Someone once described collaborating to me like this: When you're writing by yourself, you're throwing a ball against a wall and catching it. When you collaborate, you throw the ball to another person – will they catch it? Fumble it? Throw it back to you in a totally new and unexpected way? Ultimately, it spices up the whole creative experience and makes you a better writer.
Unfortunately, not all co-writers are cut from the same cloth – some will be the best experience you've ever had, perhaps turning into lifelong friends. Some will make you pull out your hair, or feel you've wasted your time. So how to find collaborators that are a great fit? Here's just a few tips.
1. Check out your local scene
If you're lucky enough to have a local scene, spend some time there. Listen to the artists that are performing. Odds are, you're going to find someone whose musical sensibilities intersect with yours. If you do, don't be afraid to walk up and start a conversation. Some of my best collaborative partnerships have happened just that way.
If you hit it off on a personal level (perhaps you share the same interests, or the same warped sense of humor), and your musical tastes are similar, you've got the groundwork for a great co-writing experience.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box either – maybe collaborating with someone who has completely different musical tastes will bring out some amazing art. The important thing is that you have respect and admiration for their talent, and you get along. That's the real glue for any songwriting team.
2. Find a friend
As strange as this may seem, some of the best songwriting duos were friends first – songwriting naturally grew out of the relationship. It might be an interesting exercise to grab a good friend and try to write a song. It might be a clunker, or it may be the greatest one you ever wrote! You never know until you try. Besides, it may end up deepening your friendship or being a cool story to tell.
Another idea is reaching out to people you already know and/or have worked with. Let them know you're looking for new writing opportunities; they may know of someone that might be a good fit!
3. Join the digital age
Social media can be a great place to find a co-writer – there are hundreds of songwriting groups on Facebook alone. Pick one that looks right for you and hop on in. You can even search for local and regional writers and artists that strike a chord with you. It doesn't hurt to like their page and shoot a private message introducing yourself.
This can be kind of a crap shoot, though, for many reasons – they may not respond to their messages personally, they might be leery of random internet people, or they may not be looking to write at the moment. Remember to be respectful and thank them for their time.
If you're looking for something a little more structured, Sonicbids has great resources right here, too – we have a musician matchmaking service that lets you hear samples of your potential collaborators work and even videos where you can see them play. If you like what you see, reach out and connect!
When you finally do get that coveted write, come prepared with hook ideas or even just a cool groove. Be positive, open minded, and friendly – don't shoot down ideas out of hand. Most importantly, have fun – if you have fun, your co-writer will, too. If it doesn't work, no worries – shake hands, thank them for their time, and go back to the drawing board. There are tons of co-writers out there and endless possibilities!
Daniel Reifsnyder is a Nashville-based, Grammy-nominated songwriter, having started his musical journey at the age of three. In addition to being an accomplished commercial actor, his voice can be heard on The Magic School Bus theme song and in Home Alone 2. Throughout his career, he has had the honor of working with the likes of Michael Jackson and Little Richard among many others. He is a regular contributor to several music-related blogs, including his own.