SPANISH SONGWRITING RETREAT
Updated: Oct 16
Songwriting in the Andalusian hills - it's a tough job, but someone had to do it!
As part of my year long songwriting mentoring with the London based Songwriting Academy, I got to spend a whole week in a remote hilltop village entirely inhabited by songwriters.
We all had the opportunity to write with Grammy Nominees and Songwriter stardom! I mean you don’t often sit and have lunch with the woman who co-wrote ‘Genie in a bottle’, or spend the day playing guitar alongside the guy who wrote ‘Waiting for tonight’
So what did I learn from my days in the sun?
Showing Up Everyday
You don’t have to go to Spain to do this, but it does show that being focused on a task can really help get things done. Everyday we started from scratch with a new group of three writers and a loose brief. It forces you to make friends quickly, find your common ground and offer your thoughts and ideas into a creative pot.
Writing something everyday is a good habit to form for every level of songwriter. You are a writer, so you write. Leave that editor behind and go create!
Level playing field
When you are sat in a room with a Grammy Nominee you may not feel like an equal, but you are. You all have the same chance to offer a title, an idea. Your experience may be different, but you each have a unique insight into life that the other doesn’t. That makes the details of your ideas unique too.
Go into your songwriting collaborations with your head high. You have as much to offer as the next person!
Every day we knew we would have to perform the song by the evening. Each day we began the ritual of being assigned to a three person writing team, with a mentor in support. Usually we started the day by getting to know each other a bit more. But in the forefront of our minds was that we had to come up with an idea and write the words, melody and music for the song over the next 6 or so hours, and perform it live that evening.
This can put a lot of pressure on a collaboration, especially a new one where you might not know the other person or people well. I can say that I’ve been in collaborations that flowed and ones that didn’t. You live, learn and move on, but remain professional.
Trying to complete a whole song in one epic day's session is a tall order. Don’t beat yourselves up if you don’t achieve that. Arrange another session to catch up and continue. If it really isn’t working and everything feels tough, then try to be honest about that and say that maybe the idea isn’t working, or this isn’t flowing.
Having a deadline is good to make you songwrite. It forces you to complete something. That doesn’t mean you can’t refine it later. If the day isn’t fun or flowing, stop and reconvene.
The lesson to learn here is that when you are creating a new melody, if you find something you like, record it. This was very useful because after spending time listening to other peoples brand new songs, when you are about to perform your own, that perfect melody in your head might just have gone missing! Listening to your recording solves that immediately.
When you songwrite: Record every idea for melodies, beats, guitar rhythms, piano lines etc. You WILL NOT remember them!
Encourage Each Other
It’s easy to criticise others' work, and it’s easy to tell someone that an idea or lyric line is not right or good enough. That’s fine, BUT have something to offer instead. Try to offer encouragement and new options to try.
Like in life, so it is in Songwriting; Build up, not tear down!
Confidence to Co-write
The biggest thing I believe I returned home with was (apart from a sun tan) a renewed confidence in my ability to create song ideas and write good lyrics. That I could work alongside anybody and find some common ground to start a song. Also that these professional songwriters are people just like you and me, and have their equal share of dodgy ideas and cheesy lyric lines that never make the final cut.
We all have unique ideas, images, and personal experiences to offer into a song collaboration. Contact that person you would love to write with, book that writing session, and turn up ready to share!