The Songwriting Shift that Paid Off
by Shantell Ogden (’05)
Joe Doyle (’87) entered Berklee in the mid 80’s with a very specific goal in mind; he wanted to be a studio drummer.
“Steve Gadd was my hero,” says Doyle. “But when I got to Berklee I realized that I didn’t have the talent that some of my peers had on the instrumental side. So I started looking around at other options to be involved in music. Through that, I started writing songs.”
At that time the culture of Berklee was more instrument centric, and songwriting was more of an anomaly. In fact, back then there wasn’t even a songwriting major. Joe decided to take a couple of songwriting classes by Pat Pattison and John Aldrich.
“Pat in particular taught me the songwriting tools I have used throughout the years, from internal rhyme to creation motion to the value of alliteration,” says Joe. “Both he and John gave me a lot of encouragement and that meant a lot back then.”
Doyle ended up switching his major to Music Production and Engineering, which was really helpful in demoing the songs he was writing. It opened up what he called a ‘fake world’ of what the industry would be like after graduation.
“The goal was to have the best sounding project you could,” recalls Doyle. “There were a limited number of great players, great singers and great engineers and it was always a rush to book them for sessions. There was one male singer who was fantastic, Kyle Gordon, who ended up singing the Budweiser commercial the year we graduated on the Super Bowl. I would get him to sing any of my songs I could because he was so much better than anyone there at the time.”
Paula Cole also sang one of Doyle’s tunes for a senior project for his now wife, Berklee alum Lisa Bradley.
Doyle says that Berklee prepared him for the music business with classes that covered royalties, publishing and A&R. After graduating he moved to Nashville.
The journey to success in songwriting was relatively short for Doyle, certainly by today’s industry standards.
“Within four months of moving to Nashville, had a contract with BMG,” he says. “They had just opened up and I was with them for 10 years from 1988 to 1998.”
Doyle had his first major label cut with Tony Perez but the record was never released. A handful of smaller cuts ensued before Reba recorded and released “Buying Her Roses”, a song that demonstrated he had promise as a writer.
In the years that followed, Joe raked up hits by Dan Seals, Joe Diffie, Linda Davis, Alabama and Rhett Akins. After leaving BMG, he held several other staff writing positions in Nashville. Click here for a complete discography.
So what’s Joe’s advice for anyone hoping to pursue a career in music?
“Move to a music center, learn the business, find kindred spirits and other writers you connect with,” he says. “I moved here with $500 dollars and a Pinto station wagon packed with a keyboard, a guitar and a futon. You have to be brave enough to give it a try.”
He added the importance of honing your instrumental skills as much as you can so you can make extra money on the side, playing for other artists.
“Study what’s working if you want to be a commercial writer,” he adds. “Read billboard cover to cover and study the charts. Find your way into an artist’s camp and do what you have to do to stay in that camp so you can get cuts. Artists now don’t usually cut outside songs.”
Joe says that even though the Internet severely diminished the revenue streams and put a lot of the smaller companies out of business, he remains optimistic about the future.
“I’m writing for and producing some young twins from Miami called The Mann Sisters and they love to perform,” Joe says. “In the future I see live music and merchandise as a huge opportunity.”
For more information about Joe, visit his website.