The Writing Demo Is Not the Song, The SONG is the Song!

Ya know how songwriters (myself included) tend to spout a list of excuses right before playing their latest work-in-progress? The good news is, none of the stuff we're blathering on about matters! Here are today's musings on what REALLY matters...

A coaching client of mine recently submitted a song-in-progress for a critique, and as usual it was a rough version rather than a finished master. I vastly prefer hearing songs this way, long before they’re “set in stone.”

However her collaborator was quite concerned that I wouldn’t be able to give the song a fair shake because of the roughness of the recording. Ahh, but I beg to differ!

Most of us can FEEL, in our heart of hearts, when a lyric and melody contain greatness, even if they’re sung a capella into a smartphone by singer who ate sandpaper for lunch. After 30 years of as a coach, I can usually zero in on the presence of that magical “spark” in a client's rough recording after hearing it once through, and can articulate in extreme detail what’s working and what’s not after a few more listens.

There’s ALWAYS a glimmer of truth, but if it gets buried beneath a steaming heap of uhh, baloney, it’s probably better just to start over.

You know what I’m about to say, right? Yeah, this particular puppy was spark-free. And on some level they both knew it!

Hell, I’m as guilty as the next writer of thinking that if a song’s clever, catchy, trendy or polished to a high gloss then no one’ll notice that “there’s no there there.” But it’s as plain as the nose on your face — dammit. (Important Note: This only becomes clear after you come crashing down from Song High — that post-creative glow that we all experience after a rousing session.)

So rather than go into agonizing detail on the pros and cons (mainly cons) of that tune, I suggested that my client tell me more about the original spark, which turned out to be WAY more compelling. It had just gotten flattened out along the way, mostly due to second-guessing what "they" would like, maybe even what "they" would buy. That's one tasty temptation that's almost impossible to resist, right?

Now, she might rewrite it someday, but in the short run she'll focus on the other two she submitted, which were about 10 times closer to the mark. In fact, one of them did contain the seeds of greatness.

The bottom line? Some songs are so brilliant you can’t wreck them, and some are so lame you can’t resurrect them. Personally, most of my creative outbursts lie somewhere in between, and I'd prefer to spend my hours nudging the best ones all the way over the goal line! How about you?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!