A day in the life of a Songwriter: Remote & out-of-control
Finding writers to collaborate with is a tricky business.
The first hurdle: location.
I have hauled my arse around the world in the name of collaborative creativity… an endless and treacherous journey in pursuit of ‘the song’ that is going to change the world, and my life, forever. Time is money and in today’s industry, where speculative songwriting to pitch is becoming more and more niche, it’s a hard-boiled egg to crack; it’s rather more like an egg-shaped piece of granite actually.
I have tried, and mostly failed, to collaborate remotely. This involves emailing sessions and mixes, in varying stages of completion, backwards and forwards to other writers and/or producers. I’ve wasted hours and hours of my life working on another ‘killer’ idea only to have it rejected in a 4-word email sent from LA or Dublin, Sydney or Singapore two weeks later and at 2am in the morning.
It’s quite a challenge working on a creative project with someone located on the other side of the world. When your working and inspiration is flowing your writing partner may be sleeping, working late on something else or, worse, partying. There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving drunken messages at odd times of the day from an off-his-head collaborator. It’s all about momentum… and this is a difficult thing to build when you’re alone in your studio, supposedly collaborating with someone in a totally different zone.
The second hurdle: cutting to the chase.
When you’re face-to-face with your writing team you can cut to the chase and plot the direction of the song much, much quicker than if you are working remotely… especially if you’re writing partner has a communication problem. I once spent about 3 weeks writing & demoing a series of top-lines over several tracks sent to me by a potential new collaborator. I sent him my ‘rough’s’ & I waited, and waited, and WAITED, AND WAITED for a reply, feedback, ANYTHING!!! Health warning: this is not good for your body or soul. The longer the wait the more paranoid you feel… this process, therefore, was a complete waste of time and energy. In the end this particular creative relationship tapered off and just disappeared- a slow fade on that mix.
The third, and biggest, hurdle: placement.
The life of a songwriter is a lonely, and often painful, journey through the foothills and forests, over the mountains and under the oceans of ones innermost personal experiences. For most of us, the big doorway to the world of selling a song successfully is tightly bolted and guarded by the Powers That Be. ‘Outsiders’ are desperately trying to breach the walls of this inner sanctum, digging tunnels, building scaffolding, hurling rockets and launching drones… doing everything and anything to infiltrate the world of successful songwriting. Gone are the days when you can pen a great song on an acoustic guitar, demo it up and throw it out into the world. Nowadays publishers and record companies want radio-ready production, re-mixes by ‘named’ producers and mastered pieces of musical genius. They’ve lost their nerve.
Music is essentially becoming a commodity that, like air, people believe should be their human right to access for free. Where does this leave us, the songwriters?
All I know is that I will continue to fire my musical rockets over the parapets of the industries no-fly-zone and hope, pray even, that maybe one day, something, somewhere sticks.