Do you know your strength as a writer or artist and can you identify your weakness? I mean honestly … Can you?
Over a bunch of years writing for artists and working with publishers in the US and UK it got easier for me to get real with myself and answer this question. A great publisher will answer it for you, so will a really good co-writer but deciding for yourself is huge especially if you’re writing without a net. You’re competing with the best there is trying to get a piece of an ever shrinking pie. A song on a record.
Your best chance is to play off your strength. What makes you unique?
Focusing on your strength doesn’t mean you can’t hone your other skills, it just means being honest with yourself when it comes to putting yourself out there. I always felt one of my strongest attributes was being versatile. I could switch genres and write a country song, pop song, R&B song, just the track, just the music/ melody and this is still what does it for me. I’ve had songs cut in all these styles but… and it’s a big but.. what do I really bring to the table as a songwriter that one hundred other writers can’t?
I’ll give you a good example. I live in Nashville and for years was signed to publishing deals that were either based , or had offices in the UK. Lot’s of pop music. I would still work with the Nashville office and write for country artists and had a great publisher in Steve Markland at Windswept Pacific in those days. He would set up some wonderful co-writes with people like Marcus Hummon, Neil Thrasher, Craig Wiseman and more. Some worked, some didn’t ,but the common denominator was being comfortable enough to try and bring whatever was different about my writing to complement their strengths.
Just because I had some ideas for a country song didn’t mean I could write it as well as they could. Hell… I couldn’t come close because they live it and breathe it. They KNOW it! What I COULD bring was the stuff I was raised on , Motown and the British invasion style of pop music. When I gave up trying to complete and just add my thing to the mix it stood the best chance of being unique and in the end, being unique is always your best shot. The guys and girls writing songs about trucks, high school and drinking parties are living it. No way I can talk about it as well as they can. It will always come up second best or worse, phoney. I talk with 40 something writers who are trying to write about Taylor Swifts world because they think that’s current.
It’s like a ticket on the Titanic.
Sorry if I’ve gone on here but it’s such a huge point and one that took a long time for me to learn. To be able to say I can do a lot of things but THIS is what I do best, THIS is my strength was a real turning point.
What is your strength? Weakness?