In 1994, I started holding monthly meetings for all the staff writers at Warner Chappell. These meetings were also open to songwriters visiting LA from other cities. Most of the time it was a packed room with a minimum of 20. We would always go over the casting list - a list of record labels and artists who are looking for new songs to record. I would also have guests such as Artists, A&R execs , Music Supervisors execs, all who were looking for songs for their projects.
My intention was to create a community and open the waves of communication. I wanted them to all know each other, as it was a mutually beneficial opportunity. It was selfish also. I knew I could not do it alone. My writers helped me as much as I helped them. They inspired me to work harder for them!
Wynonna Judd was my first guest ever. She was looking for songs for her third album, Revelations, which was released by MCA/Curb in 1996 and was ultimately certified Platinum. We had become friends after I pitched her a Sheryl Crow song for her first solo album. She was the first artist to cut one of Sheryl's songs before Sheryl was Sheryl. One day while on the phone with Wynonna, I mentioned my writers meetings and asked if she wanted to join us. She jumped at the chance.
She came in with an entourage of 3 people (husband, assistant, and driver) and her dog, Loretta Lynn. The conference room was upstairs on the 3rd floor at that time and we all sat around this huge table. It was the Judy Stakee version of a “writers in the round”. She sat at one end and we went around the room so every writer had a chance to play her a song. Jamie Houston and JD Martin sang their song live. Danny Wilde from the Rembrandts played an outtake from their album. John Keller and Tonio K played their song, "Don’t Look Back," ultimately securing a cut with her.
They were all happy to have had the chance to be in the room where the decisions were being made.
I loved those meetings. I loved looking around the room to see who was seated next to who, and watching new relationships develop over coffee and muffins.
We gossiped, shared stories, and traded information and by the end, no one felt alone anymore. They were part of a family, a community whose core value was supporting each other.
Today, I replicate that atmosphere on a regular basis through weekly workshops and networking events throughout the year. As The Judy Stakee Company continues to flourish, so does the list of opportunities for my ever-growing community, to provide and receive support from within.