar. He starts playing this cool bluesy sounding progression with licks and fills like I wish I could, and then sings the first part of our song, sits the guitar down, and says "Something like that?" I dont know if my jaw was on the floor or if it was resting on my feet, you'll have to ask him, but I was amazed. I even asked him "So, you've written over 2000 songs. Is that something you wrote several years ago and just put it down on paper for me to see?" No. He wrote it in those 10 minutes. It was filled with imagery, simile, "visual furniture" ; ), and references that someone like myself could NOT just come up with in 10 MINUTES! But that is part of what I took away from the experience. Although some of what he wrote was from personal experience, someone like me CAN and SHOULD be writing like this.

I didnt plan for this to turn out so long, and I applaud anyone who made it all the way to here. Long story long, we ended up with a cool, little more blues than country song that I will always remember, not so much as for the song itself, but more for the "making of" and EVERYTHING it took to get there.

And as far as a tour with MAB, I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone, especially those who are making one of their first trips to town. He is a wealth of knowledge and a great place to start. Thanks to MAB for a very memorable experience and for gracing these forums that we all turn to so much, and thanks to NSAI for asking him to be here!

Caleb Key -
Bedford, IN

Cliff and Bev Nelson - California

As former NSAI Coordinators for ten years, we can truthfully say that Marc is one of the top things you could ever do for your group or your own career! Marc is a veteran of the music business wars and has spent 20+ years in the Nashville trenches.

Marc has been instrumental in working with our songwriting group in Orange County, California, so much so that eight of our members have moved to Music City and now have careers in the industry. They have signed deals ranging from songwriters to artists.

Marc knows the true workings of the music business – not just theory, but the real stuff of how Nashville works. He tells you not always what you want to hear, but what you need to hear to get you to the next level.

Marc was the reason we formed our band, Losers Like Us, in Orange County, California. He gave us suggestions on everything from song selection, to instruments to play, to performance skills, and promotion. We’ve played in local fairs and clubs, have a CD, a music video, and even a song that’s been on the radio (co-written with Marc).
Cliff and Bev Nelson -
Orange County, CA

Big Ed Moore - California

Hi! I just wanted to say something for the benefit of the newer people. It costs money to learn to be a songwriter, but you can keep it reasonable. There is always travel and the related expenses. The other big expense is learning how to write at a Pro level and learning about the business end of music, which you must know, is order to make good decisions. Understand that my thoughts are related to commercial music. I'm not talking about writing for a hobby, with no desire to do anything commercial with your songs. Time is money, so try to learn at the highest speed possible, so you can get in the game ASAP.

With this in mind, even though I've been a music professional for several decades, when I decided to expand into the Country market, I knew I had to learn everything I could about that format, fast. I needed a consultant that could answer my questions about how the Nashville Music Biz worked differently than in L.A., New York or London, which is what I'm used to. I also needed a consultant who could show me the ins and outs of writing songs in the Nashville style. If I was going to get into a different game, I had to START by learning the rules. I have a huge head start in that I know the Music Biz VERY well. I did a lot of research and attended a songwriter retreat where I met Marc. After talking to him, I saw that I could get two consultants in one person with MAB.

That retreat showed me that I didn't like the whole "Big Group" learning situation. I get the info too slowly and there isn't enough of it for my specific situation, so using Marc as my consultant was a no brainer. Using consultants can be much more expensive than the Group things, but I knew it would be worth it, and would get me most all the info I need EXTREMELY quickly. The funny thing, was that having a personal consultant didn't cost any more, and was CHEAPER than a lot of other, less effective things. Now it was REALLY a no brainer! I got almost all the Business info I needed on the first day I worked with MAB! Then came the more difficult part...learning to write in a different style than I have for my whole life. That was alright. I have written Rock, Pop, R&B, Rap and Dance songs. My Discography includes over a hundred records, but none of them are Country, so I knew that I had some work to do, if I wanted to compete.

Marc explained everything to me about the way I needed to write to do what I wanted to in Nashville. I wrote a buch of songs with him, that really came out GREAT! I'm a lot better now than when I first met Marc, but I know I still have a ways to go. Luckily, I have met and written with others, who have contributed a great deal to my catalogue, and I really appreciate all of them. I HIGHLY recommend that you don't waste time and money by doing things that are not enough bang for your buck. In my many years of experience, MAB is one of the best deals I have ever seen. I'm being as objective as I can. If you're wondering if using Marc as your personal consultant is the best idea, I can tell you that it is. You'll get so much more out of it, and you'll save that other valuable thing, TIME. Never forget about that one! If a guy like me, who already has Gold and Platinum Records on his wall, sees the value in MABs services and uses them, shouldn't you? I hope this helps somebody, and like the Notorious B.I.G. song says, "If ya don't ya know"!

Big Ed Moore -
Northern California

Becky Monnier - Kentucky

I’ve been writing since I was about 12 years old. I wrote mostly poetry until about 2 years ago when I finally decided to try what people had been telling me to do for years. Write songs. I thought… how tough can it be to write a song… I’m good with words, I know how to say what I feel and tell a story. Can’t be too tough to switch from poetry to songs. BOY was I wrong!!

I really didn’t know anything at all about the craft of songwriting. I actually didn’t even know it was a craft. Then a friend of mine told me about . I went to that web site and looked around until I came across a thread called The Music Industry Insider by Marc Alan Barnette. This one got my attention. I began reading the wealth of information and discovered how much there truly was involved in writing for the country commercial market. I soon figured out that this “marc guy” knew what he was talking about and had the experience to back it up. Finally I jumped in and began participating and asking questions in order to get to know more. Marc welcomed me and answered every question I had and some that I hadn’t even thought to ask. I wanted to learn the art of the craft and I wanted to know how the music industry really worked. I had fallen into the place and met the right person to learn anything music there was to know. (And met an amazing group of people)

The next step was to meet Marc in person and do one of his tours. I did my first tour with him a year ago. During that I found everything Marc had said on line to be true. I got to meet the people on the inside with him … producers, pluggers, artist, pro writers, went to ASCAP, BMI, studios and clubs. I got to hear stories of where these people were and how they got there. But what impressed me the most was the admiration and respect all these people had for Marc. I was amazed at how every one of them told how they were banging there head against closed doors until they met Marc and how in working with Marc they learned what they needed to learn, met people and established relationships and were able to finally get in those doors. No matter what their problem area was Marc was able to teach them and help them so that they could achieve the next level in their writing and the next step in their journey. I discovered also how well known and loved he is. I began working more with Marc through private sessions and more tours and the continued participation in the events and teaching he offers. Every time learning more, meeting more people, and applying what he taught.

Now 1 ½ years later I have learned more than I can possibly list here. My “pre Marc” writing is now in a file that I would never show to anyone… even though at the time I thought it was good. I have begun Co-writes with multiple people that a year ago I would have been afraid to even try to write with because of not being good enough, or comfortable or confident enough in what I was writing.I’ve learned about near rhymes, being conversational and interesting, positive, finding a way to say the same things differently, finding that less is more… being able to condense what I’m trying to say in fewer words. I’ve learned a lot of what NOT to do. I’ve met people who are now the best friends I’ve ever had.

I’ve watched other peoples careers take off as a result of them working with Marc. For example: Frankie Ballard who is now signed with Sony and Warner Brothers, Julie Moriva who is now a staff writer for Big Machine Records and Steel Magnolia who won can you duet and are now also singed and touring with artist like Brad Paisley and have release their own singles (which are doing quite well) I can honestly say that because of Marc Alan Barnette I know now what it takes to write a good song, and what is involved in writing for the country commercial market. I know that I have improved greatly since I started working with him. I know how high the bar is and that I’m not there yet but I also know that I will continue to work with him because he will continue to teach me how to reach it.

In working with Marc I have gotten to know what a great person he is and that he genuinely cares about the goals and success of each person he works with. I would recommend him to anyone who is serious about music. If there is a “shortcut” to achieving your dream… HE IS IT.

Becky Monnier -
Kentucky (soon to be Nashville...I hope!)

Karolyn Marie Roberts - North Carolina

I was referred to Marc-Alan by Doak Turner who told me that a Songwriter Tour with Marc was a MUST during my recent trip to Nashville…and he was right!

In my early 30’s, I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid, but mainly wrote for myself as an artist. I pursued music in Los Angeles for over 10 years before moving to Charlotte, NC (where my family had retired) to escape the rat race.

I’m currently in the process of making the move to Nashville (once we sell our house) and I’m focused now on just songwriting. It was incredibly helpful to sit down with Marc and learn what to do and what not to do once I move to Nashville. Taking the crazy path of the songwriter is a long and hard road and it greatly helps to have a mentor guide you through the process.

Marc answered all my questions about Nashville, the industry and songwriting. We also finished a song that I had been stuck on for awhile and Marc helped to bring that song up to a whole new level. And I got to meet Vince Gill during breakfast!!!!!

Talk about a perfect summer day in Nashville!!!!

I feel like I have more direction now and know what I need to focus on. I also have a good idea of the first steps I need to take once I make the move to Nashville.

A few hours with MAB should be a prerequisite for ALL songwriters coming to Nashville! I can’t wait to come back for more!

Karolyn Marie Roberts
Charlotte, NC (Soon to be Nashville!)

Dave & Sherri Galka - Florida

To be honest, I was one of those who thinks; "How does all that crap end up on the radio?" Nashville must need songwriters cause all the country stations are playing the same 20 songs all day long. I didn't know.

I started writing and performing my own songs at church here in Pensacola. Gradually branching out and playing at our family reunions and eventually local songwriters nights. For the most part, my songs were sitting home in a drawer. Oh sure, the family liked them and the polite applause from open mic venues was nice but in reality my songs were going nowhere.

So during an NSAI Songcamp in Nashville we were talking about what folks were doing to move their music forward. Everybody was going off in all different directions but one name did come up a few times - Marc Alan Barnette. Heck, we were both already on SongRamp but he had 600+ pages in the forum. It seemed like all his forum pages contained the real meat and potatoes from someone who is actually doing this songwriter stuff every day at the heart of it all. The road to Nashville was all mapped out with the detours, speed traps and pot holes clearly marked. It was all for free online too! Entire books have been written about song writing that don't have the information Marc was sharing for free. There was a lot of reading to do.

Sherri and I met Marc in person when he came down here to play a local venue and then took his Frank Brown tour in November 2009. The tours are essential if you are serious about doing something with your music. Working together with fellow songwriters for an intense weekend is just awesome. Marc will push you and your music beyond where you are now. If you up the ante he will match it and raise you one.

In one year, after 2 tours now with Marc my song writing has improved with more details, better rhymes, less clichés and a tighter story line. My stage performance has changed with more focus on dynamics in both vocal and guitar. It is not all there yet, not by a long shot, but there is progress.

Nashville is no longer a total mystery. Now we have a plan and some definite things we want to accomplish when we go there. Marc really is the GPS for Nashville. We have already played a few open mics in Nashville, met a lot of great people on the tours, wrote new songs with Nashville songwriters and have been invited to write with others when we are in town.

Locally we are playing more venues and getting a more recognition. This fall we will be playing at a local festival in Foley, AL and also managing the Bluegrass stage there. All this activity has led to meeting a variety of local acts and being invited to play at more shows. Marc has pushed the solo guitar playing and now local people are asking me to teach them to play guitar - good grief! This kind of progress would have taken years at my own pace if it happened at all. There would have been lots of dead ends and empty wallets along the way, too.

Honestly, Marc's tours will save you time and money in the long run.

Oh yeah, one more thing, now I know how all those songs end up on the radio.

Dave and Sherri Galka -
Gulf Shores, AL

Dean Stacey - Canada


Wow!! You gotta do one of these tours! This was my second trip to Nashville and my third tour. Marc always manages to give us something a little different each time and make sure we get what we need as our needs change, even in a group setting with a few newbies in the group.

It was great spending time with old friends and getting to meet some great and talented new friends. I've come to think of some of these people as family. My cool musical cousins.

What can I say about the tour? We met and spoke with Danny Wells (Check Yes or No, George Straight, These Days Rascal Flats) over lunch. Another example of of the down to earth, very cool, kind of people you meet in Nashville. Danny shared with us some of his songwriting experiences and wisdom, and answered a few of our questions. He also told my wife, Jane, that if I didn't listen to her ideas he would take one and write it. We also stopped by Sharp Objects to get a view of the business from a song pluggers perspective. Once again we got a no holds barred account of just what we are up against if we want to be writing in the big leagues.

We also had a writing day scheduled where we were grouped together with some local writers and artists. There were some very talented people in that group and some very good songs came out of the session. I got thrown for a bit of a loop. I was put in a group with two incredible women, but one of them was not a country artist. I somehow think it may have been part of the plan to have me outside of my comfort zone. We ended up with a very cool song in spite of the slight genre hurdle and had fun in the process.

Ahhh and then came Marc's big birthday bash at the listening room. MABAPALOOZA. What a night that was!

Marc put on one helluva show, taking the stage with some of his students and a number of pro's who came out to help him celebrate. Among the performers were Gary Hannan (Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off), Chas Sanford (I Ain't Missin You At All), and Jimbeau Hinson(Setting Fancy Free) I get a real kick out of it every time I see Marc and Jimbeau perform together. Both real powerhouse performers! (I'm also paying attention and taking mental notes) Later on after the show we all went out for a late night munchies and both Jimbeau and his wife, and Chas Sanford stopped in for a bit. It was a

great way to round out the tour.

There's a lot I haven't mentioned but the story just gets too long. Marc is Da Man! I am glad to have met and learned from him. He's a great mentor and friend.

Dean Stacey -

Dave Wagner - Missouri

Music Industry Insider...should read Inside Music Industry!

Because Thats where you'll you will find Marc A. Barnette [MAB] this guy knows what he is talkin about and keeps no secrets I have been on the forum for 2 years now. I went from having one song in my catalog to more than 20 and probably 50 more waiting on music the old saying you cant get something for free does not apply to the forum he answers all questions free of charge. But if you want to get what you pay for Take the tour a well thought out plan that will get you in some doors that are not available for most songwriters that are new..

Plus one on one no holds bar critques that will open your eyes.

The forum is great for songwriters that are not ready yet but are open to learning what it really takes to get there songs

Dave Wagner -

Matt Hoggard - Oklahoma

I am a singer-songwriter and in December of 2008 I found Marc-Alan Barnette’s “Music Industry Insider” Forum on

After 25 years as a musician, I was at a low point in my musical journey. I wanted to pursue songwriting as a career. I had spent years performing with bands and writing my own material but I was ready to start writing songs with “commercial” appeal and I knew my skills as a writer were not up to par with the pros.

After finding Marc’s forum, I was instantly hooked. He taught me things about songwriting and the business that I never would have learned on my own. I thought I had some good songs when I went under Marc’s wing. After just a short time, I realized that I was nowhere near the level I needed to be. Marc is a straight forward, no holds barred kind of guy and he pointed out that If I wanted to take my songs to places like Nashville or any other music center for that matter I really needed to work on the craft of writing.
And he showed me the nuts and bolts of songwriting for the mainstream.

I come from an extensive rock background but I learned over the years that I could write decent country songs and with the country market being so wide open I figured that was the direction for me. I was one of those “get a load of me” me guys. I was also the guy who tho ught the industry people would not accept outsiders and that all the doors were closed. I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder but I am open minded and smart enough to know that I don’t have it all figured out so why not listen to this guy!

I did my first ‘tour’ with Marc in June 2009. It was 3 days of nonstop Nashville and learning the inner workings of the music business. I had lunch with Hit writer Wil Nance (George Strait, Brad Paisley) and also had lunch with one of Marc’s publishers Best Built songs. Getting to have one on one, face to face time with these people opened my eyes to what Nashville and the business are all about. These were the nicest, caring, most honest people and I would never have imagined that top industry people would be so giving of their time and advice.

Marc literally knows just about everyone in Nashville and he is more than willing to introduce you to his friends and give you a taste of what it’s like in Nashville everyday.
The biggest thing I noticed was the relationships that people cultivate. Everyone knows everyone and once you start building your network, before long, you are starting to know more people who are on the inside. The doors are closed but they will open if you take the time to get to know people and be friends.

I have currently done 3 tours with Marc. I have written songs with him, met top inside people, and recently I had the privilege of performing during his birthday tribute show. I was playing in front of hit writers, top publishers, and lots of writers who live in Nashville. 2 years ago I would still be writing songs in my living room and not performing anywhere but family reunions. Marc has shown me that the way to open doors is to get out there and do it!

I strongly recommend taking his tour. I am so glad to say that I have not only made a great friend and mentor but now I am getting to know people in Nashville who might one day help me continue my journey! It will be the best investment you can ever make for a career in the music business!

Matt Hoggard -

Kevin Emmerick - Virginia


This is a thread written by Kevin Emmerick, from Crosette, Va. As he attended a three day songwriters “TOUR” put on by MAB in July 2010. It is as good a break down as I have ever seen.

Ahhh, what a great experience. I have a lot to write about, but I have a 4-hour web training session coming up here at 9am and I guess I should make sure everything works (ha, ha). I'll just set the stage here with my last Thursday experience. Instead of re-writing it (the fish in the story always gets bigger and bigger), I'll just copy my songramp post here.

I'll be going over the tour day by day -- but feel free to interrupt and ask any specific questions about the tour or Nashville. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it out.

Note: I was supposed to meet everyone at the Commodore Lounge to watch a writer's night, so I was hurrying to get there on time!

******* Start Thursday, July 15, 2010 - Nashville Trip summary *******

Hello there, I am in Nashville!!!

I had a little setback on the way here. I was on I-40 out of Knoxville when I had a killer idea (I hope) for a song for the Saturday write-up. I pulled over into a rest area to jot down a few lines so I wouldn't forget (not write the song, just some ideas). As I was getting up to leave, the picnic table was a total one piece stone structure -- so I tripped over the part connecting the bench to the table. Cooler went flying, pens and paper, too. As I was falling through time and space, I said "Kevin (that's me), I'm glad you brought the Motrin".

I managed to scrape an elbow, one knee and put a nice gash on my leg. (All in all a fairly good trade -- who woulda thunk that songwriting was such as dangerous endeavor). Of course, my travel first aid kit is safely sitting on my basement office table. I cleaned up as best I could and proceeded down the road. I found a Wal*Mart a couple of exits down and bought a bunch of medical supplies. I then went out to parking lot and performed surgery on myself. I felt like that alien in the predator movie! Except I didn't scream -- although I considered it when the isopropyl alcohol hit the wounds!

I am now sitting in the hotel room knowing that I have to take a shower and clean and re-dress the wounds. I'm scared. Rum and cokes to the rescue.

So what was supposed to be a 9 hour trip became 11 hours and I am going to miss the Commodore gig tonight. I was really, really looking forward to that to kick off the weekend and get me super excited.

Oh well, I hope the idea I came up with is worth the disasters. If this is the price I have to pay every time I have a good idea -- I'm taking up cultivating orchids.

See you all tomorrow!!

******* end Thursday Nashville Trip summary ******

Kevin Emmerick - Friday July 16th in Nashville -- Part II (the evening)

I am realizing that I didn't take very good notes for the performance type stuff, so this part of it will be pretty weak.

We were going to a place called Calhoun's for dinner and a writer's night playing experience -- and I was going to be expected to play, yikes! This is the main reason that I played at least one open mic night in Crozet before I left home and did my best to memorize two songs! Now this might not seem like much to those of you that play a lot and learn lots of songs, but I don't learn any covers and all of my playing is -- writing, composing, recording, play all sorts of parts, mix and then move on to the next one (as Ricki might say, before I have really "finished" the first one -- ha, ha).. I also do very little in just a guitar/vocal only format. So I must admit being a little worried about that -- not a lot, but enough for me to make sure my tunes were known backwards and forwards.

After visiting Mt. Richmore (John “Big and Rich” Rich’s house), I went back over to MAB's to test out Matt's guitar (another tour participant and a very good dude). Come to find out that all guitars require a direct plug in and just the vocals are mic'd. My guitar has a Martin thin-line pickup in it, but the bass "E" string rings out volume-wise more than the other strings. It is just not right. So not only was this my first writer's night in Nashville, but I had to play an unknown guitar which could have added to the tensions. Luckily for me, Matt's guitar was easy to play and was not going to be something I could blame if things went south (dang!). So if you are going to Nashville to do writer's nights make sure you have your acoustic amplified. I am sure there are some places that mic guitars -- but MAB says it is too much of a hassle and feedback becomes a never-ending problem. Six mics are harder to control than 3 vocal mics and 3 guitars plugged in.

I went back to the hotel to re-do the bandages and was thinking about napping, but time had semi-run out. Now remember I am a morning person so it was 5am Friday morning when my eyes first opened up -- but it was 4am Nashville time (central)! I tried to stay in bed for awhile, but only made it an hour. So I am normally a 5am -- 10pm type of guy -- and the Nashville crowd runs on the other time clock that goes 'till late at night -- oh well. Of course, adrenaline helps out and I minimized my booze consumption.

Off to Calhoun’s. My Mapquest directions said to turn left onto I-40, so I turned left -- going I40W (supposed to be going east). Took me about 10 minutes to figure that out and get turned around -- so I now added 20 minutes to my travel time. MAB wanted us there at 6pm and now I was going to be late. Plus a huge lightening and rain storm enveloped me, there was construction going on -- a nice relaxing way to start the evening. But I made it.

The music started close to 7pm. I am a little sketchy on the first set. I seem to recall Dean/Devon, Matt (from the tour), some guy on the end I didn't know -- but then I recall Norm (tour) involved, too -- that's 4 and only three are up a time. Maybe the 3rd guy had guitar issues and came back later -- I can't recall (or I was trying to get a rum and coke and wasn't paying attention). Oh, a quick note on the format. In writer's nights they like to do something called "in the round". Three writer's get up at a time and each one plays one song in order and then they start over again (see this wiki about the Bluebird for more info: ). It is a cool way to do it -- makes for better variety. If you know each other's songs, you could play along -- but if not, you just sit there, look interested and try to not to fall off the stool or drop your guitar. Each of those on stage got to do one song and they were all really good -- very entertaining.

The BIG ED came. Big Ed is a west coast dude that has gold/platinum records for doing hip/hop and rap style records (not sure if he is a writer or does mixing/production -- or all). He is working with MAB to learn the country stuff and do some interesting things. He talked to us later about that. In any case, it always said that he is part Dark Underlord, being 6'6", long black hair -- and he brings wind and rain wherever he goes. Remember that storm I mention earlier. When Big Ed appeared, it crashed into Calhoun's in full fury with lighting, thunder and wind swept rains. Oh by the way -- we were at the outside patio at Calhoun's (under a cover, though). Nonetheless we had to break everything down and go inside. MAB was actually going to have us setup and play un-amplified inside, but the management didn't want to do that, so we just waited and Big Ed gave us a little talk.

Big Ed, besides writing country songs himself (and good ones to boot), is starting to specialize in "Country Dance Mixes". This is where popular, danceable country songs are "extended" to 7 or 8 minutes and are intended to keep folks dancing at the DJ style clubs. In the most extreme format, Ed might dump of all the tracks except for the vocals and then just add back in more electronic low-end heavy bass, drum, keyboards, guitars to really make the dance factor stand out. Supposedly this is really big in Europe and is starting to catch on here. Obviously dance mixes have been around forever with pop music and dance clubs -- but I guess it is relatively new for country music. Big Ed actually works with the Record companies to get the tracks he needs and then does all the re-mixing and re-instrumentation. I asked him "Who gets paid for all this", and, to me, it doesn't seem like the artist or writers (or record company) make anything off this -- it is considered promotional. Of course, clubs pay ASCAP/BMI fees -- but payments to writers/publishers are based on radio play only (I think). Oh well, it is all too confusing. Big Ed also gave me a CD with 22 of his songs and told me it was meant to be play f'n loud (not just loud). I played it a couple times in my ride home on Monday -- pretty good stuff!! He also gave some great plug ins for my cakewalk recording software that I won't get to try out until the end of August or so.

OK, the storm finally moved on its way and we went back outside. With the big delay, I thought I was going to be off the hook, but MAB said "get up there". I can't even remember who was in my round (ha, ha), but I got through OK. I have got to work on my mic control. MAB said I move around and I need to "eat that mic" to get heard correctly. It is all a learning experience -- and those are things I can improve on with practice. So I just have to play out more (I did play another open mic last Wed and played three songs!). Then other MAB folks (have done earlier tours with him) got up and did their tunes, One note on memorizing your songs: In some avenues, having a cheat sheet or song book is OK, but memorizing is best. One guy had a double sided sheet of paper with lyrics and as he went to turn it around, he started to slip off the chair and dropped his guitar -- and it made one of the loudest rackets I have ever heard a guitar make. But it stayed in tune and the show went on.

We heard at least three or four "up and coming" artists that probably have a shot in the future (or already are doing the music career thing successfully), but one thing I need to point out. If you are getting up there and just going strum, strum, strum -- your audience will probably tune you out. All of the folks playing did bass lines, riffs, turn arounds, and other guitar "things" to add interest to the songs. I changed up my patterns between the verse and chorus, but I really have to work on expanding my guitar work to include more complicated sounding stuff (doesn't need to be complicated -- just sound like it!). Since I mostly record, I lean on the multi-track thing to add variation. When it is just you and your guitar -- well, it's just you and your guitar.

Finally MAB got up, and for my benefit, he decided to slightly forget the words to the first couple of songs he was playing (ha, ha). I guess when you have 2,000 songs over the past few years, it might be tough to keep them all straight. It was my first time seeing MAB perform live (I missed Thursday night's gig) -- he is the real deal. Some people are just performers -- doesn't matter what they are singing or doing -- it is just entertaining. Of course, it helps when the songs are well crafted with interesting themes. Great time! I should have written down the songs done, but he did end up with his classic ode to lonely songwriters: "Tables and Chairs" ( ).

After MAB, the host of the writer's night (Christina) got up and did a really cool, jazzier sultry tune -- and then she said she had only been playing guitar for 3 1/2 months!!!! I guess she took a class at the local community college and practices a lot! After that a waiter got up and played three or four songs (I wonder if he got in trouble for that?). By this time, I was burned out and ready to go and get some sleep -- a big day lay ahead! (I know I fizzled out a little on my Calhoun recollections -- but dang, it was over a week ago!!)

Remember -- I have only written about the first day so far!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

****** Saturday, July 17, 2010 in Nashville ****** - Kevin Emmerick – con’t

Ok, now it is nitty-gritty time -- today's the day MAB pairs us up with more experienced writers and we sit and co-write a song from scratch. Exciting and scary at the same time -- how am I going to "perform" in front of these "Nashville-style" writers? When I heard it was going to be four hours, I though, shoot, maybe we can do two songs. After all, I've done FAWM a couple of times and am on my second 50/90 -- and I think I can churn out decent enough lyrics under a time pressure situation, so I was looking forward to the event. Plus I had that "monster" idea that caused all my trials and tribulations at the rest area. First of all, breakfast at the waffle house with MAB, Matt, Norm, Ronnie and Me (any one else?). I can't for the life of me remember what we talked about, but it all seemed interesting at the time (ha, ha).

So we arrive at Doak Turner's house at 10am to start off the day. Doak is the ultimate Nashville networker and the house he lives in is really dedicated to music. He has bunches of rooms that can be used as "writing/playing rooms" and it actually used to be a recording studio and some famous bands lived there for months at a time. I believed Keith Urban was there for awhile and MAB told us about a few others, but I forget now. I think folks from out of town also stay there on their visits instead of paying for more expensive hotel rooms. All told there were 24 (or 27) of us and the first thing we did was to go around the group and quickly mention our names and our biggest musical influences. I went for Van Morrison, The Band and newer Americana groups, like the Avett Brothers, as my choices of influences. MAB then broke us up in to 8 (or 9) groups with three per group -- one "newbie" with two more seasoned writers.

I was pared with Lance Carpenter and Bob Paterno. The first thing the three of us did was just to try and get to know each other. The first thing I noticed was that Lance had a big ring on, so I asked him if that was a championship ring and he said he was a Tackle for an Arkansas football team in college (not division I -- I didn't get the school name). However, I decided right then and there that I was going like everything he proposed for the song (ha, ha). Lance works for FEMA and he was assigned to Nashville for the flood relief efforts. He was going to be moving to Nashville full-time in the near future. Big, burly guy with a pretty cool "Rodney Atkins" type voice. Bob was in from Dallas and was actually staying at Doak's and had writing appointments lined up for the time that he was in town. He was a quieter, unassuming type -- but it turns out he knows his music backwards and forwards -- I wouldn't be surprised if I saw him producing pro sessions in the future.

After the preliminary introduction, it was time to get to work. Sorry to say, I tried to jump in with my picnic table story and my idea for the song -- but I could tell it didn't "grab them" (ha, ha -- all that pain and agony for nothing). The next thing was to get out their I-Phones and I-Pads are start looking at song titles and hook ideas that they had been compiling. Lance mentioned that one thing MAB had told him was to "round out his catalogue" with some "funny" or "grab the audience" type tunes. He discussed that MAB mentioned that if you get them in the face (smile) or stomach (laughing) with an earlier song, you will establish credibility with them and then they will listen more closely to songs that get them in the throat and heart (those deeply felt tunes). So he wanted a song that would be a good kick-off number at a writer's night type setting. Made perfect sense to me and Bob agreed whole-heartily. Now Bob mentioned that at co-writing sessions like this you have to throw the ideas out and not worry if they get shot down -- don't take it personally. At the same time, don't be afraid to shoot down ideas that I didn't care for. If you are used to business "brainstorming sessions", the concept is to throw out bunches of ideas -- without judging them. The start-off here was like that except ideas get shot down sometimes (ha, ha).

Two side points I want to make here.

1.) MAB told us that it is the job of the "new' writer (me) is to bring lots of ideas and hooks to the session -- as a newbie you have to pull your weight. These guys really don't need me to write a song, so I had better bring something worthwhile. I must confess on that front, I didn't hold up my end of the bargain. I had some ideas, but these guys were organized, focused and really had their stuff together. All in all, I was along for the ride! In the end, we got a pretty good song, so I think that these guys would give me a second shot -- but there probably wouldn't be a 3rd shot if I didn't contribute more. Unless, of course, a great song was written every time I was there. Then they would say "That Kevin ain't worth a sh** as a co-writer, but good things seems to happen when he is in the room!" Yes, I did comment on quite a few things and made suggestions whenever I thought of something -- but these two guys were driving the bus. The best thing I did was to not get in the way and impede the progress of the song. I definitely had checked my ego in at the front door, so I was not going to force my ideas/viewpoints on these two guys.

2.) Over in the Creative Writing forum, someone posted an interesting little piece about Nashville's Dirty Secret where the old guy (reminded me of the character in Crazy Heart) rambled on about today's Nashville. One of the things that he railed against was those "co-writing" sessions. Here's my viewpoint (after seeing it up close and personal): In the end, the creation, and writing and composing of a song is still ART -- any way you cut it. But these guys are serious about it and their time is limited. So why not use business-like practices in all the other parts of the process: keeping a lists of hooks/titles/ideas, scheduling writing sessions, having an encyclopedic memory of all the current songs out there (so you don't start treading on something that is already out there), etc. etc. etc.... If you "practice" creativity enough, maybe you can call it into the room when you need it. In any case, face to face co-writing by appointment works -- if you are creative AND organized.

Lance (I believe) threw out the idea of "Girlfriend For The Weekend" and that started the ball rolling. We worked through the story and looked at the different scenarios it could take on. As always we had too much of a story and had to cut back in the end -- but that was OK. Now, one good thing here is that when I threw out ideas/lines that didn't work (!), the two guys actually took the time to partially explain WHY they were turning it down ("remember what we did back here --- we need this cadence or rhyme scheme here" -- stuff like that). All in all, super cool learning experience. I won't go through every line, but after we had a verse and chorus, we stopped to talk about other things. They each played some tunes they were working on, played some recording of songs they were getting cuts on or friends of theirs were getting cut and generally had a good time. All in all, we probably killed off an hour or so -- but that's OK, we are also building relationships. Time for lunch!!!

One lunch time story: We were standing around in the kitchen with Lance, MAB, me and one or two others and I mentioned that Bob and Lance were carrying all the water and Lance said, yea we are saving your butt. I then said "I owe you two for this” and Lance said "You don't owe me anything"-- you owe the next songwriter you meet down the line -- in other words, pay it forward, just help folks out. That is just a good life's lesson.

Do anyone of you remember how hot it was that weekend??? Well, there were a couple of teams outside and one of them said we gotta come inside! So we gave up our room and went outside (actually into the garage) and finished up the song. We struggled a little on the 2nd verse, so we skipped ahead to the 2nd chorus and the bridge and then came back to verse #2. Remember I thought we could easily knock out two songs -- well, we were scrambling to finish when the MABster was calling everyone in to play their songs for the group (and since we were running out of time, they actually used some of my lines -- ha, ha)! Now I want to tell you -- EVERY song from EVERY group turned out really, really good. The first couple of tunes were excellent, but more in the positive, uplifting experience type of thing (and nothing wrong with that), so when Lance and Bob got up to perform the tune (I didn't know the chords well enough to help out here), it was a total change in direction topic-wise and Lance really had the crowd laughing with his delivery. It is a song that I am definitely going to work into my little repertoire. I have that song in MP3 format, but I need to get permission to post -- but I'll post it when I can.

I think we went until about three and then it was time to break to get ready for the big MAB birthday party bash at the Listening Room. I'll come back and do part B later on (probably tomorrow night or even Wed. night -- I am on the road tomorrow). I am not sure how I am going to report on the party -- words are going to be tough and if I wrote about everything I heard or felt, it would probably be a long post (oh wait, I have those already, LOL!).

1.) One of the things that a co-writer from Saturday's session said to me (I think it was Bob) was "Don't tell any Nashville co-writer that you just write as a 'hobby'". Now, while I didn't say that, he could tell that I was one of those newbies that just wasn't sure where all this was going (ha, ha).

Now that statement wasn't meant derisively or in meanness -- it was just a fact and it makes sense. Most of these serious song writers are co-writing for as much the networking aspect as well as the better song ideas. There is no shortage of talented, potential co-writers in Nashville -- but there is a shortage of co-writing appointment time. So if you are going to co-write with someone, who are you going to pick? Someone who is going to play the tune out at writer nights, work on it some more, maybe show it around to his/her contacts/publisher/plugger, maybe want to pro demo it; or some guy who will go home and play it for his cat in his living room? It really is a no-brainer when you look at it like that.

2.) Another aspect of "Amateurism versus professionalism" is getting demos done. It seems to me that a logical extension of doing co-writes with serious writers is the inevitability of needing pro demos of songs that you want to pitch. Let's just say that Matt, Norm (two of MAB's group guys) and I co-write a tune and we are all excited about it. After a while Norm says "Hey I got this great female singer lined up, we have to do a full blown demo at Jay's and with the extra vocalist it will be $750 -- or $250 each." Now, I decide I have to pay mortgage instead and I just can't swing the $250 right now. I don't think Matt and Norm will hold it against me personally, but next time they want to do a co-write with a third person, maybe they will ask Becky instead.

I am one of those that got caught in the housing reversal, so I don't plan to go wild on spending money (at least for the next year or so). I don't mind sacrificing "this" to get "that" -- I just won't ask my family to sacrifice on something that is just Daddy's (what's a word for "hobby" that doesn't say "hobby" -- LOL!). However, if you want to write "professionally", doing demos is just a cost of doing business, or so it seems. Maybe I am wrong here, but it seems that if you want to play Nashville's game, you gotta play by the established rules -- and one of those rules seems to be you need pro level demos if you want to pitch. I realize that there are exceptions to every rule, but they are labeled "exceptions" for a reason.

Just a couple of thoughts.


OK, where was I? Or I could ask "Where am I?" but that takes us down a whole different path. (by the way, I wrote these opening lines here and thought "hey that could be one of my 50/90 songs". The new song started out great and then fizzled out altogether -- but I posted it any way -- ha, ha).

It is now Saturday night and it is time for the MAB's 12th annual 49th birthday party. Actually I don't know how old MAB is, but I heard one of his daughter's is a grandmother. All in all he looks pretty good for one of those "old white guys" that were mentioned so prominently in another thread.

How do you describe this live extravaganza that MAB and his friends put together? If you like live acoustic music performed by great writers, musicians, singers and performers, with amazing variety, with newcomers mixed in with some of the big hit writers that were soundtracks to my life -- then I guess The Listening Room was the place to be!

The show started off with what MAB terms "Newbies", but in reality they are not "newbies" in either skills or performance chops. They are mostly just students of MAB in different stages of development. Having got to hear/talk to some of these "newbies", I would have to say that country music is still a vibrant spawning ground for new talent.

In the newbie round were:

Allen Shervelle/Bonnie Lee Panda/ Norm Bradley
Will Carter
Matt Hoggard
Rene Mauve/Shelagh Brown
Doak Turner
Jason Gregory

I could talk about the guys, but no one is interested in that (OK, maybe 1/2 the population is). I really enjoyed the Bonnie Lee and Shelagh parts of the show (ha, ha). OK, the guys did great, too. I can tell Matt loves to perform and MAB tells us that Norm is a poster boy for how far you can go if you work at it (he looked quite comfortable up there and did a rocking song). Allen/Bonnie are full of energy and excitement -- and have really cool songs. Renee accompanied Shelagh and was quite talented in his own right. I believe Renee is a founding member of a very popular Tex/Mex band up in Michigan. He also seems to have quite the eye for talent (co-coordinator for the NSAI chapter up there), as he has pointed at least 3 folks to MAB and one has a writing/record deal (Frankie Ballard). Jason is probably 6'3" or so and has that deep Randy Travis/Josh Turner voice -- the gals love 'em, the guys hate 'em -- ha, ha. Jason did a song that I got to hear at Calhoun's the previous night. Based on his distinctive voice, he has a chance. Doak (AKA Mr. Networking) was solid on his tune, too. I must have gone outside and fallen off the balcony and had to climb back up with one arm during Will's song -- because I missed that one. Ah yes, MAB/Norm just reminded me -- He was also the guy video taping the whole thing (and/or doing sound). One note on Allen -- he has a cool schtick (even though he doesn't need it). He wears a Superman "S" shirt at every performance -- I think he even referenced that "S" in one of the songs he did. I think it is a pretty good idea to have something else to make folks remember you (another type of hook!).

Now a quick word on these "newbie" songs. I believe they were all co-written with MAB as part of his teaching tours. I think MAB has said that he has written some 2000 songs with 1700 folks over the past 6 years as part of his "tours" or teaching positions. I haven't done the co-write thing with MAB yet (next visit!), but I think these songs are his "teaching tools.

Based on MAB's writings and conversations with others, it seems to me that these following things are what MAB tries to tackle in these intense co-writing sessions with him: What's the story? What's the hook? Are you writing TO the hook? Does every couple of lines make sense against that hook? Are you whining, preaching, ranting? (If so, get rid of it). Are you using action words instead of passive lines. Do you have tons of visual items in the song so folks can see something in their minds as they read/listen? If you are using metaphors/cliches are those metaphors/cliches soundly supported or "setup" by the visual items of the song. If you have to use a common cliche -- is there a new twist on it that makes it fresh? In fact, since every idea has been written thousands of times -- what is your new twist on the whole idea? Are there "elbow moments", where certain lines stick out as fresh/funny/interesting? Even if the song is not a happy one, is there an element of hope in there (folks got enough of their own problems). I think MAB probably spends a couple of hours on theses songs (finishes them with the student -- and probably does the lion's share of the writing here, using info from the "student"), but then it might to be up to the student to dig deeper, refine and do whatever they want with the tune. Are all these teaching songs great? MAB is pretty tough on himself, so he would say no -- but dang, I bet every one of those 2000 songs have addressed all the points above and therefore have all the elements that a great song would have. There are some real gems in that pile of "teaching" songs based on what I’ve heard lately.

All in all, if MAB had said, OK, that was the show for tonight --I would have been satisfied!!!
But wait there's more to come. I will definitely finish up Saturday night's story before the end of today.