"Use the gift God has given you and stay with it. It's what sets you apart. Be fearless."
- Jon Vezner
From Your First Cut,
Page 170

News and Reviews


American Songwriter Magazine

I've had a lot of coaches in my life . . . some good, some bad. Bad coaches may scream, belittle and punish . . . in an attempt to motivate their protégé to success. Good coaches, on the other hand, help you to connect with your passion. They teach you how to draw upon the fire that burns within you, and train you in the skills necessary to win. Vandiver and Hollombe are good coaches. They've written a concrete, detailed training manual to lead you step-by-step to your first cut. Some of the tough exercises in their book include: learn to play a musical instrument, co-write on a weekly basis, network within the music industry, perform your songs in public and, of course, pitch your songs. The authors have developed a point system by which you can assess your strengths and weakness, sharpen your skills, focus your attack and have fun in the process. Your First Cut outlines specific, pertinent goals that a writer must achieve to have the best shot at getting his or her song cut. Each chapter concludes with Vandiver and Hollombe candidly sharing their own personal experiences, as well as advice from other professional songwriters.

The coach and the protégé have an unusual relationship. The protégé may curse the coach under his breath as he struggles to complete a difficult exercise; but when he takes home the gold, who's the first person he's gonna thank? The coach. So if you think you're ready to play in the Big Leagues . . . I know a couple of great coaches!

Lou Heffernan
Managing Editor

Music Row Magazine
May 2002

Your First Cut, from songwriter Jerry Vandiver and NSAI’s Gracie Hollombe is billed as, “A step-by-step guide to getting there.” Going further, the authors note that theirs is “not a How To” book. It’s a ‘Do It’ book.” As such, Your First Cut is a spiral-bound workbook in which each chapter features multiple listing exercises or commitment statements that force the user into climbing the songwriting pyramid laid out by the authors. To be sure, the book is loaded with useful information and tips, including chapter-ending stories from songwriting luminaries. . . . [an] insightful instruction manual.

Chuck Aly

Muse's Clues: by Irene Jackson
(Excerpt from The Muse's News: An E-zine For And About Songwriters)
Issue 5.1 - April 2002

The music buisness. You've been writing songs for awhile and now you're thinking maybe it's time to put some of them "out there" to see if they can stand up to the rest. But how do you go about it? There are lots of books on the subject, many places on the internet where you can discuss your successes (or failures!) with other songwriters, forums, newsgroups, and all the rest of it. But how do you know if you really have what it takes?

Recently in the newsgroup rec.music.makers.songwriting, someone posted a link to a site where you can take a simple test, to see if you are really doing everything you can to get that first cut. Even the name of the site is "yourfirstcut.com" :-) Jerry Vandiver and Gracie Hollombe have written a book on that very subject. But the most interesting part of their website, at least to me, is this questionnaire.

Basically you answer the questionnaire and score points for each question. At the end, there is an assessment of each level of points. But beyond that, this is a really great "to do" list of the steps you need to take to achieve the ultimate goal of getting a major cut. It is an eye opener!

The authors have been very involved in the business of music, having reached their own goals through their involvement with NSAI, developing workshops and teaching sessions, along with building their own careers as songwriters. Although the website is really meant as a promotional tool for their book, there are some excerpts from several chapters, and they have created a discussion forum and newsletter for songwriters as well. And then there's the questionnaire. If you are seriously pursuing the business of songwriting, this will definitely give you an idea of whether or not you're on the right track.

I hope your score is high...good luck!


Irene Jackson is a performing songwriter from Victoria, BC in Canada. Aside from writing, recording and performing, she also maintains a website for songwriters that includes tips, articles and more links of interest.
©1998-2002 Moonstone Productions All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission

Bob Baker's TheBuzzFactor.com Songwriting Resources
May 13, 2002

Discover The Secrets of Songwriting Success

Some songwriters craft tunes to perform themselves; others write songs in hopes of getting well-known artists to record them and make lucrative hits. If you're in the latter category, you might want to check out the new book Your First Cut: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting There, by Jerry Vandiver and Gracie Hollombe. Vandiver has penned hits for Tim McGraw, Barbara Mandrell and Lee Greenwood, among others.

This 224-page, coil-bound workbook takes the term "step-by-step" seriously. The authors encourage readers to start from the beginning and work methodically through the book one chapter at a time. Each of the 20 chapters are filled with advice, activities and places to write names, numbers and specific promises to yourself, such as:

*   Set aside at least a three-hour block once a week to co-write.
*   Do at least one thing each day to further your songwriting career.
*   Perform your songs live at least once every two months in a major music center.

Your First Cut is written in a folksy, easy-to-read style and appears to be a good source of tips and motivation for aspiring songwriters.

Bob Baker
The Buzz Factor

© Copyright 2002, Jerry Vandiver and Gracie Hollombe. All Rights Reserved.