Song Doctor Blog
Read how to write better songs
Nothing but a polite smattering of claps - a fucking clap smatter! A response so spectacularly underwhelming, it leaves you with nowhere to run.
Meanwhile, another songwriter wipes the floor with a song that sounds like it fell from the sky. WTF!
Where does this leave you? I got three words.
Comparison, for example apples with oranges, can be a strenuously soul-destroying occupation. It's a right royal joy robber and if there's one thing that little undie-packer Marie Kondo has taught us, it is to do things that spark joy. And music is a place of enormous joy! Think of the most fun place you have in songwriting and go there. Often.
There will always be better songwriters, better songs and better musicians than you. And in turn, you'll be further down the track than countless other folks. Reframe comparison into admiration, a spur to up your own game.
Relish the influences and interactions you have with other songwriters and musos. It's a grand party to be at and you'll learn far more from rubbing shoulders than isolating yourself. Ask other songwriters how and what they go through. Most are happy to share their stories.
Use close listening to your favourite artists to dig deep into subtleties and nuances in their songs because now you have experience of buckling down to write your own, with variable success, you have a stronger appreciation of how much it takes to cut through the noise.
Use selected reference tracks in your recording process to support and extend your decisions. Be influenced by music you love and stretched by practitioners more advanced and experienced than you.
I was on the same bill in a concert that the Topp Twins were MC'ing, where Linda told the highly excited audience they would be handled like horses. My, how the audience loved it! Being told what to do and how to behave by confident consummate performers - also expert horsewomen in their own right!
Do the same with your songs. Any time you play a song - live or recorded - for an audience, your song either will or won't connect. It's not the audience's fault if it doesn't.
The audience needs to be able to relate to your song, to feel something that you've encapsulated and delivered musically. They need to get it and you need to lead them, like horses, to where the 'it' is.
Finding out how to clarify your ideas and communicate them effectively in song is your job, and if you are not getting the impact you want, then luckily, you - the songwriter, can try other techniques. The onus is on you and your writing.
So write, write often, write with other people, learn as much as you can about songwriting, and use a feedback loop to improve and make adjustments.
You are not the song. If a person doesn't love - love - love your song, it doesn't mean they hate you. Some songs are strong and some are dogs. Build your catalogue and acknowledge that while your personal experiences and values may be tied up in artistic self expression of songwriting, to an audience songs are theirs and all about them.
Plenty of songwriters write about characters and mashups of their own and other folks' life events. The balance is the level of specificity of detail to create clear, unique images against the universal emotions and topics of the human condition. Too specific can get bogged down in lyrical minutiae while too universal can often come across as bland or inauthentic.
The more you get involved in songwriting, the more objective you can become about which songs land and less defeated by the ones that don't. Remember, it's a highly asymmetrical business with gazillions of misses to a hit single, so volume is key.
Thanks so much for all your questions and queries. Keep them coming and I'll do my level best to answer.
Talk more soon
ps if you want to take your songwriting to the Next Level, please join us at the Next Level Songwriting Retreat this summer in beautiful Tahora. There are only five places left!!
pps if you struggle with singing or can't play for peanuts, don't let that stop you writing a song. Read this.