This week I am saying goodbye once again to living close to one of my favorite co-writing buddies, Eliza Smith. We wrote our first song together in our college songwriting class called “Live or Survive” that lead to the formation of our band TREN. I am going to miss living close to her, but history has told me that even when we are in different states, we will continue our teamwork to make good music together.
As we wrap up recording vocals in the same room (before she leaves) for our latest song, I can’t help but think of how grateful I am to have met her, and just how happy I am that I discovered the world of co-writing music. Songwriting on my own, is still such a love of mine, but getting to write with someone else that you really connect with, that is really something else. Which brings me to what I want to share with you: Three reasons I love co-writing music.
1. Two brains are more creative than one.
(Disclaimer: I don’t think any two writers can come together and make amazing work together. It’s a lot like dating in that there are certain people that you really click with with, and others that you don’t. But when I have found people that I personal click with musically (like Eliza), these reasons ring true.)
I have found this time and time again! With two people coming up with ideas, more ideas come. Which leads to more ideas building on those ideas. And it’s not just the quantity of ideas, but I believe the quality increases too, as you both have such unique things to bring to the table that join together to become something altogether new. As a writer I think it’s normal to have your own typical-ness or go-to’s either in melody or word choice (ex: One of my go-to words is “fight”). Collaborating with someone else to make something forces you outside of your usualness in the best ways. For example (speaking of Eliza...) for our new song “Movies Alone” I sent her a voice memo of a chorus idea, and she replied back with a verse idea that was so so different than anything I was originally thinking. This different, ended up making the song so much better! With our first song together “Live or Survive” I remember I started with a verse idea, and then Eliza came up with another verse to follow right after with a totally different melody. Meaning our song would have two verses (with different melodies) leading to the chorus. This is not a super typical song form! Up until that point I almost always stuck to verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Working with her helped me jump out of my typical form and made it a much stronger work.
2. There is joy in sharing a musical journey.
Aside from the end product being more creative because of extra creative juices being thrown into the mix, the process itself of co-writing is simply a blast! I know Taylor Swift in interviews about her co-writing talks about the sort of “girl talk” that she likes to have in the beginning of a writing session. I love this concept in my co-writing as well, where you just put stuff out there, in the process of figuring out what new thing you can say together through music. The process of brainstorming with another person is a really special experience, especially as you write with someone you trust on a creative level. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and share things when you don’t know if they are good yet, and be open to different ideas. I loved developing this connection with my brother Tanner Howe, who is also a songwriter. It sort of opened the door and got us talking about real things that mattered to us. Then once you get into a flow of back and forth, it’s just pure fun, as each “what about this…” brings a new wave of excitement. And it’s kind of like a rollercoaster. Sure, it’s fun to be on a rollercoaster even as a single rider, but how much more fun is it to look over at another person riding and screaming along with you. In my experience, co-writing can be a lot like that.
3. More writers = more love for your song.
People say your art can sort of be like your child. As a parent, I care so much about my two babies. And one of the coolest things is having someone to share that love with you. I have learned the hard way that random people don’t care about every little thing your child said or did that day. That kind of care and interest can only be found in the other parent of that same child (or the occasional grandparent, but I’m not sure how to tie that in…). ANYWAY, in terms of songwriting, when you co-write, you’re song then has two loving “parents” who care about all of the little things, and are invested in it’s well-being and success of your “song child.” This increases the likelihood of the song actually being completed, produced, and going somewhere professionally as both song parents are rooting for it. As I love all of my songs quite a lot (even the bad ones) it’s just cool to know that a song I love is loved by someone else too.
In conclusion, co-writing makes me happy, and so I wrote this blog about it! If collaborative writing in any form is something that interests you, I say go for it! It might take some time to find the right collaborative fit, but like anything that is worth anything, it’s worth the risk of trying and putting yourself out there, to find it.
Cheers to co-writes from my past, present and future. I’m so grateful that this kind of work is a part of my life.
Picture of me and co-writer Eliza Smith, when we filmed our music video for our TREN song "You're an Angel."