Songwriters & Composers Scotland Magazine

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Showcasing & Supporting Scotland's Songwriters & Composers

Advice & Tips for Scottish Songwriters & Composers

We will continuously add to this, compile a downloadable Handbook or something akin to that, once we have enough info. Here’s some useful advice from Songwriters, Composers, signed/established Artists, music professionals etc…


James Grant (Love & Money)

  • Read books and poetry. You find out how words work.
  • Write every single day, even if it’s just a personal diary for half an hour. It keeps you in the game.
  • Listen to Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bacharach, The Beatles, Bowie, Joni Mitchell, The Stones. I don’t think it’ll ever get any better than that.

All the best, James

* Write, write, write……..RIGHT ?! Keep writing, everyday or every few days if you can, get better, write a better song than the last, keep
writing then……keep writing more. Live it, write it, feel it, be it. Right ? …write…..dae it !

General Advice

Keith Matheson (KEKKER, Swiss Family Orbison, The Pearlfishers)

“Just keep the faith, keep writing and playing and your songs will just get better and better. I’m not going to lie it’s very hard to get noticed but for this generation social media seems to be everything and the younger guys will be all over that”

The Eves (Caroline & Marissa)

“Work as hard as you can. Get organised! Making a career in music is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s relentless.

You need to learn new skills in addition to writing and playing music. Learn how to use social media effectively, how to design a website, use Canva/Photoshop and link in with good photographers and make-up artists for your promotional photos. And! Sign up to the Musician’s Union for helpful advice and legal assistance. Make sure to copyright your songs via PRS and sign up to PPL if you’re a performer. These bodies collect royalties on your behalf.”


* Malcolm Lindsay – Film & TV composer – “Don’t sell that Gibson !!”

“If you are just starting out and want to be a media composer, my advice would be to try and get to know people who make films / games, and where possible collaborate on speculative projects to get experience and make contacts that might be useful in the future. Without a network of some kind, it’s almost impossible to get work. As for getting music placed in productions, the same applies. However, it’s pretty difficult these days, because everyone is chasing this goal: you are competing not only with other media composers, but all the publishers and the pop world too. You need contacts in the industry to help you get noticed.”


  • When recording on your DAW, take breaks !
  • When recording on your DAW, go outside and get some air in your ears, it’s like a palate cleanser for the lugs !
  • Walk away from composing, change the scene, then go back to it, if too immersed in the composition. Get a perspective

Studio Recording​

  • Be on time. Don’t keep others waiting.
  • Don’t faff about, it’ll cost you more. And if you’ve hired musicians, it will def cost you more if recording runs into another day
  • Learn and know your parts.
  • Warm up vocals before recording takes/songs. Take drinks regularly and also some energy booster. If you’re singing for a few hours, it can take it out of you, plus your vocals will reflect lack of energy.
  • DON’T change guitar strings shortly before recording, do it earlier if you can and allow strings to settle (and also adjust to room
  • temp).
  • If you’re with the Engineer mixing, give your ears a rest, go outside and get fresh air then go back to it. Air is like a palate cleanser for the ears. Ear fatigue is common when recording/mixing.
  • If you’re not happy with a take, do it again. Better to be pro active and happy than sorry when studio time is up.
  • Enjoy it.
  • The Engineer is your friend – be nice to them. Buy them cakes, they like cakes 😉
  • Producers are there to help you achieve your aims with your songs/album etc They have experience, listen to them, but also listen to your own inner voice, as you have to live with the final product (recording).

Gigging / Touring

  • * Don’t “P” off the Sound guy. Be on time for Sound Checks and if you’re using someone else’s gear who is also playing,take note of your amp settings, as the owner will set it to their preferred pre-set.
  • Eat healthy, sleep well. Take your own food or something snackable, should no food be at the venue (oot in the sticks)
  • Be professional – courtesy goes a long way
  • Network & chat to fans (if local gigs),
  • Use your own mic, if you can. The amount of colds and flu’s yae can catch using other people or studio mics ! (especially in rehearsal studios. If you catch a cold, you could might have to cancel gigs or recording.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

Elaine Lennon – Singer-Songwriter/Performing Artist

“I love yoga and use mindfulness techniques I’ve learned over the years, but mostly I spend time with my family and my two little kids – they ground me, inspire me, let me be silly, play and have fun and they remind me what is truly important in life and not to sweat the small stuff”

Martha L Healy – Singer-Songwriter/Performing Artist

“This has been a long lesson for me! I’ve worked out over the years I need time to be alone and to relax away from music. I love nature and being outside so I make sure I do that often. I meditate regularly and make time to sit and play my guitar and sing for fun. It can be so serious and all-consuming to be creative. I enjoy being creative in ways other than music – cooking, crafting etc. So I’d say the mottos of “don’t feel guilty taking time away” and “enjoy my own company” have been major for my mental health. And know yourself, so you can address why you’re feeling down/overwhelmed/stressed. What are your triggers?”

The Eves – Singer-Songwriters/Performing Artists (Duo))

“Being a musician can lead to having strange working hours. Making sure you get enough sleep and exercise is absolutely critical to your health and well-being. It keeps you focused and combats stress and anxiety. Both of us regularly go walking outdoors, swimming, and to the gym. Being out in nature whenever you can also nourishes your soul. Talk to people – make sure you stay in touch with good friends and family.

If you’re on the road, eat as healthily as you can. If you know you’re gigging somewhere that doesn’t do food (or good food!), prepare and bring your own. We are both vegan and so we plan ahead to bring enough food and snacks to get us through a day if we’re somewhere that doesn’t cater for our dietary requirements. Eating good food replenishes your body and in turn improves your focus and mental clarity.”

Matthew Whiteside – Composer

“For positive mental health, try and not feel you always have to be on and take breaks away from what you are doing, to do something totally different. Read, gym, meet up with some friends. Not everything has to be designed to feed into your music.”

Nicola Evans – Singer-Songwriter/Performer

“After a tough gig or a project that I have invested time and money into going wrong, it can be easy to think ‘why am I doing this’? Keeping healthy and happy is essential in order to have the resilience to make good choices when I hit bumps in the road. There are lots of things actively I do on a regular basis, in order to stay mentally and emotionally healthy and happy. Routine is a big one for me, making sure that I’m making space for down time, eating well and getting fresh air are key to staying happy. I have recently redressed my work life balance, by going part-time in my professional job and it has made such a difference to my capacity for creativity. Being comfortable in my own skin is something that keeps me healthy as a songwriter, as it is easy to be very concerned about what others might think about you, both in a general sense and in your creative work. I often rationalise negative thoughts by saying to myself “these people may comment on what I’m about to do but I’m allowing myself the opportunity to experience it” and that mindset has really helped me to diminish any anxieties about what others might think about my work and my performance. Accepting that not everything I create will be good really helps to take the pressure off the creative process. When I first started seriously songwriting, I told myself “no painter ever picked up a brush and painted a masterpiece the first time”. This mindset has helped me to understand the creative process and that everything I write does have a place in the journey, even if it’s a song that never gets aired or even finished.

Finally, I surround myself with people who will be my biggest supporters in good and bad times. My advice would be to get rid of anyone who is bad for you, or who tries to stop you achieving your potential, in the words of Dougie MacLean “I’ve lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way”.

Promotion/Social Media​

  • Website – Centralise your content. Your website is your shop window. Sell from from it, have all Social Media links on it, Music, Videos, Bio, Photos, Gig/Tour info….don’t make people jump through hoops to find out more. Have all Social Media with contact info, with web/media links, keep it all uniform (FB, Twitter, Insta, Youtube etc…all the same), invite fans and potential fans in by making it easier for them.
  • Social Media – Keep it relevant, nobody cares what you have for lunch. Keep the feeds active and try and engage with fans. Sell yourself, you’re brilliant !! but don’t over-post, you’ll lose fans or visitors. Learn marketing, lots online relating to it all.
  • Help each other. Re-post/Tweet others news, music etc…they’ll reciprocate, as you potentially both gain new fans