Brent Baxter is a Nashville-based lyricist and songwriting coach. Brent’s first cut came in early 2004 with “Monday Morning Church,” recorded by Alan Jackson. The song went on to become a top five hit, honored as one of Nashville Songwriters Association International’s ten “Songs I Wish I’d Written.” In early 2005, Brent signed his first publishing deal as staff songwriter for Major Bob Music, which yielded cuts by Lady Antebellum, Randy Travis, and Lonestar, among others.
In 2009 and 2010, Brent wrote for a joint venture of Peer Music and RPM Music, which yielded cuts by Joe Nichols, Ray Stevens, Charles Billingsley, and Randy Kohrs. From 2010 through 2012, Brent was the flagship writer for Infinity Music Group, yielding cuts by Canadian star Gord Bamford, as well as comedy legend Ray Stevens, blues guitar legend Steve Cropper, Andy Griggs, Buddy Jewell, and new Curb artist, and Ruthie Collins.
Brent currently writes for his own publishing company, Cowboy Chords Music, and he’s also a songwriting coach with a couple hundred hours of one-on-one mentoring and workshop experience through his website, ManvsRow.com.
Table of Contents
5:30 – If you had to describe yourself as a band, song, or genre, what would it be?
7:12 – Tell us something that helped you along your way in music
12:30 – Tell us more about Man vs. Row
19:50 – Can you talk about a time where you helped a new artist get over the songwriting hump?
23:25 – How does Man vs. Row work?
31:00 – Four things songwriters should be doing right now to advance their skill level at writing great songs.
If you had to describe yourself as a band, song, or genre, what would it be?
Well, first off, I’ll try not to freak out about the sound check. I’m a lyricist and I sing like one, so I’m not used to doing a sound check. I’ll fake it as best I can. I’d say, my style as an artist is probably Rich Mullins. He’s a contemporary Christian artist who wrote some big hits in that genre.
He passed away a couple of years ago, but I think he had a great way of honestly capturing the grit and the grace, the lights and darks, and the highs and lows of life. And specifically within Christian rock, and wrestling with God and all that stuff. I think, not to compare my writing to his, but I’m saying that I see myself in that kind of music.
Tell us something that helped you along your way in music.
So yeah, the Alan Jackson thing was my first cut. And everyone was like, “Who is this guy?” Because, you know, they had never even seen me play out, because I’m a lyricist. I’m the guy sitting in the back of the room. So co-writing was a huge benefit to me, because I don’t write melody.
That is one thing that I think was blaring obvious for me to see what I was good at and what I was not good at. I decided early on to really focus on what my natural strength was. And to do my best to avoid and minimize the weaknesses. Some people say that you need to turn your weakness into a strength.
I guess in a sense I did that because my weakness drove me to write lyrics. My weakness was so weak that I said that I’m just going all in on lyrics. And if I’m great at one thing, at least one thing, then maybe I’ll have a seat at the table. Maybe they will have a reason to call me. And so that’s what I did.
Tell us more about Man vs. Row.
Man vs. Row is here to help with the art, the business, and the craft of “music-rowness.” It’s everything that I’ve been able to pick-up in my 13 years here, and some things that I’ve had to learn the hard way.
I enjoy it. Man vs. Row actually started out as my mentoring at NSAI. I was looking for a way to hustle. I thought, “What if I put together a web show for them?” I can make it up and they can pay me to do it. I can follow myself around with a flip cam and video tape myself doing things that I’m already doing anyway.
So that is where Man vs. Row was born. It started as a web series, around 5 minutes shows as content for NSAI. Then after I left NSAI, I started it over as a blog just trying to share what I’ve learned.
Can you talk about a time where you helped a new artist get over the songwriting hump?
Yeah, most people never get their first cut. I’ve not done much long-term coaching, where you are really walking with someone. It’s fun when you hear about people that have been following your blog and trying to apply what you teach. They will start to see good stuff happen, maybe they will have an independent cut. Where they really start to make some ripples in the music business.
That’s great, and I’m not going to take credit for that. Surely, they have a lot of sources of information, and hopefully Man vs. Row is one of them. But Man vs. Row is not really set-up for me to take credit. It’s real, it’s my experience, I think it is helpful and valuable for people, but we’ll see.
How does Man vs. Row work?
So Man vs. Row is the homebase, people can go there for a few free downloads and reports. The vast majority of it is the blog. Usually, once a week on Monday’s I’ll post a new blog about the craft and art of songwriting. On Thursday’s we have a fun, creative exercise called Word Play Thursday. Its just as chance for people to jump in and I’ll tee you up with a creative starting point. A creative spark. It’s fun to watch people just kind of roll with it. It’s fun, and hopefully gets your day started first thing on Thursday morning, and get the songwriter in you up and running.
Those are the two most consistent things that I do. Every once in a while I’ll do a webinar and I’ll promote that through the blog. I may either teach for an hour, and that is a ticketed event where people can sign in and get a ticket for that. We get face to face and I teach on something for about an hour or interview a guest and bring a whole lot of value to people.
Four things songwriters should be doing right now to advance their skill level at writing great songs.
There is an acronym that I use, WRAP. It stands for write, record, access, and pitch. Those are the four legs of the songwriting chair.
- So you need to write. Obviously, you have to write songs. And this makes sense if you want to get cuts, if you want to get other people to record your songs. Not everyone has that as a goal, and that it cool. So you have to write, and write, write, write, write, write. If you don’t write, you’re not going to get better, and you are not going to have anything for someone else to record. It’s pretty obvious.
- But then you have to record it. So if I’m not writing, then I need to be working on a recording. Get them in a good format where someone can hear them and not be distracted by the cat meowing in the background, or my poor singing, so I want to get someone that actually knows how to sing, that sort of thing.
- I used to think the “A” stood for “and.” And pitch. But really, the longer I lived with it, I realized the “A” stands for “access.” You have to have access to the people that can say “yes.” And these are the people that can give you the big yes, not just the little yes. Most people in the music business, if they are A&R reps or further down the food chain, they can give you a little yes. A “yes, I’ll pass this along.” But they are not the ones that give you the big yes. The “yes, we’re gonna cut this song.” That is more on the artist or the producer. It is important to build those relationships where I can call someone up and say, “I have a song for your artist,” or “I have a song for you.”
- And then you actually have to pull that trigger and pitch that song. You have to make it available and say, “hey, what do you think about this? Would you like to record this?” Without any of the legs on that stool, you tend to fall over.
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