5 Pieces of Songwriting Advice from ‘Songwriter Soup’ Episode 3

Hit songwriter Laura Veltz, and music industry wealth management advisor Tracy Hackney have a bevy of helpful knowledge to share with songwriters.

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In the third episode of Songwriter Soup, brought to you by American Songwriter, Veltz, Hackney and recording engineer and producer Kevin Sokolnicki discuss the do’s and don’ts of being a new songwriter in Nashville, how to find stability early on, why it can be “worst case scenario” to write a hit song right out of the gate and much more. Here are some of the best pieces of advice the trio share for emerging songwriters.

1. Get Stable

As a financial advisor, Hackney says it’s important for songwriters to have some type of stable job when they move to town, with Veltz adding that it should be a job that is “cohesive” with their songwriting career. Hackney notes that when people move to Nashville, they think they’re going to walk up and down Music Row handing out QR codes that link to their demos and then automatically get a publishing deal–but the odds of that happening are slim.

“I think it’s actually land in town and find a place to live and a place to make money, just so you can survive,” Hackney advises, adding that assessing one’s budget is also important to know how much you need to make to cover all necessities. “Knowing what you’re getting into financially and lifestyle-wise is really step one.”

2. Anonymity is Your Friend

Veltz addressed how aspiring songwriters often come to town with the mentality that they have to “sell” themselves in order to get a deal. “You’re thinking, ‘People need to know who I am,’ and actually, people don’t need to know who you are,” she states. “You probably don’t want them to know who you are. You want to sneak in there, make friends, rise by osmosis.”

Veltz says that she’s seen billboards with faces of new artists and songwriters around town, or that new writers will put ads in music industry publications to try to get noticed. “I don’t think that’s a good use of your time or your money,” she continues. “It’s not about selling yourself at all, in fact, being cozy with the idea that no one’s going to know your songs or you for multiple years is probably the healthiest way to begin your career.”

3. Let Your Peers Be Your Critics

Veltz and Hackney also talked about the importance of making friends with fellow songwriters who are at the same stage in their careers, like those who are new to town and waiting tables, writing songs before their shift starts. “There’s a group of people out there who are right where you are,” Hackney says. “Let those people be your critics who are at your same phase.”

4. Writing a Hit as a New Writer is a “Worst-Case Scenario”

The two also advise people new to the industry against trying to write with an established songwriter who’s penned multiple hits. Veltz admits she thinks it’s “the worst-case scenario” for a new writer to get the chance to be in a room with an experienced writer and end up with a hit song.

“So you have a hit, somebody is associating you with a hit song and thinks you know how to do this and the problem is you just don’t have your 10,000 hours in,” Veltz explains, referencing the unofficial amount of time it takes to become an expert songwriter. “If you go into the writing room and you don’t know what you’re doing enough times in a row, people will not invite you back. It’s not even a mean thing, they’re literally going, ‘I could do better with this person because this person knows how to contribute to my songwriting.'”

From the perspective of a new songwriter, Veltz says they’ll then go into the room with the expectation they’ll continue to write hit songs. “You don’t have the experience to back it up,” she says, adding that writing a hit right off the bat may hinder a budding songwriter’s career in the long run.

5. “You Aren’t Your Audience”

Veltz describes herself as a “very ethereal thinker.” She couldn’t bring that mentality into writing rooms until she figured out “how to mesh the way I think and the way I think the world thinks into songs,” a skill that required years of songwriting to develop. “Learning you aren’t your audience necessarily was a really important lesson,” she professes.

Veltz learned this lesson from her friends who were bartenders, particularly a man named Jabari who she worked at former Nashville restaurant Mambu, who liked to garden. When she asked what he could do if he made gardening a job, he replied, “I don’t want to make that my job, I love doing that.”

“I was like, ‘Not everyone wants to make the thing they enjoy their job,’ and that has stayed with me forever,” Veltz reflects on Jabari’s words that she’s since turned into advice she gives to new writers trying to make it in industry.

“I just think that’s a really smart way to live,” she concludes.

Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

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