By Kyler England

Songwriters are often solitary individuals who spend hours/days/weeks/months alone, writing, rewriting, practicing, and, finally, traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to play their songs for people. I used to write almost exclusively by myself but, in recent years, I’ve learned the value of two songwriters getting together in a room with the common purpose of attempting to write something memorable, lasting, meaningful and okay, well, profitable...

They say two heads are better than one. That may be true some of the time. What’s always true is that two heads are different than one! After a writing session, I often reflect on how different the song may have become had I approached it alone. And how my co-writer came up with amazing ideas when I was coming up empty, as well as how their ideas brought out new ideas in me that I would never have had if I had been sitting at home alone with my guitar. This is the power of co-writing. But co-writing is no easy feat, it’s an art and craft in itself.

There’s a delicate dance of give and take when two songwriters put their heads together. Respect is paramount and being open and keeping the creative flow going are key. As a songwriter friend recently reminded me, “’No’ is not allowed. Instead, try to beat it.” In other words, if you don’t like the pre-chorus idea that your co-writer suggested, don’t waste time and drain energy explaining why you don’t like it, instead try to come up with something better. That keeps the process moving forward and keeps the mood positive. There’s nothing like tension or hurt feelings to kill a writing session. Believe me, I’ve been there!

So how do you find other songwriters that you want to write with? Network. Get involved in your local songwriter scene. Go to open mics and approach the artists and songwriters whose music you appreciate and you feel is a good match to what you do. Play your songs out so that other people have a chance to hear your work and do the same. If you live in one of the bigger music industry towns (like New York, LA, Nashville, Atlanta, London, etc.), set up a meeting with someone in the membership department of your PRO (performing rights organization: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC in the USA) and ask them for references of songwriters they think would be a good match. Once you have a few co-writer leads, ask them for recommendations. If you have a publishing deal, your publisher will help you connect with other like-minded songwriters.

And don’t forget that songwriters have different talents and strengths. Some songwriters are solely lyricists or solely write music. Some write both. And other writers are known as “top-line” writers, which mean they write what appears on the top line of a chart: the melody and lyrics. Top-line writers often don’t play an instrument and instead write melodies by singing with no accompaniment so if you’re a songwriter who plays a harmonic instrument, you can be a great addition to a top-line writer. Assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly and look for co-writing partners that bring out the best in you and vice versa.

In addition to my professional songwriting and performance schedule, I provide songwriting critiques and artist development evaluations for We Are Listening. Submit your music to us and let’s see how we can inspire one another to write and publish memorable and, dare I say, commercially successful songs!

Jag Star
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