“Dare To Suck,” and other words of wisdom from Linda M.

Linda M‘s songwriting achievements are broad ranging and plentiful.  She has seen success as an artist, touring Canada and the US, as well as garnering nationwide campus and commercial radio play for her first 2 albums.  She’s shared the stage with the likes of Amy Sky, Don Henley, Natalie Merchant, Santana and Macy Gray, to name a few.  But she hasn’t only focused on writing for herself.  She’s also racked up plenty of credit writing for many acclaimed songwriters and artists, as well as landing several major music licensing opportunities.  In addition she has won several awards including Billboard and the UK Singer-Songwriter Awards.  She’s now signed to Los Angeles Music Publisher Jay Werner, and she is focused exclusively on writing for other up and coming Artists, both Label and Independent.   This entire article could be dedicated to listing her achievements, but we’ll let you read her Songwriters Profile to find out more.  Instead, we interviewed her to find out about the secret behind her success.  It is clear she has approached her career with hard-work, perseverance and ingenuity.  May this interview inspire you to do the same.

1.  Has going to the US been integral to your success?  If so, how?  I think in a way it has. I started with micro tours to Detroit and the surrounding areas like Ann Arbor and Ferndale. Then Buffalo and NYC.  I would go every 8-10 weeks.  I always secured a guarantee, sold a few cds and gathered people’s contact info. If for no other reason, it was of interest to people here in Canada that I played venues such as The Bitter End and CBGB’s. Perhaps it appeared prestigious for an unsigned artist/writer like myself.  In 2000 I took a 6 week retreat to Nashville, my first trip there. I met Deric Ruttan and his now wife Margaret Findlay. They invited me to their farm  to write and eventually to stay.

I now go 3-4 times per year to Music City U.S.A as I am pitching and writing with the locals on a regular basis, in search of a major label cut.

2.  What were you able to do locally for your career (in Canada)?  I toured the country twice, one time booking every Chapters bookstore along the way. They invited me to do so, actually, guaranteeing a flat rate at each stop.  Since the gigs were in the day, I could do a club spot at night. However, the Chapters gigs were important for me here in Canada, as it was the perfect performance niche for my songs, and there was always a small crowd there to listen and buy cds. I did the same, although on a much smaller scale, with Borders in the U.S.  I met so many wonderful fans, friends and business connections here at home too. Chris Case was a huge parter of mine and someone that opened some pretty good doors for me. But, to be honest, I never felt like I fit in with the “cool” people in the Toronto music scene. I felt free to do my own thing and really  be myself in the States.

3. What opportunities came from going to Nashville?  Well, having a network down there is a definite asset. I got to write with hit songwriter Wil Nance who has cuts with Brad Paisley.  I played the Bluebird and many other venues. I am afforded face time with top music row publishers. Relationships are key and being there in person is irreplacable.  My familiarity with the Nashville writer scene and my deal with Jay Warner were influential aspects of my career history in terms of getting offered the teaching position at Seneca College.

4.  How did you get signed to Jay Warner? Did winning several songwriting contests help?  Actually, the songwriting awards had little to do with it. When I completed my album “Pretty on the Inside”, I was shopping around for apublishing deal anywhere in the U.S. I talked to a few people in New York but settled on Warner. He was impressed with the album (the writing, production and performance) so much so that he acquired the rights to every song I had self published in the past, and of course he holds to rights to everything I have done since then as well.

 5.  Do you approach songwriting differently when it is being pitched for licensing versus to an artist?  I have learned that sitting down and trying to write something for this or that, be it licensing (unless commissioned) or pitching to an artist, doesn’t often yield the best possible fruits for me. Finding an original idea/twist and putting it as succinctly as possible and crafting the best melody I can is my go-to process. My licensing placements are all from existing material that was written that way. One time, however, Joel Parkes (who wrote 8th World Wonder for American Idol’s Kimberly Locke) asked me to write something with him for Kelly Clarkson. So, we sat down and pumped out a really strong song called “Deaf, Dumb and Blind (Your Love Is)”. Kelly liked it but didn’t cut it. Funny though, when her single “My Life Would Suck Without You” eventually came out, I was in the car with my husband as it played on the radio. He had heard mine and Joel’s song previously and within 30 seconds of “My Life Would Suck,” he said “boy, you guys nailed it. Deaf Dumb and Blind sounds almost exactly like this.”  So, who knows? I guess I’m still figuring that one out.

6.  How do you balance writing for yourself versus writing for others? Do you ever write a song for someone else that you wish you could keep for yourself?   I think I swung 360 from writing only for myself for years to now only writing for others! Actually though, I’ve incorporated some of my recent songs that haven’t yet been cut, into my (rare) live set. Thursday Oct. 6 I’ll be playing at the Rivoli with Sara Kamin and the Piggott Bros. That night I’ll be debuting a song called “Ex Box” which is on hold down in Nashville right now for a major label artist. Even though it’s not for me, I can’t resist playing it live! I really hit my stride writing with artists and I enjoy it so much, that for now, that process will be full steam ahead. But when an artist wants to cut a song we wrote, I am thrilled and happy to see it go.

7.  You have achieved much success in getting your music out there.  What is your advice to fellow songwriters to be able to bring their songs to a greater audience?  I hated hearing this when I was first digging in to the music industry and not always getting the feedback I wanted, BUT I would say “keep doing what you’re doing”. That and practice patience. You’ll need drive and a thick enough skin to take the inevitable rejections. On the plus side, find a collaborator.  I have made some strong friendships of my co-writers over the years. Of course S.A.C. is a key player in helping all writers learn the craft, meet other musicians and pitch material. Joining SAC was one of the first things I did when I started playing out. I also register every single song I write with SOCAN.   Be relentless, incorporate critique and dare to suck!