Where are you headed?

I love the Lao Tse quote “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” It’s so obvious, yet we all ignore it from time to time and we find ourselves on a path that leads only tangentially to our supposed goal.

We can get distracted from our goal easily, especially if our commitment is iffy. The people who succeed (at anything) are the ones who keep focused on the goal. There are plenty of ways songwriters can get distracted (and sometimes, when the writing isn’t going well, we look for distractions). Keep your eye on the goal, so that if your direction is drifting off, you can realign yourself.

Here’s an example. Bob wants to be a songwriter. He does his homework, he writes lots of songs. And he feels he has some songs worthy of radio airplay. His current obstacle is getting demos of his songs – he can’t afford what the studios are charging.

So he puts together a home studio and starts to learn how to use it. Bob happens to be a quick study and soon he is beginning to master his recording equipment. But of course, there is still a lot of equipment he doesn’t yet own and a lot of features he hasn’t learned. After all, audio engineering is a career in itself. If he isn’t careful, Bob may end up on a path that is leading to a career in studio engineering, rather than songwriting. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as that becomes his new goal.

Keep focused on your goal, even while attending to these necessary tasks:

– creating/updating your band’s press kit and web site, which could lead you to a career in graphic arts
– recording demos, like Bob above
– playing live performances/touring, which is important, but not primary for an aspiring songwriter
– managing the money, taxes, etc.
– booking gigs

Pursuing a career in music can be discouraging at times. Often friends and family are not supportive. And the music industry can be daunting. Sometimes musicians get into a habit of complaining about how unfair it is, how the other band gets all the breaks, etc. This line of thinking is also a distraction. Don’t go there.

We will continue to print stories of people like you, who had a goal, stayed focused (and patient) and achieved the goal or a milestone toward a goal. This week we report on long time STJ member, Ande Rasmussen.

My Songwriting Dream Came True

The following is taken verbatim, with permission, from an awesome songwriter newsletter called IFS (Inspirations for Songwriters). IFS is put out by Ande Rasmussen and this is his story.

If you want RECEIVE IFS, SEND an EMPTY email to difs-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

On Thursday February 19th, 2004, I was driving home on IH 35 in my green Ford F-150 truck after a dinner meeting. At 7:10 pm Austin’s KVET 98.1 FM was playing the Texas Top 10 and I heard “Home Made of Stone” for the first time on the radio. I started whoopin and hollerin. I grabbed my cell phone and tried to reach my wife. Because right there one of my songwriting dreams came true.

My dream was to hear a song I cowrote on the radio. I’ve been chasing that goal since I started writing songs in October 1997.

Recently I went through my journals and old IFS to piece together and consolidate its story.

the story of “Home Made of Stone”

Cowriting with john Arthur martinez and Steve Seskin

by Ande Rasmussen

John Arthur Martinez has been a friend of mine for several years now. I think he’s a tremendous talent and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I met him at an ASG conference and in 1999, his songs sounded great and later that year one of his songs won a category in the ASG Austin Song Contest. So I asked John Arthur if I could send him a few song ideas and lyrics to consider cowriting with me and he said yes. I sent him a list of titles and asked him to pick a few. He choose “Married to your Memory,” “Karma” and a chorus fragment that contained the lines “I fell from a tree and broke my arm you ran ten blocks to get my mom I never saw you run so fast you were first to sign my cast” which wound up becoming part of “here’s to boys.” John Arthur, Donna Aylor and I wrote “Karma” first. John put “Here’s to Boys” and “Married to Your Memory” on his 2001 “Stand your Ground” CD and all these songs wound up in his set list. We continued to work on other songs. In December 2002 jAm and I started working on a song that began with the chorus fragment “where dust devils dance and coyotes call where tumble weeds tumble and ran never falls.”

Which for me was influenced from summer boy scout camping trips in 2001 to Colorado, where we saw many dust devils dance in the Texas Pan Handle. I saw them again as I drove out to scout camp in West Texas near Balmorhea. I loved camping in the Mountains. John and I worked on the song much of late December and in January 2003 it turned into “Lone Starry Night.” I really love how this song turned out. It’s so peaceful and jAm created such a wonderful melody. I love what he does on the word “hand” in the chorus.

In November 2002, john Arthur tried out for Nashville Star at Hills Cafe in Austin Texas, He got runner up, the producers liked him so they invited him to Houston for the regional competition. In Houston at the regional competition Miranda Lambert won. Later in January 2004 john
Arthur received a call and was invited to be one of the 12 finalists. During January and February I tried to step up my efforts to finish several more songs with jAm.

The Nashville Star producers took each finalist in the studio to record with Don Cook producing. jAm recorded a version of “When You Say Nothing At All” He wrote Spanish lyrics for the second verse. It’s really gorgeous. Each week on Nashville Star he managed to survive getting cut.

He did receive a lot of help, he won fans from being on the show, Sam and Bob on KVET 98.1 FM plugged him each week and I plugged him through ASG and IFS email lists.

From talking with and cowriting with John Arthur I’ve learned he looks for ideas that feel real to him. Ideas he feels connected to. On Saturday March 15th, 2003 I was watching the Nashville Star episode, they were showing snippets from each artists life then they did a brief
interview right before they performed. When John Arthur came up, they showed him at home, John Arthur lives in a manufactured home. Live on TV jAm said “Right now we live in a double-wide but my dream is to buy a home made of stone on a foundation.”

I loved the idea and sound of “a home made of stone.” So I emailed John Arthur including his quote and asked him if he would like to write the song with me.

Here’s what john Arthur emailed back:

Subj: Let’s write it
Date: 3/19/03 9:05:38 PM Central Daylight Time
From: john arthur
To: AndeRasmussen@a…
Sent from the Internet

“right now we live in a double wide
but I want to buy her a home made of stone”

~ ~ ~

While he was on the show his emails were short, cause he was swamped. So I started thinking about his upbringing, where he lives, what he might want, what I’d want, where I live, and what would lead him to say “a home made of stone” and ideas started to arrive. I pieced together a first draft lyric and emailed it to him. I waited for a couple weeks, feeling kind of curious to hear what he’s did with it. I knew the idea meant a lot to him because a “home made of stone” is his heart felt dream.

On one of the Nashville Star shows he sang a line from the chorus of “home made of stone” and on March 28th he sent out an email to his fans and friends saying he and I were working on the song.

OK now, now we need to back up a little, when John Arthur went to Nashville I sent out emails to several top notch songwriters I’ve met and corresponded with over the years.

Steve Seskin was one of the writers I contacted. I told them that John Arthur was a friend and cowriter of mine. He was a Nashville Star finalist and a fan of their work. I gave each writer info on how to get in touch with jAm. I may have suggested they might want to contact him, ask him if they wanted to cowrite, and tell him Ande gave you the
info.

I met Steve in March 1999 in Nashville at NSAI’s song camp 101. Then when he and Allen did a workshop in April 2002, I helped promote it through the ASG and IFS email lists. I attended the workshop. Also from time to time on IFS I plugged Steve’s new CD’s or mentioned on of his songs as an example.

In early April 2003 Steve Seskin contacted John Arthur. Steve said a cowriter cancelled so he asked John Arthur if he’d like to get together to cowrite. John said absolutely and they scheduled an appointment. Shortly there after, John Arthur called me. He told me he’d just scheduled a cowriting session with Steve Seskin and asked me, if I
minded, if he offered “Home Made of Stone” to Steve as an idea to work on at their appointment. John Arthur assured me that I would be included on the song as a cowriter. So I said “Sure.” And that’s the last I heard from John for a while. I didn’t hear that he met with Steve or how the appointment went.

But on the Saturday April 19, 2003 just after 9:00pm CST Nashville Stars host, Nancy O’Dell called John Arthur first to perform. Here’s what he said while introducing the “Home Made of Stone,” which was written for his wife, Yvonna.

“She decorates our beautiful manufactured home and man, I feel like a prince, but I’ve been promising her I’m gonna build her a home made of stone.”

As he sang that beautiful song my eyes teared up and I got shivers on my arms. It was the first time I got to hear it too. And I was a cowriter on the song!

On Sat Apr 26 he survived the next round of Nashville Star and made it to the final 3. I had a brief appearance on the show. My sound bite was “I’m glad the world gets to discover who john arthur martinez is.” Later in the show John Arthur thanked his cowriters “Mike Blakely, Stephanie Urbina Jones, Steve Seskin, and Ande Rasmussen.”

The week before the final show he went in the studio with Clint Black and recorded “Home Made of Stone.” If John Arthur won it would have been the first single.

Thank you John Arthur and Steve Seskin for making my songwriting dream come true.

In November 2003 john Arthur finalized a deal with Dualtone with distribution by SONY. In December 2003 john Arthur went in the studio with producer Matt Rollings and recorded “Home Made of Stone.” Later he announced it was going to be the first single.

In January 2004 I helped promote and attended a workshop with Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin, and Steve thanked me for introducing him to jAm.

In January 2004 Dualtone released “Home Made of Stone” to radio. In early February, 2004 “Home Made of Stone” debuted at #56 on the Billboard Country Charts.

On Thursday February 19th, 2004, I was driving home on IH 35 in my green Ford F-150 truck after a dinner meeting. At 7:10 pm Austin’s KVET 98.1 FM was playing the Texas Top 10 and I heard “Home Made of Stone” for the first time on the radio. I started whoopin and hollerin. I grabbed my cell phone and tried to reach my wife. Because right there one of my songwriting dreams came true.

My dream was to hear a song I cowrote on the radio. I’ve been chasing that goal since I started writing songs in October 1997.

Many surprises lie ahead, like a Christmas tree packed with presents. The time will come and I’ll get to unwrap each one. I can’t wait to find out what’s inside!

Thank you John Arthur, Steve, KVET, and the many many people who helped me reach this dream.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Looking back here’s a few actions that helped me:

1) join your local songwriting organization,
2) volunteer for your local songwriting organization,
3) attend songwriting events, meet fellow members,
4) constantly look for interesting song ideas
5) start cowriting,
6) enter songwriting contests,
7) get professional critiques,
8) attend songwriting workshops,
9) read songwriting books
10) network on the internet,
11) make friends and do favors for people,
12) get professional demos
13) keep finding talented collaborators,
12) don’t give up, keep writing

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