Songwriter:  MARK CAWLEY

Song: “My Angel is Here
Songwriters: Mark Cawley, Billy Lawrie, Lulu (Marie Lawrie)



MARK CAWLEY Web-Exclusive Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

How did the idea of “My Angel is Here” come to you?

This song is so unusual in so many ways. I wrote it with Lulu (yep, that “To Sir with Love” Lulu) and her brother Billy Lawrie. I was signed as a writer to Windswept Pacific Music in those days, and although I lived in Nashville, I was really signed out of their London office. We wrote a few songs together, this being one of our favorites but with no real plan for it at the time.

album-WynonnaHow did Wynonna Judd get the song?

The beautiful part of the story is that Wynonna had taken time away from music, had a baby and was re-entering the music world with an album everyone knew would be huge. I had co-written another song that was on hold for what turned out to be her Revelations album. My wife and I had just moved our family to Nashville, and honestly we were counting on this to launch a new chapter in our lives. At the 11th hour, I was told our song didn’t make the cut. Devastated is not nearly a strong enough word for how I felt at the time. Soon after the bad news I got a call from one of my best buddies, John Cooper, who ran sound for Wy. John is one amazing guy and has been Springsteen’s front of the house mixer for years now. So he called to say “sorry about your song not making the final cut, but cool about the other one.” The other one?!?


So, not the song on hold?

Wy had cut “My Angel is Here” and not told anyone. No hold, no connection to the publishers, just heard it somewhere and it resonated with a time in her life—and she cut it. Oh, and here’s the interesting part. Wy puts it out as a single, and the other side is “Change the World.” Yes, the song that later became a hit for Eric Clapton. Even I thought that B-side should have been the single—and I told Wy after I heard that beautiful song. Her album debuted at #2 on every chart, my song was the third single off the platinum album, and that’s my happy ending!


What is your creative process for writing songs?

I love working from a title or a concept, but I also honor the idea of just ‘showing up.’


What songwriting tip would you like to offer?

To slow your process down sometimes, and look for a really good idea: something relatable— something that stands a chance of resonating with someone else. In the end, we all want to communicate and touch someone else.


Mark Cawley-02 - with guitarWith your songs on more than 16 million records to date, spanning all genres (with legendary artists like Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Wynonna Judd), how do you keep thinking of new song ideas?

For me over the years, trying to push myself, challenge myself—to write in different styles—forced me to listen and learn to appreciate all kinds of music. Growing up with the music of the 60’s on the radio was something that made it easy to relate to a ton of different styles.


How did where you were geographically (living in New York, Nashville, London or L.A.) influence your music?

Well, I grew up in New York state, and it was funny that things were cool or not cool! The Rascals, Paul Butterfield, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Motown were cool. The Beach Boys, the Association, the Union Gap, Chicago—not cool. Different culture! Over time, I just learned to absorb the vibe, and if it worked for me—it became part of my DNA.


How has co-writing shaped your music?

I never co-wrote until I started spending time in Nashville. Thank God one of my first co-writers was Kye Fleming. She’s in the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, and probably the first real lyricist I met. At the time my strength was probably melody and coming up with tracks and grooves. Like every great co-write since, we found the other one did something that we didn’t, and that excited us. Basically it was the whole being better than the sum of its parts. Brenda Russell and Eliot Kennedy are the other ones that made co-writing one amazing idea.

Mark Cawley at the Hit Factory NYC

Mark Cawley at the Hit Factory NYC

Was there someone you always wanted to write with—and finally got a chance to write with them?

Yes, in a way. I love Burt Bacharach, and my buddy Eliot Kennedy had gone to LA and written a couple of tracks with him. No Lyrics. Next time I went to Sheffield, where Eliot lived, he said “fancy writing a lyric to this track I have with Burt Bacharach?” Glad I didn’t think too much, and just said yes! I walked around town with my headphones and this beautiful melody they had done. Wrote a lyric very much in the style of Burt, and he loved it. It’s called “If You Can Find It in Your Heart.” Story is Luther Vandross loved it and cut it, but we still haven’t heard it.

Is there anyone you’re still hoping to write with one day?

Paul McCartney or Elvis Costello. I did write with Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, who is in that category for me. Mick and Keith would be alright too. (Laughs) Met them but lost my nerve!


Tell us about a wonderful co-writing experience.

Eliot Kennedy was a great one. Met him through our publishers in the UK, and hit it off right from the start. Songs included a #1 in the UK with Billie Piper called “Day and Night.” When you fall in with someone like that—it’s just pure magic.


Was there a co-write that didn’t go well?

Most of the ones that didn’t go so well were blind dates, usually put together by well-meaning publishers—only to find we did the same thing. Could become great friends but not what either one is looking for in a co-writer. You want someone who does what you don’t.

Any suggestions you would offer someone co-writing for the first time?

Listen. Don’t go in with guns blazing. Listen to what the other writer has to say.


Mark Cawley with Lulu

Mark Cawley with Lulu

How has launching changed your view on songwriting?

It’s given me a greater appreciation for the art form. Talking with people who may never reach a commercial goal, but simply have to write—is inspiring. Talking with writers from around the world whose main goal is just to write better—is what drives my desire to coach.


Please tell us some of the artists who have cut your songs?
Tina Turner “Dancing in My Dreams”

Joe Cocker “Wayward Soul”

Wynonna Judd “My Angel Is Here”

Diana Ross “Shockwaves”

Chaka Khan “Dare You to Love Me”

Billie Piper “Day And Night”

Will Downing “Don’t You Talk to Me Like That”

Paul Carrack “Always Have, Always Will,” ‘Only a Breath Away”

Taylor Dayne “Dance With A Stranger”

Rick Trevino “You Are To Me”

The Spice Girls “A Day In Your Life,” “Pain Proof” (These two are unreleased, but looks as though they’re going on the project being done at the moment. Eliot Kennedy has produced some new tracks as well.)

Mark Cawley with Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze

Mark Cawley with Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze

Even though an aspiring songwriter may not be able to co-write with you, how can they still benefit from your years of songwriting experience?

Although I don’t co-write with the writers I coach, it probably could be viewed that way sometimes. I want to encourage and give them every possible insight to help them bring their song to life. I might pull out a guitar during our Skype session, or send them a link to a song to use as a reference—really anything that will help sort of pull the curtain back. I’ve even treated a session like a virtual co-write to take them through the process. Not just the writing but the etiquette and expectations involved. In the end, I just want to empower them to do it themselves, and by giving them lots of new tools—we get there together. But it always starts with their vision and their idea.


Tell us about any other revenue streams for songwriters/musicians that have helped you continue your career in music.

Well, all of mine were the normal ones of performance and mechanical royalties, artist and publishing advances, etc. over the years. When mechanical income disappeared coupled with my own years in the business, it became a passion to pass it on and find a new way to teach/coach/mentor.


Mark Cawley-08 - iDoCoach posterTop 5 Musicians/Songwriters who inspired you to become a songwriter?

Lennon and McCartney, Motown (especially Smokey Robinson), The Rolling Stones, Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers, Bob Dylan


Who influenced you to pick up the bass and write? And how old were you?

Wow, no one ever asks me that! I think most musicians will say the instrument picks them. Bass got me first—just moved me. Certainly James Jamerson—on all those Motown songs, and of course Paul McCartney—who I still think is the most innovative and melodic bass player ever!


Tell us about the first song cut—and how that made you feel?

The first big cut, outside of my own bands, was a song called “Shockwaves” by Diana Ross. Love her, the song—not so much! (Laughs)


What is your biggest pop hit, and how did that song evolve?

A #1 called “Day and Night” by Billie Piper. Eliot Kennedy had her in studio in the UK, called me and said they don’t have a first single. I tried, got nowhere all day, and finally I went to the grocery to take a break. It was a Kroger, and I had to call my answering machine to record it. A melody popped into my head. It felt familiar—and I was hoping it wasn’t. And the more I sang it, the more I knew I had something that might be a start. I called Eliot, made a very rough version, sent it—they finished the song and cut it that night! It entered the charts at #1. One amazing thrill—to be #1 in the country that shaped so much of my musical being!


album-tinaIs there a song you wrote that you were real happy it got cut—and had success?

“Dancing in My Dreams” recorded by Tina Turner and written with my two favorite co-writers Brenda Russell and Kye Fleming. The album sold 6 million.
Is there a personal favorite song you knew in your heart would get cut—but didn’t?

Yes, too many to name! (Laughs) I’ll settle on “Out of My Hands.” That song was picked up by Bonnie Raitt and Wynonna the same week, both in their prime. They put it on hold but because they’re friends decided to give it to the other one, and in the end—neither one cut it!

Song titles and first lines of songs are so important. Give us an example of each—that still amazes you when you think back on how each story unfolded.

A song I wrote with Brenda and Peter Cox from the UK 80’s band Go West. Peter is one of my favorite singers, just unique as he can be—and soulful. Brenda and I were hooked up to co-write, and Peter was out of his comfort zone. We spent the better part of two days asking him what he’d like to write—what interested him. Finally he said, “I do quite like the word ‘mercy.’” That’s all we needed. “Show me some mercy, mercy sometime, ’cause without mercy, we’re all on our own so try and be kind.” The song was called “Mercy” but never made it on an album.


Mark Cawley-09 - with guitarsSong inspirations come from all kinds of places—books, movies or just watching people on the street. Tell us one experience where something unique inspired you to write a song that is still a personal favorite.

I’ve been asked to write music to existing lyrics from the estate of Fanny Crosby. Fanny is the most popular hymn writer in history with more played and recorded songs than anyone—ever. So I was given a few of her unpublished, never seen before lyrics with a directive to write whatever I felt inspired to write. I’ve done four so far and it’s an experience like no other I’ve ever had. I felt guided. Hard to explain but there has been something else at work with these songs.


What instruments/equipment can you not live without—that help you write/record/perform?

Drum loops, any and all. A guitar that just feels right. It doesn’t have to be expensive—just has to have songs in it. (Laughs) I love Fender guitars, Vox amps—anything vintage—Epiphones, Hofner bass. Even though in my early years I played bass, I didn’t even have a bass for a while, but now I got this red Hofner. I’ve gone through so many instruments. To me, instruments are just vehicles to do your craft. You know the old joke—when there are no more songs in them, you sell them.


What’s next for you?

Along with coaching writers via Skype (—worldwide these last five years, I want to do more workshops in faraway places.


What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?

Rubber Soul (1965) – Beatles

Songs for Lovers (1997) – Chet Baker

Greatest Hits (1983) – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Greatest Hits (1968) – Frank Sinatra

Greatest Hits (1961) – Hank Williams



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