If you want to write the best songs then find the best and learn from them.
Shelly Peiken is a multiplatinum Grammy nominated songwriter. Her number 1 singles include “Come on Over Baby” and “What a Girl Wants.” She received a Grammy nomination for “Bitch” recorded by Meredith Brooks. She has many songs placed in both film and TV and multiple cuts on platinum selling albums.
In her book,” Confessions of a Serial Songwriter” she talks about writing what would have and should have been hits that were often ignored. There are less artists using A&R (Artist and Repertoire) and more are using their entourage of friends and associates. When she started out blogging about the state of the industry she realized she was not alone and her words resonated with many people promting her to write a book. The book chronicles her real life through the ups and downs of being a professional songwriter and the realities of being a wife and a mother.
In the interview with Shelly she highlights some very important thoughts about Songwriting that will help you begin crafting better songs now. Here are 6 of them:
1. Freedom breeds creativity.
Shelly has a wonderful house in LA which includes a lush garden that is her sanctuary, being able to step out of the home and the day to day and into that garden provides a free setting to write music in. Also, on a trip to New York City the moment her feet hit pavement, she began to have fresh ideas for new songs to write. Find places and moments to be free to create. Find some solitude, run in a park, eat some great meals, above all allow yourself some time to just experience the moment and all the emotions each moment holds. Science versus art must be balanced. Each must be given its’ proper time.
2. Life, don’t miss it. Shelly shares a story from Bruce Springsteen’s book that really hit home with her. In his house he had a signal for when he was working and his family knew not to disturb him. At one point he was told, “you are going to miss it.” Shelly made the difficult decisions to step back during some of her career to attend the plays, the games, the clubs. She wouldn’t trade those moments for anything. Don’t miss out on life, it gives you inspiration.
3. Influence not Infringement. You cannot be in the world today and be untouched by the sights, sounds, and words that you hear on a regular basis. This is true for artists. Everything you see and hear will leave an impression either for the good or bad. You will have some of those moments come out in your work. It takes some finesse to evaluate and guide through those areas so that you aren’t stealing someone else’s work but also so that you are not blocking flow of the moment.
4. A ‘great melody and amazing lyric will always win.’ As the times change you may find yourself not relating to the 20 year olds as you once did. This is normal, but can be frustrating when you don’t seem to speak their language. Shelly is honest that the modern and vernacular and “swagger” in today’s songs is sometimes difficult for her to relate to, but her career speaks to her incredible talent and ability. A good melody and a good lyric is still a good melody and a good lyric. She says it has been helpful to complement her ability and strong songwriting skills with someone that can help to bring in the modern and young influences. Shelly is very humble and often Collaborates with writers who bring out modern influences.
5. Be thankful your best doesn’t come first. Shelly becomes brutally honest in this portion of the interview about how she is truly thankful that her hit singles did not take place until about 10 years into her career. She truly believes that working hard before having the success of a hit single, taught her what she may not have learned otherwise. She has learned perseverance and fortitude in an industry that requires both.
6. Advocate for songwriter’s rights. We all remember and can probably sing a few of the lines to the 70s hit “Video Killed the Radio Star” first recorded by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club and then by the Buggles with Horn and Downes. A lot of the difficulties for new artists both songwriters and musicians is the decreased ability to financially survive due to the affects of streaming. Artists don’t get credit for their entire albums because people are going after the singles on various search engines. The entire story is not being told and songwriters are not getting the financial recognition they deserve to continue to develop music. Shelly and several of her friends started the advocacy group SONA. Please visit SONA for details on membership, how to get involved, and how to save music and give the musical artists a chance to survive while doing their craft and passion.
Check out the full interview for a glimpse into this amazingly resilient and talented songwriter and a deeper understanding of the viewpoints that are often unheard.
I hope you enjoy the interview with Shelly and find the songwriting tips helpful. For more on songwriting you can pick up her book, “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter”, here.
We are giving away 5 signed copies of her book.
Enter the giveaway to the right, remember, the more actions you take the greater your chance of winning.
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