I don’t believe I’ve ever used by blog to promote projects that I’m working on, but this is one I’m very excited about and wanted to share with you. Releasing March 11th! Hope you enjoy…
In September of 2013 we invited 12 worship leaders to join us for our first ever worship retreat in the beautiful Methow Valley of Winthrop, Washington. It was to be a week of worship, refreshing and new friendships. Our retreat was filled with both tears and laughter as we dug into the Word of God each day and spent time in the presence of our Lord. By the end of the week, we had written 18 new songs and recorded 21 during our morning and evening worship times! This first EP is our way of sharing a small part of that experience with the world. Our prayer is that these new songs will assist you in your prayer and worship as you continue the journey with us, closer and closer to the heart of Jesus. – Steve Rice, Executive Producer / VP CentricWorship
At the first of the year I usually find myself going through papers and files… cleaning out the old and making room for the new. This year my hope is to get one step closer to digital everything! In going through old papers tonight, I ran across notes from a brief 2013 interview with Ian Eskelin, my friend and former neighbor. Today Ian is known to work quickly. That’s how one guy can accomplish so much great work. And I have to say, the interview was no different – quick and to the point, but filled with good stuff.
I asked Ian one simple question, “What’s the best advice you could give young songwriters?”, and here’s what he said…
“Dare to Suck!”, and then he laughed. As is typical with Ian, he jokes but he’s serious at the same time, and I knew it. So I asked him to expound on that a bit. Ian explained that early in his career he was concerned about what his co-writers might think of his ideas. This, he says, inhibited his writing. In collaborative songwriting, you’ve got to throw your ideas out there no matter how silly they may seem. “Dare to suck”. Looking back, he says it’s funny how some of those ideas he might have been embarrassed of, actually made it into the songs.
Ian also shared some wise advice on finishing a song. He said he used to have about 50 half finished songs just sitting around at any time. He wanted to finish them right, and thus they just never got finished. But over the years Ian has learned how to finish and finish well. In fact, he’s known for that and is often called on as producer/writer to help artists finish out their ideas. Ian’s advice is to “go with your gut in the moment. Finish fast.” It’s best to get it done in the moment while the idea is fresh. If you stop short you may never go back. He says, “You can always change it later” if it needs it.
One more piece of advice from Ian… Ian said he used to be “selfish” and wanted all “100%ers”. He didn’t want to give away any of the song. The he hit that “sophomore slump” as he called it. He opened his mind to collaboration with others and found that the input co-writers had on the songs totally “turned his world around”. As a music publisher, I see this all the time and I’ve commented on the many benefits of collaboration in more than one blog post. You can search the co-writing tag on the right or go to this post to read more on this topic.
Ian Eskelin is a producer, songwriter, solo artist, and founding member and lead singer of the Grammy-nominated Christian Rock band All Star United. He won the Dove Award for “Producer of the Year” in 2011 and 2008, and was nominated for the same award in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012. Eskelin also has received multiple Dove nominations for his songwriting and production work with artists such as Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Stellar Kart, and Remedy Drive. As an artist and writer Eskelin has had more than thirty Top 10 singles in the United States, including 12 #1 charting songs. He has additionally had international #1 songs in various countries including Japan, Singapore, and Australia. Ian’s songs have been licensed for use on ABC, Spike TV, Style Network, the movie Soul Surfer, the movie Saved!, the trailer for the film Superbad, NBC promotionals for the show Heroes, and multiple CBS network imaging campaigns to name a few. You can learn more about Ian at www.ianeskelin.com
One of the biggest surprises for many songwriters who move to Nashville, is how much co-writing goes on in the professional circles. Venturing an educated guess, I would say that 80% or more of today’s hit songs, across most popular genres, are co-written. That’s a surprising number to most people, and the percentage could actually be higher.
A colleague of mine has often mused about the fact that songwriting might be the only art form where a work of art can be created through collaboration. He gives the example that you don’t see fine artists “co-painting” or “co-sculpturing”. He may be right that songwriting is different than painting in that way. However when it comes to music, collaboration is not a new thing. For decades (if not hundreds of years), society has created music through partnership. And we have seen the same with the writing of literature and plays. We certainly see collaboration in artistic performance everyday, with musicians “co-performing” as an orchestra, band or choir, and actors “co-acting” on the stage or screen.
Most of the professional songwriters that I know have a co-writing session on their calendar almost every day of the week. Why are so many songs co-written today, and why should you work with writing partners too?
Here are a few reasons you may consider co-writing your songs:
- LEARN SOMETHING NEW – Writing with others helps expand your possibilities – whether it’s new genres, new structures, new techniques, or something else, you’ll almost always sharpen your songwriting skills from writing with a partner. Songwriters improve in their craft much quicker when they collaborate often.
- BREAK BAD HABITS – When writing solo, we tend to fall into ruts that limit us in our growth as a songwriter. Sometimes our songs even begin to sound the same. Through collaboration we more readily realize our weaknesses and the imaginary limits that we’ve put on ourselves.
- TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE – With two or more working together on a song, it’s easier to get through the tough spots or the hurdles. If you’re writing alone and you just can’t find the right word, or don’t know what to do for a bridge, you’re stuck. With a team of writers contributing to the song, those issues are much easier to navigate. Plus… we all want to write songs that others will enjoy. If you bounce ideas off of one another, and you both like the outcome, there is a better chance that other listeners will like it too.
- GET AROUND YOUR WEAKNESS – Know what your strengths are and find someone that is strong where you are weak. For example, one of you may be strong with melody; the other with lyric. Or one may be more of an idea person and the other a “finisher”. There have been many famous songwriting teams over the years. Often when two writers find that their skills successfully compliment one another, they will become a career team.
There is another reason that professional writers collaborate today…
- GUARANTEED CUTS – Professionals know that it is more difficult to land cuts today than in years past. Since albums sales are down, artists and producers are finding new ways to build back up their income. One of these ways is by writing more of the songs on their albums and using fewer songs written by other songwriters. However, many of these artists need help from more talented writers to get hit singles. So smart songwriters work hard to develop co-writing relationships with artists and producers to help ensure they can land song(s) on recording projects.
When publishers sign new staff writers, one of the first things they will do is begin setting up co-writing appointments for the writer. Publishers know from experience that this is one of the fastest ways to help the songwriter stretch his/her muscles and grow in their craft. It’s also one of the best ways to network the writer in the music community, which leads to cuts.
It’s normal to be apprehensive about collaboration, especially when it’s with someone you don’t know very well. But co-writing has become part of the fabric of today’s music business. If you’ve never tried writing a song with someone else, let me encourage you to step out and try it. Maybe the first time will be more of a “get to know you” coffee session. You don’t have to write something the first time you get together. Do try writing with 3 or 4 different partners and see which ones are the best fit. And don’t throw in the towel immediately. It might take a while to get the hang of it, but I believe you’ll love it in the long run!