Songwriter's Corner|

Photo: Ric Cabot Podmore | Ric Cabot Podmore, singer/songwriter/musician/sound engineer, posed a hypothetical statement on Facebook: “Please don’t call yourself a ‘Songwriter’ until you can compose ALL of the music and create ALL of the lyrical content alone”. Here are some of the comments from Facebook friends starting with. . .

Jack Schwartz: .I totally agree. There is a necessary skill required in writing a song from the ground up through completion. However, as a songwriter there is also a real joy in collaboration as well. I love when someone provides a cool riff, passage or rough idea that I can then build off of.

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Jeff Gadd: I totally disagree. Yes, you can do it by yourself but the number of songs written by 2 more songwriters is probably like 95%. Adding people that have strengths you don’t have is the key. So you’re saying that anyone that collaborated on a song isn’t a songwriter?

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Jennifer Crestol: Oh well I guess I need to change my bio…

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Guy Allison suggests:
They were pretty good songwriters…

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Jeff Paris: Well the way Ricky’s looking at it is all of those guys who could write songs alone ?but who also collaborated are songwriters when writing by themselves. And when they’re teaming up as lyricists and music composers they are “co-songwriters?.”

You can say they’re songwriters working together, but the difference between solo songwriters and people who always collaborate highlights certain public misperception.

Elton John is credited as a songwriter when in fact he has always been a co-songwriter. We know that Bernie Taupin not only writes the lyrics, but brings the finished lyrics to Elton before any collaboration even begins. Yet Elton gets most of the credit.

In the case of Burt Bacharach/Hal David, all the credit and all of the praise seems to go to Bachrach. Hal David is relatively ignored but the fact is they were hits because the two are co-writers. They deserve equal praise.

I think the arduous task of going it alone a la Stephen Sondheim is probably what motivated Ricky to post this.

Shouldering the full responsibility of your creation is some heavy lifting, but those of us who have taken the task on over the years are comfortable with it.
It gets even more gnarly… I was told that the seriously old school Paul Williams/Jimmy Webb generational guys would write a dummy arrangement for their lyrics and then at the session rely on session musicians to re-harmonize the music.

When I asked “wasn’t that songwriting collaboration” the person who told me the story said “they said “nah, that’s arranging, for which we paid a fee.”

It’s a giant canna worms wrapped in an enigma packaged in a paradox.

Those of us, like me, who started out as completely solo self-reliant songwriters who both wrote lyrics and music… In my case,… had to actually learn how to collaborate. Collaboration is a completely different songwriting experience, requiring a very different skill set than when writing everything yourself.

But the bottom line is whatever the process is, you end up with a finished song and who gives a shit about any of this anyway? These days we’re only gonna make about $16??!!

As Andre Fisher once commented to me when I explained? to him that I had finally gotten comfortable with collaboration/co-writing… “Jeff you discovered that when you’re working with somebody else on a song it’s not your thing, and it’s not their thing… It’s “THE thing.”

Well the way Ricky’s looking at it is all of those guys who could write songs alone but who also collaborated are songwriters when writing by themselves.

And when they’re teaming up as lyricists and music composers they are “co-songwriters?”

Ric to Jeff: hank you brutha!!! You wanna co-write something with me? HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Jeff: After all that jaw flapping about songwriters write by themselves??? You know we’ll never hear the end of it from all these guys if we do!! However be that as it may throw anything you want at me in any form and I’ll pitch it back to you. These days I always start with the words. You live in Denver right ?

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Ric: Thank you all. Now that I have an audience, I can say how disappointed I am that, once again, I have proven the point of what social media has done to us as a society. The point… it’s not “what” we are reading, it’s “how” we are reading. Everyday, EVERY SINGLE DAY, I post a message designed to be thought provoking and inspirational. I do this in hopes that maybe someone, somewhere will be motivated in some way and that perhaps I’m making a difference in this world.

I scroll up this thread and I see names that I NEVER see under a “Note From The Captain”. No “Thank you, Ric,” or in the reaction box… nothing… crickets. Let alone the fact that I shared the devastating loss of a dear friend to suicide earlier this week and again, not much from those who commented above. But let me throw out a very trivial and pretty meaningless opinion of how I feel professionally, and look how quickly you all ‘pounced’. Kinda saddens me.

Back to the “what/how” point… where did this post say anything negative about collaboration? Some of my best work was done with Charlie McCormick, Norm Peterson, Mark Griffin and Phil Stone. I can’t count how many times I’ve said “yes” when someone asks to work with me. I love having something fresh from another garden, it’s always great. But also know this… roughly 75% of my catalog was created by me alone. I believe that gives me the right to state my original thought. I can legitimately call myself a Songwriter.

The issue I have now is that the music industry has had such an artistic collapse of integrity, that I feel uncomfortable calling myself a Songwriter anymore. Hence the “Song Craftsman” title I’ve chosen. Why? Because the landscape is littered with wannabes who proclaim to be Songwriters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people wanting to be creative. Once again, I encourage it daily. But, in my book a true Songwriter writes the ENTIRE song. Read that again (lesson in “how” we read), a TRUE Songwriter writes the entire song.

I like how passionate all of you were in picking some amazing collaborative teams. It reminds me of just how powerful music can be. Again, I said NOTHING negative about them OR the art of collaboration. Let’s read that one again…”The Art Of Collaboration” (I really do need to write a book). However, I guarantee you two (2) things about ALL of the names listed above. 1). They would all proclaim the individual parts as either Lyricist or Composer. Bernie Taupin would never tell you that he added a bridge in one of Elton’s songs. But he would proudly proclaim to be the Lyrical Content Creator (Lyricist). And 2). Believe or not, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that, at one point or another, they all wrote songs alone… every one of them [Editor’s note: The movie Rocket Man highlights that fact.]

The last thing I’ll say here is that I’m relatively certain that most of you who chimed in above have never listened to any of my work, which is probably why you ‘pounced’ so quickly. I don’t care if you think I’m great or I suck. I’ve been caught in that paradigm my entire career… half the world telling me how great I am and the other half telling me I suck. Whatever. But I do care that you respect me, enough to realize that I’ve worked my ass off for my craft. Now, it’s Sunday morning… go eat some fuckin’ waffles.

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Michael Schmidt: Expecting respectful responses to your post on a platform that has been leveraged and built primarily to divide people (even when they agree on any given topic) is IMHO one of the core “issues” with your sentiment.

Are there folks out among us who actually read entire posts before commenting? Sure. But they are few and far between – again, IMHO.

I’ve written with collaborators, and also, on my own. I’ve been told by some that I suck and should give up, while being told by others that they love everything about my songs. Some of what I consider my best work has been with collaborators when I’ve been fortunate enough to work with generous, creative and kind people. Some of those collaborative efforts have been soul sucking, egomaniacally driven exercises in frustration and futility that resulted only in what I consider junk. This is why I am SUPER picky about who I spend my valuable time collaborating with in the first place.

Photo: Ric Cabot Podmore

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