I read an article about Adele, after she had broken the record for the biggest debut for an album ever. She was asked why it took her 4 years to come out with a new album. Her respond to that question was quite interesting. She had recorded more than another album’s worth of songs in the meantime and scrapped all of it to start over. Her response was, “You’re only as good as your next album”. She explained that she wanted the album to be great and that the previous material was good, but not great. This is one thing that I actually believe in, but also on the other hand I disagree when the uprising artists work one year on one track and a few years on an album. The reason this theory is that when an artist is just upcoming and trying to build a brand out of their name and their music, they should work harder and release as many quality songs as they can. When that name / brand is built, then it's time to take it slower and release only the songs that they're confident enough about them that they can bet their life on.
I hear people all the time talking about “trusting their gut”. While I am a big proponent of that in many ways, I have discovered that the “trust your gut” strategy has cost me thousands of wasted dollars when it comes to my songs.
When I got my first writing deal, my gut had urged me to demo around 20 songs at a cost of $6,000 or more out of my own pocket. That same gut told me that these songs were awesome. Awesome enough to get cut. Awesome enough to be on the radio. I had pitched these songs around the town and met only with rejection. I was perplexed because my gut is usually right in other areas of my life. It has literally saved my life on several occasions. So, I blamed the people hearing my songs. “They don’t know a good song when they hear it.” “They just want the same old thing.” “They are biased in favour of ‘their’ writers.” You know the drill. But...
I am primarily a composer and producer. I contribute to lyrics on my songs, but that’s not my strength when it comes to English language songs. Because my vocabulary is not that wide (yes, I am still working on it) and more importantly because most of the time I “think in Persian” language. So, I try to stay with my strength and put most of my energy on composing melodies, arrangement and whole production.
By definition, a lyricist is someone who writes the lyrics (words) for a song. If you write without any regard for how those lyrics will work musically, you are a poet, not a lyricist. I can’t build a car part without any regard for how and where it will fit into the car. I have to work hard to make sure MY part fits into the car and works with the other parts. So, if you only write lyrics, here are some things I would suggest.
A lot of folks’ emails are asking if I can tell them whether an idea is good and worth pursuing. Though I’d love to give an answer, I generally believe it’s better to teach a man to fish, than hand him a fish. This is what my mentors did for me and I’m lucky he didn’t give me the answers. Instead, they gave me questions! So, I’d like to share with you some questions I ask myself before spending too much time on an idea:
Does your song idea feel real or clever? Real always trumps intellectual or clever in my book! I like to find a lot of ideas that happen naturally in conversation. Like when I, or the person I’m talking to, says something with conviction. I’ve gotten some of my biggest songs this way. Especially with artist co-writes. Artists are great at expressing themselves. That’s their job! So, I like to take things they say and feel — and then write it!