Pat Pattison on Co-Writing: The No-Free Zone

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The best advice I ever got on co-writing was from Stan Webb, my first professional co-writer. When Tom Casey, a VP at SESAC in Nashville, set the appointment up for me, he asked Stan to talk to me a bit about the Nashville co-writing process, a process that dominates the songwriting culture there.

I was waiting in the SESAC writer's room with my notes and titles, some complete lyrics, song ideas, and I was feeling nervous. I, after all, am a big-time Professor at the biggest time music school in the world - Berklee, where I teach lyric writing. What if I can't come up with anything. What if he thinks all my ideas are dumb. They don't look too good to me right now either... What if he thinks I'm a fraud. Not only would that humiliate me, but it would put my students' credibility in question too, and it'd be all my fault. Why am I here. Maybe I should leave while there's still time. Couldn't I say I have food poisoning.

Too late. The door opened and there stood Stan Webb, my co-writer for the day, a guy with hits. Stan is a burly guy. He looked a bit shaggy, wearing bib overalls, a tattered t-shirt, and work boots, looking like he'd just come off the farm (which, in fact, he had--he owns one, bought with songwriting royalties). He came in and did something curious: he shut the door, re-opened it, shut it again and then pushed hard to make sure it was closed. Hmmmm. Was he worried about folks listening and stealing our good ideas. I was deeply concerned just with having a good idea. It would have been a relief to have an idea good enough that a secret listener would want it.

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