Writing With More Experienced Writers

Writing With More Experienced Writers

I firmly believe, even though I have written a couple thousand songs on my own, that the best work involves a collaboration of some kind. There is no better way to stretch your musical sensibilities than to work with another writer on the same song. Yes, there are those genius standouts: McCartney, Joel, Young. But when you read the song credits of most of the great songs of all time you tend to see more and in some cases, many more, than one name listed. Two names being certainly the most common scenario.

There are a few things you need to bring with you to a writing session with another writer or that you should keep in your head and heart when you send a half-written track to a writer over the internet.

1) Confidence. Attempting to work with another writer while thinking debilitating thoughts such as “I’m really not very good so maybe this other writer will make the song sound good” If you feel this way then don’t even bother to make the call. Instead go in with a more positive: “I think I’ve got something here but I’m not sure. I like the verses and maybe the chorus but I’m really struggling with the bridge. Tell me what you think”.

2) A backbone to criticism. I once did a lot of writing with Bryan Potvin of the Northern Pikes. Bryan was brutal! But in the best of ways. He would simply and very honestly say, “Meh, that’s kind of boring.” In fact in one case he simply shrugged; “That’s just trite”. Oh ya he could be harsh and I loved him for it. He wasn’t trying to serve my ego or be sensitive to my little songwriter’s soul, he was being loyal to the act of songwriting. He was serving the song not me. And that is how it should be. And think about it; it meant that when he said “Oh ya that’s really good” I knew he meant it. The last thing you want to hear from someone over and over again is “Ya’ really great”’. You need to hear if the verse is boring or not. You need an honest co-writer who won’t be worried about hurting your feelings.

3) Loyalty to what you know you can and cannot pull off. If I may, I’ll use Bryan Potvin again as my example. One issue we would have when writing is that, even though we were writing for my voice, he would contribute something he could hit with his range of vocals, but I could not with mine. That’s when it was my turn to be honest and just say “No, I’ll never be able to hit that note, we gotta take it somewhere else”.

I think what I have always loved best about cowriting however is simply the change of keys. I tend to write in minor keys. Many of my cowriters (like Bryan actually) tended to write in major keys and where those two styles connected, you knew you were going to get something interesting. I think of this for our song "When It’s Gone".

Left to my own devices I will tend to write like Van Morrison; lots of two-chord, vibey stuff that’s great for soloing over, but working with others is a chance to pen some really great and well structured songs.

Website: lesstroudmusic.com