Excerpt #9 from “Winning The Music Game” by Brian Allen
Co-writing is one of the best ways to exponentially expand your creative skills. Much like many writers, my first songs were written in solitude. And like the child in grade school, I did not want anyone to see what I was making until it was finished. I had an ingrained fear that the song would lose its way if someone else was involved. This very subjective perspective continued well into my professional career. It seemed that every time I decided to relent and allow someone into the process, I felt like the concept was regressing rather than progressing. Whether that was my immaturity or not, I will never know… but I do know it was fueled by lack of experience.
Finally I met a writer who was not only a very humble and enlightened human, but was also immensely successful. We struck a very easy rapport as people first, before he suggested we write together. We wrote 3 songs in a one-week period. One of them was eventually recorded by a very popular band, made Top 10 in charts worldwide and helped them sell over 8 million copies of the itinerant album.
What did I learn? I learned that my ill-informed fear of losing something of myself through collaborating was totally unfounded. Quite the opposite – the experience was both mind-expanding and profitable. I learned that we are mostly creatures of habit, even in our creative modes. We tend to take familiar paths and repeat favourite patterns if left to our own devices, which can lead to writing similar songs over and over. Take some time, examine your list of songs and make note of the tempo bpm and key for each. Unless you are one of the rare exceptions, your “comfort zone” will jump off the page at you.
As another bonus from the collaborative process, the dreaded writer’s block can often be deeper with those who rely solely on themselves for inspiration. By working with others, one is exposed to their habits, revealing methods that you may not have been explored while working solo. I most definitely feel that I open doors in my creative psyche that I might otherwise have left closed when I collaborate. If we examine the writing credits under some of the most well-crafted country hits, we often see as many as three writers involved… wait a minute… isn’t Nashville one of the most prolific songwriting communities in the world? Is it possible they actually might know what they’re doing?
We have all hit speed bumps in the writing process – you know… the one line you can’t seem to find the right words or progression for. With two or even three participants, there’s a much better chance you won’t all hit dead air together. When one writer deflates, there are still two others to pick up the ball. Even if the song you are co-writing does not achieve what any of you had hoped, open-minded individuals will always take away something of value from the experience. At the very least, I can testify that most of the writers I have discussed this with have also noted that when they did choose to write alone, they felt that the collaboration experiences had enhanced their internal resources, giving them more creative options. Even if today’s venture is a dismal failure, one of the beautiful things about the music business is that no one will hear it! What have you got to lose?
So, if you haven’t discovered the joys of co-writing yet, get out of your skin and give it a shot. Pay respect to the old saying: “If you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, you can expect the same result.”