SONGWRITING 101 + BEHIND THE SONG: Good Hearted People
I can't tell you how many times I've been asked about the songwriting process in interviews. To be honest, songwriting was a completely new realm for me when I moved to Nashville. I'd never written a song before (mostly just really bad poetry) and I wasn't aware of how big the songwriting community was until I immersed myself in it. I moved to Nashville to be a recording artist and I learned that if I wanted to have songs to record... I'd have to write them myself. Publisher's (we'll talk more about that role in a bit) aren't exactly eager to give away songs to any who isn't Miranda Lambert. Or Luke Bryan. Or Carrie Underwood. Or... you see where I'm going with this. So, if I wanted to have songs attached to my name, I quickly discovered that I'd need to be the voice AND the pen behind them.
So, how do you write a song?
Songs can be written a few different ways and the beauty of it is that there is no wrong way. Sometimes writers will pen a song by themselves and other times a song is written during a co-write. A co-write is when 2 or more writers create a song together. Sometimes in a co-write, one writer will come in with an idea or part of a song that they've been working on and with the help of the others in the room a song is completed. Other times through - catching up with each other's personal lives, whats happening in the world, and feelings - ideas are formed and songs are born. Personally, when I'm writing alone or with the help of my husband I gravitate towards lyrics and later create a melody. Ideas for songs can strike at the most random and unexpected time! For example, when I wrote the song "Good Hearted People", earlier that week I'd been watching the news with my morning coffee and it seemed like the reports were filled with bad news about bad people. I kept asking my husband John, "Are we really that bad and terrible? Surely there are still good hearted people in the world..." I'd been thinking about that all week. I wasn't necessarily thinking about it in the form of a song but just the concept of kind people and the work they're doing in the world. Then, out of nowhere while I was on my way to the grocery store, I immediately started singing, "You can still find them if you look hard... sometimes they're standing right there in the front yard..." I had a melody and the lyrics were coming together at the same time. I took out my phone and recorded what I was singing into my voice recording app so I wouldn't forget my ideas. I kept singing it over and over until another line would come to mind... "waving hello to the mailman as he rolls down the street..." The whole process lasted while I was shopping until I got home. Then, I was able to sit down at my computer with John and his guitar and in about 30 minutes we had a finished song. Not all songs are written this quickly but many times they are. Other times, you may walk away and come back to it over and over for days. And then there are some songs that never seem to have life breathed into them and they're never completed. In my opinion, the songs that come together so quickly and effortlessly - they've already been written and we the songwriters are the vessel for putting the words on the paper and delivering the message.
Then, a song is registered with the writer's P.R.O: performing right organization (ex. BMI, ASCAP, SESAC). A P.R.O is an organization that is responsible for making sure the songwriter gets paid anytime the song is played on the radio, tv shows or commercials, or performed live in venues. As a songwriter, you would belong to a PRO and after a song is written it's your job to register that song under your account, including any other writer's who helped you write the song. If you wrote the song by yourself, you would own 100% of the song. If you co-wrote the song, you would split the percentages up evenly amongst the writers. In Los Angeles, I've heard of songwriters negotiating writing credits down to 10%. But in Nashville, we're all about team work and we give equal credit to anyone who was in the room during the co-write. Next, if you have a publishing deal (meaning you are paid by a publishing company to write songs) you would turn in the song to your publisher. A publisher's job is to pitch the songs you've written to recording artists who are looking for material to record. Then (hopefully) an artist is pitched or hears your song, records it, and releases it as a single to radio. Anytime that song is played or streamed, the songwriter gets paid a percentage.
How do you meet other writers to collaborate with?
In Nashville, you can walk into nearly any bar, hotel lounge, or live venue and hear original music. That's one of the reasons why I love living here. We have what are called "In The Round" songwriter nights. Basically, a venue would hosts writers for the evening giving them an opportunity to play their own songs. A round typically consists of 3 or 4 writers. Each writer would perform 3-4 songs that they've written. An evening can consist of a few rounds featuring different writers each time. Songwriter rounds are great for getting songs heard - you never know who is in the crowd listening. Someone at the bar watching could be a publisher looking for a fresh, new writer to sign. The guy standing next to the publisher waiting for his drink could be a manager thinking you've got what it takes not only as a songwriter but as an artist. Two chairs down, may be an artist who's just signed a record deal and when they hear your song they think to themselves, "I HAVE to record that song." Either way, songwriter rounds are great for networking and meeting other writer's to collaborate with. How? By simply walking up, introducing yourself and saying, "I really loved your songs and I'd love to write together sometime if you'd be interested." Not every introduction and hand shake leads to a writing appointment but that's the only way to get the ball rolling. And you'd be surprised how many do!
WATCH THE "GOOD HEARTED PEOPLE" VIDEO
WIN A "GOOD HEARTED PEOPLE" AUTOGRAPHED LYRIC SHEET!
To say thank you for your readership, I'm giving away THREE "Good Hearted People" autographed lyric sheets.
G E T T H E L O O K
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