Write, write, write! There is no substitute for this. A catalog is a collection of songs. You need to write every day if possible. At least as often as you can! But the bottom line here is “the more the better”. This not only helps you become a better writer but also gives you more variety of material which increases the odds that you’ll have the right song for a particular project.
Don’t write just one type, style or genre of song. A great catalog has an array of subject matter, tempos, emotions, styles, and genres. The goal is to have a song ready for you or your publisher to pitch in every situation. If an artist is looking for an uptempo party song, you got it covered. If an artist is looking for a message song with a deeper lyric about the state of the world, you got it covered. You see where I’m going with this. It doesn’t happen overnight obviously, it takes time, but this is something you do by design.
There is a famous quote by Michelangelo that says “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” That is a beautiful description of what songwriters must learn to do. We get a song’s big idea and we see the “angel” inside it. So we carve and carve until the whole world can see, or hear, what we saw from the beginning. This line of thought can be particularly helpful to aspiring songwriters who are just learning how to craft a masterpiece song.
The most common problem with young songwriters is that they include lots of information in their songs that don’t really support the big idea of the song. They are leaving lots of “non-angel” pieces of granite attached to the angel. The result is songs that aren’t clear and that obscure the view of the angel that the songwriter saw originally. Usually, when I see one of these lines, I ask the songwriter “How did you see this line supporting your big idea in this song?” Generally, the response is something along the lines of “I don’t know, but it rhymed.” Or “We thought it was a cool line.”
Early in my songwriting career, I was driving to a co-writing session with a very big shot songwriter and I was supposed to meet him in a studio that his label has provided for us to write in. Traffic was extremely slow that day. I rushed into the writing room and frantically said, “I’m so sorry that I’m late.” Immediately, he sang what I had just said: “I’m so sorry… that I’m… late.” Having just met him and the young me being impressed by his presence, I wasn’t sure if he was serious, joking, or messing with me. I chuckled, but when he continued to repeat little things I said throughout the co-writing session and at lunch that day, I got a little annoyed. However, over the next few weeks, I found myself doing the same thing in everyday life. Without realizing it, I was turning everyday conversations into songs, and thus was born the Talk-Sing Method!
At least twice a week I get an email seeking advice on how to overcome writer’s block. For many songwriters the worst part of the whole writing experience is just getting started. Those times when we sit down to write, and nothing comes out. We feel like we have nothing to say. Well here are some techniques I’ve used to permanently eliminate writer’s block and free up creativity.
Writing a little every day. Songwriting has much to do with momentum and confidence. And we feel more confident when we do something every day. We get into a creative groove. I’ve often noticed that after I return from a vacation and sit down to write is when I struggle the most. I have to get back into that groove. It doesn’t need to a perfect song every day but on each given day you should try your best to write the best you can. Even if it is not the perfect song, you can keep it in your achieve and you never know when you will come back to it and turn it into the perfect song.