DAN KEEN: Finding Your True Calling as a Songwriter

“Listen to that voice inside you. Follow that calling, especially if it doesn’t make sense. Pay attention to that voice, and find a way to honor it.” – Dan Keen

This week on The Song Revolution Podcast, Dan Keen talks about the journey to pursuing your passion, and the milestones achieved along the way. Dan is a Belmont University educator in Nashville, Tennessee. Belmont is one of the most popular music business schools in the country. Dan served as an adjunct professor for 16 years, before being hired full-time. Music has been Dan’s focus for the majority of his life, and his experience in the music industry is broad and diverse. He held a 15-year tenure as an executive with ASCAP and worked with incredible artists including Paramore, Chris Young, Rivers Rutherford, Nickel Creek, Mercy Me, and Rachel Thibodeau. He has also served with the Bluegrass Association and has experience writing jingles for major brands. He is hilarious and authentic and has incredible insight to offer to songwriters and musicians.

“There is no failure, as long as you learn something.” – Dan Keen

In this episode, Dan shares his journey through different realms of music and incredible opportunities with the music industry that finally led to his job at Belmont. He shares that when he was hired at Belmont, he realized that it was the passion and purpose he had been pursuing all along.  Many times your calling in life doesn’t make sense until later, and we might not even realize what it is until we’re right in the midst of it. There’s a continual process of following the path before us, even if we can only see the next step.

Keen shares so much great advice for aspiring songwriters, musicians, and really anyone who is hoping to break into the music industry. He shares the best way to find success is to ask yourself two questions. What are the needs of the creative people and how can you bridge that gap? Instead of boxing yourself in with a particular role in the industry, look to solve a problem, meet a need, and find out how that will impact the world around you.

The other advice Keen shares is, “if you want to catch a fish, you have to think like a fish.” Identify the people you are trying to reach with your music, and then find out where they hang out. Give those people what they need, and meet them in their environment.

“The inspiration comes from God, but there’s also work involved. You have to learn the craft. It’s like any other artform. Learn how to craft your music so people can receive your message.” – Dan Keen

Some topics we talk about in this episode:

  • Introduction // Dan Keen – 1:38
  • Dan’s Story – 6:27
  • Dan’s Current Work at Belmont University – 27:54
  • For the Love of Bluegrass – 31:26
  • Work with Nickel Creek, Ricky Skaggs, and Other Groups – 37:12
  • The Evolution of the Music Industry – 43:25
  • Focus for Songwriters – 51:23
  • Information About Belmont – 57:39
  • Wrap Up – 1:03:12

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John Chisum

John Chisum is a pioneer in the Christian music business, serving alongside people such as Bill & Gloria Gaither, Twila Paris, Paul Baloche, Don Moen, and many more. As President of Nashville Christian Songwriters, John seeks to empower Christian songwriters worldwide to discover and fulfill their call to write.

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