I was thinking about a webinar that Becky Buller and I did last July for IBMA on co-writing. Becky is such a great songwriter and musician and it was a lot of fun doing this session with her and even better we got to co-write together! There are several questions that come up at about every workshop that I do concerning co-writing. People want to know how to do it and the pros and cons of co-writing. Well...we would need to do a webinar or more likely an all day workshop to really delve into this topic...but...I thought I'd hit some high points for me and maybe they might help some others who have very little experience co-writing.
For the first several years as a songwriter I never thought about co-writing...heck, I could do it better myself...at least I thought LOLOL!!! Now, that being said, I still probably write solo on about 60-70% of my songs. However writing with other fine writers has done several things:
1. It has expanded my "style" of writing to incorporate other writer's styles and made my songs more diverse.
2. Writing with great female songwriters has really helped to expand my catalog for female artists. When writing with a female songwriter you really can dig into a female lyric or maybe write a song that can be a male or female lead...that can double the market you can pitch to!!!
3. It has helped me finish many songs that I thought had merit but had all but given up on finishing. A co-writer can breathe new life into a song you thought was dead.
4. It gives you instant feedback as you have someone to bounce ideas off and use as a sounding board for brainstorming.
The list goes on but again that is for the "all day" workshop :) I thought I would put my thoughts down on the first co-writing session as they tend to be awkward as both songwriters are unfamiliar with each other. There is a "breaking in" or "getting to know" period. So here are some of my thoughts about a first co-writing session:
1. CHECK YOUR EGOS AT THE DOOR!!! This is absolutely critical!! You have to be able to tell the other person that a line "sucks" and they not get bent all out of shape. That being said there needs to be an atmosphere of respect for each other at all times :)
2. Don't start writing right away. Spend some time just talking and getting to know each other. Talk about your family, interests, movies you like etc. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Are you strong on melody and not as strong on lyric? Are lyrics your strong point? Is coming up with ideas in your wheelhouse? YOU WANT TO MAXIMIZE EACH OTHERS STRENGTHS!!
3. Are you married to a line??? Is this the hill you want to "die on"!!!??? You need to learn to argue and debate the song. Through this discussion and debate many times you arrive at the strongest line. You need to be able to tell someone "I'm married to that line and it is off the table for discussion". Healthy debate and discussion that is honest and frank really can add to the final product!
4. CONSENSUS!!!! 100% agreement and "consensus" are two different things. You will never achieve 100% agreement on everything in songwriting when you are co-writing BUT my goal is to achieve "CONSENSUS". Here is how I define consensus in a co-writing session:
I MAY NOT TOTALLY AGREE...BUT...I CAN LIVE WITH IT!!!
If you don't remember anything else...remember the definition of consensus and keep it in the front of your mind during any co-writing session.
5, KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY! Sometimes it just isn't working. Even with someone you have written several songs with successfully, this is important to know to save your writing relationship. If you are just wallowing in the "songwriter muck" and nothing is happening maybe the best thing you can do is call it a day and go out for a beer, wine, dinner and just forget about writing for that day and relax. Come back another day fresh and start over :)
Finding the right co-writer can be tough!! It is like a marriage and you need to have a person that fuels your inspirational spirit, you have to like the person overall, you need to be comfortable around them and be able to share inner most thoughts and emotions, be able to debate and argue. But, in the end there is a SYNERGY to co-writing that can create a GREAT SONG. One that you could never have written "on your own"!!
Co-writing may not be for everyone but it can expand your songwriting tremendously when you find the "RIGHT" co-writers for you!! Give it a try :)
Just thoughts for today...remember: Write more...whine less!!