Songwriting tool: a beige guitar

I am by no means one of those prodigy songwriters who started songwriting at age 11. At that age, I was studying classical piano and trying to write soundtrack music. I thought I was going to be a soundtrack composer for years and years.

I started songwriting quite late and wrote my first when I was 21. It was a pretty bad song. My motivation for writing my first song was actually to get a scholarship for an expenses-paid songwriting camp. How’s that for romanticism? I ended up getting in and so much has changed since then.

The truth is that people write songs for a variety of reasons. Everyone has their own motivation, and during my songwriting journey I’ve met so many different songwriters who write with something different in mind. Here’s everything I’ve heard so far!

“I Have Something to Say”

Most of my songwriter friends and acquaintances that I’ve met at live gigs and competitions stress the fact that they have something to say and have to put it down on paper. Songs speak to listeners and can get your message heard in a powerful way. 

This is understandable, but right now I don’t actually expect everyone to want to hear what I want to say because it’s so incredibly world-changing. I find that a little bit pretentious and tend to be a bit cynical, in case you haven’t noticed. Personally, I write because I love it, not because I want to get a message across. If by chance my situation resonates with someone else, that’s great, but it’s not a prerequisite.

“It Makes Me Feel Good”

This is my personal easy number one answer. Writing is a sort of therapy, as it helps me get things out of my mind and definitely calms me down. Plus, I love the feeling I get when I finish a song and realise that I just created something that simply wasn’t there before.

In general, I just love the process of writing. Of course, not everything necessarily has an end. A lot of stuff simply gets trashed or left there in wait of future inspiration. Which brings me to…

“I’m Just So Inspired”

Here’s the thing. I don’t really believe in momentarily inspiration. It happens, and sometimes songwriting happens suddenly at 3 a.m. as well.

But I also believe that songwriting gets better and better with practice and that 3 a.m. inspiration is simply the result of previous practice which reaches you at an inconvenient time.

Writing songs is a journey, a learning process which grows with you. If there’s input, there will be output. Inspiration is a consequence of motivation, not part of the motivation itself.

“I Want to Perform Original Songs”

There comes a time in a singer’s career when being an excellent vocalist stops being enough. Suddenly, you realise it isn’t enough to perform cover songs and need to start performing original songs. You have two options: either you team up with a writer/producer and have someone else write songs for you, or you try writing your own. It isn’t a must, but it’s definitely worth trying.

“I Want to Write a Hit Song”

Unfortunately, when you’ve been trying to make it in the songwriting business for a while, this comes out more and more, especially at competitions. This, incidentally, is also why I’m taking a break from competitions. Once you get to know the people who make or break the industry (at least in Italy), they make it clear that if you’re writing for a famous performer, they expect a hit song. Nothing less. It gets incredibly stressful because a) it’s not the right reason to write songs and b) nobody can really predict what a hit song will sound like! Do you have any idea of how many hit songs were passed over by famous artists or industry “experts”? Hint: way too many. This shows that a hit song isn’t actually that predictable or, for that matter, replicable.

Plus, in the words of Benny Blanco (singer/songwriter who has produced major hits for Maroon 5, Rhianna , etc.), when you actually set out to write a hit song, it never works. It sounds like a song which is trying desperately to sound like a hit song. It’s the equivalent of a very needy date. No thanks.

Collaborating with people who set out to write hit songs is particularly annoying and puts too much pressure on your songwriting. It’s just the wrong mindset. The focus shifts from making something that you consider meaningful and artistic to getting a famous artist to sing your song and earning loads of money from it. Not that I’d hate it, but it definitely isn’t my main goal and I don’t set out with that in mind.

Whatever the motivation though, writing songs is a wonderful thing. I write because I don’t know how not to write (although apparently I do know how to write contorted sentences). I also think songwriting helps you connect with others, whether it’s a listener or another musician which you collaborate with in writing songs. Collaboration is key, by the way  – and more on that in a later post.

So why do you write songs or why do you want to write songs? What are you hoping to accomplish by writing a song? Let me know in the comments!

 

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