Season 2 – Episode 7: Carl Cartee – Hustle Beats Talent Every Day


This week I’m talking with my dear friend Carl Cartee who is the worship pastor at my home church Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN. We are talking about the importance of being discipled by a mentor when you are starting out as a worship leader and how you are a communicator using music as a means to encourage people.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at

In this episode we talk about:
*Being a worship pastor.
*The importance of being discipled by a mentor when you’re a young worship leader.
*Learning to transition from song to song.
*Using communication and language to earn trust and build bridges.
*People mirror what they see happening on stage.
*If you’re not having a good time, they’re not having a good time.
*You are a communicator using music as a means to encourage people.
*Hustle beats talent every day.
*To sign a pub or label deal nowadays you have to have a strong social media presence.
*Most songs that get cut now have the artist involved as a writer as well.
*Be a great track producer.
*Fellowship Worship Residency –


Carl Cartee is a Dove Award and Covenant Award winning songwriter and recording artist. His songs have appeared on records across a broad spectrum of music from The Oak Ridge Boys to Elevation Worship. Carl is the Pastor of Worship And Arts at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN where he directs the team that leads worship and releases music for the church as Fellowship Songs. Carl is married to Heather and they have four sons, Oak, Ezra, Abe and Ike.

Season 2 – Episode 6: Paul Wiltshire – Make Sure There’s An Instrumental Version


This week I’m talking with Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire. Paul founded Songtradr which is the largest online sync agency platform in the world. We are discussing how Songtradr works if you are looking for an agency to rep your music, the benefits of being on their playlists, why it is essential to upload WAV files and the necessity of having instrumental versions of your songs on Songtradr’s platform.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at

In this episode we talk about:

*Founder and CEO of Songtradr
*The difference in American and Australian music.
*How Songtradr works.
*How cover songs work on Songtradr’s platform.
*The benefits of being on a Songtradr playlist.
*Metadata issues.
*You MUST upload WAV files.
*You will not get a license with an MP3 file.
*The best ways to get your music noticed on Songtradr.
*The value of creating momentum.
*The quality of production.
*The importance of uploading instrumental files, stems and lyrics.
*Ways to improve your chances of getting your music heard on Songtradr.
*Make sure there’s an instrumental version.


Paul is a music and technology entrepreneur with over 30 years experience across the music and media industries. An award winning record producer and songwriter having produced and/or composed music with sales in excess of 15,000,000 records including twelve number #1 albums and singles. 
Paul founded Songtradr in 2014 and after 2 years of development, the Songtadr platform officially launched in March 2016 and has since rapidly grown to service 250,000+ artists and music creators around the globe, licensing music to advertisers, brands, films, TV and other media. Extremely passionate about democratizing the music industry for all creatives, Paul works tirelessly on providing the tools, opportunity and access for the Songtradr community of artists, songwriters and composers.

Season 2 – Episode 5: Mark Miller – Building Your Fan base For The College Market


This week I’m talking with my friend Mark Miller from the company Brave Enough which does concert booking for the college market.  We are discussing what it takes to get booked at colleges across the country and the importance of showcasing at either NACA or APCA which are the campus activities associations you have to use to get into this market.  Plus, we talk about the best music genres for the college markets.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at

In this episode we talk about:

*Being an artist touring in the college market.
*NACA – National Association of Campus Activities is main way to get booked for colleges.
*You must submit audio or video samples to get a showcase.
*Audio submissions have no chance of getting a showcase.
*Student activities boards from all colleges come to NACA to book artists.
*Create an atmosphere to set yourself apart from other acts.
*How to help your sponsors make money.
*Creating the booking agency Brave Enough for the college market.
*Learning how to showcase for the college market through NACA.
*Your submission video needs to be of cover songs that have been released in the last 5 years.
*There are more opportunities for solo or duo acts on college campuses than bands.
*Bands, duos and solo artists pay basically the same.
*Standard base rate is $1250 + travel for the college market.
*Rate can go up to $2500 once you’ve been around a while.
*APCA – is similar but a for profit company.
*If you’re not creating new content, you’re falling off the map.
*You have to have some investment cash to get going.
*You have to think of yourself as a business.
*You have to be invested in yourself.
*What Brave Enough is looking for when signing artists.
*You have to be relevant to 18-24 year olds.
*The best practices when booking shows with venues.
*Be strategic in building your fanbase.
*Don’t take any shortcuts.
*The best music genres for college markets.


Mark Miller is the lucky guy married 10 years to Heather Miller, and proud dad of Rockwell and Juliette.  He also has the honor of serving over 400 colleges and universities and more than 50 artists and speakers through the two companies he founded and directs, Brave Enough Entertainment and Taikai Esports.  Prior to starting Brave Enough, Mark was a touring artist for more than a decade (half of that with Heather as the duo So Long Solo.) 

Season 2 – Episode 4: Brent Barcus – Learn The Music Inside And Out


This week I’m talking with my buddy Brent Barcus. Brent is one of my favorite guitar players that I have followed for many years. He’s toured with Shania Twain, Steven Curtis Chapman and DC Talk just to name a few. We are discussing the importance of getting the same sounds as the artists you want to play for and having a humble confidence when going in for an audition. Plus, we talk about his new company, I-65 Music where he creates custom commercial music for ad agencies and tv promos for various networks.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at 

In this episode we talk about:

*Ups and downs of being a guitar tech for touring artists.
*Playing guitar for Cindy Morgan, DC Talk, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Kenny Loggins and Shania Twain.
*The importance of getting the same sounds as the artists you want to play for.
*Take something from every artist you play with.
*The audition process for major label artists.
*Learn the music inside and out.
*Know the sounds of the instruments you are trying to emulate.
*Have a humble confidence.
*Research the artist to know their style.
*Look the part.
*Have a simple setup for auditions.
*creating custom commercial music for ad agencies.
*Using Linked In for connecting with companies.
*Work flow of mixing tv promos for Viacom (CBS, CMT, MTV, VH1, etc.)
*Engross yourself in the music community.
*Open your mind and learn the skills.
*Connect with Brent at

Brent Barcus is an Audio Producer, Content Creator, Immersive Mixer & Sound Designer with a depth of music expertise, networking, and over 20 years producing commercial media for all platforms including podcasts, publishers, songwriters, labels, radio, TV, mobile and social media. 

He has worked with ViacomCBS, Volvo, Sony, AT&T, Nashville Predators, Purina Brands, Philips Healthcare, Republican National Convention, Warner Chappell, Griffin Technologies, Nashville Wine Auction, Permobil, Hex Bug Toys and Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis.

Brent has been a touring and studio producer and musician for artists such as Shania Twain, Kenny Loggins, Elton John, dcTalk & Steven Curtis Chapman performing on David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey & The Tonight Show starring Jay Leno. Brent has performed on the Super Bowl Halftime show and The Grammy Awards.

Season 2 – Episode 3: Ben and Lauren Johnson – Every Setback Is Just A Setup For A Comeback


This week I’m talking with my friends Ben and Lauren Johnson. We are talking about the pros and cons of being married and both working as professional musicians in different aspects of the industry. As well as discussing how connecting with the right people in the industry who can mentor you can help launch your career and open doors that might now otherwise. Plus, the benefits of having an good online presence.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at 

In this episode we talk about:

*Being a married couple in the music industry. 
*Multiple streams of income.
*Learning to improvise. 
*The importance of learning to transcribe music at an early age.
*Reach for “unattainable things.”
*The benefits of being on X Factor and similar shows.
*Always be learning.
*Every setback is just a setup for a comeback.
*The real music industry vs. reality tv talent shows.
*Creating a sound and identity as an artist.
*Learn to be happy for other people’s success.
*Having a good online presence.
*Instagram is the new business card.
*Post consistently so you show up in Instagram’s algorithms.
*Post things you care about.
*Showcase what you do in a consistent way so people quickly know who you are, what you care about and what you do.
*Lauren’s instagram for consulting is @lalalauren678.
*If you can make tracks you are more valuable in co-writes.
*The value of having a mentor who is already successful.
*To be competitive as a writer: write more songs, find a great mentor, take constructive criticism, find great titles, co-write, study songs and find out why they are successful.
*Write with the artist to have a better chance of getting songs cut. Just write parts of the song and ask the artist to write another section to make it their own.
*Being married and both in the industry works because of not competing with each other.
*Having goals planned out before getting married.
*Supporting your spouse’s career and being intentional with each other.
*Take time for yourself, remember to have fun, it’s okay to say “no.”
*Love you what you do.
*Contact Ben at @theonlybenjohnson2 or @track45.
*Contact Lauren at or @lalalauren678.


Ben Johnson is a songwriter and producer living in Nashville, TN. He is signed to a worldwide co-publishing deal with Tape Room Music (Nashville) and Artist Publishing Group (Los Angeles), and has written songs for artists such as Charlie Puth, Thomas Rhett, Kane Brown, Ava Max, Lee Brice, Meek Mill, Justin Timberlake, Lauren Alaina, and more. 
Originally from Meridian, Mississippi, Johnson grew up surrounded by music. He is a classically trained pianist and cellist, and grew up performing in orchestras as well as in bluegrass groups. From a young age, Johnson has written and produced music with his two sisters in their band Track45 (now managed by Missi Gallimore and Gary Borman, and in the process of completing their first label deal). 
In 2012, Johnson moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University on a cello scholarship, and it was at this time that he began co-writing. Johnson also made many connections in the country world singing BGVs for the CMA Awards each year- heʼs had the opportunity to perform with artists like Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Reba, and many more. Johnson met Ashley Gorley of Taperoom Music through a co-writer and they began working together, leading to Johnsonʼs eventual signing at Tape Room Music in 2018. 
His first major cut was “Patient” with multi-platinum pop artist Charlie Puth on his 2018 album “Voicenotes”. Since then, heʼs had dozens of cuts in both the pop and country worlds, as well as success as a producer, notably with artists Hunter Phelps and co-producing Kylie Morgan with Shane Macanally. 
Currently, Ben spends most of his time writing and producing at his studio on Music Row, and working with his band Track45 on new music set to be released later this year. 

Lauren BIO
Lauren is a composer and multi-instrumentalist living and working in Nashville, TN. She began her musical career as a fiddle player, and has performed on stages from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville to the Royal Albert Concert Hall in London and has worked with artists and productions such as Miley Cyrus, Lonestar, Florida Georgia Line, ABC/CMTʼs Nashville, The CMT Awards, Jools Holland, Montgomery Gentry, Josh Thompson, Kix Brooks, Little Big Town, Andra Day, Lee 
Ann Womack, as the featured artist for Bonafonteʼs international advertising campaign, HighRoad, Matt Maher, and many others. 
Lauren is a graduate of Belmont University with a degree in Commercial Music. Her background in bluegrass and Celtic music lends a unique sound to her compositions and recordings. Her sound is full of lush strings, cinematic world- music inspired percussion, and draws musical elements from her time traveling and performing in Scandinavia, the Middle East, and Latin America. She recently released her second solo EP, “Water Music Part II”, available now on all digital streaming platforms. 
Currently, Lauren lives in Nashville, TN, where she works as a composer, recording artist, and touring musician. In her free time, Lauren loves to paint, read books, and play with her Bernedoodle, JuJu. 

Season 2 – Episode 2: Justin Morgan – Persistence Is Key


This week I’m talking with Centricity Music Publishing songwriter and producer Justin Morgan.  Justin shares his experience going from a struggling indie band to charting on Billboard all without a label. Plus, we talk about what it’s like signing your first publishing deal and what the first year will probably be like for most newcomers. 

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at 

In this episode we talk about:

*Taking the initiative to connect with industry people.
*Don’t be scared to ask but you can’t be annoying. 
*Don’t be afraid to send a couple of songs to a publisher. Don’t send them 50 though.
*There’s persistence and there’s over persistence.
*Persistence is key to obtaining any level of success in the music industry, over persistence will kill any level of success in the music industry.
*Anytime an indie artist starts getting Billboard traction, labels started noticing and we were playing showcases in Nashville.
*Exploit your contacts and ask people to meet and get coffee and ask questions, etc.
*Ask people to a breakfast meeting.
*You’re not going to get signed from your first meeting. 
*If you’re a good hang, they will listen to your songs.
*When you sign a pub deal, you will spend the first year writing with everyone they can put you with. They have to figure out who you work well with and what you do best.
*Be a sponge and learn as much about co-writing as you can from seasoned writers for that first year.
*You can be a great writer and a horrible co-writer.
*If you’re going to email a producer or publisher, etc., find out what they’re excited about and working on and who they’re working with.
*When you approach a publishing company you want to work with, try to find a mutual friend who is working with them already.  That’s the best way.


Justin Morgan is a producer, writer, and artist from Nashville TN. Justin grew up in the great state of Texas and feasted on a diverse selection of music from Glenn Miller to George Strait and The Eagles to The Wallflowers and everything in-between. That may be the reason Justin can’t sit still in one genre for long. As a songwriter and producer Justin has had cuts in Country, Christian, Rock, and Pop and has had over 50 songs placed in TV and Film. As an artist, Justin has had over 10 million streams across his various artist projects and streaming platforms. 

Season 2 – Episode 1: Gary Gray – Use Your Ear, Not Your Gear


This week I’m talking with producer and engineer Gary Gray in L.A. Gary was mentored by music legends Quincy Jones, Jermaine Jackson and Phil Collins. He’s also become an in demand producer for Disney and 20th Century Fox. We are discussing the importance of networking and being a professional producer out of your home studio and Gary also shares a some tips and tricks to get your music to sound like the hits you hear on radio from his online teaching course The Lucrative Home Studio.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at 

In this episode we talk about:

*Being mentored by heavyweight Motown players as a kid.
*Anything you can do to enhance the human factor of your career by dealing with other people face to face is a good thing.
*Playing drums for Motown with Barry Gordy and Suzanne de Passe.
*working for Music Connection Magazine selling advertising.
*Protocol is communication and coordination.
*Don’t open your mouth unless you know what you’re talking about or have researched.
*Believe in people.
*Prepare yourself and know what you’re talking about.
*You’re either networking or not working.
*Go above and beyond for another human being.
*Being mentored by Quincy Jones, Phil Collins, Chick Corea, Jermaine Jackson and more.
*Working with Disney as a one stop shop.
*Producing from a home studio.
*Disney connected me with 20th Century Fox.
*1/3 of the formula is quantity, but 2/3’s of the formula is quality.
*Being a mentor and teacher to.
*The Lucrative Home Studio course –
*  music composed for a commercial.
*Checkerboard A/B ing.
*Use a reference track to compare with from the beginning in your DAW to create radio quality recordings.
*Mix your track while comparing to a mastered track.
*Shave a little bit of the low and the high end and pull the volume of that reference track down to the volume of your mix. Now you’ve reverse engineered that master recording pretty close to what the mix sounded like before it was mastered. Now compare it by ear to your mix.
*You’re comparing, not matching.
*Writing articles for Tune Core.
*The quality of work is the most important thing. 
*Licensing is a marathon race.
*Use your ear, not your gear when you mix and master.
*Balance your life.
*Styles and genres being asked for by music supervisors.
* for music briefs.


Gary Gray is an award winning composer, producer and engineer. He’s produced multiple projects for 20th Century Fox, Disney, Hollywood Records, A&E, EMI, CBS and many others all in a home studio that cost him less than $2,000 to build.
Gary grew up in Cleveland, Ohio as a prodigy drummer and was raised on symphonic classical music, R&B, rock and roll and big band jazz. Gary’s first job was playing drums for Berry Gordy at Motown Records in Los Angeles.
Gary himself has been mentored by Phil Ramone, Quincy Jones, Jermaine Jackson and Phil Collins. Gary honed his marketing savvy as the advertising and promotions manager for Music Connection Magazine. He has always enjoyed “both sides of the desk” in the music business.
Having taught music since the age of 16, Gary not only walks the walk, he is also widely regarded as an exceptional mentor for composers, songwriters, musicians, producers, vocalists, and engineers. Gary brings you real solutions to real problems that home studio owners all over the world have benefited from.

Episode 27: John Martin Keith – Thank you! (Season One Finale)


This week we are wrapping up season 1 of the YOU CAN Make A Living In The Music Industry Podcast! I am saying “thank you” to all of my listeners and asking for some interaction from you about this season as we prepare for season 2.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at

Talking Points:

*Thank you all for listening and supporting this podcast and it’s mission! I hope you are encouraged by it and now have some hard evidence to know that YOU CAN make a living in the music industry.

I want to thank all of my season 1 guests: Gordon Kennedy, Mark Irwin, Elizabeth Chan, Jared DePasquale, Doug DeAngelis, Keith Everette Smith, Jeremy Quarles, Hope Thal, Eric Kalver, Nate Sousa, Philip Peters, Lauren Lucas, Brent Milligan, Ben Phillips, Blaine Barcus, Jordan Childs, Eric Horner, Chad Segura, Eric Hurt, Jared Ribble, Wes Cole, Dave Cleveland, Bobby Rymer and my wife Keely Brooke Keith for helping me with the pilot episode!

I want you to interact with me by commenting on this episode through one of my Facebook pages: YOU CAN Make A Living In The Music Industry, Edenbrooke Music, John Martin Keith or Marty Keith, on instagram OR email me at regarding the following:

Tell me your 3 favorite guests/episodes.

*1 thing you learned from that guest.

*What is 1 episode you have not listened to yet but are looking forward to checking out?

*I look forward to your answers!

*Let me know if you have certain guests you would like to hear from or certain topics you would like to know more about for season 2.

*Season 2 is well underway and will release before too long. I will post on all of my pages before it releases so you can be ready.

*Thank you all again for listening, learning and supporting this podcast! I am forever grateful.

Episode 26: Bobby Rymer – Know Your History And Prove Your Worth


This week I’m talking with my friend Bobby Rymer who owns the publishing company Writer’s Den Music Group in Nashville. He’s worked his way from the bottom to the top of record labels and publishing companies in the music industry and has a career that has spanned over 35 years. We are discussing the process of working your way up the ladder at publishing companies and record labels, the importance of knowing the history of the music industry, what publishers are looking for when signing new writers and the best venues to play in Nashville to get noticed by industry insiders.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at

Talking Points:

*I own Writer’s Den Music Group. As a publisher I have a day gig and a night gig.

*During the day I pitch songs and have meetings, etc. At night I go to showcases and meet writers and artists.

*Spend money smartly.

*Look over your options at what you want to accomplish and how.

*You don’t have to have an office anymore if you have a laptop and a phone you can do most of your work that way.

*I was doing social work and realized it was not my passion and I decided to go back to school to get a degree in the music business.

*My friend got a job at Capitol Records in the mail room and called and asked if I would be interested in his old job at a record store. Then 9 months later he called saying he got promoted and asked if I wanted my name put in for the mail room job at Capitol.

*The mail room at a record label is the bottom of the totem pole which is where most people have to start.

*Get in anyway you can and prove your worth.

*Ask yourself “how bad do you want it?”

*Internships and a course called “Copyright Law” are worth their weight in gold.

*You really don’t start to understand how the music industry works until you’re in it working everyday and making relationships and learning how things are done.

*I got to sit in on meetings and learn how you find talent and find songs.

*If you can, try to work out a smaller company because you will stand out more as opposed to a larger company that just churns interns out every semester.

*After about a year and a half an opening came up in A&R and I was able to move up because the label looked within before looking out.

*My main job in A&R was to go out and find songs for the artists on the label by meeting with the publishers in town.

*If you want to consider the music business for a career, you better know your history.

*When looking for songs for artists, I would sit with the label heads after they talked with the artists to know what they were looking for.

*You go out and find songs you’re passionate about and the come back and see if there’s a home for it on the label.

*You have to listen to songs and see if they are checking off the boxes of things you are looking for to fit an artist.

*When you are reaching out to labels or publishers, you better know who they are and the history of people they’ve worked with and what they’ve done and you better know who they are working for now.

*Get Billboard Magazine and make sure you know every artist, label, producer and writer and study the charts so it becomes second nature. That is where you start. You shouldn’t have to pause when someone asks who produced or wrote the latest hit is.

*Before you knock on a door or make a phone call to a company, understand who you are talking to because if you don’t they will quickly realize that you don’t want this bad enough or you haven’t done your homework.

*I was A&R for about 4 years at Capitol, then there was a regime change and lost that job.

*Opportunity is not going to knock on your door, you have to go out and meet it.

*I kept having meetings and eventually bumped into a publisher I knew who used to play me songs and he offered me a job as a tape copier at the music publisher Almo-Irving.

*Even though it was a step back from where I had been, I wanted to stay in the industry and I got the job as the tape copy, which is the ground floor at a publishing company.

*A tape copy made copies of 8-10 songs on a tape and put together lyrics and a label for publishers to take to pitch meetings.

*The tape copy is the best place to start at a publishing company because that’s where you learn the catalog and the songs and writers.

*The writers would come down with new songs and you would put the songs in the system so you get to spend time with the writers and build relationships.

*I was tape copy for about 3 years learning until a vacancy came open and I naturally moved up to song plugger.

*I realized that publishing is all I ever want to do because I get to work creators who make things out of thin air and I get to help find a home for it.

*A song plugger is being aware of the labels in town, the artists in town and your job is to find a home for these songs. sometimes it’s find new writers and bringing them in to the company.

*As a songwriter show up and do the work and always have your antenna up because you never know where a song idea will come from.

*Some songs in a publishing catalog don’t see the light of day after a while because they have a time stamp on them using certain language and melodies from the time it was written and the language and melodies maybe different now than they were then and those things change.

*Maybe the song is there but the demo is dated and will turn someone off even if it’s a great song.

*If the song will take it, I like demos with acoustic instruments. Don’t go crazy with reverb. Maybe do a glorified work tape and the demo has the chance of having a longer shelf life because they aren’t dating it with certain tones and sounds.

*The guitar/piano vocal demo is great because that’s the way I hear it when the writer plays it for me and there is nothing getting in the way of the lyric and the melody.

*If you bring a fully produced demo and the producer knows they aren’t going produce it that way, then they have to sit with the artist and start subtracting what they don’t want and that is hard for artists to hear sometimes because they are hearing it one way and being told they are going to do it a completely different way. If you have a guitar/piano vocal and say I’m going to start adding this, they get it.

*Some producers need to hear the full demo as it would be on the record.

*The song will dictate what it needs as a demo ultimately.

*resumes mean nothing in this business. It’s all relationship based.

*I worked for Almo-Irving for 14 years and eventually ran the Nashville office. It got bought out by Universal Music Group so after a year off I started a publishing company called Writer’s Den Music Group.

*Write what you know. Your story’s already been written. Tell it!

*People say “no” to songs I think are hits because this is an art, not a science and everyone has their own opinion. Find people who have similar tastes to you and send them songs that fit you similar personalities. If people have different tastes than you, find out what they are.

*This business is an educated guessing game.

*You have to be careful to not create demos that are too much like an artist because if they pass on it and you pitch elsewhere, those artists or labels think it sounds like that particular artist and once they find out the previous artist passed on it, they think something is wrong with the song and it will not get cut.

*Don’t pitch what they’ve done, pitch what they might be doing.

*Write what’s familiar to all of us but unique to you.

*It’s the music business, not the music I’ll do whatever I want and hope it works.

*For tv/film sync music you have to stand out and offer something that no one else is.

*We need the first you, not the second anybody else.

*It’s about creating a mood.

*Everything is negotiable.

*Music supervisors only want songs that are pre cleared so they don’t have to wait 3-4 days to to get an answer from a publisher if they want to license a song.

*As a publisher when I want to sign a new writer I’m looking for songs that have a good lyric and melody. If I can whistle it, I’m in.

*I’m not looking the next whoever, I’m looking for the first you.

*Great writers have a thumbprint like great singers do and you know within the first few seconds who wrote the song.

*I’m looking for someone who can write a song told a thousand different times, told from a different angle.

*If someone is reaching out to me wanting to get signed to a publishing deal, the best thing is to meet me at workshops and conferences where we can meet in person. That’s what I’m there for. Most of the time it’s by word of mouth from people I know or at songwriter nights when I go to listen to new writers.

*I close my eyes when I listen to songs because I want to see the movie you’ve created. If I don’t like a song it’s because I’m seeing it and feeling it.

*Maybe I’m not crazy about the song, but there are a couple of lines that are new and fresh and that will make me want to talk to the writer because that might be the tip of the iceberg for something greater.

*I’m looking for potential.

*Hone your craft so that when someone listens to it, there is nothing they can suggest to make it better.

*You can’t control God given talent, but you can control work ethic.

*I prefer to sign writers to long term contracts, not single songs because I want to build a relationship. I like to court a writer for period of time to get to know each other before I sign them.

*I’m looking for a certain amount of talent and a work ethic.

*Find people who will give you a leg up you do the same for others.

*If we don’t see you, if we don’t hear you, you don’t exist.

*Be out and play out. You need to play out 1 night and be out 4 or more.
*You never know who you’re going to be standing next to or see on stage that you can develop a relationship with.

*Play out so people can see you.

*There are venues for tourists and venues for industry people. Play the venues such as The Local, Belcourt Taps, Douglas Corner, 3rd and Lindsley and The Bluebird where the industry people attend.

*If you’re playing at these venues, you’re going to find your “class” of people to rise up with at that is usually at the earlier shows from 5-7pm. You want to be hanging around those people.

*It’s about making smart decisions, hanging out at the right places at the right times, giving yourself opportunities and letting people see you are out and about and proactive. Eventually someone will take notice and you’re going to get invited to the next level.


Bobby Rymer is the owner and general manager of the Nashville based music publishing company Writer’s Den Music Group.
Writer’s Den was originally started in 2007 with Rymer at the helm. Among the cuts secured are multiple songs by Alan Jackson (including the 2013 Grammy nominated song, “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore”), Lindsay Ell, Alabama, Chris Stapleton, Kesha, The Steeldrivers, Lee Ann Womack, Plumb, Ricky Skaggs, Olivia Newton-John, Trace Adkins, Randy Owen and Joe Nichols as well as several cuts by Bonnie Raitt. In addition, the company has landed a number of film/TV placements including numerous songs in the TV show, Nashville. They have also secured cuts in Canada, Europe, South America and Australia.
Currently signed to the roster are Brennen Leigh, Noel McKay and Gordon Kennedy.
Prior to Writer’s Den, Rymer was VP/GM of the Nashville office of Almo/Irving/Rondor Music, a company that was founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss of A&M records fame. Some of the writers he was privileged to work with during that time were Bekka Bramlett, Peter Frampton, Patti Griffin, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Paul Kennerley, Mark Knopfler, Kent Robbins, Annie Roboff, Anthony Smith, Marty Stuart, Gillian Welch and Craig Wiseman.
Before joining the publishing side of the business, Rymer was at Capitol Records/ Nashville from 1985 to 1990. Initially starting in the mailroom and then moving to the A&R Dept., he worked with Garth Brooks, Barbara Mandrell, New Grass Revival, Marie Osmond, Kenny Rogers, Dan Seals and Tanya Tucker among others.
He is an Alumnus of Leadership Music, class of 2002.

Episode 25: Dave Cleveland – You Have To Play For The Song


This week I’m talking with my friend Dave Cleveland who is one of the top session and touring guitar players in Nashville. He’s played on over 30,000 songs throughout his career for artists like Little Big Town, Steven Curtis Chapman and Miley Cyrus. We are discussing the importance of learning parts correctly when playing for artists, ear training, being a “parts player” not an “everything player.” Plus, why you have to play for the song, not for yourself.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at

Talking Points:

*I started playing guitar when I was 12 or 13 and by 14 I knew that was all I wanted to do.

*I learned to read music when I was in the school jazz band in high school.

*I was diligent and self motivated in practicing because I knew that to get to the point I wanted to get to and play like the people I was listening to, it took a lot of work.

*I wanted to play with orchestras and symphonies so I had to learn to read notation.

*I went to Florida after high school and studied jazz guitar for about a year and learned more about theory and chord voicing, etc.

*I got a call from the owner and director of the band TRUTH to be their guitar player and that was my college degree. I got that gig because a guy from a church named Joe Hogue that I met and wrote music with had become the keyboard player and he recommended me.

*I was into rock music with the “more is more” attitude and walked into this situation was there was no room for that kind of playing. After the first couple of shows, I thought I was doing a great job until the drummer came to me and told me to listen to the parts again that are on the album because I was playing way too much.

*That was the best thing in my life for me to learn and affected my whole career.

*You have to play for the song.

*When you play on an artist’s record, you have to listen to everything around you. You have to know where your spots are to add and you have to know where to not play.

*Being in TRUTH for 3 years helped fine tune that idea of being a “parts player” as opposed to an “everything player.”

*Always have a good attitude and treat whatever you’re working as the most important thing you’ve ever done.

*Always do your best.

*After TRUTH I took a break from playing professionally.

*A friend of mine asked me to come check out Nashville, so we came down and hung out with him while he was tracking an album and asked me to overdub a guitar part.

*That was the moment that we realized that we should move to Nashville and start playing guitar again professionally.

*Within a year I got called by Twila Paris to play for her because a guy that did lights for TRUTH referred me and I got an audition for her and got the gig.

*When you have to take other work that is not music related, you are being prepared for something.

*When you have down time, don’t neglect your practice time because that is essential for when you show up the next time.

*Never waste your down time. If you have down time, there’s a reason and you should dig in and whatever you feel you’re weak in musically you should strengthen that.

*After Twila Paris, Steven Curtis Chapman called me to play for him on tour because he saw me play with Twila and liked what I did.

*When your touring with high level players, the caliber of musicianship is so amazing and you have to get up to that level.

*When you touring with big artists you’re expected to play the parts EXACTLY like the record, unless the artist gives you permission to take a little liberty.

*If you audition for a band or artist, you should know not only your guitar part but all the other guitar parts note for note. Be so aware of all the other instrument parts so when you go into the audition, you are over prepared and try to have the exact sound or as close as you can get.

*Don’t go into debt, so put money aside now so when you need certain gear for a gig you can get it.

*We would rehearse 3-4 weeks before a tour started so we could have the show down so the audience isn’t getting a rehearsal on the first show.

*I took what I learned from SCC and went back to Twila Paris’ band and worked it out with her management to rehearse the band for 2 weeks before we even saw Twila so when she walks in it’s like she’s playing along to her album.

*There’s nothing more frustrating for an artist than sitting there while players are mumbling through there parts if they don’t have them down.

*In today’s world, the band guys need to take it upon themselves to really rehearse before working with the artist because they don’t have the luxury to rehearse for 2 weeks all together before a tour.

*Some artists I’ve played with are Steven Curtis Chapman, Twila Paris, TRUTH, Susan Ashton, Amy Grant, Martina McBride, Avalon, Point of Grace and Phillips, Craig and Dean.

*I’ve also done studio work because my name started to get out after working with Twila.

*People say you can’t be a studio player and a touring player and be successful.

*The touring musician has to be the guy who re-creates the parts.

*The session musician has to be the creator of the parts.

*I’ve been able to do both so it’s allowed me to be successful in ways that others haven’t.

*I try to get myself in the mindset each day like I’m just picking up the guitar for the first time and it’s the first song I’ve ever played on so that gets me excited.

*Doing both is not as hard today because of technology. You can be on the road touring and track a part on your computer and email it where it needs to go.

*You have to know how to record yourself.

*You have to be skilled.

*If you’re lacking in some area, get better at that.

*If your ear is not well adapted to picking up lines in songs, get some ear training.

*I have an online guitar teaching course:


Dave Cleveland is a first call session guitar player in Nashville, Tennessee. He has played on a multitude of Grammy and Dove Award winning projects with artists including Steven Curtis Chapman and The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Over his 26 years in Nashville, Dave has played on over 30,000 songs for artists like Miley Cyrus, Little Big Town, Stephen stills, Russ Taff and many more. His movie credits include The Apostle, Jimmy Neutron, and Courageous. He is a member of The Sam’s Place house band at the Ryman Auditorium which is hosted by Steven Cutis Chapman. On that stage, he has had the privilege of performing with Ronnie Milsap, Ray Stevens, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant and many more. Just recently he was honored to play at two of the Presidential events at the White House: The Liberty Ball and the Candlelight Dinner. Dave was also invited to play at the White House for President George Bush by Michael Omartian during President Bush’s administration.
In a constant pursuit of creativity, Dave has amassed quite a large library of songs used consistently on TV shows, commercials, and movies worldwide. With over 1500 original compositions in rotation, he is constantly heard on shows like 20/20, The Chew, Undercover Boss and many more including the 2017 Pepsi Lemon Lemon commercial.
But above all of this, Dave is a follower of Jesus Christ and a dedicated father of Olivia, Catherine, and Joshua, and husband to his amazing wife, Tammy, of 32 years.