Bouncing ideas of a work colleague or friends can often help fine tune a great idea, or simply reveal an idea to be a dud. For songwriters, sharing a musical idea, lyrics or melody is never as easy as asking someone for their opinion about an idea. Creating a song is like exposing your soul and your emotions are amplified with the positive or negative feedback. For the parents out there, it is like people commenting or criticizing your child or parenting skills. These fears can often hold people back from the collaborative process in songwriting. We asked no.1 hit song writer and songwriting coach Mark Cawley for some tips, and he gave us 5 that he uses in his collaborative songwriting process.
Listening is probably the most important one and the hardest to practice. For me, I was always prepared with an idea, a title, a guitar lick, drum loop… something I was excited about and wanting to get it going. I found that if pushed on any of these I was gonna get my song done but it would not be “our” song. Big difference. Being open to the other writer (or writers) input can make a huge difference. It’s the only way you’re gonna get something bigger and better than yourself! Talk with a co-writer and listen.
2) Be prepared
I know I mentioned that in the first point but there’s a difference between coming in guns blazing with your idea and holding back for the right time to present it. Sometimes you hit a wall with a co-write and no one really has anything to offer. That is a good time to pull out your idea.
3) Leave Room
Be sure and leave room for the other writer. By this I mean if you present a full blown idea or track, the other writer has no room to contribute. In fact they may resent it. Another way to approach this tip is to look for a writer who does what you don’t. You looking for a ‘sum greater than the parts’ and the opportunity to learn from someone.
4) Discuss the Split
Whenever it’s comfortable discuss how the song will be split. I’ve written in lots of different situations with artists and other songwriters and what you think is a “given” may not be that at all. In Nashville it’s pretty much an even split with whoever is in the room. In other situations it can be different. It is good practice to introduce the topic as early as possible without sounding like a pain in the ass! If your song gets some interest later and you haven’t sorted out the split, it gets waaaay more difficult to sort out.
5) Your Attitude is important
Don’t be the ‘Pain in the ass’. The songwriting world is smaller than you imagine. People know each other and share the information freely. If you’re good, show up prepared and on time and you’ll have people seeking you out. If you’re precious and high maintenance you better be a genius.
Mark Cawley actively maintains and updates his blog on IDoCoach.com. Below are some links to articles that he has previously published on his blog.
Cover Photo: Mark Cawley co-writing with Nashville artist and songwriter Sarah Buxton who has had enormous sucess with Keith Urban and many more over the past few years.