Being around musicians and music scene as often as I am, at least the Oklahoma music scene, discussions over the writing process is a topic I hear about a lot. And honestly, I’m completely fascinated by it and have no problem walking up to musicians I have never met, in all my awkward glory, and pick their brain. Thankfully, most are more than happy to conversation with some nobody songwriter. Musicians are after all like a huge family full of relatives you have never met. There are those ones though, you know the type, the douchebag who thinks he is better than everyone just because he got to play in the same bar that so and so has played at. Other then “that guy” everybody looks out for each other.
There is not a single way to go about writing a song but often times different techniques are combined. Everyone has a different process when it comes to breathing life into a song. This is completely necessary otherwise the majority of songs would start to sound the same and inherently music would start to become stale. If Van Gogh and Picasso used the same technique to paint would we have the beautiful art pieces we have today and still be able to tell them apart? The same goes with music. Warning my nerd is fixing to show…when I was in my high school computer class I would print off hundreds of songs. To so I could read the lyrics during my other classes. I was consumed with learning the different song structures, how the number of syllables could make it break a line. If I’m being honest. I still “study” lyrics. I just go about in other ways. Because of this obsession I have gotten to where I can tell who wrote or had a hand in writing a majority of songs you hear on country radio. (Even though I’ve kinda drifted away from mainstream country music these days it will always be a part of who I am as a songwriter and a person.) Through a songwriters process, you start to notice a pattern in their song catalog. It’s like they have a special little formula they use to create songs and that old saying “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” definitely applies. (Or maybe my unhealthy obsession with lyrics and structure is showing here.)
The difference in the writing process can vary greatly among different artist. I have a friend who creates a melody first almost exclusively in all his songs. I know other artist who write lyrics first then try to write a melody around them. I’m definitely a lyrics first kinda gal. Although here lately I’ve decided to pick up my electric again after not playing it for two years and its like a flood gate has been open and this whole new style of writing and playing has emerged. I think as a songwriter you have to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things otherwise music will start to feel stagnate and you wind up feeling uninspired and unmotivated to write.
I just recently started cowriting with more people and I’m enjoying learning that process which is completely different then when I write by myself. (I’m kind of a control freak so this is teaching me to let go and trust other peoples judgment) There is a lot of give and take and compromise. I love how it opens up your mind to new styles of playing and writing. Recently, I helped write a “pop” song which is way out of my comfort zone but I am so grateful I had the opportunity. Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to grow and develop your skills.