Songwriting Survival Guide

Having been a part of countless writing sessions over the span of 20 years, I have found that not all co-writes are created equal.  For the most part they are a great experience, spending the day in rooms with people I love (or have just met) going after the best song possible. 

But along the way there have been those “what in the world” sessions.  The kind that every co-writer dreads.  

Looking back, there have been some patterns I have noticed along the way that helped contribute to those type of train wrecks.

Now first, let me say that not only have I seen these 7 things sabotage a session, but I have also taken part in some, learning the hard way and some of them I'm still learning.  My goal in this post is to just keep us aware so we can be the best co-writers we can be.


1. Stay On Social Media

It’s hard to be creative and productive with someone who is floating in cyberspace.  It’s hard enough having a conversation with someone in general who is always looking at their phone with every buzz, ding, beep or ring notification.  

I’m not expecting a no social policy in the writing room by any means.  I realize we are in the room together for awhile and taking breaks is inevitable and healthy, so in those moments get your shot of Instagram dopamine.  

But just be aware that the conversation you are having with someone on iMessage or the feed you are constantly checking just distracts from you being fully present and fully creative.   


2. Me, Myself and I Syndrome

I was in a session one time with a new up and coming writer who I heard had some awesome things in the works.  Well it didn’t take long in meeting him that I found out everything… and I mean everything.  And throughout the co-write I kept hearing about the amazing singles coming out, the massive producers he was working with and how he was just getting started.  All of it was true but that was a hard session to endure.  

So let your success speaks for itself.  And in a co-write focus on who’s in front of you and write the best song for that day.    


3. Shoot Down Everyone Else’s Idea 

If you are a confident writer and have lots of ideas, you may struggle with this.  But I’ve learned that any agenda in a writing session that is based around you and the end result, goes against the beauty of collaborating.  

Even if there is a new writer who is still learning the whole process of songwriting and contribution, we never know who the genius is going to flow out of.  Actually one of the best part of collaborating is helping draw the genius out of everyone.   


4. Always Compare The Song To Another Song

I have this problem.  I’ll hear a song I love and just constantly compare what I’m working on with that.  In some ways that can be good I guess as a bar to reach for, but in a session that is a sure fire way to be annoying.  

In a co-write you are writing your song, not that other song.  It’s ok to mentally know where you want to go with the song, but stop bringing it up!  I’m preaching to the choir here.

You are the sum of all your creative influences, SO THAT you can create something new, fresh and uniquely you.    


5. Write The Song Yourself

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the feeling you were watching someone else write the song right in front of you, but it can be demoralizing.  

Why collaborate if you plan on going in your own world and writing most of the song yourself? 

Everybody has that process of working out the idea, finding that right lyric or melody.  For me sometimes I just go over to the corner for a second, but then I’m back engaged.  But it’s pretty annoying to have to say “Hey, so, what are you thinking over there?” all day long.  I hate that.  

You may be the best songwriter in the world, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t include your co-writers in on the process.    


6. Be A Jerk

You might think this is a no brainer.  But do you know I’ve written with a few interesting people throughout the years who have just been frankly, a jerk.  No manners, no watching the words they say.  

It’s really back to the to treat a fellow human being 101, not just to a co-writer.  Be kind.  Treat everyone with respect and dignity.  Don’t let your insecurity cause you to cut someone else down.      

My motto is serve the writer in front of you.  Honor them.  Let their creativity shine as much as yours.  Encourage them in a way that when they leave the session, they are built up rather than torn down.


7. Bring Your Entourage

In a lot of the songwriting circles I’m in now, this is not even a thing.  But trust me, there have been way too many writing sessions where friends, Managers, family members (Momagers included) want to sit in on the writing session.  

I’ve literally had someone bring 4 other people for a co-write with me and  a producer friend of mine.  He kindly told everyone else but the writer to leave.  Not awkward at all!  

Do us all a favor and if you have a songwriting session coming up, don’t ask your manager to come.  There is nothing that kills the creativity in the room more than someone who doesn’t understand the creative process… that what we actually start with will most likely morph into a completely different song by the end of the day.