We get it - a songwriting session can be intimidating. It certainly was for me (the author of this article), in my brief stint as an aspiring music producer. In fact, to this day, I remember the apprehension and fear of judgement that used to keep me company during my first experiences. Alas, I eventually decided that it wasn't for me and hung up my hat.
Turns out, everyone tends to feel like a fish out of the water initially. Often, it’s more about sticking to it, enjoying the learning curve and getting to a place where sharing ideas becomes a self-guiding flow.
Keen to get some guidance and specific knowledge for all of you reading this newsletter, I reached out to a bunch of overachieving peeps in the industry asking their opinions on how to create a safe and flourishing environment for a creative session - got priceless wisdom in return.
Part of the new generation of Swedish songwriting and production wizards, Dag Lundberg has taken part in some of the biggest records of the last few years, earning him more than a billion global streams. Check out 2021’s smash hit ‘Where Are You Now’ (Lost Frequencies and Calum Scott), or last year’s ‘Call It Love’ (Felix Jaehn and Ray Dalton).
Asked to give a piece of advice to everyone who might feel intimidated or insecure about writing collectively, Lundberg gives a very honest and inspiring answer: “I still sometimes struggle with that when I work with writers or artists that I really admire. And I know of writers way more successful than myself that feel similar things from time to time. So first of all, you’re not alone! I guess the main problem is that these feelings are terrible for creativity. So for example I’ll fall into the trap of filtering and censoring myself and then I end up with nothing except a distracting feeling of pressure to come up with something great, just to prove that I’m not shit at this. I’ve recently had a few sessions where I felt about as useful as a rubber duck.”
A fierce believer in pursuing what’s best for the song, Lundberg warns: “Openness is key! Be unapologetically open! And I think the ability to kill your darlings and leave your ego at the door is a crucial part of that. The fact that you get personally attached to a melody or a lyric doesn’t make it better, but it does make you biased. So keep an open mind and don’t cling to stuff. You can always come back to ideas later. Maybe that first hook idea was actually the best one after all but you wouldn’t really know if you weren’t prepared to sacrifice it.”
Ego is one of the biggest obstacles to genuine and pure creativity. “Luckily it won’t happen as much as you begin to work on a higher level but my biggest turn-off is when people get all attached and defensive about some idea, especially when people get into intellectual arguments about why something has to be, or can’t be a certain way. A very effective way to kill a creative flow. Sure a little explanation about why you feel how you feel can sometimes help your co-writers hear what you hear, but don’t try to steer the ship with logical reasoning! We’re making music, it’s all feelings and you can’t argue with feelings.”
Being prepared is one of the best strategies for dealing with the fear of failure: “I find that showing up to these sessions prepared with a solid idea or two helps take the pressure off. I also take comfort in knowing that it’s OK to suck sometimes. People do occasionally suck even at the highest levels of the game. You’ll be back in another session another day and kill it!”
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