In Praise Of Songwriting Workshops!

No rain in Spain ...well once 


September is a month I’ll remember for a long time to come. Most of my coaching is done from my home office in Nashville via Skype and my songwriting clients are all over the world at this point. This is something I’ve loved doing for over 5 years now but…I do miss seeing writers in person, writing more myself and traveling. This month I got my fix. 

I was invited by Martin Sutton who runs The Songwriting Academy in the UK to come to Malaga, Spain and be one of 4 mentors at their annual songwriting retreat from Sept 10-17.  I also got the chance through Martin and TSA to have a full day workshop in London on the 19th. This took me right up to my workshop in DC with Kye Fleming organized by our friend Tom Nichols and the Songwriting Association Of Washington. It felt like a mini tour! 

In Malaga they had over 30 writers, mostly UK based but a few from Russia and even Norway. Had a chance to write with a different group each day and mentor two other groups per day. Martin, Dominic Roy King and Charlie Dore were the other mentors and some gifted folk. After dinner every group performs the song they wrote followed by pure fun and wine…lots of great food and wine:-)! 

Dinner break at the TSA retreat, Malaga , Spain 

DC, London and Spain...the people are all the same...awesome! 

These are songwriters investing in their passion, turning information into inspiration every day. This, along with the one day workshop in London and the one in DC, just reminded me how amazing it is to write songs and to co-write with people for the pure buzz of it. It filled up my well and I got to experience the “non-music business “ part of the music business. People were gracious and giving as well as sponges for anything new. I’ve been to pro-writing camps and although they can be great for networking and a shot at getting a cut, they can lack the pure joy of these events. I got to share my life stories and hear some amazing ones but it comes back to the thing we all have in common, a love for songwriting and expression. 

Got as much as I gave for sure and in that sense it was all one big co-writing experience. Although most attendees were close to my kids’ age (and a few who might have done the math and found I could be their Granddad) when writers get together in that kind of spirit nothing else matters but the music and I heard some great music everyday from the writers at the retreat to the ones in the West End of London to the beautiful city of Washington DC. I loved TSA and its people enough to become a mentor on thier site to coach thier members from time to time. 


Just go!!! 

If you haven’t tried a writing camp or retreat, gone to a workshop in your town or in some far off place, I would really urge you to do it. We can live inside our heads as writers and need to much of the time but there’s no substitute for making music with other people, sharing stories and seeing how other writers go about writing a song. I made music but more importantly made some lifelong friends and filled up the well to overflowing. I'm vowing to do more in the coming year. 

Here are just a few of the places you can do the same! 

The Songwriting Academy( Martin Sutton and his team are awesome at what they do and what they offer) 

NSAI ( with branches in many cities they offer a great chance to meet other writers and though the Nashville chapter, lot’s of information) 

The West Coast Songwriters Association ( I’ve done a few workshops for them as well as their big event in September. Ian and Joanie Crombie are the real deal) 

BMIWorkshops ( Great workshops with Jason Blume and they’ve hosted workshops for Kye Fleming and myself over the years) 

ASCAPWorkshops ( Their create music seminars in LA are great!) 

Berklee College Of Music( mainly online offerings but check for events) 

Sweetwater Music (The worlds biggest internet music equipment provider and has great programs. I’ve been their guest for many over the years) 

Songtown( Clay Mills and Marty Dotson offer some events and great info with a focus on Nashville) 

More and more songwriters are offering their own workshops including me from time to time so just Google Songwriting Workshops to find one near you. Judy Stakee offers cool retreats as does Chris Difford and Dominic KIng. Steve Earl even offers a camp once a year. I’ve seen camps pop up in Yosemite and even Marthas Vineyard. Take the leap and I promise, it will be life changing! 

Mark Cawley 

Nashville, Tennessee 


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I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the fall. Visit my website for more info or write to me at 

Check out this interview in the recent edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs! 

Mark Cawley / iDoCoach Workshop at Sweetwater 

About Mark Cawley 

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting, Songwriter Magazine,  Mentor for The Songwriting Academy, sponsor for the ASA, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.