by Marty Dodson
Nov 6, 2016
Writing songs with artists is a completely different game.
Writing songs with artists is a completely different game than writing songs FOR artists or simply writing with another writer to try and craft the best song possible. When you write with an artist in the room, the goal is to help that artist find their voice. In order to do that, you have to ask a lot of questions.
When I’m writing with an artist, I am doing everything in my power to find out what they want to say. In an easy artist co-write, the artist KNOWS what they want to say and you just help them write it. In an artist write I had with Johnny Reid (Canadian artist), he walked in and said “I need a big stadium song. I have this chorus started and here’s the title.” Most of them aren’t that easy. Many times, an artist just walks in and says “I need a hit”. That’s not much to go on.
So, I start asking questions.
“What do you have already?” “Can I hear some of those?” “Is there something you’d like to say, but you haven’t said yet?” I become a question machine. My goal is to find that one thing that the artist REALLY wants to say – something they could sell onstage. So often, the artists are being told what to say by the record label, producers, and managers. They appreciate someone asking “What is it YOU want to say?”
Help them find their voice.
If you can get the answer to that question, writing the song is often the easy part. The artist gets excited because their voice is being heard. You are helping them find that voice and put it into a commercial vehicle that people will get. Everyone wins!
It’s a HUGE mistake in an artist co-write to start trying to make them say what you want to say. Many times, I make choices in the song that I wouldn’t make if I were writing it alone, because I remind myself that I’m not writing this one for MY voice, but for someone else’s.
If you get a chance to write with an artist, dig deep, ask lots of questions and help them find their voice. That’s the ticket to success!
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