Meet Carly Escoto – the California based singer/songwriter who won SongFancy’s last songwriting competition, the 5 in 5 Songwriting Competition! If you’re unfamiliar, this competition runs in tandem with the 5 in 5 Song Challenge, and gives songwriters a chance to submit their newly written songs to win fun prizes.
Carly blew me away with her submission, “Home,” written to one of the daily song prompts, “Where is home?” Here’s how Carly wrote this knock-out song and what her life as a singer/songwriter is like.
SF: Congrats on winning the competition! I really enjoyed your winning song. Can you tell us a little bit about your process for writing the song? Where did the inspiration come from?
Thank you! I am overjoyed to have won and to have received such encouraging feedback. The prompt was “Where is Home,” so I immediately began asking myself that question.
I thought of what constitutes something feeling “like home”… its so intangible, and feels less and less like one place at one time as you grow older. My husband and I have moved almost every year of our 6 years of marriage and each apartment started as some random space, ended up being home, then all at once, wasn’t. We’re even in a phase of life where our parents are growing older, choosing to downsize and sell our childhood homes, which is such a disorienting experience.
At one point I remembered a scene from the movie “Garden State” where Zach Braff and Natalie Portman talk about this exact thing: how maybe home isn’t the place you put your crap. Ultimately it led me to themes in my faith, and how this idea of home isn’t ever fully found in things that can change.
SF: What made you want to join the 5/5 challenge?
Well, I follow the blog and have felt so inspired by it, then I saw the challenge and was immediately in! I’m not one of those songwriters who has inspiration and lyrics pouring out of them at all times. I have friends who will write until 4 in the morning because they just have all this creative energy, cranking out songs like its nobody’s business, but for me its more of a discipline. So, I jumped at the idea of a challenge where I’m forced to sit down and write every day in a communal setting.
I’m not one of those songwriters who has inspiration and lyrics pouring out of them at all times. I have friends who will write until 4 in the morning because they just have all this creative energy, cranking out songs like its nobody’s business, but for me its more of a discipline.
SF: What is your typical approach to songwriting?
It’s been inconsistent for most of my career, but slowly its becoming a steady practice. I record any bit of inspiration; a phrase, a concept, a melody, on my phone so I have this growing little hub of snippets to use as starts. Then I try and sit down daily to just write something, ANYTHING really. Maybe its a verse, maybe its refining a hook, but just putting pen to paper every day.
Once I’ve been working on a start for a day or two, I try and finish the song. Even if they’re clunky and unsatisfying, I record them on Garageband and upload them to a private Soundcloud playlist. Then, I re-visit them while I’m in my car running errands. I can usually start to pick out the pieces that are working or if it needs something when I can listen to them like I would a normal music playlist instead of just hammering away at them one at a time. That’s working for me in this season but hey, it could change!
SF: How long have you been writing songs, and do you remember the moment you realized like, “Hey, this is what I’m meant to do?”
Well technically I’ve been writing songs since I was about 18 years old, so 13 years? No, scratch that. I wrote a song when I was about ten years old called “Flying in His Ear (To see what he’s thinking)” so, yeah, I was pretty prolific (haha).
I was an art major in college and I always wanted to express the things I’m passionate about and believe through my visual work, but for the most part people would see a piece I created say “Oh, that’s really good,” and leave it there. But when I passed out my first shambly recordings to my family and friends, within a day or two I received phone call after phone call of people in tears, saying things like “I don’t know why, but this song just made me feel like… everything’s gonna be OK,” or “Carly, I can’t put it into words, but you need to keep doing this.” I had been creating visual art for years wanting people to feel the intent of my work without much success, but with my first couple of crappy novice songs, people were so moved and actually felt what I hoped they would. It felt like a no brainer for me to pursue it. I knew that if I, by writing and singing these songs could make another human being feel hope or feel less alone in the world, then I’d better get up the courage to do it.
I knew that if I, by writing and singing these songs, I could make another human being feel hope or feel less alone in the world, then I’d better get up the courage to do it.
SF: What’s your favorite way to kick writer’s block?
Well, a couple of things… Firstly, I think writing. Writing crappy songs and just pushing through without evaluating or criticizing what’s coming out. It’s like digging through layers. Sure, the first layer might be straight up terrible but you have to write those ones to get to the good stuff.
Secondly, and this is just a maintenance thing, but I’ve learned through studying The Artist’s Way that I need to make sure I’m feeding my creative self. This looks like practicing self care, ingesting good art that inspires me, making time for play and getting out of my apartment. Lastly, I’ve found that writing for something specific, be it a prompt, a message, etc. really helps me. I recently heard Ryan Tedder say that when he gets writers block he watches a movie or T.V. episode and tries to write a theme song for it.
SF: What’s your favorite achievement, award, or accomplishment to date with your songwriting?
When I was 19 I submitted my song, “Stay For Good” to a competition for Starbucks baristas. Apparently there are so many artists/bands working for them they decided to have a competition. Anyhow, the deal was, if you were a Starbucks barista you could submit an original song of yours, and they’d pick 15 of them to be put on a compilation sold and played in every Starbucks in the USA and Canada. I was one of the 15 selected out of a couple thousand and it was one of the first songs I’d ever written. I thought I had zero chance of winning as it was this simple song I’d written about a summercamp crush and recorded in a firend’s closet. I was at this fork in the road between transferring to a different college to complete my studies or to try something different, even something as crazy as music, and the day I decided to make that decision Starbucks called me.
SF: What are you working on these days! Are you writing a new record? Got a single coming out soon?
I’m working on a new record! I’m still in the writing phase and selecting songs that tie into the narrative I’m going for, but I’m excited and hoping to record and get it out before next fall. My last projects were pretty stripped back without much production and I want this one to kind of go for it more so, its taking a bit longer. I’ll be recording some live video footage in January to be released on YouTube so, look out for that!
SF: Is there anything else you’d like to leave us with?
I don’t feel like I’m suited to give much advice but, here’s what I’m learning: what they say is really true- write everyday, through the bad ideas and songs. That, and constantly evaluating your art-in-process kills it, and kills your spirit in creating it. If some of it stinks, don’t panic, that doesn’t mean you stink. Be incredibly gracious to yourself as you create! Lastly, find your own lane and run hard in it. I will never write songs like other artists I look up to, but writing songs like them isn’t what makes my work valuable. We’re created to create, and we do so the way we do for a reason.
Please feel free to check out my music on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, all the places; follow me @carlyescoto and stop by my website carlyescoto.com for updates and info!
Want to join the next 5 in 5 Song Challenge?
Sign up here and you’re in! More details on the challenge here.