Songwriting

5 Questions To Ask When You Write With An Artist

by Marty Dodson
Aug 7, 2016

Here are five key questions you should ask each time you write a song with an artist….

What kind of song are you looking for?

Hopefully, they will answer more than just “a hit”, but unfortunately that’s the most common answer I get. Their response to this question can tell you a lot about the song you should write if they are willing to share. Best case scenario, they say “I need an uptempo song like _________ that talks about ________”. If they give you a precise answer, then you have a much better chance of writing specifically what they need.

Are there any slots on your album that you haven’t filled yet?

Sometimes, I will ask this question and discover that they have 8 ballads that they love and 10 uptempos, but really nothing in the mid-tempo range. That kind of info is GOLD. I don’t want to be in the pile with 8 other ballads or 10 other uptempos. I want to be in the pile with little or no competition.

 What kind of song have you always wanted to sing?

Sometimes this reveals some hidden nugget of info that steers you toward a great song that you never would have written if you hadn’t asked. Some of my coolest artist co-writes have resulted from this question.

Would you say that?

Sometimes artists will throw out a line that would make them look really bad if they said it onstage. Asking this question can bring them back to reality. I’m continually checking in to see if the song we are writing fits the artist and what they want to say.

What is the best way to present our song to your team?

Some producers LOVE work tapes. Many of them have a hard time hearing a “hit” through a work tape. Asking this question can help you avoid missing out on a cut because you didn’t present your song in the best possible way.
When writing with an artist, ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. But, remember that YOU are likely the best writer in the room, so don’t give in and accept bad lines just because they are the artist. Your name goes on the song too and you want to be proud of the end result.

~MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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