It’s a good question to ask, and the answer isn’t always obvious. When compiling songs for Chasing Ghosts, I was constantly changing my mind about which songs to include. I had about ten songs I liked, but wanted to release five. One of these songs was “Maybe Next Time.”
When my roommates heard it for the first time, it instantly became their favorite. They regularly requested it at shows and were very encouraging, so I decided to record it. When I released the EP, a lot of people mentioned that one, and it became my most played song on Spotify. And to think it was almost a reject!
This lesson is this, we’re not always the best judge of our own content. We see our art in a way no one else does, and what might seem to us like a lame idea could resonate with others.
Did you know that Slash from Guns ‘n Roses originally didn’t like “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”? In an interview with Loudwire, Slash says, “I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t fond of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine.’ And that gives you a good idea of how credible my opinion is…” When Ed Sheeran wrote “Shape of You” – currently the most streamed song on Spotify, ever – he wanted to pitch it to Rhianna. It was the head of his record label who convinced him to keep it. “I don’t know what it’s like to choose a hit,” Sheeran said during an interview, “I just like writing songs.”
Basically, our job as songwriters isn’t to judge art, it’s to create it. There’s going to be a certain amount of self critique and creative decisions on our own, but we can’t neglect the importance of community. I can become biased for or against a song based on the amount of time I spend on it, how musically complex it is, and how personal the lyrics are. A person giving me feedback won’t have these biases and can give me a different perspective.
At the end of the day, we are the artist and we make the final decisions, but getting outside viewpoints is useful. Sometimes we need a kick in the pants that the house track we produced is actually pretty bad and a cheap imitation. Other times we get the good news that someone connected with our lyrics in an unexpected way. Whatever it is, take the note and keep working.
Childers, Chad. “Slash ‘Wasn’t Fond of’ Guns N’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’.” Loudwire, 15 Apr. 2014, loudwire.com/slash-initially-not-fan-guns-n-roses-sweet-child-o-mine/.
New York Times. “Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’: Making 2017’s Biggest Track | Diary of a Song,” YouTube, 20 December 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpMNJbt3QDE.
Krishna, S. (2019). Spotify reveals its most-played music for its 10th anniversary. [online] Engadget.com. Available at: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/10/spotify-10th-anniversary-decade-of-discovery/ [Accessed 2019].