Skype’s the Limit for Co-writers

Songwriting for most people must be a very solitary process. It certainly has been for me over the years. Until I moved to Nashville where co-writing happens to be the norm. If you've never lived in Nashville, or at least visited, it's likely you've never co-written a song. It's a foreign experience for the average songwriter and can be a bit intimidating.

Speaking of dating, it's very much like that. Basically, you need to try it with different people to find out who you mesh with. It's fine to date around, but there are still some ground rules - discussed here.

I spent several months this year working on a songwriting project for a music-licensing-for-film-and-tv company. (Here's No Tears Allowed from the album Big Whisper):

  •       1.      No Tears Allowed - Bishop/Portis-Cathers

Twelve of the twenty songs were co-written with talented writer/performer Rand Bishop. Problem was, I live in Portland and he lived in Nashville (has since moved to Oregon). I made plans to travel there in April for a few weeks to finish writing and start production, but we needed to get started before that.

Rand Bishop - co-writing on Skype
Rand Bishop - co-writing on Skype

Skype turned out to be a perfect answer. Over a two or three week period, we set up writing appointments and brought our ideas to Skype from the comfort of our own homes. The first time we turned it on to get started, Rand looked at me with a blank stare. For a moment he was thrown off by the fact that the room onscreen behind me looked like a room in his house. He said he was about to ask me what room I was in until reality took hold again. Reality shmeality.

We got some fantastic work done over Skype. It's almost better than being together. You don't have to drive anywhere, you can get something to eat from your own fridge or throw your feet up without fear of reprisal, and body odors are a non-issue so I can go weeks without showering. Not that that changes anything. (Hey, my dog has to live with me, so there are limits).

In addition to having all the comforts of home (or lack thereof), we had a great way to keep a record of our writing AND playing. I use a handy little app called Call Recorder (Mac only - but there are others for Windows). It's so easy to forget a nuance in the music or lyric when you're bantering back and forth and getting ideas left and right. Many times we were saved by being able to go back and listen to what one of us had played or sung to salvage the idea. In the end, we would always record a version from beginning to end - preferably with guitar neck or keyboard visible to the camera so chords and fingering would be reviewable later during production.

There were three or four days where we completed two songs in a six or seven hour day of work. That's some pretty fast writing and kept us energized through the process. It was important to stay focused and not get distracted by email, but it was also useful to be able to reference ideas, YouTube, rhyming dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri??) and to even share a screen when necessary.

A good setting is one of the keys to successful writing and being able to co-write from home at any time increases the options for songwriters. Give it a try today! 🙂

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