by Marty Dodson
Apr 22, 2017
Songwriters, do you think like an artist?
One of the tricks to getting cuts with major artists like Blake Shelton is learning to think like they do. It’s not really all that hard, but it does take some time and effort. In essence, songwriters are mini speech writers. We are trying to put words in the mouths of celebrities. If you were trying to write a speech for a major political candidate, you would try to get to know that candidate as well as you possibly could. You want your words to sound very natural coming out of their mouths – essentially, it should sound like they wrote it.
To pull that off, I try to read a lot of interviews with artists. I want to know what they are thinking – where their heads are at. Going through a divorce? Tired of being on the road? At the end of a long tour? About to record an album? All of those things affect what sorts of songs they might want.
The thought process…
So, if I’m trying to get a cut on any artist, I ask these questions. I’ll give the answers for Blake Shelton specifically to give you an example of the thought process.
1) What is going on in that artist’s life? In Blake’s case, at the time I wrote this article, he is madly in love with Gwen Stefani AND still fresh off of a VERY public divorce from Miranda Lambert. Both of those things affect his choices. He doesn’t want to get on stage and bash Miranda. She has a lot of fans. He doesn’t want to alienate those people. So, he has to be careful what he says about exes. Even his new love songs may tiptoe around Miranda just a bit. He might not want to bash her indirectly by gushing over someone new so soon. Knowing where an artist is in their personal life is important.
2) What is their brand? Artists have a very distinct brand. If they didn’t, no one would prefer one artist over another. Blake does love songs. He does story songs. He does funny songs. And he does songs that give a nod to country music or his country upbringing. Most of his songs fall into one of those categories. My song “Doing It To Country Songs” fit his brand perfectly. He (and his fans) like doing stuff to country songs. It also had a funny element that made it work for two of his categories. Knowing the artist’s brand is key to getting a cut on their record.
3) What is this artist willing to say in front of 60,000 people night after night? Early in my career, I wrote an amazing song called “The Shadow of A Man”. My publisher thought it was the best thing I had ever written. It was about a boy catching his dad cheating on his mom and losing all respect for his father. It WAS a great song, BUT no one wants to get on stage in front of 60,000 people and sing about their father cheating on their mom night after night after night. My song never was recorded because that’s not something that an artist wants to sing about. Blake isn’t likely to sing any song that paints him in a bad light. That hurts his brand. If people think he’s a drunk, a cheater, a liar, or any negative kind of character, they don’t like him. People that don’t like him don’t buy albums or t-shirts or come to concerts. That hurts his bottom line, so he’s not going to do that. Make the singer look good if you want a cut on their record.
4) What does this singer NOT write? Carrie Underwood writes almost all of her ballads. There’s no use writing one and pitching it to her. However, she writes almost NONE of her man-bashing type songs. That’s your ticket if you want a Carrie cut. Blake doesn’t write much at all, so the field is wide open, as long as you write one of the categories of things that he will say.
Asking those 4 questions can help you learn to think like Blake or any other artist you have in mind. And that is the key to success!
Write on! ~Marty
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