Collaboration Stories

A songwriter friend recently expressed frustration with finding a reliable collaborator. We were wondering what other experiences readers of this blog have had with finding/working with co-writers. Lorelei Loveridge shares her co-writing experiences and leaves us with some excellent tips for collaborating.

One, I’ve found the process of collaboration to be really strange. It all comes down to people’s personalities and individual/collective goals, I’ve discovered. I’ve collaborated (or attempted to) with a few people.

One was a friend who is NOT a songwriter, but is just a goofball like me. We sat together, had tea one day, and brainstormed a story based on some very strong hooks. She helped with the ideas. I, as the songwriter, crafted and edited the pieces together. It worked well. The music she had no part in, but the lyrics were 50% hers. That was a pleasurable experience.

The second person was another songwriter like myself — a woman who writes and plays guitar. Different style, but essentially the very same goals. It was the most tension-filled experience I’ve ever had. Or one of them. Another very tense experience would have been trying to come up with lyrics on the spot while a guitarist (a very good one)
noodled around on a riff that he found. That did not work either. Too much pressure. In the case of the fellow singer-songwriter, too much personal competition. We both wanted way too much ownership of the song. We were two people who wanted to write our own songs.

I’ve tried to write with STJ members also, two people I like and trust a lot actually. But because of the distance, or the fact that we were three, or the issue of timing (none of us had the time/energy to focus), or the initial topic and inspiration for writing (sucked), it never happened. I don’t look at that as a failure. It was just “bad timing,
that’s all.” Another day.

I had an accidental success with co-writing once when I wrote the fast first draft of a song. I sent it to a “friend,” an acquaintance, a guy I’ve never met but who works at Berklee College of Music and who is a bass player and graduate of the school. I sent the song out as a “Hey look at this!” email, also with the invitation to others to rewrite it, as I knew it was good but not finished. I loved what this friend coughed up, and then I polished it up a bit and promptly gave him 50% of the lyrical rights, simply because he really did have his hand in a huge portion of the song. He had no expectations, really, and was just doing it because he’s a creative guy.

When I recorded the song fast on my computer and emailed it to him, he and his friends were impressed. That was a pleasurable experience.

And, finally, I co-wrote with a good friend of mine back home, another woman, but a songwriter with a background in jazz. She’s a pianist; I’m a guitarist. We worked on guitar, laughed together a LOT as we tossed out the most bizarre lines and tried to piece them together. Sometimes we would throw out absolutely stupid lyrics, as a way to get through the creative blocks. (If something’s not working, then make it really not work and break the ice, release the tension by having a good laugh.) We got half a song done and ran out of steam/time. I live overseas, had to go as the summer was over. We’ve never finished the song, but it was a good experience and I trust I could work with Anna again.

Based on my experience, my advice to people looking to collaborate is this: It’s all about being comfortable together, and complimentary in your talents. If there’s too much competition, it’s not going to happen. If you both demonstrate the same weaknesses, it’s not going to happen. I’ve read time and time again, write “up,” or work with others who are better than you at some things. And definitely work out terms
right up front and look at the opportunity to co-write, even if you’re seeking your own name and/or fame, as a chance to hone your chops. If the fit is right with another person, it can lift you to higher levels. If the fit is wrong, then you’ve lost nothing. Move on and don’t be embarrassed about it.

Lorelei Loveridge
Orderly Bazaar Records & Publishing
http://www.orderlybazaar.com

Listen to Lorelei’s latest CD Bakhoor, a 4-year, 15-song album project recorded in India, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Bakhoor

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