I was recently thinking back on my first co-writing session. It was very memorable to say the least….an experience I’ll never forget. In the spring of 2012 I was headed to Nashville for the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass Class. I was thrilled to have been accepted and really looked forward to the opportunity. I arrived a little early, having set up a songwriting appointment with Donna Ulisse. I had always hoped we could write together someday. Never having participated in a “real deal” co-write session with someone who does it all the time like Donna, I was understandably a bit nervous and somewhat anxious days before we met up. My plane landed at the Nashville Airport around 1:30 PM and we were to meet at 4:00 PM at her publishers office. I was staying at a hotel near the BMI building where the class was to be held….not far from where I was to meet up with Donna. I had not rented a car as I needed to economize and felt I could easily walk to my destinations. Overly optimistic!
Everything was going well until I left the hotel to meet up with Donna. Thought I allowed enough time and brought a hand held GPS to help me find my way. Somehow the GPS malfunctioned and kept leading me to the wrong place. A lot of the street names in that area are very similar. Time was flying by, I was running late, and getting tired from all that walking in the heat. Finally I got Donna on the phone and explained my dilemma. She guided me in and I was running full tilt by the time I got there, about an hour late…..out of breath and sweating profusely.
When I arrived, first person I met was Jerry Salley, one of my songwriting heroes. He had a co-write appointment cancelled earlier that day and just stopped by to say hello. Donna asked me if it was OK if Jerry joined us. My heart was pounding faster and faster. My first co-write would be with Donna Ulisse and Jerry Salley. Wow! On top of that Donna wanted to try & write a new song for her upcoming Christmas album. It was a surreal experience. Three hours later we finished writing “Morning In Bethlehem”, which was a featured cut on Donna’s acclaimed “All The Way To Bethlehem” release. Being part of that collaboration was a highlight for me personally. I was in the presence of greatness, witnessing how two of Bluegrass’ finest songwriters approach writing a song together. I learned a great deal about the co-writing process during that session and will be forever grateful to Donna and Jerry for that wonderful opportunity.