Alone or With Someone: Why Collaborate?

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Welcome to For a Song. I’m your host, Cari Ray, coming to you from Roast & Toast in the lakeside village of Petoskey Michigan . I was 7 and a half when my little sister was born. 7 and a half years of doing what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted…of being the master of my little kid domain. It also meant that I spent a good bit of time by myself. Mom used to get dad’s bib overalls  from this place just outside of town called the B&B discount, a one-story, low barn-looking affair with a tin roof as I recall. I have no idea who either of the Bs were, or what the place looked like inside for that matter. See, the old man who owned it allegedly had a heart condition, so children weren’t allowed. I guess all of that kiddie energy might have just been too much for his old ticker to take. Seemed like every other time we went to town, mom needed to stop at B&B. We’d roll up in our 1968 Oldsmobile and mom would wait until the gravel dust settled to head inside…leaving me, no matter the season, perched on the vinyl seat to freeze or melt to it for what seemed like hours. You could do that back then without someone calling the police. And my wise mother didn’t worry herself about how I would pass the time either…she didn’t pop in a DVD, or shove a GameBoy or i-something-or-other in my hand…she didn’t even grab a handful of toys to have in the car to keep my occupied. She just left me there…God forbid…with nothing but my imagination to entertain me until she finished shopping…and did I mention that she was always in there FOREVER.

More often than not, growing up, I was left to my own devices for entertainment…and it was usually outside…running through the woods, climbing trees, wading the crick…always inventing scenarios around my activity to make the whole experience more mentally stimulating. It was great practice for my creative little mind, but it also enhanced another natural creative tendency, the love of alone time and a drive to do things myself.

So as you can imagine, when I was introduced to the idea of cowriting songs sometime after the release of my first CD, Always On, I approached the concept with a great deal of caution. But today, with several cowriting sessions under my belt, I can tell you that cowriting…especially with the right collaborator, can produce great results…not only the song or songs that are written, but the growth it can bring to your writing in general. I really lucked out with my first co-write. The writer was a seasoned pro with some #1 county chart singles on his resume and monthly royalty checks showing up in the mail. Our first couple of days writing in his Hollywood apartment not only resulted in the songs “Your Time” and “Nothin’”, but offered some great insights for me as well. I think I had made up that pro writers had some sort of special mojo that made magical, chart topping singles just fall into their lap…so it was really encouraging to watch him agonize with me over a single line for an hour. And it was great advice when he said never to settle for a good line when you can fight a little harder for a great one.

There are lots of ways to collaborate on songwriting…from songwriter circles where writers get together to bounce ideas and songs off of each other with no assumed shared writing credit, to cowrites where one writer brings a song that they are stalled on hoping that a collaborator can help them bring it back to life, to a solid set of verses that you just can’t seem to put a killer chorus to and just hand off to a collaborator. There is also the “hey, lets get together for a couple of hours and see what comes up” cowrite.

However the little loner in you decides to collaborate, I encourage you to try it…it is a great way to get a good look at the trees in your own little forest, and to get a glimpse of the meadow on the other side. Your homework? You guessed it…save some creative water and shower with a buddy.

I’m Cari Ray, join me next time on for a song.