My first mentor was an incredible lady named Shannan Hatch. She is currently the VP of creative services at the performance-rights organization SESAC, but when I met her, she was still working in songwriter relations. I was 16 when my dad went with me to her office for my first ever meeting on music row in Nashville. I remember bringing my acoustic guitar and playing her a song I wrote by myself called “Clockwork”. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. But she listened, absorbed, critiqued, and praised that song, just like she would do for hundreds more in the years to come (and still does to this day). She put me in rooms and meetings with writers and publishers that I didn’t think I was ready for, but the fact that she put me there made me believe I could hold my own. And I did. Shannan is so good at recognizing potential early in the game, and then shaping and directing talent in a loving way.
A mentor/mentee relationship only works if you leave your ego at home. This took me a little while to learn, because I am a sensitive artist and everything I create is SPECIAL AND BEAUTIFUL. The first few times that someone like Shannan poked holes in my art, I felt wounded, even though they had the best intentions and only wanted to see me improve. It’s definitely easier to write songs in your bedroom and only play them for your best friend and watch YouTube tutorials on how to play the guitar. But in order to truly grow and maximize our skill set, we need real-life people around us who have more experience and wisdom than we do. They’re the ones who will push us and keep us on the path that is uniquely ours—which is the one thing the internet will never be able to do.