Nashville TN: Part One

As some of you may know, in September I was invited to a hugely inspiring writing trip to Nashville TN with UKTI! Let me tell you about what we got up to...

Day One:

All the writers from the UK, Ireland and America all met at 8.30am at Scarritt-Bennett reception and introduced ourselves. We were then told who we would be working with that day and split in to groups of three. On the first day I had the pleasure of working with Steve O'Brien (a Nashville songwriter whose songs have sold over 10 million records) and Dane Bowers (DJ and a member of platinum selling R&B group Another Level). We started our day by heading to Write off the Row, a house of writing rooms run by Patricia and Liz who are just wonderful! Music filled the house! I loved it there, it was home from home with amazing home made quiches, nibbles and chocolate cake available as well as tea and coffee on tap. This made me very happy! I do love a good cup of tea while I'm writing! It was such a great environment for writing that Dane, Steve and I wrote two complete songs that morning! One is a duet and the other was for a brief given to us by UKTI and John Saunderson of Notting Hill Music.

After all that writing we went across the road to have lunch at this amazing veggie restaurant called Sunflower, we then headed down the road a little further to Creative Caffeine and sat in the tree house there to continue working on our songs, making sure there were no filler lyrics and we were happy with the way they sounded. Steve had to leave early that day otherwise we would have recorded them that afternoon at his studio.


Another view of Scarritt-Bennett.

Sunflower Restaurant.

Creative Caffeine's Tree house!

The stream at the back of the tree house.

The punk rock caterpillar who came to say hello!

Day Two:

I was delighted when I was told that I would going to Write off the Row to write again! I was going to be writing with Ciaran Lavery, a professional songwriter of 12 years with two LPs and six EPs under his belt and Sam Lewis, Nashville singer/songwriter who's self-titled début received rave reviews! We did the normal introduce-yourself-quick routine and then I said 'So boys, what do you want to write today?' Sam replied 'A Christmas song'. With temperatures pushing high 20's and sun streaming in through the window this wasn't quite what Ciaran and I were expecting! But I'm so glad he suggested it, I just love our Christmas song! I even found a Christmassy mug with a snowman and snowflakes on it in the Write off the Row kitchen so I had a nice hot cup of tea in that while we were writing. Lovely!

Ciaran, Me and Sam pulling funny faces! Love this picture! Hehe!

After another yummy lunch at the sunflower restaurant, we walked down to Creative Caffeine once again, but this time to record rather than to hang out and write in the tree house! Sam put a beautiful guitar track down and then we managed to find time for all three of us to vocal the track! It was incredible to see how the song's character changed so much just through having a different voice on it. Sam sounds a bit like an Americana Van Morrison so his version really did sound like it stepped straight out of Nashville! I sang my version and at the end, I was told that it sounded "very Joni Mitchell", so I was very happy with that! Ciaran recorded his last. He has the most gorgeous, gravelly voice which made the song even more heart wrenching than it was already. It's so exciting to hear a song come alive in three completely different ways!

Our Write off the Row writing room.

Day Three:

In the morning, I got up, the sun was shining and as I walked to reception, squirrels and chipmunks were playing in the grass! I hadn't seen a chipmunk before; they are adorable!

In reception I was told that I was going to be writing with Harriett Starling (actress turned singer/songwriter) and Daniel Cartier (hugely accomplished multi-instrumentalist, artist, songwriter and producer). I'd heard great things about both of them already so was looking forward to working with them!

We made our way over to Belmont University and wrote and recorded our track there. Starling is a singer from the UK with a gorgeous voice. She is currently working on her début album so we thought we'd write something that could work for her and help show case an exciting and fresh direction. For this Daniel was our main source of inspiration. He truly is the illustrated man! He has a multitude of gloriously coloured tattoos that map out his life like a diary over his skin. He is an amazing piece of art and his tattoos inspired a song called 'Written on My Skin'. I absolutely love Daniel's production of this song and Starling's voice brings it to life. I can't wait to write with them again - it was so much fun!

Creative Caffeine mixing desk.

A blackboard wall in our studio in Belmont. There is a great Dolly Parton quote written on it that reads: 'If you want to write a hit make it hurt.' Wise words!

Day Four:

After three hugely inspiring days I woke up feeling so excited about what today would bring. I was partnered with James Elliott (a multi-award winning songwriter and Chair of the Song writing Department at Belmont University), Gabriella Caspi (an incredible songwriter and creator of Happy Accidents Jewellery) and Triona Carville (winner of the Cel Fay bursary award for young musician of the year 2013). We decided we just wanted to write something beautiful and started off with a haunting, harmonised flowing melody. I can honestly say that I've never had so many goosebumps during a writing session! I just love this song and would really like to record it for my next project.

We just about finished recording the demo before the master class that was scheduled for the evening. During the master class, SWAT Music Group's creative director Amanda Cirotto spoke about the business side of Nashville music and two of her premier hit makers, Bridgette Tatum and Jay Brunswick show cased their unique song writing styles. They took our questions and spoke about the stories behind some of their most successful songs. A moment that will always stay with me from this master class is when I asked 'when you're writing all day everyday, how do you keep finding new things that you want to write about?' and Allen (can't wait to tell you all about Allen! Coming up in Part Two!) said 'You've got to LIVE'. Go and live life! Bake cakes, go fishing, go on a road trip, meet people, listen to their stories, help people, volunteer, live life and love life! Thank you Allen! I think every one can take inspiration from that answer! Let's all go live life!

James, Gabriella, Me and Triona having fun in the studio at Belmont!

To be continued in Nashville TN: Part Two...