Updated: Aug 17, 2019
Co-writing is like going on a blind date, you never know what the chemistry is like with your co-writers until you are really sitting in that room writing the next bit hit.
As a professional writer in Nashville, most my co-writes start at 11 am, where we take maybe an hour to get to know each other before we dive into the actual songwriting.
Sometimes, the manager or A&R send a link with some music to listen to so that I know what I'm going to work on, but sometimes, you really go in blind. Here are some of my secrets on how to make your cowrites successful.
1. Have an artist in the room.
My favorite writes are when there is an artist in the room, not just because the chances of a song getting "cut" are much higher, but also because the language used in the song is something an artist would actually say. This makes it easier to be able to pitch the song to an A&R in case the artist chooses not to put it on their record. Also, when the artist is the singer in the room, you can create a better demo that you can use for Film and TV purposes.
2. Lose the EGO.
The most important thing that is going to happen in the songwriting room is the creation of the song, it doesn't matter who said what and who had the first idea, what matters is the end-result, so the best ideas have to win. Don't get hung up if your co-writers shoot down some of your ideas, or maybe even all of them. Adjust your direction if you get shot down a lot and keep throwing those ideas around to keep the creative flow, don't get stuck on "My idea is much better for the chorus...." or "I'm just not going to say anything anymore if no-one is listening.."
3. Know your role.
When you start doing 4 or 5 co-writes a week you start recognizing your strengths in the room and your weaknesses. A great songwriter is someone who can adjust to what the room needs. Are you great at concepts and titles, or are you a more detailed lyricist? Or.....do you provide the main top-line melody? Unless you are the artist, you have to be flexible to be able to be just what the artist needs in that point in time. Once you start writing, you know in the first 30 minutes what role you are going to take in this write, so claim it and take responsibly for it.
4. Keep it moving.
Imagine having 3 creative people in one room, at some point the conversation drifts away from the song, someone starts talking about their boyfriend or a fun party they went to last weekend, and before you know it you only have 20 minutes left and not even a first verse written. Be part of the positive forward movement, and make sure you interact and be friendly, but also find ways back to the song, so that your time is used wisely and creativity doesn't flow away too early.
5. Don't compare to whats on the radio.
The fastest way to kill something special, is to compare it to something else.
When an artist comes into the room and says, I want to write a song just like *insert artist* figure out what it is that the artist likes about it, is it the production, the melody, the message? Don't blindly try to copy something that already exists and compare what you are writing to what you are currently listening to on the radio.
Remember, what its now on the radio was written between 5 and 2 years ago. So if you start to copy what is now a hit, you're going to only make outdated songs. Be unique and try to push the envelope.
Do you have any specific co-writing or songwriting questions?? Shoot them over for our songwriting series, coming to you soon!!