One of my first ever super-cool ideas for a song was butchered by a co-writer. I don’t mean he stunk it up a little, I mean what was once a cool idea became an unsightly boil on the hind end of my little catalogue of creations for all of eternity.
I still shudder when I think about how it all went down and what a WASTED opportunity it was.
The truth is I was new to Nashville. I didn’t know anything about co-writing, but people told me to do it. So, I figured it was as good a way as any to meet people. In my naiveté, it never occurred to me that just because someone SAID they were a songwriter, it didn’t mean they knew how to write a song.
I’d packed up my life in WV and moved to the ‘big city.’ I assumed that anyone who did that had to be good. Otherwise, why would you move here?
Poor Sweet Ignorant Soul
Before I knew it, I’d given a really cool idea to guy who had no idea what to do with it and no respect for me as a writer. We got together once—long enough for me to realize that I’d made a huge mistake. Not long after that, I got a note that he’d finished it with another writer (without bothering to include me) along with a bill for my 1/3 of the demo.
…I nearly pulled back my hair and took out my earrings!!!
Today, Gang, such a thing wouldn’t go down that way. I’m much, much more experienced, and I can handle a rogue if need be. (That means I can unleash my inner hillbilly, in case you didn’t catch it.)
However, the truth is there are growing pains to be had along the way. We all have them.
Since I’ve been there on a few occasions, let me give you a little advice just in case, God forbid, it happens to you as you’re wandering merrily along your way.
1. Open communication with your co-writer is not an option.
When you tell your co-writer about your super-amazing-brilliant idea, your job is communicate EVERYTHING about the idea. If you hear the song a certain way, tell them. Do not assume your brand new acquaintance can hear what’s in your head. NEVER assume that.
For example, it never occurred to me during that awful co-write experience I told you about that he wouldn’t hear the song like I did. It was just so obvious to me. …yeah, he did NOT hear the obvious.
2. Be open to hearing your idea a different way.
Before you fall off the deep end, take a step back and breathe. Consider, for a moment, that you’re wrong. What if they really did nail it and you’re the one missing it. You owe it to the song to listen with an open mind.
3. You work in service of the song.
At the end of the day, it’s not about your ego and it’s not about your co-writer’s ego. The dialogue is about the song and what serves it.
If it was your idea, and you and your co-writer can’t get on the same page, then politely ask for it back. It’s not a big deal. Just say, “Hey, this isn’t going where I wanted it to, so I’d like to take it back off the table. Let’s look for something that fits our collective styles a little better.” NO BIG DEAL. I’ve done it, and I’ve had it done to me. Absolutely no hard feelings.
Have you had an experience similar to mine? I’d love to hear about how you handled it.