Songwriting Collaboration or 1 + 1 > 2

It’s hard enough to sit down and write a song: melody, lyrics, structure…  Because you know that after you’re done it’s time to put it on the back burner and let it simmer for a while – then the re-writes.  Ugh.  The first draft was hard enough!  And after re-writes how do you know when it’s done? – or in some cases time to abandon it?  All I’m saying is that it’s hard enough to write a good – and I do mean good – song by yourself.  When you add another person to the mix, a collaborator, does it get twice as hard?  Or because now you need to spend time explaining yourself and your ideas to someone else, is it even harder than 2x’s?  I’m not going to try to definitively answer that, but I do know that in my last collaboration we ended up with a much better song than either of us would have written on our own.  Here’s why:

One person comes in with an idea.  A pretty good idea.  A phrase, a chorus, a hook…whatever.  The other hears another part coming in, because let’s face it – once you get a good hook in your head it’s hard to get it out to make room for more.  The two of you flesh out a song.  You high-five and get out the cigars and you’re done.  A week later you come back to the song only to find that the verses – although good – don’t really point to the chorus.  They sort of gesture in the direction of a chorus.  They’re not saying what you thought you wanted to say.  You talk to your partner who still thinks the song is finished.  After lengthy discussion the team is back at it – re-working verses.  Slowly all the original verses are stripped out.  Emails are exchanged over individual phrases.  Second-write verses are thrown out.  One decides that it’s time to just finish this thing and re-writes most of the verses.  The other shoots an email with a great transition.  The first loves it and goes to work to try to incorporate the transition.  The second throws out the first’s third verse completely saying, “You don’t need a third verse.  Just get to the point!”  Argh!  More emails.  Another sit down session.  More emails.

But slowly this wonderful thing emerges.  It says what it’s supposed to say.  It’s memorable.  It gets stuck in your head.

Yes, this just happened over the last several weeks with myself and a songwriting partner of mine – she was the nice one in my story.  But here’s my point – Either one of us could have written this song if we stuck to it.  But the only reason I think we did persevere to that great depth is because one was always pushing the other for the song to be better.  I’m sure there are some people who will push themselves to continue to do re-writes, but when do you know to stop?  It’s that other person’s perspective that I think helps keep the work accessible and meaningful.  Maybe even a hit!  …I can dream can’t I?

Give collaboration a try.  Then give it another try.

Long and short of it is the song is called “How To Love Deep” and will be out on the next CD.  Now I just need to make sure I don’t jack up the arrangement, but that’s for another post…

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