Who wants to sing my song?
If this is not you, then you need to find someone that will sing it for you!
What I’m sharing today is designed for the songwriter who wants to work with singers / up and coming artists / established artists.
Let’s start with some real feedback I got from gigging singers and artists (thank you to those who offered this advice):
What helps you be creative and work well in a collaboration?
“I think being open and honest with what ideas get brought to the table, works really well. There’s been a number of times where I may have written a chorus or a verse and need inspiration to write the rest and the collaborator has suggested some great lyrics and if I’m open and honest about how I feel about them, it definitely works for the best.”
“Openness (on all sides) to develop and change ideas
A relaxed and peaceful environment
Working with super inspiring, creative and passionate people”
“Keeping an open mind, and letting go of control is what helps me work well in collaboration. I think it's important to have really good communication and to make sure you're aware of your writing partner and how they are feeling, and to remember that like any relationship: you will both need to make some compromises for the better, bigger picture. Letting go of your expectations for a write, and choosing to write for the art itself.”
What puts you off and frustrates you in a collaboration?
“The thing that frustrates me the most in a collaboration is the unwillingness to move on from an idea that just isn't jiving. It's really important to follow the mood of a writing session, and sometimes better ideas are born after you let go of the thing (read: idea) that is holding you back.”
“A fixed mindset means no chance of growth or collaboration
Overbearing ideas and unwillingness to be open or listen”
“I struggle sometimes to get my thoughts across I think which then makes me frustrated! There are times when I know what I want to say in a song but I just can’t get the words across which then makes it difficult when trying to communicate that to whoever I’m collaborating with!”
What about the songs themselves?
1. Songs have to work on the stage:
What you write and produce has to be such, that it can be performed live and get the idea across. If the artist has a band, can they play the song live?, or are so many instruments used that it just wouldn’t work. If they are just a singer on their own and regularly use backing tracks, then perhaps you have the freedom to make a song instrumentally complex.
Don’t have too many sad / personal songs - this is mainly advice from the prospective audience - they will be okay with a few personal songs, but a whole set list like this might be off putting to an audience. Remember they have come out to be entertained and moved emotionally, so give them a good mix of all kinds of emotions.
An audience loves an uplifting escapism type song. One where they feel encouraged that they can also do anything. They don’t always want realism of life. The right song can make the audience feel great. When your songs do this, they stream and buy your music!
However, you do need to understand what the artist wants to communicate to their audience and stay true to that. Help them do that in a positive way.
2. New songs have to work with their existing songs:
Generally it won’t work well to suggest new songs that are already similar to ones the artist has already created. If it’s the same topic, at least try to look at it from a new perspective.
It works best when new songs compliment their existing songs. Rather than suggesting completely new ideas, you should offer ideas that fit alongside what they already have and help them to expand their ‘message’ to their audience.
Again this is where a good understanding of the artist is crucial, if you ‘get’ what they want to communicate, then you will be able to suggest new ideas that help them move deeper into those subjects and topics.
3. Songs need to fit with the artists image / style:
If you are working with an artist you must be fully aware of their style and genre preferences - again aim to support those things. In these collaborations (although you will probably have agreed equal shares of songwriter cuts) it’s still important for the songs to be the artists songs, and not overwhelm with too much of ‘you’. They will be the one on stage singing the words, so they have to be words that they are comfortable with and portray images and ideals that the artist is fully in agreement with.
Spend time getting to know the artist well enough, such that you assist them in staying true to what they represent.
4. Songs need to work for the long haul:
The artist needs to be able to invest in the song for the rest of their lives! It’s alright for you as a songwriter, you can move onto the next idea or work with another artist. But this song you are creating you hope they will want to continue singing it for a long time because it is close to their heart, and says everything they wanted to say. A song like this will serve the artist well and also you as one of its writers.
When you are working with another person you need to get to know them well to really be able to assist them in a way that is useful. You need to serve the singer - respect their opinion, choices, by understanding what they want to achieve. You are more likely to work better, faster and produce higher quality songs from that kind of relationship. With a bit of luck you will produce a song that they will want to sing for years to come.