Nashville or Bust……Busted

25 Jun

A while back, I had an opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do as a musician–write songs for other singers.

A long-time friend of my old band reached out to me with a business proposal that lit my world on fire. This was the same friend who introduced my band to a lot of major record labels. He worked for Columbia/Sony Records at the time and helped generate enough interest in us that got 12 different record labels vying for our attention. In the end, my band broke up and we never got signed, but my friend had done his job and got us in front of the people we needed to play for to possibly make our dreams come true. When none of it worked out, I felt like we had let him down.

Then out of nowhere, this friend of mine in the music industry started communicating with me again about starting a partnership as a songwriter/publisher duo and wanted to know if I was interested. Basically our agreement would be, I would write hit “country” songs and he would go out and sell them to people he had connections with for other big-name artists to sing on their record. After every failure I had in my band or as a solo musician, this felt like the light at the end of the tunnel for me–the chance I had been waiting for.

I, of course, agreed and we started talking about songs that the country market might want to hear. I’ve written some country songs here and there, but my style tends to jumps from genre to genre. Now I was being asked to write songs that were bonafide hits–songs that were extremely marketable, catchy and, to top it all off, ONLY COUNTRY. They had to be damn good, radio-friendly country songs if this partnership was going to work. So yeah, I was scared. This was going to be a test of how truly good I was as a songwriter. Would I be able to produce the highest quality of songs in a genre that I don’t even listen to regularly?

Day after day, he would call me and give me assignments. “I want you to write a country songs that reeks of all those ‘country’ lyrics playing on the radio today”. “Now I want you to write a country song about a gut-wrenching break-up you’ve experienced”. “Now I want you to write a country song about a huge personal loss in your life”. “Now I want you to write a song from a girl’s perspective–a song I can sell to a female singer.”

Every time his name showed up on my phone, my gut would twist a little bit. I knew he was going to ask something from me that I was scared I wouldn’t be able to produce.

It’s one thing to write a song about any of those experiences, but it’s another thing to ask for it to be a country song and also be a hit you might hear on the radio. I was scared I couldn’t do it.

For 8 months, this was the work I was doing. Every time he called, I got butterflies in my stomach and then (somehow) I wrote some of the best songs I’d ever written in a style of music I wasn’t very comfortable with. For 8 months, I honed my skills as a songwriter to match any and every request he had.

By the time I was finished, I had written 22 songs for him. Some of those songs ended up on my album, “The Great Escape”–“Cowgirl”, “Happy”, “The Good Life”, “Last Night”, “Some Cowboy I Turned Out To Be”.

Once he had the songs he thought he could sell to his connections, he flew me to Miami to record them. He had made appointments with some top-level people in Nashville (one of them represents Taylor Swift) and after we had the recordings done, it was his job to sell those songs–and me–to them.

I remember the night before he left for Nashville, I told him I thought it was a long shot that they would want to work with me, but he didn’t see it that way. As far as he was concerned, I had written the right songs at the right time and this business venture was going to be a home run. So I went back to Texas and he went to Nashville.

As it turns out, I was right. According to him, he pitched the songs, they listened and told him, “Yeah, he’s great! Get him to move to Nashville and…..we’ll see.” In my line of work, that’s a “thanks, but no thanks”.

Unfortunately for me, after the top-level people passed on me, so did my friend. Most great artists that you love today have been passed over many times by record labels executives, but they also had people working for them behind the scenes that wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. My friend took “no” as an answer immediately. Once they passed on the 8 months of work I did, my friend gave up on me. We had a brief conversation about what our next step would be to further my writing career and then, he never called again. I gave him 8 months of hard work, dedication and anything else he asked of me and, in return, he quit on me after a couple meetings didn’t work out.

But this is not a blog about that. Yes, that sense of failure on his part still haunts me to this day, but as time passes, I also have a different perspective. The point I’m trying to make is, I didn’t think I was capable of the job I was asked to do….but I did it. He may not have come through on his end of the bargain, but I did. I proved something to myself over those 8 months….I am very good at writing songs and just because I didn’t have someone good representing me doesn’t mean that I didn’t accomplish something.

I reached another level of songwriting during those 8 months that I was scared to even attempt before. And when those fears started creeping in, I pushed through it and found my voice in some very special songs that mean a lot to this day and also showed what I’m capable of–even when the pressure is put on me.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve failed so many times that sometimes I forget that my failures have also defined me. No matter how many times I’ve been told “no”, no matter how many shows I play where the audience isn’t listening or doesn’t even show up, I still keep doing what I’m doing. It hurts so bad sometimes, but I keep writing and performing songs, because even if it means nothing to anyone else, it means everything to me.

Thanks for reading! Check out my website at http://www.musicjeffwood.net for more!

3 Responses to “Nashville or Bust……Busted”

  1. Karen August 15, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    Are you the same Jeff Wood that had the song “you call that a mountain” on your cassette back in the 90’s?

  2. Vaughn January 7, 2016 at 3:42 am #

    Thank you for this post. Your “failure” is the most beautiful set of songs I’ve heard in a really long time. I know these small words can’t touch as deep as your experience you write about here, but they’re real and true for at least this listener.

    • musicjeffwood January 9, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

      Thank you so much! You’ve made me a happy failure:)

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