Episode 93: Co-writing, The First HourAug 30, 2023
In the world of songwriting, collaboration can lead to the best results. It has the power to transform your creative process and elevate your songwriting to new heights. But, most people shy away from co-writing because of its challenges and the unknowns.
In this episode, Mike Meiers delves deep into the heart of the process and that pivotal first hour which can set the tone and pace of the entire write. Whether you're a seasoned songwriter or just starting to dip your toes into the co-writing waters, this episode is packed with insights to make your collaborative journey smoother and more fulfilling.
Mike shares invaluable tips and techniques for starting co-writing sessions on the right note. Tune in to to elevate your creative process and redefine your understanding of co-writing.
Read the a.i. generated transcript below or listen on anywhere podcasts are streamed.
All right, so co writing the first hour sounds like a trilogy, co writing the first hour, they thought it was going to be easy. It was difficult, they made mistakes, but they can fix it. And this is why I want to get into that first hour. Now, this is not for somebody, that's a dabbler. So if you're someone that you know, doesn't want to do this professionally, isn't really interested in doing it professionally, frankly, doesn't want to connect with others and better their skills. This is not meant for you. This is not your episode. But if you're someone that wants to better their rights move in that direction of professionally, whether it be you want to get a cut from an artist, or you want to get a placement and you understand the value of CO writing. This episode is absolutely for you. Now, I should say, I'm not going to get into the things before the CO right I just, I've talked a lot about this in previous podcasts, make sure you talk to that person before you meet. So whether it's via text, you hop on Zoom, whether it's Fox or talk,
just talk talk about how they like to write how you like to write, what are their strengths, so that you have kind of your roles decided before you meet and what the intention of the song is, what are you trying to do? Are you going for licensing? Are you trying to go for an artist placement? Those are, those are so many different things. Those are different routes to it. So remember, discuss that before you meet. And I've done lots of podcasts. And I've been on podcast where I talked about how that is so important. But we're talking about the first hour like you're in the right.
So and this goes for whether it's in person or whether you're on Zoom, because I do both. I love both. I don't think one is better than the other. I always love both of them. And this works for both of them as well. So in that first hour, this is where I'm discussing about like, you know, I meet with them. And I go How was your week? How are you? That's right, I talk about Hi. I don't just go like, hey, let's write even if we have been talking, I like to just check in. How are you if they traveled here? How's the traffic was crazy? Do you want something to drink? Here? Get a cup of coffee, let me pour it. Like I want to make them feel welcome. And same thing on Zoom. I like to be like, how are you doing? How's your day? Are you doing good? I genuinely care. Because I think those first five minutes, you're not going to waste time, it's just good to do a check in with them. Because sometimes I've had the best conversations, or we've had something where I was about to put you know, we're about to go down this road. And I was like, You know what, we're not gonna do that, I just want to, let's just chat a little bit more, let's just get them centered. Because that first hour, I want them to be present, I want myself to be present, I feel like those first five or 10 minutes of just chatting is really good. It's very centering, so that it's beneficial long term for the health of the right.
And after that, we go, okay, let's take listen to our reference. Regardless if it's for an artist, if it's for sync, we have some sort of song reference of what we're feeling. And we listen to it collectively, even if we've listened to it individually. It's something about in a group just being like, Oh, that's right, that's what we're going for, we talked about what we like about the song, you know, some of the great little spots of like, I love how they do that in the chorus is has such a, you know, this has a dark side, this has such an uplifting vibe that we talked about the things that we love, so we can identify key moments in our reference. And from there, that's where we start to get into and we're like, Okay, well, you know, if we don't have any ideas, which I love to bring, try not to come empty handed. If you're a lyricist, try to have a few title ideas. If you are a melody, music person, try to have just maybe a melody or two, maybe some chords that have a particular particular vibe, feel that just kind of pull it in that direction.
That's what I think is super, super important. So we've got we've chatted, we've kind of like, listened to our reference, then we start to just exchange some ideas, then somebody has a Google doc going, if you're in person, you know, if you're in my studio, I have a screen and we're all looking at it. If you're on Zoom, you both can have it up. And what I love about it is you can edit, everybody can edit and see edits being made and look at the big picture. But right verse one chorus, verse two, and then in a sentence, try to distill what you want the idea to be like, what's the big picture idea in the chorus? And what is the story happening in verse one, verse two, I find that when you do like one sentence, it forces you to get a little specific to narrow down your ideas. And also make sure that you're not overlapping that first one and two are just not the same thing again and again. And if you do that, before you start I think writing initially, you you stop yourself from just like saying the same thing again and again. You have like, oh, you know, first one, we're trying to say that things aren't gonna get better. But then verse two is about like, but maybe you entertain the idea that things could. Oh, okay. See, I'm also talking these things out as a group and CO writing, it's important not to think in by yourself.
Because when we're writing individually, we tend to get in our own heads and overthink. But I love to talk through my ideas, even if they're not finished ideas. That's the whole point of CO writing, you're not meant to finish the idea. It's better if you've got a half idea, because that's where your co writer comes in and plays off that half idea. And goes like, oh, you know, it'd be great if you did this. And I go, Whoa, how did you do that? If I would have remained quiet or just tried to complete that idea, I wouldn't have allowed my co writer to then go like, Oh, let's try this. Why don't we attempt this. So remember, don't try to don't be so
kind of in your own head and quiet. Because quiet and silence is the killer of all co writes, I love to talk. And so that means if I'm, I have my guitar, and I'm still not clear on the melody idea, I still play through and I'm singing it out. And I'm checking in with my co writer be like you read I thought this is feel good? Or is, Am I off from the reference or you feel? So I'm engaging in conversation? I'm asking them questions. And likewise, they're asking me, does that title make sense to you? Or am I being too clever? Like, we're talking this out? We're not thinking in our own heads. Because again, silence is going to kill that right. So remember, we're storing the code, right? By being like checking in. And then we're listening to our reference. We're exchanging some ideas. We're writing out the concept in a clear Google Doc. And then we're engaging in the beginning process of the right, the the lyrical concept, the melodic concept. Now, as we start to let's say, I love to write courses I love starting with that big picture idea, that course, so we're kind of going in, and I'm thinking, cool. What do you think about these first couple chords, and maybe I'm singing a melody over top of it. And I'm looking at the lyrics that they're writing in the Google Doc, and I'm just singing it out. I'm just singing it out. And I'm doing different ones. I'm constantly kind of going through melodies, half melodies, I may go back to a reference and listen a little bit and be like, Oh, that's right. They do kind of like this cool little arc, and it really soars, I need to make sure that I'm not going under, I'm not going too low. So it's like, as our ideas are forming, and we're getting more and more formation, we may just go back to a reference really quick and just kind of check in like, is it kind of sitting a little bit? Again, with those references, I'm not saying carbon copy. I'm purely saying, like, does it feel like we're in the ballpark of it, we're not getting wildly off, we're not falling in love with something that may be cool, but has no particular use for the thing we're trying to create. Far too many times, people are not checking back in with their reference, they're not re kind of re centering with the initial intention of the write. They're just getting so in love with the idea that they just allow it to, you know, be born and they're like, We did it, but then they can't do anything with it. I think a mature songwriter is willing to admit when the idea is great, but has no use for the intention of the initial right and being like, you know what we're getting really off track, we need to let's go back. And let's start again. And that's hard. Sometimes that's hard in the first half hour, 40 minutes to be like, we got to do this, we got to recenter. But it's way better than spending two or three hours with an idea that has no purpose. And I think that's the thing too, with CO writing your quieting your ego a ton. And allowing yourself to admit when something is like, yeah, you know what, that's, that's not what this is meant for. So throughout this, right, we're checking in, and maybe we have some loose, loose structure in the lyrics. And maybe I have a loose structure in the melody. And this can happen for either a melody person or lyricist. Sometimes we want to refine it too early. This is where the it's the job of the other co writer to pull them out of that rabbit hole and be like, Hey, man, I think we're sitting well with like, maybe the syllable count. And we really love the melodic flow. Let's see if we can just work a little bit on verse, we can always come back to this. So whether you're getting stuck, or you see your co writer trying to like trying to refine things way too early, when we're not sure about the other parts. You know, we're trying to be like, let's rewrite this course can we can find a better way. Hey, I bet we can. But I want to get an idea of like, melodically in the verse one where it needs to go. So it's the job of the CO writer to pull their other co writers out of the rabbit hole and vice versa. It everybody's gonna get stuck there or kind of caught in their own head or maybe not crazy about their idea or feeling like oh, it's not there yet, or it's not that perfect or I'm missing a word. We're missing a part in the melody. It's the job of the other partner to pull them out of it and be like, Hey, man, that's okay.
Don't worry about it, we'll come back to this. Let's see if we can just get this. It's their job to remind them of the big picture, hey, don't worry about this little tiny piece right now, let's just remember the bigger picture, let's work on this, we can always come back to this, I love when I have a co writer remind me of that. Because that helps me when I see that in CO writes to be like, Hey, come on, let's get that first first. Because that's where you get the traction, you're not losing traction, and getting hung up over a certain part. Because that's where frustration starts to, like, bury yourself in that that area. And that's where you get, you start to get a little like, a little frustrated, angry, little annoyed. And that's where you're kind of like you stop the valve of creativity from flowing. Because you're telling it, it's not good enough. It's not there. I don't like it. And this is where the critical attitude comes in. And you just start getting short, and you start getting quiet. And that's where the write goes south. So when you have a co writer, friend that can pull you out of it and be like, Hey, it's okay, let's not get caught up on this. Let's move into this section. They keep that creative vow flowing, so that we can get into an idea of that first verse. And then we can try first verse in the chorus and decide like, hey, we want to go straight into it, or it's like, you know what, let's have this just a little tiny pre right here. Again, this first hour of CO writing, if this was like a painting, this is just a quick sketch, we're getting an idea. We're not solidifying everything. But we want to be able to see just the slight structure. So you can be like, Okay, I like where this is going, it's easy to change things. When it's like this, it's a lot easier to maneuver things around, the more we solidify, and the more specific we get, the harder it is to move things around, the more like specific and like they get really like, this is what it is. But in that first hour, we're allowing things to move around, we're allowing things so that as you start to go in and you're almost like at that hour mark, you can check in and be like, Hey,
how are we feeling? Here? You know what I think we got, you know, first verses shaping up and, you know, the chorus we like, we may have to you know, now that we've got the verse, we may want to cut back on just like a few words in that third line of the chorus. I think that's too much, we're saying that, you know, we don't need to say that, we can actually simplify it a little bit. Cool. I like that. I've had those conversations. But that first hour is so good in, right. That's where you want to be, you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to have everything buttoned up.
But you can have just a general rough structure, that if somebody came in the room, let's say I popped into the Zoom Room or in the person room, you could play me just a rough idea of your chorus and verse. And I could go in there and be like, cool. Like, I can give you some advice on what needs to happen. Now I can listen to your reference and be like, oh, you know, hey, you know what this made me tweak a little bit because like your verses, where do you in your courses? Where do you if you look at your reference, they have a nice open course it's not too wordy. It's really open. But the first is, you know, has a static melody and rapid fire. So let's just keep it I can give advice on that end. So remember, that's where you want to be in that first hour. And I know it's hard. It's tough. Because not everybody writes like this. And I've heard that too, where people are like, Well, Mike, I'm not in that place right now. That's okay. But that's why you have a guide, or essentially, I wanted to do something like this to show. This is kind of a general roadmap of where you should start. This is what you should start doing. I think the big thing is consistent communication with your co writer. That is what's going to keep the right moving in the right direction, no pun intended, or it's going to show you when you guys get incredibly often you need to recenter and maybe start again. It sucks but I would rather do that early on until way later and then I have a song that I can't do anything with