The collaborative process, is something that continues to inspire me, so I thought I would ask our April Pin-Up, Andy White what it is about working collaboratively that continues to light him up. And remember, if you want to have some of his songwriting magic rub off, he is running a workshop here in Brisbane at the end of the month. Here’s the details:
What: Words & Music with Andy White: a songwriting workshop
Where: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane 4101
When: Saturday 21 April 2012
Time: 12pm – 6pm
Cost: $75 / $65 (concession)
For further details visit the QPF website, or to enroll email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, over to you Andy…
Collaboration is obviously very important to you. Can you tell us what it is about the collaborative process that keeps you seeking out new artistic partnerships?
Co–writing totally changed the way I write. I only wrote by myself until I made friends who were used to co–writing – one was in a band, one a solo artist who’d also been in bands all his life. Both had brothers – I didn’t. One was a deep soul man working on instinct, the other a songwriter working on a mix of intellect, ability and talent. Both with amazing voices.
Starting off writing with friends is a good idea. You’re ‘in’ each others’ lives. You know their hopes, fears, enthusiasms and pet hates. Their emotional history and the tragic or ecstatic state of their family and love lives. It’s not a stretch to start jamming and writing down lyrics which come to mind.
If you’ve never co-written before, it can seem daunting, but even if you’re wary of it I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here are some of my co-writing experiences:
1. With close friends. As ALT, Tim Finn, Liam O Maonlai and I started playing shows in Dublin and hanging out at nightclubs. Or was it the other way round? One time we tried to get into a nightclub and things went decidedly pear-shaped … after many hours of deepest Dublin adventure we crawled home and wrote ‘Many’s The Time’ together. Four years later we ended up with an album ‘Altitude’, recorded in Melbourne, which still sounds fresh today. We toured the world (playing two of our best shows in Van Gogh’s Earlobe, Brisbane) and called it a day. One of the most exciting things I’ve ever done – and writing with two such talented guys who were friends too was very special. Here’s a track from the album:
2. I was on a songwriting course put together by ASCAP (one of the US versions of APRA) and IMRO (the Irish version of APRA). Lot of famous writers there. We drew names out of a hat and I was teamed up with a laid–back American very used to co–writing. From Nashville. We talked about Dublin. He had a riff. I wrote our conversation into a lyric and we put the chords together. Recorded it and you’ll find ‘Hysteria’ on Kieran Kane’s ‘Six Months No Sun’ album and my self-titled album. The video was shot in Dublin on the canals and around Temple Bar before it was done up for tourists. Oh, and features Finnish dancing girls some of whom are bearing artificial limbs.
3. With Allison Russell, a wonderful singer and writer from the Canadian group Po’ Girl. I brought chord sequences and lyrics, and she brought backing vocal lines which made unique melodies of their own, turning the songs into duets – plus lines and rhymes I would never have thought of in a thousand years. A woman’s point of view. The other side of the sky. You can hear one result of these writing sessions in ‘If You Want It’ from my last album Songwriter, although the whole album is based around these songs. The video for this track stars a dinosaur and a snail.
4. A songwriting duo which started with a friendship has been perhaps the most successful of all these partnerships. Two is definitely the ideal co-writing partnership (even with ALT most of the songs were written by either Tim and myself or Liam and myself). A few years after ALT subsided, Stephen Fearing and I met in Winnipeg and became firm friends. We have a shared Irish background (he grew up in Dublin, me in Belfast) although he moved to Canada when he was a teenager. The two of us played together, touring Ontario playing principally my songs. Then we started completing each others songs, and this graduated to writing songs for others – and for fun – ending up with 15 or 16, most of which were demo recordings, and all of which sounded like a duo album. We’d written the songs over a period of nine years, so we recorded it quickly and it was released last year in Europe and Canada as ‘Fearing & White’. This was the most exacting experience of all in terms of the co–writing process. A combination of all of the methods described above, Stephen brougt an exacting meticulousness to the process which was really valuable. On a pure songwriting level it’s the most fully realised (though ‘Altitude’ is hard to beat for fun). Here’s ‘Under The Silver Sky’:
So if you’re thinking of co-writing, or simply jamming with your friends, remember that it:
• develops your style
• takes you places you never imagined you’d go
• challenges your songwriting habits
• makes you rewrite more
• gives you constant feedback as you write
• forms a bond between the co–writers which can last forever
But most of all, ladies and gentlemen – the songs:
Elton & Bernie
Rogers & Hammerstein
Lieber & Stoller
Mozart & the guy who wrote the libretto for The Magic Flute
Need I say more?
12 April, 2012