Combing creative forces with someone else is often a tricky exercise. It requires a bit of mutual trust and respect between the writers, and if not done wisely, can have catastrophic results both from creative and business points of views. We asked no.1 hit song writer, author and songwriting coach Mark Cawley for some tips, and he gave us 5 that he uses in his collaborative songwriting process.

1) Listen

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.

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. (Source

Find out more about songwriter, music coach and author Mark Cawley here

In 2019 Mark published his book ‘Song Journey’. Click here for more information on the book.

Song Journey – A Hit Songwriter’s Guide through the Process, the Perils and the Payoff of Writing Songs for a Living’.

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