Writing songs in Music City U.S.A.

On our way from Maine to Florida we stopped off in Nashville to visit my cousin, Shayla, and her beautiful family. We had an awesome time touring the city together, enjoying delicious food and drink that reminded us of being home in Portland.

Her husband, Jackson, recently signed the first major deal of his flourishing Country music career with Curb Records. He was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the studios (and bars) where great music is made.

It felt humbling and inspiring to be inside the rooms where some iconic songs were recorded. I even got to play the piano!

On our first night out to dinner at bartaco, we were talking about songwriting and how rad it is that Jackson gets to spend his life writing and sharing his music with the masses. I remarked how I'd always seen the word "together" as "to get her", and how some musician should really do something about that.

He instantly started texting a friend of his, who also happened to have the most incredible home recording studio I'd ever seen (and yet another location responsible for some gold records). The next afternoon we were in the studio working on turning that little idea into a song of its own.

Writing songs with a songwriter

Jackson is a true pro, and it was fun to learn first hand how he approached his craft. It was also inspiring to write as a team, since whenever one of us ran out of steam the other would kick in a new idea to keep things moving forward. 

At first we weren't sure where to take the idea — was it a "lost the girl and gotta get her back" song, or a "so lucky to have her" kind of thing? Sad or happy? Being generally happy folks, we went the positive route.

After some conversation we landed on a theme — a relationship that blossomed into a comfortable love where the little things still mattered. I had no idea how we'd complete the song in one sitting.

Our Studio host, Dale, was playing around on an electric guitar. Jackson started singing some nonsense words to different melodies. In no time he'd created the melodic blanks for us to fill in with lyrics. That kind of structure made it much easier to focus creatively, and gave me hope that we might actually leave the session with a complete song.

We worked our way through the song, finding melodic structures to frame the lyrics, then filling them in line by line. After a few hours of work we had the song finished and ready to be made into a demo track. Dale completed the track a few days later and Jackson went in to add his vocals. The final demo turned out awesome, but unfortunately can't be shared publicly. Fortunately you can check out Jackson's new music on iTunes!

It felt great be in a professional studio, writing music with a professional songwriter. Even though the track may never hit the Billboard charts, it'll always remind me of our wonderful time in Nashville, and inspire me to approach songwriting like any other job — show up and do work!


Shaun is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, teacher, musician and artist. He enjoys working to bring creative ideas to life, and generally being a positive influence in the world. Follow him on Instagram @shauntinney.