Getting Out of Dodge


Sometimes, you just have to get out of town and take your creative mind somewhere new.

It’s especially important in the Nashville songwriting industry, where you find yourself sitting in an office or studio 4 or 5 days a week, trying to think of new material to write, for weeks…months…even years on end!

That’s why I love to go on “writing retreats” with my dear friends and collaborators, Phil Barton and Emily Shackelton. Twice a year, we block off 3 days on our calendar to put ourselves in a secluded space somewhere away from Nashville, where there’s nothing to do but eat, sleep, and write songs.

You would think that after years of writing together, we would have said everything we had to say. And sometimes, it can feel that way. But magic never fails to happen at these retreats.

What happens is this: we start off writing a couple of songs on the first day that we feel like we are expected to write. A couple that fit the commercial market, that are usually pretty solidly good….

But then - once the initial pressure is off - we begin to experiment. We start thinking outside the box. We start playing each others’ instruments…or staring at the view and making up lyrics about it…or saying “I don’t know if this is anything, but I’ve had this crazy idea in the back of my mind…”

Without fail, we end up writing about 3 songs per day on these retreats. And the last couple of songs we get to are always the most magical. They’re the songs we don’t HAVE to write. They just come through because they WANT to be written…and because the floodgates of our minds are sitting so wide open, without any distractions getting in the way.

Here’s one of those songs, “Beautiful World”, captured moments after it was written in the living room of a mountaintop log cabin. (Emily is singing and playing keyboards, Phil and I are playing guitar and singing backgrounds.)


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