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30 May 09 The Power of Association

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OK, you’ve written a few songs. Now what? Do your creations have potential? How will you know? And what can you do with them?  You need a support group. And luckily, plenty of them exist.

Several years ago – before I had begun writing songs – I had the privilege of meeting country music legend Bill Anderson, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. He was incredibly friendly to my wife and me.  Then a couple of years ago, I saw Anderson on television, picking up a Grammy for his songwriting.  I was so excited, I decided to email him.  I congratulated him, saying I knew he would never remember our meeting. So you can imagine how I felt when he responded the next day, saying he certainly did remember meeting me. I decided to tell him about my songwriting, and asked him for his advice. Anderson said I should join the Nashville Songwriters Association.

It has turned out to be some of the best advice I have ever received.  Even though I live in Dallas, I feel tremendous support from this group. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned professional, NSAI has a plethora of tools available. Weekly presentations are streamed live on their website for members, and are archived for future viewing.  Members can submit ten songs a year for expert critiques. An annual songwriting contests offers the hope of notoriety for songwriters around the country. Regional and national seminars provide a lot of one-on-one and group support.

NSAI also provides a tremendous service for all songwriters. They lobby Congress for the rights of songwriters. Believe me, songwriters everywhere benefit from this.  In addition, NSAI a couple of years ago bought the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville. This has long been the starting point for many performing songwriters. It was here that a relatively unknown Garth Brooks took his brand new song, Unanswered Prayers, and performed it live for the first time.  My wife and I were there once on Open Mic Night. We saw members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band sneaking in through the kitchen to catch that night’s songs.

NSAI has chapters around the country. But in addition to that, scores of local songwriters associations also provide support.  I am a member of the Collin County Songwriters Association.  I look forward to the monthly songwriters circle. Steve Anderson opens his guitar shop to the songwriters, to share songs and critiques of the works. We have a lot of talent in our group, and I have learned a lot from many of the members. It always helps to have people listen to my songs and give advice. CCSA members also help each other in public performances. It is not uncommon for the president, Ryan Michael Galloway, to provide sound and lighting for members – then sit in and play a little bass. Michael “Mudcat” Reames, the association ambassador, often will sit in and add a little blues harmonica when asked. From my personal perspective, this is a huge thrill when he plays with my band. After all, Mudcat in the early 1970s made a 16-year-old named Steve Vaughn (yes, it was him) audition to join his band.

The Dallas Songwriters Association conducts monthly showcases for performing songwriters. This provides an outstanding opportunity to get public exposure to some really fine quality songs.  As I said, groups such as these exist around the country for songwriters. A simple computer search will pull up the associations in your particular area.

If you are really serious about songwriting, I suggest you team up with a songwriters association. You have a lot to learn – we all do – and these groups can provide really useful knowledge. For example, from NSAI I learned that a song’s success is often determined by timing and patience – the right song, for the right performer, at the right time.  A songwriter had a composition that he really liked, but he could not get a publisher to pick it up. He did not give up, pitching it non-stop for seven years.  Finally, one publisher told the songwriter that he had a new group that might be interested. The group was indeed impressed with the song, and decided to record it. “Bless the Broken Road” became the first number-one song for Rascal Flatts!

From critiques to collaboration, songwriters associations provide tremendous support to those of us looking to tell our stories to a larger public.

Check out the following links for more information:

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