By Cari Cole
It’s that time of year again that we host another one of our popular Signature Songwriting Circles. Songwriters, artists, music producers and creators come together to co-write 26 songs in 26 weeks. Not something most songwriters (unless they live in Nashville) are prone to do. It’s a fast paced, professional community where songwriters cut their teeth on their co-writing prowess, sharpen their skills and take a deeper dive into writing signature songs from the grist of their creative well. All you need is some songwriting skills, drive and determination – and you’re off to the races. It’s rare that anyone finishes all 26 songs, but along the way, some unexpected co-writing bonds are made, magical new songs are formed and all emerge a better, more confident, and experienced, writer.
And the truth is, that regardless of the sometimes tumultuous changes that hit the industry, one thing always remains the same – songwriting.
And it’s the only thing you’ve really got to have to breakthrough. Great, heart pounding, emotionally wrenching, powerful songs that resonate with people.
And the number one reason to look to if fans and industry are not tripping over themselves to get to you — your songs. It’s the number one thing I see artists not working hard enough on.
Unfortunately with the decline of A & R and the guidance that helps artists dig for this stuff, too many records are being made with half-baked songs that haven’t had the proper nurturing and probing to get to the good stuff.
Because chances are, there’s more under those layers than you got to the first or second go around on your songs. It takes three, or four or five or ten digs to get to the gold inside the mine. The stuff that shakes the core of you, so much that it transforms you. That, is great songwriting. And you know you’ve nailed it when it’s not just your opinion, but the opinion of everyone around you.
The first step is to dig deeper – way deeper than you think.
Writer Natalie Goldberg says, ”“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
If you prompt yourself to work in this way, to aim for something that blows you away, that maybe you were scared to write about — you’ve probably got something. Something big.
Plus, with today’s market focused on licensing and sync, it becomes all the more important to focus less on “commercial hits” and focus more on taking that deep, dark, dive into the creative abyss – to dive for the gold under the dirt.
But what do you write about? How do you bring it to home plate with a home run?
Here’s my top 3 tips in digging for those song gems…
1. Dive Deeper Than You Think
Most records are written from the current state of mind of the artist. It seems like an obvious thing once I said it, but you’d be surprised how many independents miss this little jewel. Art reflects life. Use your life and experiences to fuel your art. Only go deeper than you think and share more than you want to. Makes for compelling songs that hit us square in the solar plexus. Boom.
2. Use What You’re Afraid to Say As a Starting Point
I’ve heard it said that the well known songwriter Nick Cave uses this as a starting point – ‘What is the most vulnerable thing I can say right now?’ As I mentioned above, writer Natalie Goldberg says to “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” I say “what is screaming inside you to be said?” and start there.
3. Rewrite Until it’s Just Right
Songs are not written, they are rewritten. By the time you’ve written 100 finished, demoed songs, you know this to be true. It’s nice when a song pops out in 10 minutes, but we all know those are rare and the result of the many songs that came before. Each song paves the way for the next. Rewriting is the key to great songs. Do it.
If you’re ready to dive in head first — check out our Signature Songwriting Circle where we teach you to write from this deep dive. You’re gonna love it! It’s a great community of artists and writers. Some are newish, many are experienced and everyone helps everyone else.