I was writing songs for 10 years before I considered the idea of co-writing. Songs didn’t always come to me in an afternoon, so my initial thought was — "how could I write a song with someone in 5 hours that I would sing for the next 5 years?" Since then, my thoughts about co-writing have changed.
In February 2014, I signed a publishing deal and the world of co-writing came into focus. It seemed that publishing and songwriting could be more of a team sport than I had anticipated. In February 2015 I went full time with music. Since signing my deal, I've completed 25+ co-write sessions with various writers and artists.
I haven't noticed many resources online about co-writing, so I wanted to pass on some of the things I've learned about co-writing:
WHEN AND HOW CO-WRITING HAPPENS
Many full time songwriters are based out one of the three major music cities; New York, Los Angeles or Nashville. Living in Seattle means that I'm often flying into Nashville or Los Angeles for 1-2 weeks to write with others. For folk and country genre co-writing, Nashville is the place to be. The city runs on music, with an infrastructure and lower rents that have created a thriving eco-system of songwriters. Co-writing is a part of the communities' DNA -- welcomed instead of hidden.
How Do They Happen?
My co-writing sessions have occurred through; my network and my publishers network. In a some cases I’ll connect with a songwriter I know in town, or my manager will get a request from another songwriter to work with them. In most cases my publisher arranges the sessions.
Who Do They Happen With?
Cowriting can be two, five or a room full of songwriters. Some people specialize in topline, lyrics, beats, production, melody, or arrangement. A "topline" writer describes someone who writes the vocal melody and lyrics over top of a musical arrangement.
Where Do They Happen?
I've been in varying places for sessions; one of the co-writers houses, practice spaces, studios. I've even had success co-writing in different countries through Skype. Sometimes sessions occur during the middle of a recording project for a bigger name artist, or a co-writing camp put on by an performing right organization, publisher, or label. Specifically at the co-writing camps, multiple songwriters and producers come together and are paired up throughout the week to collaborate on certain topics, genres or types of songs.
Why Do They Happen?
It can vary based on your goals. Most often sessions happen with the intent of building out the writer’s licensing catalog, fulfilling a sync request, writing for an outside artist or writing for one of the co-writer’s albums.
BENEFITS OF CO-WRITING FROM A PUBLISHERS POINT OF VIEW
One of my favorite folks that works on my publishing company’s (SONGS) A&R team is a woman named Katy Wolaver. When I asked Katy what benefits she saw in co-writing, I found her answer a little surprising. It reminded me that there is more opportunity and potential in a session than whether you come out with a song:
“I love when my writers co-write. One because I think the unexpected can happen in those creative spaces....and sometimes those magical, special songs are a result. Secondly, I love the opportunity to collaborate with other publishers and come up with the best strategies for the songs that are created out of the co-writes. Co-writes allow you to broaden your horizons and your network of people in the industry. A lot of what happens in our world is due to being in the right rooms at the right times, meeting the right music industry's folks and of course, by continuing to perfect your craft.” - Katy Wolaver, SONGS Publishing
You can read my full interview with Katy here.
CO-WRITING WITH PANIC! AT THE DISCO
One of my favorite people in Nashville is a full time songwriter named Aron Wright. I had a chance to interview him about his experiences with co-writing. One thing I was interested about is how co-writes for major artists work, so I asked him about how co-writing a song for Panic! At the Disco’s album came about.
“I think one of their A&R guys, Evan Taubenfeld, heard one of my songs playing in the office and thought it was cool, so he started sending me tracks to topline (sing words and melody on) as co-writes for various artists. Most of the time I would just do a section of the song and turn it in, then the artist and other writers get together (if they like it) and finish the song and make changes if necessary. Panic liked what I did and made it their own, which was an unbelievable experience to take part in. I've never met any of them, although I would love to.” - Aron Wright, Songwriter
You can read my full interview with Aron here.
Are you a songwriter curious about whether co-writing is for you? Interested in the tips and tricks I use before and during a co-writing session? Looking for advice on how to get started in co-writing from a publisher or full time Nashville songwriter?
Check out my ebook on The World of Co-Writing.
Here's another peak at what you'll find in the ebook.