I’ve often heard that co-writing is an important part of songwriting, as it’s helpful to learn from others and develop songs further. For the past few weeks, I’ve been co-writing with a songwriter from Cottonwood, Arizona who I met at the songwriting workshop last year and so far we’ve written a couple of songs together.
She’s much further along than I am in the practice of songwriting and also has done far more performing in public. We have conference-call meetings through Zoom and one day last month I had the opportunity to visit the studio of the producer she has used to record some of her songs.
It was a rainy day and as I zig-zagged on a mountain’s winding road on the drizzly foggy afternoon, I questioned my judgment. That didn’t last long though because despite the fear that I might drive off the side of a cliff, I was really excited for my first recording session!
Although I play the guitar for my own songs, my co-writer has had more guitar playing skills so she did the music for both songs and I focused more on lyrics and melody. The first song we wrote is too high for me to sing comfortably so she’s singing that one and the second song is a holiday song. I wanted to record my own version of that one because I have a different singing style that I wanted to use and she wanted to add an additional verse to her version. This led to my first lesson in recording.
When I was singing my lyrics and melody while driving in the car without the music, my melody was a little different in parts than the guitar melody she was working on. Therefore, when it came time for me to sing my melody to her guitar track, it didn’t quite match. In the studio, I tried to change my melody to fit with the guitar, but it was so different than what I had practiced (and required a higher vocal range) that I kept struggling with it. Additionally, I had a limited time to do it over because I had to had back to Phoenix by a certain time that afternoon for an interview for an article I was working on for a local paper. Lesson: Rehearse with the music before going into the studio.
The producer was very kind and patient and we tried it a few times but then we decided that for the sake of time, that he would send me the recordings so I could practice with the guitar melody. So far I haven’t had a chance to go back there to do it over, but was still grateful for the opportunity. She’s performed our songs at a few open mics and performances and I got to see one of them when she came down to perform in Phoenix so that was cool!
I brought the recording of the holiday song to last month’s songwriting workshop and the feedback was really positive. The funny thing is that one of the producers at the workshop pointed out the exact line that I had been struggling with and said he would have liked to hear it sung more syncopated, which is the way I had been singing it in the car.
My second experience with a co-writer was with a classmate of the online songwriting class I’m taking. He was in town for a couple of weeks and contacted other members of the group in the state to co-write with. The two of us met for a couple of hours before the November songwriting workshop and started a song that day then we both stayed for the workshop. I’ve written most of the lyrics and melody, as well as a rough draft of the guitar, but it’s been really helpful to have his feedback on it and his visit to Arizona inspired the subject of the song. The song is still in development remotely, via Facebook Messenger, but I hope it gets finished one of these days because I rather like it.