Hey y'all, Eli here. I'm going to use this space to post some weekly/bi-weekly musings, basically whenever I'm in the mood to write. It'll be mostly related to songwriting and the music business, sprinkled in with some updates about Cuttable in general. With our first Cuttable Virtual Song Camp coming up this month, today I wanted to talk about collaboration.
Many of you are here because you want to get your songs recorded by other artists. Or maybe you're an artist yourself, looking for help putting together new material. Either way, understanding what it means to work collaboratively in a creative environment is going to be integral to your success. I'm here to argue that "success" in this instance has less to do with the quality of the song you write, and more to do with the quality of the relationships you build.
I used to think I was running out of time to "make it" as a musician. I got started playing guitar late, not until my 18th birthday. I was in a constant state of anxiety around the idea that I had to be at a certain level by a certain point in my life, or I was a failure. That I had to have a Juno or a number one hit before I turned 25 or I would just have to quit. I see now that this is obviously ridiculous, but back then it was reality. A big shift in thinking for me happened when I realized I was going to be writing songs for my whole life, whether or not I had a lot of commercial achievement. I need to write, or I start to lose my mind, simple as that. I tell you this because it affected my state of mind not only as a musician and songwriter, but more importantly as a collaborator.
In my youthful ignorance, I thought I had to do everything myself, or else the art I was making was worthless. Write all the lyrics, craft the whole melody, arrange every single instrument in the production down to the ghost notes on a snare drum (and I'm the World's Worst Drummer©). And it got me abouuuuut one song a month. Working almost full-time at it. And the songs were just okay, even after beating my head against the wall for weeks. This line of thinking bled into my co-writing experience when I got into country music, and it pushed me even further away from the exact goals I was so anxious about achieving. I was suffocating my collaborators into following what I thought was the best idea, and the music (and more importantly, some relationships), suffered because of it. I feel like I've gotten much better in this regard, but it's something I still struggle with today (just ask Rich).
Any time I walk (or in our current climate, click) into a songwriting session, I have a responsibility to my co-writers. As an artist, I need to bring pieces of myself that I'm willing to share. I need titles, melodies, solid concepts, half-written choruses, half-hearted voice memos, anything to spark interest and excitement from those in the room. As a writer, my job is to support these visions from other people the best that I can. To understand everyone's strengths and weaknesses, especially my own, and how to use that information to create the best work that we can that day. To understand that saying "no" to an idea is toxic, that holding back a line because it's "too stupid/lame/boring" actually does more harm than good, and to realize that just because it's something that I came up with, doesn't mean it's the best idea in the room. I need to understand that everyone in that room is there to make the song BETTER, not worse, and to leave everyone room to do that to the best of their abilities.
But most importantly, I'm there to have a good time. I write for myself to stay sane, but I write with others to actually enjoy the process. I spent too long letting my ego and my truth get in the way of a good song and a good experience for everyone involved. And since I've recognized that and allowed myself to let go of it, my songs, like my relationships, have gotten stronger, and success is starting to follow. This is what Cuttable is all about. We want to provide the space for you to meet that next co-writer that you really vibe with, the next artist that loves your melodic sense or your lyrical ideas, or the next producer who fully understands your vision.
I'm not here to tell you how to do your job; we all know that songwriting can be an incredibly personal experience, and our processes and outcomes reflect that. But I will say that who you decide to work with, the attitude you bring to every session, and your willingness to be a positive collaborative partner will get you further than almost anything else in your music career.