When I started writing music, I wrote really ambitious (and really shitty) songs with a co-writer (and my cousin, Spencer Jones, who would usually clean off the shit from the tune, the man is a genuine talent and deserves to be heard). I grew up with collaboration, but I quickly found that just because I could write well with Spencer, didn’t mean I was a great collaborator with everyone. We all have different styles, and that should be celebrated. Hell, that’s what makes collaboration a useful tool in our songwriter utility belt.
I’m going to write a post on collaboration, and I’m not going to mention Lennon and McCartney once!
What are some of the things that would make an excellent collaborator? Let’s get all of the Duh stuff out of the way.
Be open to change
Take your pride out of the equation
- Just because it’s yours, doesn’t mean it’s right, and just because they don’t like your idea doesn’t mean they don’t love you or won’t love the next idea that you have.
If it’s not working with someone, STOP COLLABORATING WITH THAT PERSON
You can (and should) have multiple collaborative efforts going on at the same time.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way. Here are the meat and potatoes of the post.
Make a habit of saying, “Yeah, let’s try it”– Even if you don’t see it at the time. You’re going to feel worried/annoyed/afraid that it’s not what you want. But there are countless stories of people letting go of the reins and getting something WAY BETTER than they had imagined!
Remember that you’re not going to feel good about a new idea at first – Resist that knee-jerk reaction to say “no” and remember that’s your ego talking to you. Most ideas deserve the effort to follow the road and seeing where they lead. Which actually leads me to my next point.
Learn the difference between what sounds like a bad idea, and what you do not understand yet – I genuinely believe that every time someone gives you a new idea, you will probably not like it at first because it’s foreign to the origin of the concept. Learn to push past that initial feeling of “this sucks” and discover if the idea really isn’t worth pursuing. This is a skill that takes time to develop! It is one that should be mastered!
Some people that aren’t musicians are amazing collaborators – My good friend Danien comes to mind here. He was not a musician (well, not in the traditional sense). He was also one of my favorite collaborations. This type of partnership is perfect because you’re thinking outside the normal parameters that a musician would typically operate. Why not break a rhyme scheme here? Why can’t you go out of key on this chord? It’s not a lack of information that makes them fun to work with. It’s that they uninhibited by the rules that we’ve given ourselves that make them so useful!
Collaboration can be so much fun, and sure, it can be frustrating as well, but it almost always brings you something better than what you could do alone. You’re going to find people you like to work with. You’re going to find people that make you want to quit the game (please don’t). I would venture to say that everyone has someone they can work well with! Just think about this, if someone can work with Morrissey and make the incredible band The Smiths, objectively Morrissey’s best work, then you can stand to work with a few different people and see what you can come up with together!