For songwriters, people keep saying to me that co-writing is essential, and yet I had not found much success in co-writing.
The efforts seemed disjointed, and while each person contributed something, there was no flow. Different sections that while “technically” meshing… don’t fit together well. Flow is important in a song. It is a story that you are telling, and you have to get the listener, from the beginning to the end without them jolted out of their seat, by a sudden twist in the story.
A lot of my previous co-writing experiences had those problems. Earthquake cracks and fissures that the listener had to leap over, to make different parts of the song connect.
As a result of these experiences, I have tended, in the last while, to write alone.
A friend kept pushing me to get together and write, and we got together last week, and it just flowed. In three hours, we bashed out the basis for what we both feel has the potential to be a hit song. We are still working on it… doing tune-ups and tweaks.
Over the weekend, I was thinking about it, and wondering “what was different THIS time?”
It occurred to me that in this case, I already knew the guy, knew his personality, as he knew mine. We were comfortable with each other, and maybe more important, we were comfortable saying “I don’t like this section, I think it needs to go a different way.” Rather than just accepting it as good enough… we pushed each other, and got a better song, as a result.
I think that because we were both going for the same thing… and our strengths are complimentary… (I’m a lyrics guy, and he already had some musical ideas in his head) …even if we didn’t know each other, we would have “clicked.”
So I finally am able to truly understand what everyone says… Finding a co-writer does make your songwriting better.
But I also realized that finding a co-writer is a bit like dating. You don’t necessarily “connect” with every person, regardless of how people think “you are perfect for one another…”
Just keeping trying, until you find someone you “click” with. And, until you find someone you click with… remember… It’s not you… it’s THEM !!!
Keep writing, and keep looking !!!
I am a songwriter, who aspires to be published.
I know a lot of folk in the same boat.
I guess, because I tweet using the hashtags, #Songwriters, #Songwriting and #Showcase… we get a lot of followers from all over North America.
Because we are based VERY locally, in Langley, BC… I don’t follow everyone back. But I check every profile.
A lot of the Twitter feeds are filled with… “I have great songs, does anyone want to hear them ?” tweets.
Sadly, the Bio line is empty… there is often no location… no website link and sometimes the Tweets are protected.
If I have ANY hope to succeed as a songwriter, I know that I have to fling open the doors, and invite people in, to look at my “product.”
I have this Blog, (which is about music,) a Company Website, (BobSongs Creative Media) a General Blog (BobSongs Musings) a Twitter account, a Facebook profile, a MySpace page… as well as other links… (Broadjam, IMRadio, & YouTube, and more…)
All of them are open, free, unrestricted and accessible.
What benefit do I gain, as a person trying to sell my songs, by putting up barriers or obstacles to people finding out about me OR my songs ???
I take the standard precautions with my product… as soon as I record it, I send myself a registered copy in a sealed envelope, and attach a copy of the contents to the outside.
If I was really concerned, I could take further steps… but I personally don’t feel that is necessary.
Here is the stupid part.
I’m writing this, in order to try to help my competition!!!
What I DO feel is necessary, is to encourage artists to unlock the doors, open up yourself to the world, and say “Here is my product… what do you think?!?”
The alternative is not a pretty picture, as it involves those three ugly words. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.
Open it up, folks. You might sell something !!!
I have never cared for the spotlight.
I’m not one who seeks out opportunities to jump on stage and Perform, whenever I can. I have a few friends and family that are like that… and I admire them for it. One guy I know carries a guitar in the trunk of his car, “… because you never know when a jam is going to break out !” I am all for supporting spontaneous acts, but I won’t be the one in the centre of it.
My friends and family all say, “You’re just nervous.” No… Nerves have nothing to do with it. I see the thrill that my friends get from performing, and the rush of pleasure that an audience reaction gives them, and while I am delighted for them… I don’t understand it.
I’ve gone up on stage a number of times, after each time being convinced that THIS time would be different ! And each time I come off afterwards, knowing that nothing had changed for me, and hoping that the audience got more out of that, than I did !!!
Those same friends encourage me to play guitar… but again, there are many much more talented folks, and I have no desire to impose my mediocre playing skills on their fun.
The Musicians are easy to spot… In the midst of a song, they will be absolutely LOST in the music… eyes closed… playing as if their lives depended on it, and absolutely loving it. They could be playing for themselves, or they could be playing Madison Square Gardens… it would be the same for them, in that moment.
I don’t get that either.
The thing I love, is the crafting of a phrase. The moulding of words and music into a single being. Like driving a car fast around a corner, and straightening out from the curve at the perfect moment… that is the rush I get from making the words match seamlessly with the music. The shadings of light and dark, fast and slow, staccato and legato. Playing with words to express the maximum feeling and emotion, constrained only by the metre of the melody.
We’ve established that I am not destined to rock a stadium full of crazed music fans. We’ve also confronted the reality that as a musician, I am passable, but pedestrian in skill.
So, we are left with the Songwriting… and daunted by the marketing.
If I cannot bring my product to the masses, how shall the masses have my product revealed to them ?
The purpose of today’s article is to frame the question.
The journey towards an answer shall be the subject of what I imagine will be an on-going series of posts, which I shall submit to this Blog as I get to noteworthy points along the path, either for their discovery, or for their revelation of a confounding dead end.
Stay tuned !!!
About a month ago, I was on Twitter, and a Tweet from @LisaSawyer317 caught my attention. I didn’t favourite it, but Lisa was on Blip.fm, and was Tweeting some of the songs she was playing, and the lyrics contained in the songs…
“Hello Darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you, again…”
And it got me thinking about the Songs that I grew up with, and helped form my love of Music and Lyrics… and which songs were the songs that stuck out as being “instrumental” in my learning and loving of songwriting.
I started thinking further, and it has been a long process… one which has revealed many “old friends” which lay dormant in my I-Pod.
I list them, largely, in no particular order, but must include a brief “blurb” about each, to explain it’s place on the list.
1) It Never Rains In Southern California
This IS the exception to the rule, because it is Song # 1. It was the first song that I heard, that I thought… “That guy is SO sad, alone and desperate”
I think (other than the word “bread”) lyrically, it holds up as well today, as it did in 1972.
It is my favourite song, and far and away, the song that EVERY time I write a song, I try to capture the emotions of.
A massive tip of the Songwriter Hat to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.
Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my parents were not Large “L” Liberals or Hippies, but were cognizant of the arts movement, and aware that many different and diverging voices were suddenly being heard. Poets like Rod McKuen, found a place beside the Works of William Shakespeare… Literature like “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” was placed between George Orwell and P.G. Wodehouse… and the Songs of Leonard Cohen was placed between The Beatles and Vera Lynn.
Suzanne is a song which speaks so powerfully of lust, longing and the desire for those things which are beyond reach. It combines a series of vivid images, with the first and last being about Suzanne herself, and the middle verse being about Jesus, and how many people don’t think about God, except in times of need… “All men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them”
It was, I believe, the first song I encountered which dealt with Spirituality in a mortal context… rather than the Hymns and Songs of Praise found in Church.
Yesterday – Paul McCartney & John Lennon
What superlatives can you pile on a Lennon/McCartney composition ? Their later songs opened my eyes to the inclusion of many chords that had fallen out of favour since the halcyon days of the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and the Big Bands. Their lyrics are evocative, but the music stands alone, as well.
Kathy’s Song – Paul Simon
Simon and Garfunkel epitomise my memories of childhood. I’m sure that their harmonies, like the Everly Brothers for this children of the 50’s, are reverberating in my genes.
Wednesday Morning 3 am… Sounds of Silence… I Am A Rock… The Boxer… For Emily (Whenever I May Fine Her)… A Hazy Shade Of Winter… I could go on and on.
But I remember seeing a note in a Simon and Garfunkel book, how Paul Simon had been passed a note after finishing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and asked to add another verse, because it was too short. So the “Sail On, Silver Girl” verse was written… but never quite meshed or blended in to the rest of the song.
This was the introduction to what songwriters call Second (or Third) Verse Hell.
Lyrically, or Musically… again, I could only hope to attain a portion of the altitude.
I selected “Kathy’s Song” over “For Emily” because of the line…
“So you see, I have come to doubt, all that I once held as true. I stand alone, without beliefs. The only truth, I know, is you.”
C’mon. EVERYONE wishes they had said that.
Close Every Door – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
The first time I heard the song was in an elementary school auditorium, with an elementary school choir singing a capella with only a piano for timing. In my head, I HEARD the strings. I heard the Cellos, the Violas, the Stand Up Bass. The whole String Section powering in, at the end.
THAT is the power of music.
House Of The Rising Sun – Folk Song
I thought this had been written by Eric Burden… and was stunned to find out it was an old folk song ! I think it opened my eyes to the opportunities of “messing” with songwriting… that it doesn’t have to be structured like Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus. There IS no Chorus in this song. It just goes Verse to Verse… and is none the worse for it. An invaluable lesson.
Last but not least…
We’ll Meet Again – Ross Parker and Hughie Charles
Vera Lynn sang the heck out of it, every Sunday night in my Parent’s house… It was “Big V” night, as my father turned up the record player as loud as my Mum would let him.
Dame Vera had (still has) a powerful voice, and for my Dad, it was a time to reflect on the loss of five years of his life, and a great number of his friends, to a terrible war… It was a promise to family and friends that had passed, that the day of re-union would come for us all… It was a reminder of a brief respite in a canteen in Egypt, with my father and a friend playing piano for a group of battle-weary Brits, who had seen too much blood, and too much hurt, and wer egoing back to do it again. It was, for my Father, so many things that I’ll never understand, that he prayed I would never HAVE to understand. For that reason alone, it gets included.
In a few months, I will probably look at this list with fresh eyes, and slap my head thinking “Why didn’t I include THAT song” !!! But after reviewing my selections, through recent days, I feel that my selections are (with Si/Gar and Beatles exclusions aside) as good as any group can be.
To select one song from these artists, demeans and diminishes the rest of their catalogue, and I mean no disrespect in making my selection.
But THESE are the songs that spoke to me as a child, and made me want to be a Songwriter, and helped form me into the writer I am today…
So blame THEM !!!