Lyric writing can be a very lonely job. Especially when you are still flying under the radar, like I am. This year I have been given many signs that things are moving forward and that I’m starting to get the hang of the fundamentals of my craft. Still, between those encouraging comments and signs, there is plenty of time for doubts to creep in.
Being a pure lyric writer, with no real aspirations to write my own music I am always on the look out for collaborators. This is where doubts in my own ability become my worst enemy. I find it quite hard to contact someone with the intention of showing them some lyrics of mine, because I always feel everyone else is better than I am. Sometimes I feel it would be rude of me to assume that composers would want to spend time putting music to my words. All that aside, if I want to get to the next level with my writing, I have to overcome my doubts and fears and just get on with it. I’ve realised that the times when someone totally out of the blue will offer to write music to my words are few and far between, so I will have to become proactive.
So, how high do I, as a virtual nobody, aim when deciding who I will target with my lyrics? Do I reach for the stars, hoping to catch someone’s attention at tree top level, or do I look for a potential composer closer to the factory floor where I’m sitting myself? Well, chancing it and sending something to a place which feels totally out of reach is actually somehow easier, because I don’t really expect an answer or, even expect that my email or letter will be read in those places, so any reaction is a plus. What I never do is to send lyrics to someone who write their own. Except if they say that they do look for collaborators when it comes to the lyrics.
It is somehow more difficult to approach people in the same boat as myself. Still, the ideal would be to find someone that likes the same kind of music that I do and who is working towards the same end goal, which is to get better, and at some point, get signed. For some reason it has proven difficult to get a reply from someone that potentially could be a person like that.
A few weeks ago, I heard a collaboration from an unsigned composer that I thought sounded very promising. Looking at this person’s home page I could see that we like a few similar genres of music. The best thing of all was that this person, according to the home page, was actively looking for collaborators. I decided to give it a go and wrote an email. I even sent a lyric of mine that felt like the kind of thing this person could go for, as an attachment.
Since then I haven’t heard one single word. No thank you for writing, no thanks, but no thanks. Absolutely no reaction what so ever. This actually upsets me. The fact that an unsigned musician has a home page with an aim to create interest for collaborations, and then totally ignores someone that is replying to the plea on that home page, is unsettling. Whether or not the interest to collaborate with me or my lyrics was there, I feel I deserved an answer. Especially since sending someone something as personal as a lyric is a scary thing to do.
The total silence has at least made it clear to me that this person is not anyone I would like to collaborate with. If you’ve got a home page that clearly states that you are looking for collaborators, the least you can do is reply to those who are showing an interest. If that basic skill in how to treat people isn’t there, I have a feeling the future is looking brighter for me than for this other unsigned individual.
Therefore, I just want to let you know that if there is a composer out there looking for lyrics, don’t be shy. Please ask. I promise to listen to your music and if I feel I can put words to your melody I will tell you. Which ever way, I will definitely reply, and I will always be grateful that you took time to ask!
Apparently, it has always been difficult to find collaborators. In 1967 one of Sweden’s best lyric writers and country singers and a very close friend of mine, Alf Robertson, put an advert into a Swedish newspaper. The ad said; “Lyric writer looking for collaboration with a composer.” Alf, who sadly isn’t with us anymore, didn’t get one single reply to his ad, and someone later told him that it wasn’t done that way.
Alf wrote the most phenomenal song lyrics in Swedish. He also translated a lot of familiar country songs to Swedish and recorded them. The song he had most success with was a translation of Tom T Hall’s “Old dogs, children and Watermelon Wine.” Alf’s version was called “Hundar och ungar och hembryggt äppelvin.” He got a gold record for that one in 1980. I will leave you with a YouTube clip of a young Alf singing that song on his first ever television appearance in Sweden. This is proof that even if no one answers your pleas for help, it can all work out in the end if we are tenacious enough and never give up.
Take care until next time and Happy Writing