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Phil Barton on making it in Nashville

Tip Published Monday 13 April 2015
In 2012 Phil scored his first Number One hit with Lee Brice’s “A Woman Like You”

Phil Barton is a Nashville-based songwriter who topped the charts in 2012 with "A Woman Like You"

Nashville is a songwriting hub, with a great songwriting placement business and some of the best studios in the world

Phil says that when starting in a new city you must create your own luck, by being present, making opportunities count and by writing the best songs

Touring to Nashville sometime soon? We have a great new contact for you there - iconic songwriter Phil Barton, our newest APRA AMCOS Ambassador. We spoke to Phil about how he came to be in Nashville and what his tips are for APRA AMCOS members looking to make the move.

How did an Australian songwriter end up in Nashville?

The first time I visited Nashville and walked the streets of Music Row in 2005, (two longs streets full of recording studios, record companies, publishing houses, management companies and music industry related businesses), I knew this was where I wanted to be.

You have access to some of the best studios in the world. I started the long and painful process of moving with visa applications, and writing my butt off to make my goals happen.

I was always focused on writing a No. 1 Billboard Song. That day finally came in 2012 with a song called "A Woman Like You". Having a song at the top of the American charts makes you more determined to do it again.

How did moving overseas help your career? What important lessons did you learn?

The Nashville writing community helped me develop the way I approached lyric writing, and changed my mindset to being very business orientated.

Relationships are the key to writing opportunities. It really threw me in the deep end, to start off in a place where I knew no one and start from scratch. People say music is a luck game, but you can create your own luck, by being present, making opportunities count and by writing the best songs.

Do you think Nashville is a good place to do this kind of work?

Nashville is the music city, a hub of songwriting from people from all over the world. The song placement business is amazingly set up here. It is a great situation to know when you hand in a mix of a song, your song will hit the streets, and you never know who might hear it.

One time I got an email from Cher, saying how much my song had affected her. She never recorded it, but it was pretty cool to get an email saying how she wept to the song. The energy of the town is great for creative songwriters.

Can you share any 'songwriting tips’ for your fellow APRA AMCOS members?

Turn up, be present and write the best song you can every day. You never know who you might be writing with and where they will end up.

Enjoy the process of writing a song, and write from the heart, there is no use trying to follow a trend or a hit song on the radio. Create the next trend, do what you do, and in the process make friends with everybody as you do it.

Write something you are proud of, and have fun doing it.

What important things should songwriters keep in mind if they are planning to move overseas for their career?

Being patient is very important. Work hard and let your songs get noticed and relationships happen naturally.

Be completely committed to the territory you are focused on, know little victories will add up to help achieve the long term goal.

Songwriters need to be aware to embrace the culture of the territory, be open to absorbing and learning the way people write songs in another part of the world.

The first write I had in Nashville, I felt I learnt more than three years studying music at university! I was blown away by the way Nashville writers approach lyric writing. I became a sponge learning the Nashville tricks.

What are you hoping to achieve as an APRA AMCOS Ambassador in Nashville?

I hope I can inspire Australian writers, to show you can move to somewhere like Nashville and write songs at the top level.

I hope in my position as an APRA AMCOS Ambassador I can open doors for other Australian writers to have an opportunity to pursue a music career in this great songwriting city. I also want to raise awareness to the Nashville community - APRA AMCOS writers can mix it with the world’s best.

Finally, tell us a little bit about the new music projects you’re currently working on.

I'm writing every day. Last year I wrote over 350 songs, and I’m well on track to do it again this year. I'm lucky enough to be in a position now where I do get to write with a lot of the bigger artists in Nashville. I currently have four singles on the Canadian Country Music Chart. Excitingly, several Australian artists are releasing my songs as singles in the upcoming months. It's always a thrill when someone records one of your songs.