"THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX"
"THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX"
A friend of mine, Stephen Hatfield asked a great question in response to my post yesterday:
". I wondered, do you think writing with an artist affords some freedom from traditional songwriting "rules" because your co-writing artist is going to sing it, and that artist may really like something that might not "necessarily" be how you would write to pitch to other Singers??? "
BINGO STEPHEN. That is one EXACT reason of writing with artists. You can write different things, in styles you might not be accustomed to as well as having a complete pitch on the song because you are pitching BOTH the ARTIST and the SONG.
And the artist might not be as limited in what they are trying to do. So sometimes the "regular rules" don't apply.
But you also might want to watch getting TOO FAR OUTSIDE the box. Some artists are so individual stylisically, they can't find a designation. Labels, publishers, producers, etc. have to be able to put some handle on people. But there are ways to "BEND some of the rules,." yet keep it in the ball park of commerciality. This is when true innovation happens.
For instance, there is often a "LINE OF DELINEATION" between some acts and their influences. You can see their influences, and target writing in those influences:
LITTLE BIG TOWN- FLEETWOOD MAC
CHRIST STAPLETON- HANK WILLIAMS JUNIOR
JASON ALDEEN- AC/DC
You can see elements in their music that are "throwbacks to earlier eras and different types of music. So by finding some of your own influences, matched up with what a younger artist might like, you can really find some interesting combinations.
And this is nothing new. You have had artists like that in the past:
DWIGHT YOKUM- BUCK OWENS
k.d. lang- PATSY CLINE
All of this helps you communicate with the artist (or ARTISTS, hopefully you will be working with more than one)
In my own case, I was fortunate to work with FRANKIE BALLARD, who was very influenced by Southern Rock, blues and R&B in addition to country. He was as drawn to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers as to Johnny Cash, and Merle.
So when we started working, we were constructing songs that sounded like more updated Southern rock. And nowadays, much of country has huge southern rock and blues elements in it.
For me, it has been a great source of enjoyment writing in the styles of THE EAGLES, RAY CHARLES, ELVIS, and others. And the artists I work with find things they didn't think they could do, or a pathway they didn't see coming.
When I write with anybody, I ask them three questions:
What song out there would you have loved to have written?
If you could write a song for anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
What style is MISSING from your song catelogue?
One friend of mine, Tucker Bouler said "ELVIS." So we wrote "ELVIS IS ALIVE IN MY BATHROOM MIRROR" A very fun song, that I put on one of my CD's and now Tucker is putting it on his Social Networking sites. A lot of fun. And it is pure Elvis.
Now don't you think some artists might be influenced by Elvis, hear that and want to work with Tucker to get something like that themselves.
So writing with artists, and helping them find THEIR voice, while using YOUR OWN influences, are when the magic happens. It is challenging, but very rewarding. And can give you a MUCH wider catelog. Because there is ANOTHER THING TO KEEP IN MIND.
Just because you are writing for a certain artist, doesn't always mean it puts that song OFF LIMITS for other artists. In Nashville we have tons of stories of some industry person hearing a song done by a singer and says "I don't care for the voice, but the song would work with..." or the opposite, " I don't care for the song, but the artist is very unique."
And you don't know when one of those artists singing your stuff, might end up with a deal. Garth Brooks, sang many demos before he was signed and went back and recorded some of the songs he had done when he became "GARTH." "FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES" was one of those songs.
So you are sort of doing this in two different tracks. To increase your own song catalogue, give you different things, and take you in directions you didn't see coming. The other is you are promoting the SINGER as well as the SONG, giving you multiple approaches and making you an overall better writer.
Try it and see what happens. When you locate an artist or two, find out what THEY LOVE musically, and what YOU LOVE musically. Take a run at writing something COMPLETELY different and see where it takes you.
Most of the time, it can be pretty interesting.
by Marc Alan Barnette