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Lean Into Your Musical Strength

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The C.L.I.M.B. is a podcast produced by Brent Baxter and Johnny Dwinell dedicated to helping singers, songwriters, and artists “Create Leverage In The Music Business.” This post is excerpted from the episode titled, “3 Minutes & The Truth: Songwriting Strengths.”

I believe that you do not have to be great at everything to make it in the music business, and specifically, to make it as a songwriter. I’m a lyricist. That means I don’t write melodies, I’m not a singer — as I like to say, I sing like a horse. I don’t play guitar. I have guitars, but the strings on them are older than most of my children.

I figured out early on that if I’m great at one thing — one thing — then my phone has a reason to ring. I don’t have to be great at everything, and I don’t think you need to be great at everything, either. It is important to be great at something — to have a musical strength, a valuable skill, that you can trade upon.

Be great at something

Words have always been my thing. I determined that if I spent a lot of time working on guitar and on my singing, yes, I could improve. But these are things that don’t come naturally to me, they’re frustrating to me, not very fun for me — it can be fun to mess around, but to be really great at them would be very frustrating.

So, I could spend a lot of time clawing my way to being mediocre as a singer, but then, how much time is that going to take away from developing my strength? For me, that’s writing lyrics and coming up with song titles.

I decided to go all in on my strength. I decided I’m going to try to turn this strength that is, naturally, maybe a five or a six — without a lot of work — and try to turn that into a ten. Whereas, if I worked on my guitar and my singing, on writing melodies, I could turn a natural one or two into a five or a six with a lot of work. A five or a six out of ten isn’t going to get me anywhere. I need to be great at something.

Lean into it

Some people are exceptions. Some people are great at a lot of things — they have a ton of musical strengths. They’re great guitar players, they’re great singers, they’re great melody writers and lyric writers, and that is awesome. Honestly, I’m a little jealous. I wish I were one of you.

But … I’m not one of those people. So I figured out, what’s my natural skill set? And I homed in on that. Odds are there’s a strength that you have that rises above the others. Don’t be afraid to lean into that. The you’re not just a lyricist, you’re not just a melody writer, you’re not just a producer — you’re a specialist. Don’t be afraid to fly that flag.

Give people a reason to call

If you develop a specialty, people will realize that, when they need that specialty, they have a reason to call you. They call me because they need that Brent Baxter thing on a lyric. They want good ideas and they know I’m going to come prepared and bring something to the room. They can rely on me, they find me trustworthy, so they have a reason to call me. There’s the artist, there’s a producer in the room, let’s get the idea guy in. They’ve got their specialties — “I can write great melodies, let’s call Brent in to do the other part.”

So my phone has a reason to ring, and it does ring for that sort of thing. I’m very grateful for that, but it was intentional. I was intentional about leaning into my songwriting strength and trying to make it world class.

I invite you to do the same thing. What is your songwriting strength? What’s your musical strength? Find that thing. Turn it from a natural five or six into a ten. Then, your phone has a reason to ring.

Your music isn't ready until it's been mastered

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About Johnny Dwinell and Brent Baxter

The C.L.I.M.B. is hosted by Brent Baxter (SongwritingPro.com), an award-winning hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady A, Joe Nichols, Ray Stevens, Gord Bamford, and more; and Johnny Dwinell (Daredevil Production) who helps artists increase their streams, blow up their video views, sell more live show tickets, and get discovered by fans and industry pros.

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