Since I just had several "Newbies" to the Nashville songwriting experience, I thought I would mention a few things that might help someone finding their way to the Nashville experience themselves that can help them be prepared. People often simply don't understand the process so maybe I can offer a few thoughts.
Most Nashville writing sessions last between 2-3 hours, mostly during the day, work hours. Nashville writers, particularly the experienced or more professional writers, usually have two and sometimes three sessions a day booked, so being prepared, having speed and focus, being able to think on your feet, are of the utmost importance.
First of all the basic tools:
1. Pen and paper.
2. Lap top or device to record on, both musically and lyrically.
3. Various ideas, scenarios, melody ideas, titles, hooks.
4. Representations of your existing work. CD's, MP3's, web sites, etc.
5. Calendar for future writing.
6. Information on how to contact you for the future.
Find out who you are writing with. Visit THEIR web sites, learning about their music and personalities. Do some homework.
Ideas: Everyone can have a few thoughts or ideas to lay out. You should organize them. Think about what TYPES or STYLES of music you like. Think of what you DON'T have. Are there any songs or artists out there that you LOVE? Are there any songs throughout history that mean something special to you? Do you have any "I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THAT!" moments?
Anything can be a starting point.
I tend to like SCENARIOS. I like when someone can tell me about their lives, and give me some ideas about WHO they are and WHAT they want to say. If they can give me a STYLE of music, I can get into it very quickly.
Some people will have full lyrics or music patterns. I find this off putting, because it forces me to conform to places I might not be interested in. The LESS finished something is, the MORE I like it. But that is just me. Always be prepared. If you have full lyrics or music, show them to someone else. Find out how they feel. But since most Nashville writers are pretty well rounded, knowing both music AND lyrics, be ready for them to fall on deaf ears.
Listen to some of your favorite music before you go to the session. Not to copy anything, but to get you in the mood of where you want to be. If you have a different style in mind than you are comfortable with, get some examples of that style. It is fine to play some of your favorite songs for someone. Get people in the right frame of mind.
NEVER leave a session without some way to record what you have written. If you depend on someone who writes 5-8 songs a week to get in touch with you, you might be waiting a long time. Don't depend on anyone to give you a copy of your work.
Some people record on phones, some on lap tops, whatever works. But make sure you have the lyrics, chord progressions, work tapes, etc.
The current PC, APPLEs, Notebooks, smart phones and Ipad's give us tools we never have had before. We can record simple work tapes, and if we are working online we can trade lines and lyrics back and forth without having to kill trees, find a printer, etc.
Make sure you have contact info for everyone. And they have yours.
THE BIG DAY.
You will probably get together in the morning or afternoon. A lot of time,writers (particularly me) are pretty burned in the evening, so the earlier, fresher someone is, the better. Many work other jobs as well, so dealing with schedules are a big deal. Be flexible.
The first 10-20 minutes should be spent talking, getting to know one another. If there are three writers, it could take longer.
The Idea PULL, is like Skeet shooting for ideas. A lot of ideas simply don't work. They might be dated, something the other writer has already written, or just not there. Be prepared for that. Then most of the time, a conversation will lead to ideas, thoughts, hooks, verses, choruses.
There is no one way. Some people hook into it fast, some slow. Sometimes you sit around for hours with NOTHING. Sometimes nothing gets done. Don't worry about it. Happens all the time.
VERSE AND CHORUS
If you can get a verse and chorus pattern on a song, you are doing well. It gets a road map on the page. Many songs are written in TWO's. One appointment to get things started, and then the writers get alone and work on something. Then they get back together, tweak and compare, finish that song, and start another one. Ever wonder why so many of the same names pop up on CD's? Now you know.
Be flexible. Your ideas might not be acceptable. So be willing to get out of your own way, work on other people's. Keep at it.
It can be a great process, can be frustrating, can be challenging but it does build character. Even if you write mostly on your own, you will always benefit from co-writing. You will learn about others and most of all, about yourself.
Good luck and go get em!