Centricity Blog

What Inspires Us To Write? Part 2

Posted March 25, 2010 by in Publishing, Songwriting

Hey everyone this is part two of my conversation with a few of our writers/artists.  I hope that this gives you some more insight into the creative process.  Check out our website at www.centricitypublishing.com for more info on our writers like that little plug ? :)

1. Do you complete every song idea you start? Or do you sometimes leave songs unfinished for later inspiration?

Jason Gray-Yeah, especially ideas I really really like. There comes the fear of failing the idea, of not reaching it’s full potential… so then I’ll back off and let it gestate for awhile, returning to it periodically to see if it wants to be finished.  It’s not uncommon for this process to go 4 or 5 years.  I just finished a song today, in fact, that I started 5 years ago.  And I’m SOOO glad I waited.  I didn’t have the chops or sensibilities to really serve the song to it’s full potential 5 years ago, but today, with the experience and confidence I have as a writer (and the patience to wait to receive a song that wants to be born), I’m very pleased with how it came together.
But I’ve had other songs that have come in a flash, too.  I’ve written several songs in about two hours time.  Blessed Be and Fade With Our Voices are two of them.

Matt Papa-i try with all my heart to finish them all the way.  i hate leaving a song unfinished.  i would rather have complete song that stinks that a halfway done great song.  you can always go back and change lyrics and melody, and sometimes getting the idea DOWN is half the battle.  sometimes an idea you put down at the time feels dumb, but when you come back to it later, it’s great.

Jason Germain(downhere)-Yes to both,  songs in demo form are always left open ended to revision.  I make changes throughout the progress of a song, sometimes I even mash two finished songs together if it works.

James Tealy-Usually I prefer to finish songs unless it’s obvious the song is best finished with the artist we think will record it. There are times we get a verse and chorus done and realize that the artist we are writing for would probably like to participate in finishing the song.

Seth Mosely(Me in Motion)-Definetely finish them. I can’t handle not finishing one. It’s like not completely solving a puzzle.

2. Do you put your ideas into garage band?  Or do you like doing full fledged demos with programming, etc…  which do you prefer?

James Tealy-We usually worktape songs all along the process. I use an old program my friend Simon introduced me to called AudioRecorder. Simple mp3 recording. I will record the chorus, then the verse and chorus, then the full song. I will sometimes end up with four or five pieces of a song on my computer. I usually wait for demos until we know who we are pitching the song to. I can usually hear the same song produced in a variety of styles and tempos in my head so it usually helps to have a target before we spend money on a demo.

Matt Papa-garage band.  but i typically spice them up with some pads, guitars, keys, etc.  i like a good production.
Seth Mosley-Full-out demos. Which means ive really got to be into a song and believing in it to put the work in, but i believe that in order to fully sell a song nowadays, you have to go the extra mile to sell it on the front end. people are used to hearing polished music, so why not turn in the best demos possible?
Jason Germain-Full fledged demos.  Sometimes laying everything down in a demo shows you what you don’t want to do, and somethings you definately want to repeat.
Jason Gray-Well, when I start to program and make a demo… I get restless, like the time could be better spent writing a new song. So I usually just play my guitar and sing into my laptop and trust that my A&R guy knows a good song when he hears it without needing the bells and whistles.  But a couple times I’ve written with guys who wanted to demo the song when we were done, and there was value in it.  “More Like Falling In Love” is a song that we wrote and then made a demo of, and it was the demo that guided the way we later recorded the song.  And “Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue” was built on that little musical riff, so sometimes I like doing that.
3.Do you get nervous playing songs for the label and or publisher?
James Tealy-As an artist, I get nervous playing the things I’ve recorded for the label but as a writer I deeply value the role of my publisher, A&R, and even the marketing team play in evaluating a song. When we sit in a room and massage a lyric into shape, our hope is always that it will have the largest possible impact and I want as much input as I can get to help accomplish that goal. There are plenty of good songs in the world. Input from a creative team inspires me to reach for GREAT songs that challenge the Church and encourage her to look more like Her Lord.
Matt Papa- yes!  bearing my soul in front of anyone is nerve racking.  but it’s almost always rewarding.
Seth Mosely- nope. My publisher loves every song. :p haha, just joking completely.but seriously…at first, i really did, just because you never know what people are looking for until you just throw your stuff out there and see what works. one thing ive learned is to never get too married to a song or idea, because it’s all so subjective at the end of the day.
Jason Gray-Yes, that’s probably the most nerve wracking for me.  Mostly because we have different criteria for what makes a song valuable and good.  It’s like bringing your children before a judge who gives them a once over before choosing who will go to the firing squad. Don’t get me wrong – in my case both my A&R and publishing guys are awesome and we really see eye to eye, and ultimately we want the same thing.  But much of the time the song that means something to me isn’t the one that will necessarily work as a single or help sell records, and their job is to help me choose songs that will make people want to buy my records. And so I trust that with them – I’m confident enough to know what songs have ministry value for my audience in a live situation and I need to be confident enough in their wisdom about what songs will connect with music buyers who may never come to a show and experience my ministry in that setting.  So it’s kind of like collaborating again, trusting that these guys have my back and that we all want the same thing.  I think the goal is to succeed as an artist/ministry. I know how to minister more than I know how to market records, so I’ll be faithful to my calling to minister and trust them to be faithful to make a marketable record that in turn will grow my ministry.

But it takes confidence to be able to bring your songs before these guys. Hopefully you get to work with the kind of label and publisher who understand what it costs you as an artist to bring your creation before a panel of judges.  But if they’re invested in you, it’s not only considerate but it’s wisdom to let them speak into the process.  And if they’re working with you, it’s good to assume that on some level they’re a fan  - otherwise they wouldn’t be working with you, right? – if you know this, it’s easier to take their criticisms because they’re coming from someone who likes what you do and wants to help you do it better.


Jason Germain-I love people to hear my work, they usually come as demos, so there is a bit of awkward sitting, watching peoples guarded reactions or lack thereof.  I like to play it like “I wrote this on the way over here, so it’s not a big deal if you don’d like it”  sort of thing.  Maybe it would take the stress off if I where to pop the MP3 on and do lipsinking and air guitar!  Yeah that would work better for everyone.

I hope this was beneficial to some people.  As you can see from the varied answers I don’t believe there is a formula for great art.  Of course all of our tastes are different and we connect with different creative mediums.  I personally just feel blessed to work with these writers and hopefully help in the process of having their music heard.  Thanks guys for reading and always feel free to comment or email!
Conor

About The Author: Conor Farley

Conor Farley did not go to Belmont University, but works in the music business anyway. Go figure. After stints in promotion and marketing at Provident, he settled into an A&R there and later at Word, where he signed Leeland, Brandon Heath, and Meredith Andrews and worked on records by Third Day, Michael W. Smith, and Point Of Grace. He came to Centricity to head up its publishing operation, serving the company's artists by pitching songs and facilitating song writing. Conor's hobbies include mowing, surfing, applying the management lessons of The Office U.K.'s David Brent, and performing with the "Caren Seidle Seven," though he did not specify whether as a singer or a dancer. He is fond also of Nick Hornby books, a sign of his good taste and intelligence.

  1. Rob Lee said

    One thing I’ve often pondered is that I’ll write a song that seems to flow out of the pen, as if from God, but never gets to be heard by anyone. Is God doing that just for me? I’ve got three songs out of many I’ve written that I would deem worthy of airplay, but any time I’ve sent them out or entered them in contests, I get little to no response. Now I begin to wonder if I’m the tone-deaf singer on American Idol that thinks he’s a singer (song writer in this case) but really isn’t. Thoughts? Oh, and thanks for this blog, I’m finding it very interesting. Jason Germain, I’ve followed you guys since you were in college, excellent song writing, and some of the best vocals on the planet!

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