A couple of years ago, I was scheduled to write songs with a pretty well-known rock band. They wanted to write at 9 PM at a remote house they had rented for a month so they could write their record. When I arrived, I first noticed the kitchen table COVERED with mostly empty Jack Daniels and Jim Beam bottles. Several of the guys were on the back-deck smoking something a little funny. It was nearly 10 PM when we finally started writing. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that they started throwing out CRAZY lines that didn’t have anything to do with anything.
I tried to be diplomatic and gently lead them toward lines that were better than the ones they were contributing. Finally, one of them turned to me in frustration and said “Dude, it doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to SOUND good.” I knew we were at a turning point in the evening. I was either going to get myself invited to leave or we were going to write a good song.
6,000 demos to get 100 artist cuts. By now, you have heard me countless time saying that I have demoed over 6,000 songs and have just over 100 cuts. That’s not a great cut to demo ratio. I don’t even want to know what percentage that would be. But I have discovered that one of the keys to being successful is failing a lot while keeping your enthusiasm up. My first song catalogue contained over 2,000 songs. From that catalogue, I had 1 top ten hit, one major album cut, one single that died at 37 on the chart and a few independent cuts.
Quantity songwriting is your education. Those 2,000 songs were my “education”. I was learning to write while I wrote them, and I was getting better all the time. Almost all of those cuts came in the last year of a 3-year deal. In catalogue #2, I had two multi-week #1 songs and quite a few cuts. Things started to pick up significantly. I had learned a lot from the first catalogue, and I was writing much better songs.
When I first started trying to write as a profession, I gave myself 2 years to chase my dream of becoming a songwriter. At the same time, I was producing for artists as a freelancer and I was working in a music recording studio in Tehran as the sound engineer. The one-year mark came and went quickly, and I was almost nowhere near the first-year checkmark of my two-years plan. I had made a tiny bit of progress, but not much. The thought crossed my mind that I was halfway through with my “plan” but I told myself that I still had another year to get things going. When I got to the 18-month mark, I began to freak out a little. I really wanted it to work. I had bet everything on this career change. And I had 6 months to do what I had not been able to do in 18 months. The pressure was on. The pressure was not only on. It was debilitating. Smothering. I froze up. I could hardly write at all or when I was writing it was just keep getting rejected and I was very frustrated by all the rejections. And I didn’t succeed by my deadline. I did have one glimmer of hope on the horizon that convinced myself to change the plan a bit and give myself some more time.
Your innocence is your major asset. One of the things I love about working with young writers and artists is just the innocence they bring to the writing process. They aren’t bitter or jaded. They aren’t worried about what radio will think – this can be good or bad. They just want to write a great song – a great song that they love. While I am writing this, my current example of this kind of writers is Sam Veil. He used to be a busker for years until we met in 2017 and he joined Flipside and I started mentoring him and producing for him. In his busking years, he wrote a lot of songs and when we met, he was singing his songs on his guitar and I was stunned. Not only by his creativity, but mainly for the feeling these songs had. It was a very long time I hadn’t had the chance to sit with such a fresh writer who is writing songs so simple yet so pure. His songs had the innocent of a child and the experience of a grown man! Perfect combination. That was the reason when we met, on the same day I offered him to work together, and two years past today and we are still working together and in fact Sam is an established singer / songwriter in Singapore now.