Songwriting: Part 2

erica bryan, beaverdamusa.com, behind the micNote: Last week, Erica posted the first of a two-part blog. You can read it here.

The second part of my 2-part post is about my songwriting. Now, let me preface this by saying I am in no way an expert at writing songs and am still learning new things every day. I have, however, been privileged to receive the highest remarks from the Nashville Songwriting Association about my songs. In fact, they chose my song “This House Is Haunted” to be in their list of the best Top 40 songs written. Maybe their bar is low, or I just got lucky, but either way, it was nice praise for a novice songwriter like me!

I’ve realized that my best songs come from first-hand emotional experiences. Those songs flow freely and effortlessly out of me and end up turning out the best. When I can’t think of ideas right off the top of my head, I journal about what I’m feeling that day or what strong memories I have that have deeply affected my life. Then from there, I can usually come up with an idea or title for the song. In most cases, I start with the title and go from there. However, many times I find that when I start writing the song, it evolves into something totally different and the title and direction changes.

Most writers have a strength. Some writers are melody people and some are lyricists. Of course, many claim to be both, but I’ll let you in on a secret- most people lean towards one strength! My strength is lyrics. Lately I’ve been writing songs by myself and will do the melody on my own, but when I feel like there could be a stronger melody, I will try to co-write with someone whose strength is melodies. That’s how I wrote my debut single, “This House Is Haunted.” 

I started with an idea I had based on my first-hand experience of breaking up with my boyfriend. I had to pass his house every day and so I started writing a song called “Pass By Your House.” (I know, it sounds lame when I look back on it too) I had some lyrics penned down and the main line that stood out to everyone when I brought it into my co-write with Tammy Jacobs and John Milstead was “I go to bed sleeping in your old t shirt, it’s like you’re wrapped around me.” From that line, and everything I had described to them about my break-up, Tammy came up with the better title “This House Is Haunted.” (Tammy is also a lyricist) From there, John (who is the melody machine) came up with the melody and we started writing the chorus. Writing the chorus first is, in my opinion, the best way to steer the direction of the song. If you write the point of the song first, then the verses are easier to come up with. We wrote the chorus first, the verses second, and the bridge last. 

Co-writing is great because you have multiple people’s ideas and creativity in the song. You also have accountability–people who won’t let you put just any mediocre line in the song because you want to move on. Co-writing challenges you to write the best possible melodies and lyrics. But, sometimes co-writing feels like dating. Many times you write with writers you don’t know at all. It’s such a weird phenomenon: you have to spill your emotional baggage to a stranger upon meeting them, and then try to write a good song about it. Sometimes you click and sometimes you don’t. I’ve gone to many co-writes where I felt like I had the best idea ever and thought it was going to be a hit and then the writer and I didn’t see eye-to-eye and the song ended up being a flop. But, like dating, you just move on, and hope you can write a better song next time! 

Lately, I’ve been busy writing songs by myself and with other people, and I can’t wait to share some of my new stuff with you all next year on my first EP! I’ll be playing songs for my producer soon…so I’ll keep you updated on how that goes! 

My Songwriting Journey, Part 1

erica bryan, beaverdamusa.com, behind the micNote: First of 2 parts.

My journey with songwriting started when I moved to Nashville. After a few weeks of living here, I had a meeting with Brian White, who ended up getting me a job interning at his brand new publishing company called SB21 Music. The CEO is Steve Pasch, who wrote the Number 1 hit for Lenny Kravitz, “Stand By Your Woman,” among many other songs, and Brian wrote the Number 1 hit for Rodney Atkins, “Watching You,” as well as many other big country hits.

They needed someone to register their catalogue of songs, keep things organized, and answer the door when the writers arrived for their co-writes. I had no knowledge of songwriting or music publishing at all. Honestly, I don’t even think I knew what a Music Publishing Company even was. But soon enough, I was in the middle of listening and watching songwriters write songs every day and learning about copyrights and registering songs with PRO companies (the people who count your radio play and then give you your money!). I also learned that many artists write their own songs. I just thought that artists sang other people’s songs, but I learned that songwriting is an essential step in becoming an artist.

So, I decided to try my own hand at songwriting.  The SB21 writers were so sweet to me and often mentored me about songwriting. After I was done interning for the day, the writers would sit me down and give me tips on how to write a song. I got out a pen and paper and wrote down everything they said and would apply the principles at home with my own songs. They would tell me things like the use of opposites (like Katy Perry’s song “Hot N Cold”…tons of opposites in there!) and mixing tempos between the verse and chorus- I began to look at all music differently and see these techniques being used in songs on the radio.

Then, right before I left the publishing company to go work for Reba’s Business, I asked Brian if he would co-write with me as a Christmas gift. (I wasn’t getting paid, so I figured they owed me one!) He agreed, and there it was, my first co-write of all time, with someone who had written a Number 1 song. I have a feeling not everyone gets to do that on their first go at it- but also feel that no one should…I quickly realized the songs I had brought in were elementary and anything but impressive. But, he kindly gave me some pointers and we did end up finishing my first song called, “Faster Slow Down.” (Can you say opposites?!)

Since that first co-write, I’ve written with many other great writers, and am happy to say that my songwriting has vastly improved. I’ve even gone back and written with the writers at SB21 Music, so everything has come full circle.

Stay tuned for part 2, about how I approach songwriting and how I come up with lyrics and ideas, and give some insight about how I wrote my last single.

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