by Kim Copeland
Any of you who have ventured into the Nashville songwriting community know that this is a co-writing town. Ninety nine percent of all Nashville songwriters co-write regularly. The advantages are obvious; more than one creative viewpoint on the subject; more than one set of songwriting skills involved in the crafting; more than one pocketbook sharing the demo costs; more than one publisher pitching the song, more than one songwriter performing the song, which expands the audience for it.
There are some disadvantages to co-writing too, but most of those can be overcome by learning good co- writing tools; which is part of what our upcoming workshop will cover. If you have shied away from co- writing because of fear or ignorance, I encourage you to keep an open mind about it until you have given it a fair try.
You will find co-writing more satisfying if you learn and follow a few basic rules.
ALWAYS be willing to explore ANY ideas. Musically, lyrically, melodically, you should all feel free to express anything that pops into your heads, without fear of ridicule. This is how you arrive at views, messages and presentations that transcend what you would have discovered on your own. Every co-writing situation should be a learning and a teaching experience. BE OPEN.
NEVER keep score of how many words or ideas each of you contributed to the finished song. Accept that whatever song comes from a co-writing session would not have happened without the exact blend of energy and emotion in the room at the time. Everyone contributes something that affects the outcome of the song, even if it is only to piss off the other co-writers to the point that they say something they would not otherwise have said the same way. Some days you drive; some days you’re along for the ride. BE GRACIOUS.
DON’T bring anything to the table that you aren’t willing to share. Learn to distinguish between ideas that you must write on your own to satisfy your soul and those that you are willing to sacrifice total control over in order to reach the largest audience possible. If you have an idea that you can’t adequately express to someone else, you may need a co-writer to help you focus the idea and convey your message in a way that moves a larger audience. Sometimes you really can write it better alone, but great ideas should not be sacrificed to vanity.
HAVE FUN! The best songs always come from the most fun co-writing sessions. Inspiration follows bliss! Creativity flourishes reckless abandon. Co-writing is a lot like dating; you may have to try it with several people before you find a chemistry that allows for fun, creative exploration of ideas, and which produces better songs than you could write on your own.
Lastly, never let co-writing interfere with your solo writing time. If you are a productive songwriter on your own, don’t sacrifice that at the alter of co- writing thinking that it will get your further faster. Stronger songs will progress your songwriting career. However you can write songs that fulfill you and satisfy your commercial goals, that is what you should be doing.
Co-writing is just one more tool of a well balanced writer. If you learn how and when to use it, it can be a very powerful tool!
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