Being a songwriter is a privileged career for few, and a fantastic hobby for many.
On paper, songwriting should be one of the most fun things a musician can do, yet it isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Here is a list of things that all songwriters hate:
Comparisons are something that all songwriters have to put up with, and being likened to other musicians can sometimes feel like a massive compliment. Being compared to Ed Sheeran just because you happen to play an acoustic guitar however, is not. Its lazy, uninspired, and unless you happen to be a huge Ed Sheeran fan, you’re probably not gonna like it.
Lazy comparisons may seem like something an upcoming songwriter should easily brush off, but sometimes they can have disastrous consequences. How many times have we heard a young male songwriter described as ‘the next Bob Dylan’, only for them to not live up to the hype and disappear forever.
Unfortunately this didn’t happen to Ed Sheeran. The British Bob Dylan.
This is perhaps the most annoying thing on this list, and almost every songwriter has been there. Noel Gallagher may have created an entire career out of making slight alterations to 70s guitar riffs, but it’s certainly not for everyone, and doing it by accident is the worst.
You’ve been working on a new riff / chord progression for three days, and its almost definitely the best thing you’ve ever written. You play it to your best friend, who sits there looking puzzled and finally tells you after five minutes that you’re playing Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’. (Glass shatters in background).
If you happen to be a drummer who also writes songs then my deepest apologies. But for every other songwriter / musician you’re the most annoying person in the world.
If they’re not tapping away in the background while you’re trying to write, they’re trying to convince you that a crazy double bass pedal blast beat is the perfect accompaniment to the heartbreaking ballad you’re just written about your ex. Drummers… pfft!
Generation after generation young men and women decide to become songwriters after listening to The Beatles, and with good reason. The Beatles are not only one of the most commercially successful bands of all time, but perhaps the greatest group of pop songwriters the world has ever known.
With the exception of ‘Yellow Submarine’, you’d find it incredibly difficult to criticise The Beatles, and no matter how long you’ve been writing songs for, no matter how good you think you’re songs are, you can always stick on a Beatles record and it will be 100 X better. They set the bar too high, and its just not fair.
You’ve finally done it. You’ve created a sound so unique and original that nobody can put a label on it. No lazy comparisons from friends, no tired generalisations from music journalists. Then when you upload it to YouTube the first comment reads ‘This is my new favourite Ultra-Dreamwave song’, or ‘Classic Spooncore’. Are all these sub genres really necessary?
Overly Poetic Lyrics
Bob Dylan’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’ contains some of the best examples of lyrically mastery that the world has ever heard, yet filling your songs with endless metaphors and hypersensitive imagery is a something of a tightrope walk.
Sometimes being direct is the best way to get the message across, and can have way more of an impact on the listener. Pay attention to your lyrics and try and be original, but be concise with your imagery.
Avoid writing “a thousand seagulls drowned themselves the day she took her last bite of the apple”, when you could say “I heard the key twist, and wondered if id ever get over this”.
The Pop Charts
Real songwriters (by which I mean people who actually write songs) despise the current pop charts. There are many reasons for this, and undoubtedly the biggest is that most songwriters consider songs to be the highest form of artistic output.
Without sounding like an old grouch, its pretty hard to believe that modern pop artists (with their focus groups and teams of writers) actually care about what they’re singing, and this has left popular music in a pretty sad state of affairs.
They say that in the internet age ‘if you’re good enough, you’ll be discovered’. But what use is being good in a world where making s*** is rewarded.
Ideally, you want your songs sounding as great as possible before entering the recording studio, and a good producer will help give them that extra sparkle. Some producers however, will take it upon themselves to re-write the verse, add an accordion section to the chorus, and have your drummer sing a tribal chant over the whole thing. Your songs are your children, and you don’t want producers touching them inappropriately.
Lack of Recognition
Being humble is certainly a virtue, but songwriters often get overlooked in the band dynamic. After watching a gig or hearing a new recording, most people will compliment the guitarist for their fantastic solo, the drummer for their intricate playing in the verse, or the bassist’s tight grooves throughout.
It is too much to ask for someone to just point out how well written the song is? None of those sections would exist if someone hadn’t written the bloody thing in the first place.
Have we missed anything? Leave us a comment.