Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.
My guitar is in the garage. The strings on it are older than my son, Ozark. Yet, I’m a decently successful songwriter. How do I manage that?
Well, if you’ve followed Man vs. Row for very long, you know I’m a lyricist by trade. I don’t take a guitar to cowrites, I don’t write melodies, and I don’t sing or play out.
This way of operating has not been without consequence: I don’t get to put my face with my songs at writers nights. Cowriting with a non-playing artist can be tricky because we have to bring in a third cowriter. But I’m sticking with this way of thinking. Here’s why:
It allows me to focus and specialize.
I figured out early on that it’s better for me to be great at one thing (if I can be great at anything) than average at many things. Focusing on my natural strength (lyrics), allows me to have an identity as a writer. It gives my cowriters a reason to call me in on a song.
It’s more rewarding.
Focusing on my strength gets me better results than working on my weakness. It’s a lot easier to take a strength up to professional level than it is to take a weakness up to professional level. It’s also a lot less frustrating than banging my head against the melodic wall.
It’s a more effective use of my time.
If I took my guitar to a cowrite, I’d feel obligated to pull it out. Then, I’d end up taking up our writing time by getting my cowriter to show me how to play a certain lick or sing a certain melodic line. That would distract us from the task at hand- writing a great song. If I’m solo writing, I’ll get a lot more done if I work on a lyric than if I try to write a melody.
I’m not saying that the way I work is the way YOU should work.
We each have our own unique mix of skills and challenges. What I hope to do with this post is to get you thinking about the best way for YOU to work. Maybe it’s focusing on just lyrics or just melody. Or maybe it’s doing both. Or maybe it’s something else. That’s up to you to figure out.
Playing to your strengths will lead to better songs. However, how you apply those strengths can help you write market-smart songs (songs that have a competitive advantage in the commercial market). If you want to discover more about how to write market-smart songs, check out my ebook, “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.” Click on the image below or click here to write market-smart songs.