Rachael Kennedy is one-third of the songwriting/production team L I O N C H I L D, which placed a song on a Britney Spears album in 2016, attended the third annual SOCAN Kenekt Songwriting Camp in 2017, and recently signed its first publishing deal, with Alex Da Kid, at Kid in a Korner. As usual, it was a long road to reach this point. Here’s how she did it, with some tips that might help on your own songwriting path:
When I was 14 years old I sat in my bedroom, wrote my first song and bawled my eyes out. It’s one of the only times in my life I can say I truly had an epiphany; I was going to be a songwriter for the rest of my life. What I didn’t know, at the time, was that that was the easy part, and I was about to embark on a crazy, exciting, overwhelming, exhausting, life-changing, 10-year rollercoaster ride.
Before I even begin writing this, I want to point out I’ve never met any two songwriters with the same story of how they got to where they are, so, first and foremost, there’s no right or wrong way to navigate this wild and ever-changing music industry. All I can say is, there are a lot of talented people trying to make this happen, but one thing you will always be able to control is your drive… SO PEDAL TO THE METAL, BABY!
The Hibernation Period|
The first leg of my journey was what I like to call the “hibernation period,” which occurred from about age 14 to 17, and consisted of me taking all that teen angst and writing songs whenever I could; after school, before school, after terrible high school parties… and this was a very important stage, because it was about the craft. I established a “by myself” writing style and developed instincts which would lay the groundwork for the rest of my songwriting career.
Get Over Yourself: Start Writing with Other People
Yes, we all get it, it’s your art, no one fully understands you, you have your own unique style, etc. That’s all well and good, but if you want a career as a songwriter, it doesn’t mean much if no one knows who you are. It wasn’t until I started writing with other people that my career even began to exist. When you write with other people, you’re not only expanding your craft, you’re networking – forming relationships, that open doors to other relationships, that may end up bringing opportunities to you that wouldn’t have existed if you were still sitting in your bedroom, writing songs with your guitar, by yourself (though you can always still do this and fill up your emo, angst-y, songwriter-y heart).
As a side note, when it comes to collaborating with other songwriters, I just want to emphasize how important being a good human being is to a successful songwriting career. If you’re a jerk, or hard to work with, or your ego is bigger than the studio, no one is going to want to work with you. There are too many talented people in this business, and if you’re not a fun hang, there are a lot of other nice, friendly songwriters, just as talented as you, who would be more fun to write with.
When I was 19 I called SOCAN and said, “I want to go to Nashville and write songs with dope songwriters… Where do I start?” SOCAN connected me with their Nashville representative Eddie Schwartz, who introduced me to a few people, and sort of gave me the run-down of the Nashville scene. Fast forward to about nine months of writing trips back and forth between Toronto and Nashville, and I decided it would be good to expand my songwriting to one of the other major music hubs, Los Angeles. So I booked the SOCAN House in Nashville for a week, then the SOCAN House in L.A. the following week. I packed up my car and drove to Nashville where I met with Eddie again, and he said if I was heading to L.A. I should send my songs to Chad Richardson, who runs the L.A. branch of SOCAN.
Chad would become my first champion, the first person to really believe in my potential, and he set up all of my first sessions in L.A. I fell in love with the city, and how much momentum I was generating. I began working three jobs in Toronto in between trips back and forth, to save up money so I could spend three months in L.A., network with as many people as possible, and write my face off before getting my work visa to make the move officially. Again, I packed up my car, drove across the country to California, and networked like a maniac. I said yes to everything. I booked two sessions a day, I got into ASCAP’s Lester Sill Songwriting workshop, where I met Grammy-nominated songwriters and formed relationships I still maintain to this day. I went to every music industry event, party, show… you name it, I did it. During this time, I applied for my work visa. Three months later, in a grocery store with my sister in the suburbs of Ontario, I got the news it had been approved. Again, I bawled my eyes out.
The next stage was a game changer: I moved to L.A. At the time, I remember talking to people about moving, and everyone saying what a big deal it was, and how scary it was to uproot your life and move across the continent to a whole new situation. But it felt normal to me. It wasn’t scary, because I knew in my bones it was what I was supposed to do, and I was willing to do whatever it took to chase this dream I had. I truly think that when something is your passion, and fills you with purpose, nothing is out of reach, because reaching for it feels instinctive, and completely natural.
A side note: be fearless. If you’re afraid of failing, this is not the career path for you. Life is way too short, and way too fast, to not do something because you’re afraid you’ll fail, or that all those people back home will judge you. So if you’re going to go for it, you gotta go ALL THE WAY for it.
In L.A., I quickly met two of my best friends, who would become my songwriting partners, and our songwriting/production team, L I O N C H I L D, was founded in 2015. We wrote hundreds of songs together, and managed to get a song placed on the Britney Spears album in August of 2016. That would never have happened if we all hadn’t spent years, on our own and together, growing a network of relationships that would bring such an opportunity to our doorstep. We were invited to attend the third annual SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp in Nicaragua in April of 2017. Then, after a year of meeting with publishers, about six weeks ago we signed our first publishing deal, with Alex Da Kid at Kid in a Korner.
To Be Continued…
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that your journey is going to have a lot of different stages, and it’s probably going to be very different than you imagine it, and that’s okay! Have your goals, and have a clear vision of what you want, and where you want to be, but be open to the path changing. Most importantly, make music with people you love, and enjoy the small stuff; the goofing off in the studio, the blooper takes from your vocal demos, the struggle, the not-so-good meetings, the amazing meetings, and the interesting people you meet along the way. Cause let’s be real here: songwriters are the coolest people on earth!