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Interview with songwriter Marc Alan Barnette
Author of Freshman Year in Nashville
By Doak Turner
(more articles from this author)
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Associate Writer Doak Turner interviews the author of the booklet, "Freshman Year In Nashville, by Nashville-based prosongwriter and performer Marc-Alan Barnette:

[Doak Turner] Marc-Alan, where did you get the idea for the book and what is happening with “Freshman Year in Nashville”?

Marc-Alan Barnette Redundency! I have lived in Nashville for fifteen years and continue to see people making the same mistakes over and over again in the songwriting community.

I would see them (songwriters) run audiences of mine off while performing at songwriter’s shows. The aspiring songwriters would do six-minute ballads that went on and on forever. Their performance techniques were poor, and these were people who just moved to Nashville. I saw them make the same mistakes over and over again. At the same time, I was always asked questions by the same people, “What do you do, what do you do?” I got tired of going hoarse talking about it to every songwriter that would ask me.

I wrote it all down, twenty-two pages of fact filled information from a practical standpoint of what Nashville is and is not for songwriters.

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[Doak Turner] How are you marketing of the book to songwriters?

Marc-Alan Barnette I teach songwriting workshops all around the country. In 2002, I taught over 50 songwriting workshops, such as local NSAI workshops, Arizona Songwriters, Daytona Songwriters and other songwriting organizations. This year I am continuing to teach and share songwriting to songwriters both outside of the town and when they come to Nashville. I sell the book at those events, and the book is sold in many of the bookstores in Nashville, reviews in “American Songwriter,” and other trade magazines. The book is also “word of mouth,” such as great songs that you will hear in Nashville. It is also available at .

I have purposely kept the marketing in a controlled situation, as it is a very specific type market for songwriters. The book appeals to songwriters having a direct interest in coming to Nashville and making the most of their time.

[Doak Turner] How did you select the titles of the chapters and what you wanted to write in your book?

Marc-Alan Barnette The chapters were broken down into the steps that you have to go through as a new songwriter in Nashville. The first is “Freshman Orientation – Report to the Gym!” This is getting your feet wet on the ground and what to look for, how to not “gherm” songwriters and music professionals. The term “gherm” is an expression used in Nashville. You can meet hit songwriters very easily in Nashville. Going up to them and shoving CDs and tapes in their face is the last thing that you want to do to these songwriters. You will never talk to them again if you do not know the rules. [That’s an example of gherming – Editor]

The chapters break down into the songwriter’s nights – which are the standard of networking and how you get in and work your way up in the songwriting business. That chapter discusses songwriter’s etiquette of what to and not to do. The chapter talks about The Bluebird Café, which is where everybody wants to play, and which is where every songwriter wants to play in Nashville. There is a reason every songwriter wants to and tries to play there, and a reason it can take two years to play that particular venue, and I explain those reason in the chapter.

I also include tips and trick of the trade, and how not to come off not sucking, how to tighten up the basic things that you do in your songwriter sets. Open mics and how to get the best attention – not too many ballads, varying your strum, playing with dynamics, being aware of time with all of these things being so crucial to songwriters! A songwriter’s night is just one part of a continuing on-going thing for songwriters. You want to make friends and influence people, and that is what networking is all about!

Tips on how to negotiate your first co-writing sessions in Nashville are discussed in the book. Many songwriters who move to Nashville have never co-written, and that is how business is done in this town. You have to be excellent at co-writing to succeed as a songwriter. I also discuss song demos, types of demos, dollar figures and how to demo your songs. The best thing to do is to get feedback on your songs, before spending a lot of money to demo your songs.

[Doak Turner] Where can a songwriter get feedback on their songs before going to the studio or sending your song to a studio and spending too much money?

Marc-Alan Barnette NSAI, Songwriters Guild of America, ASCAP and BMI. There are professionals such as Barbara Cloyd, Jerry Vanidiver and Gracie Hollombe, and others who have written excellent books and who do private consultations on a song-by-song basis. I also do consultation on an overall career basis for songwriters. NSAI and Songwriters Guild of America are the best places to start the song critique process.

[Doak Turner] What are other highlights of your book?

Marc-Alan Barnette I talk about showcasing and playing live, and also trying to keep your self motivate as a songwriter. “Freshman Year in Nashville” is basically twenty-two pages of interesting insights in the Nashville music business.

[Doak Turner] If you were to re-write the book, what else would you add to “Freshman Year in Nashville”?

Marc-Alan Barnette I would probably include a couple chapters of coming to Nashville from out-of-town. I did not include it at first, because I wasn’t teaching and playing as much to the songwriting workshops around the country. My songwriting career has taken an interesting turn, as I now travel to several workshops a year to teach songwriting, performance tips, song demos songwriting business, talking to various and schools in those communities. I also can teach a one-day class at college music departments while visiting the cities. The main thing I would change in the book would be to include coming to Nashville from out of town and how to best use your time and money.

[Doak Turner] If someone IS coming to Nashville from out-of-town, I understand that you provide a service called “Music City Tours” for songwriters. Tell me how those work and what are the advantages of spending a day with you and your service.

Marc-Alan Barnette The tour is fifteen years of music and songwriting business packed into one day. Nashville is a relationship town. You don’t go blasting into a publisher’s office or the doors of a record company. They have more than enough product than they know what do with already. You have to develop relationships to get into the door. These include co-writing, lunch meetings that everyone hears about, hanging out at writers nights. And, you never know when you are going to hang out. That last minute of the writers nights that you go to, some hit songwriter is going to strike up a conversation with you, leading to something on down the line. Everything in Nashville is always down the line, nothing happens immediately. At the time it happens, you don’t even see it. If you ask any publisher, songwriter, entertainer, songplugger about their “ride in the business,” their big break is always a result of something that happened months or years earlier. Some off-hand meeting or sharing a beer with someone, that person ends up going on to be the head of a record label or someone important in the business. I try to demonstrate that fact.

[Doak Turner] Give us a run-down of a day.

Marc-Alan Barnette I take the songwriter through the pace of in the morning, stripping down line by line of some of their songs, showing the importance of doing that, and why some songs are meant to just move on. I talk about the importance of different rhymes, and making your melody bang people around when they hear the song. I strip down their song just like a Marine sergeant drill instructor does to new recruits.

Then, I take them around town to points of interest on Music Row, and have lunch at various places where hit songwriters and music business people hang out and network. I introduce them to hit songwriters and publishers. It never fails that the songwriter meets professionals and gets some very insightful information on the music business. The tour that I did last week with a songwriter from Green Bay, Wisconsin, heard two future cuts of songs, one is going to be cut by Reba and another song cut by Martina, from the same professional songwriter. It is an insider’s look at Nashville!

[Doak Turner] Marc-Alan, thanks for sharing your knowledge about the Nashville songwriter business with songwriters everywhere in your booklet, “Freshman Year in Nashville. Continued success to you!

Marc-Alan Barnette Thank you, Doak.

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Book Review: Freshman Year in Nashville - Marc-Alan Barnette (2003-08-12)

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