Just because you’re somebody’s best friend, or they crack you up constantly, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good match for SongSex.
What’s more important than camaraderie, is partnering with a collaborator whose sensibilities are similar to yours but not exactly the same (that would be Boring), and whose strengths are your weaknesses, (not that you have any weaknesses), and their weaknesses your strengths.
I mean, if you topline, why would you want to work 50/50 with someone else whose artful in words only? Although, you might produce a lovely poem.
The reason you don’t want identical sensibilities is, well, you want to expand your palate, not stay in your comfort zone.
You may want to consider working with a “Traffic Cop” in the room, especially in a 3-some. They can direct the action. Shut someone up when someone else is having a lightening-in-a-bottle moment. A songwriting TC has an antennae that can recognize when something stumbles out of someone’s mouth and the stumbler doesn’t even realize it's gold. Stream of consciousness writers, for example, talk so fast they miss their own magic. A TC doesn’t even have to come up with the best bits (the title, the hook), as there’s great value in simply recognizing the excellence in others. (I humbly put forth that I am an accomplished traffic cop. With certain co-writers I don’t even have to write. I just arrange the conversation).
Also helpful in a room is a playful sort who enjoys messing around with structure—swapping verse 1 with verse 2 just to see how it feels. Or swapping the “Pre” with the bridge which can reveal a a more effective sequence of song worthy events.
Kudos to those who pay excruciatingly close attention to detail. Like why a “cuz” may be better than a “but.” Tiny words. Way different nuance.
Mercy must be had on a room in which I am the sole musician, though I rarely agree to such an arrangement. I do play guitar and piano and when writing by myself words and music arrive together in the comfort of my own living room. But when I have the pleasure of company, I’m simply not as accommodating as a fluent shredder. I count on him (or her, but usually a him), to play a rif or a motif that steers me somewhere I wouldn’t have imagined going that morning.
All this said, a few weeks ago I picked up an acoustic and started picking out a tasty 3 chord progression. I was just biding time until the real session began. To my surprise, someone started spewing very tasty words. I was like What? I couldn’t believe I inspired someone with my amateurish picking. It was kind of awesome—switching roles for a change…to be the one offering up a canvas for decoration. It was effortless and I had to wonder if I should do it more often. (Probably not.)
You have to see what works for you and try not to make the same mistake over and over. You can’t force a co-write.
Learn something from every collaborator or don’t go back.
Stay away from arrogance and people who make you feel like you have to prove something to them. Ugh. The worst. At this point in my career I choose to eliminate all toxic energy from my life.
Oh and also…I don’t know if it’s just me but I HATE when someone plays me their latest hit before we even get started rolling up our sleeves. It shuts me down. They’re not doing themselves any favors.
Lastly, write with those whose company you enjoy even though they may not be your #1 pal…so if your song winds up tanking, or if you write a clunker that you all want to forget, at least you will have had a fun day.
And bring snacks!