The Write Track"

By Karen Le Van

What would it be worth to you to be a fly on the wall at a writing session between Garth Brooks and Pat Alger? How about sitting in on a round table discussion with the likes of Harlan Howard, Richard Leigh,Jill Colucci, Pat Alger, Ralph Murphy and Hugh Prestwood, discussing the "how to's" of writing hit songs.

What would you give to spend an hour with David Conrad of Almo Irving Music; Dianne Petty of SESAC; Allen Raynolds, producer for Garth Brooks; Tom Schuyler, VP of RCA; Clint Black; and Lon Helton of "Radio & Record Magazine"; and to listen to rookie Allen Shamblin tell stories of how he wrote "I Thought He Walked OnWater."

Well, if I told you all these experiences could be yours for less than$20, would you believe me?

The Nashville Songwriters Association International has just released a wonderful video that will introduce you to all of these great writers and their stories, behind-thescenes tips and suggestions to further your opportunities in the music business.

And it is a business. According to Jill Colucci, you not only have to have a great song, but it must be "overlaid with a good knowledge of the business."

In the opening of the video Clint Black invites us to "learn from the failures and discoveries," of these great writers and the stories began.

Vignettes and songs in the round, so to speak, with Richard Leigh, Harlan Howard, Jill Colucci, Ralph Murphy and Pat Alger enlighten us to the stories behind the songs and what it takes to get to where they are HOW.

It doesn'thappen overnight. Garth Brooks suggests you "move to Nashville and the first thing you do is put your guitar in the closet for about three months. Get a job so you can pay your bills. After things settle down, start going out to writers' nights to get the feel of what the Nashville writers are doing. Meet other writers and start playing out a couple times a week. Then, one day you will realize that on that same day you moved to Nashville so did 1,500 other singer/ songwriters."

But if you can't or don't want to move to Nashville you can still have a chance, Hugh Prestwood stated, "if you can make a few trips to Nashville every year, get to know some people and while you're here, develop a few lines of communication that are not through the front door." He said you need to spend "75% of your time writing and 25% of your time trying to make something happen."

Hal Ketchum related that "I have tried both avenues and I feel you have to at least come here to see how this system works." Dianne Petty of SESAC suggests that you "study the country market in your area, listen and learn what the artists are looking for so you will know what to write," while David Conrad of Almo Irving suggests educating yourself at writers' nights listening to the top writers.

The video is divided up into several categories covering the business area: The Pitch, The Writer, The Rookie, etc.

One of the parts I enjoyed most was hearing from Allen Shamblin about how "I Thought He Walked On Water" came about and how it affected his life as it made it to the radio. It was a touching story about learning how to write from the bottom of one's heart, ta lesson he learned from Mike Reid. I'd say he learned it well.

Richard Leigh, President of NSAI and executive producer, along with Pat Rogers, on this video, invites us to become active in the NSAI, stating that "NSAI is the most effective and best link for songwriters to help you perfect your craft and enhance your opportunity as a songwriter."

In the words of Harlan Howard, "Go for it! It's the cheapest hobby in the world." He said that he's 65 years old now and he can picture himself in an electric wheelchair someday, making the publishers install ramps so he can still pitch his songs. Besides, he states, "I was born to do this and it's FUN!"

"The Write Track" is exclusively available through the NSAI by calling, toll-free, l-800-544-6300. All proceeds will benefit the NSAI Endowment Fund. "Anyone who is writing should own this video. Anyone who is considering writing as a profession would be foolish not to," Leigh said. "I wish this had been available when I started writing. It's a condensed version of my l8 years of experience in an hour-long video," he concluded.

(This is one of the occasional articles written by Louisville songwriter Karen Le Van, who moved to Nashville last year to pursue a career in the music business.)