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Muse Me While I Kiss This Guy
By Danny McBride - 06/06/2007 - 09:21 AM EDT

And now a note to my stupid dimwitted collaborators- -

Look, I know you think your version of my masterpiece is an improvement, but let me tell you how it really is- -You couldn't rhyme "June" with "Moon" without help, and I'm changing it all back before we cut the demo!! Did you ever hear the word "stanza" before? Do you know what "scansion" is? Look it up- -I'll wait!! What do you think of when some one says "metaphor"? (And don't say a "meadow for" grazing sheep.) Onomatopoeia? Synecdoche? Give up? Good.

One of the great moments in songwriting can be when you and a partner have the lightbulbs go on over your heads at the same time, and you just KNOW that you've created something special. But how often does it seem as though you are writing two different songs, each of you with a slightly different take on the matter at hand? If your experiences have been like most, that happens a lot.

Look at the great songwriting teams down through the years- -Gilbert and Sullivan, Lerner and Lowe, Lennon and McCartney, and loads of others. They all went through times when they didn't even speak to each other, the work had so gotten muddled between them. And you think you're going to do any better?

However you do it- -in the same room at the same time, or with phone, fax, and computer- -there comes a time when one of you wants it one way, and the other totally opposite. And yet you realize that the sum of the individual parts makes a greater whole, so you keep at it. (Or, of course, you don't, and that's the end of it.) But if you read the biographies of the greats, you will come to realize that in many cases, as much effort went into keeping the collaboration together, as was put into the actual writing of the songs. (I strongly suggest reading about Rodgers and Hart, and how it became Rodgers and Hammerstein. It's a fascinating story, and you should read it for yourself...But basically, after many successes, Richard Rodgers came to a point where he could no longer work with Lorenz Hart, and sought out Oscar Hammerstein, who had also been successful with other partners, and what they did together changed the Broadway Musical.)

But "hey!" You say!! Many of the greats go it alone...Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan. True, almost, because they all have collaborated occasionally. And there in lies the real secret to collaborating:

Always choose somebody whose work can stand alone without needing any help. If you work with somebody whose work you like, perhaps you can create something even better together than either of you could do alone. But if you choose somebody who cannot write a whole work on their own, then I predict problems.

Okay, so you only write words- -Then they should be able to stand alone, like a poem. Or if you only write music, then the same is true- -The "instrumental" version of your tunes should be able to stand alone.

Many songwriters, of course, write both. They may be stronger as lyricists, or their melodies may be their strong point, but if they are not able to write whole songs by themsleves, then you probably are going to have a less agreeable time writing together.

So you may be the kind of writer who makes "writing appointments" and shows up with a few fragments hoping to polish things off with your partner on a regular schedule just like office work. Or you may be the kind of writer who gets "inspired", and calls up all excited about your stroke of genius, and how you have to get together right away, or sing your idea over the phone. Whatever works. But if you can pick a partner with equal or complimentary skills, you will be well off.

So I've got to call up this birdbrain and tell him that the cassette he sent me is CRAP!! And say it as nicely as possible!!

Good luck, and remember: Which comes first, the music or the lyrics? HA!! Neither!! It's the phone call!!

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