My First Song Was A Secret

I still remember where I was when I shoved that piece of paper into my backpack.

image via

I was 15 years old and hadn’t yet written any songs. I mainly played songs by Coldplay, Jack Johnson, and The Beatles, not my own originals.

But at my family’s annual vacation on the lake, I started my first song. I sat on a bed in the finished basement of our vacation house, holding a notepad, a pencil, and a timid song concept.

I wasn’t trying to impress any girls and I wasn’t even thinking I would record the song.

I was just writing. No reason. Just because I thought it would be fun.

But, to my startlement, I heard footsteps. Right in the middle of my first songwriting session.

Without thinking, my hands shoved the paper and pencil into my nearby backpack. The sound of the footsteps got closer.

I pretended to be looking inside my backpack for something as my cousin walked by and said hey.

Whew. She didn’t suspect a thing…

I know. Ridiculous, right? Why was I keeping my first song a secret from my own family?

If you’re a young songwriter, don’t be like I was. Share your music. Get uncomfortable so you can eventually get comfortable.

RELATED: Books On Creativity

You won’t get better at (or even enjoy) songwriting if you don’t share your music with others. That’s what I’ve found anyways.

If you don’t have anyone in your life that you’re comfortable sharing your songs with, email me. I’d be happy to give you some encouraging thoughts.

Don’t hold it in. It’s not good for you.

I’d like to take a second to say that Evernote is awesome. I use it to write every one of my songs nowadays. And you can get a free month of Evernote Premium right here. Enjoy.

Why You Should Only Enter Songwriting Contests That Give You Feedback

There are a ton of songwriting contests you could enter, and it’s hard to know which ones to consider and which to ignore.

NSAI songwriting contest

Here’s my tip: only enter songwriting contests that give you feedback no matter what.

Not only do you have a shot at winning some sort of prize, but, at the very least, you get feedback on your song from a judge (who’s usually a pro songwriter).

When I was a member of the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International, I entered the 17th Annual NSAI Song Contest.

Spoiler…I didn’t win anything. Didn’t even come close.

Each song that received a score of 76 or higher advanced to the next round of judging. My song “The Real Thing” (which will be on my album in the fall) got a 64.

NSAI songwriting contest
My score for the NSAI songwriting contest

A 64 is a D-minus.

But the sting of losing is less stingy because I got a little insight into my song’s strengths and weaknesses. The judge scored my song using several categories dealing with composition, originality and lyrics, and (as you can see above) each is given a score from 1 to 10.

“This evaluation is meant ONLY as a tool to help you discern the strength of your song/songwriting in the eyes of the judge, as music is subjective,” NSAI said in an email. “It is NOT a full, in-depth critique…”

That’s cool of them to do.

If they didn’t give me any feedback on my song, I would have no idea why my song didn’t move to the next round. This is helpful both for entering other songwriting contests and for improving my songwriting.

So if you ask me (which no one has), only submit your songs to contests that will tell you why you were selected or rejected.

The Best Podcasts For Musicians

I love podcasts, especially ones about music.

music podcasts

So I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of my favorite music-related podcasts along with one of my favorite episodes of each.

RELATED: 3 Music Podcasts That Think Outside The Box

Here we go…

Song Exploder

Song Exploder, which I’ve talked about before, is where “musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.” I think songwriters especially will enjoy this podcast. But really anyone who likes hearing about the creative process will like it too.

One of my favorite episodes is the one with Weezer, and not just because I grew up listening to them. It’s because front man Rivers Cuomo has such a unique songwriting process.

And The Writer Is…

Ross Golan (writer/co-writer of “My House” by Flo Rida, “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande, “Fresh Eyes” by Andy Grammar) hosts the And The Writer Is… podcast. Every episode, he talks with “an acclaimed and venerable songwriter to intimately discuss what happens behind closed doors in the music industry.”

They cover the songwriting process, the business side of music, personal stuff — all of it. One of the more interesting episodes is the one with Andy Grammar.

DIY Musician Podcast

The goal of the DIY Musician Podcast from CD Baby is (surprise) to help DIY musicians succeed. They mainly cover the business/marketing/practical side of music-making. So if you’re out there trying to make music your career, you’ll want to give this podcast a shot.

One of my favorite episodes is called “60 ideas in 60 minutes.” Get a pen and some paper. You’ll need them.

The Third Story Podcast

Each episode, the host interviews a musician and gets the story of how they got to where they are. The Third Story Podcast is definitely one that can encourage you to keep going.

One of my favorites is Theo Katzman’s story (plus, he’s also a fantastic singer/songwriter).