A Key to collaboration
Hi everyone, it's been a little while since I've sent out a blog. I've been pretty busy writing and working on some new projects. Before I get stuck into the main topic of this blog, let me tell you a bit about what I've been up to. Since lockdown started, I have been collaborating and creating more than ever. Like most of us, I've had the time to read more, learn more, write more and generally get stuck into those things I usually wouldn't be able to. Apart from clearing out that cupboard or sorting out my sock drawer, ain't no-body got time for that.
I've also been collaborating, as usual, with my Paper Dragons. We are set to release our next single 'Self Control' on the 27th of August. We were lucky enough to talk about this process with Urban Creative via their YouTube Channel. You can check that out the video I did for them here.
I'll start off by saying, this isn't 'the' key to collaboration, it's 'a' key. There are many different ways in, and I'm not about to tell you there is one magic formula.
I do, however, get to look at the subject from an unusual angle.
As a songwriter, I'm often creating things from an personal point of view. It's hard in an industry full of opinion, to hear negative feedback about something you've written about a deeply personal experience. But that's all part of the process.
In my experience, the best work comes when you start to let go. I won't say something as corny as 'if you love something, let it go' but, well...you kind of have to.
Amidst the arduous operation of releasing music, we are often months behind in our emotions. A song that meant so much to us 6 months ago, probably feels like a completely different companion after months of shopping it about, mixing, mastering, tweaking, press planning etc. We're often glad to see the back of it...
But what is it about those songs that make them last? What makes those songs resonate with us and others so deeply, they become a part of our language? I'm afraid I don't have all the answers, but I'd love to know if you do, it would make my job a hell of a lot easier.
In my experience, the songs that last are the songs that we can connect with, the commonality of the human experience. Love, loss, heartbreak, home, the lack thereof. All these subjects are timeless. However, the more specific we become as songwriters, the more we lose our listeners. If I start singing about 'my ex Pete, who was a real shit bucket' people inevitably start to switch off. Can you blame em?.. By the way, I've never dated a Pete...
So how do we make our work relatable without it becoming vague? There is no point trying to make the song-equivalent of a large net, feebly trying to catch whatever emotions happen to be hanging around. That's how you end up with something utterly beige.
Collaboration! Collaboration is an amazing way of seeing a piece of work through someone else's eyes. There are so many forms to this. Working with musicians, lyricists, producers and topliners are just a few. People extend these collaborations to artistic design, film making, fashion, photography. All to convey the feeling, meaning and thoughts behind just one song.
The first steps to collaboration are letting go of the feeling that you are going to create something utterly unique, because, and I hope I'm not the first person telling you this, you are not utterly unique. We are a collision of life experience, friends, opinions, books, TV series, conversations, family, all mashed up to create our current state of self. And even that's going to change! But isn't that kind of beautiful in itself? So much shared experience, so much diversity and so much more to be learned with and through others.
When I first started writing music, it was what you would imagine a young girl's songwriting efforts to be. Fairly misunderstood, all in a minor key, definitely self pitying and incredibly boring. It wasn't until I started writing with other people and opening myself up to their thoughts and knowledge that I started to pick apart my craft and understand my way around a verse.
Now... things have moved on a bit. I no longer walk into a room, green, crying 'help me! I've never done this before!'
Now I look for other things from my collaborations. I want to pick apart the 'why' of a song. I want to fit that piece of a jigsaw that I can't seem to find on my own. I want 'fresh ears', musical interpretation and all those wonderful colours and edges we get from listening and working with other people. I love the ebb and flow that happens between people as we build something together.
These things are invaluable in writing music. Other people create depth, other perspectives create strength and letting go of something we thought was right opens us up to a world of possibility.
Nowadays, the biggest part of my job is based in collaboration. Through discussion, co-operative songwriting, co-production and skill sharing I'm creating, in my opinion, some of my best work yet. And I hope that continues.
We are ever evolving beings and art is one of our best ways of expressing ourselves. Open yourself up to connect, create, collaborate and grow and I guarantee your art, whatever it may be, will develop and flourish in ways you never thought possible.
Good luck x