In our most recent blog post about co-writing, living legend Ra Wilson laid out the basics for successful collaborations. Alas, I hadn’t read it back in 2019, when out of the blue, an opportunity fell in my lap. 

An opportunity that would lead to a hair or two of mine turning gray. An opportunity I had been longing for, which would have me blanking and freezing in panic.

Now, before I elaborate: How would you feel and act in my shoes?

Imagine you’re in a room with two much more accomplished, signed musicians. You’re there to help them write lyrics to a song you’ve never heard before. 

After a quick backstory, the beat is whipped up and one of them barks: "Go on! Write something!" 

Suddenly, the limelight is on you. It’s perform or be replaced. It’s taking that shot or letting it slip by.

Would you feel confident? Ready to gush out (insert your best Trump imitation) “the best words” at an instant?

Words that 

  • fit the melody,
  • that entice, captivate the listeners’ imagination and
  • words that dig their way into their minds, repeating over and over?

How you would respond, I don’t know. But I can tell you how I reacted to this situation (I’m not particularly proud):

I flinched a panicked grin, whipped open my notes-app and started typing… something. 

However, the main thought on my mind was “Please, no one ‘find me out’”. 

Two sets of eyes seemed to lay off of me for a moment, turning back to the DAW on the screen, while I nervously rocked back and forth to the beat in the studio, humming along. 

The beat was incredible. I knew this was going to be released - and could potentially be a big tune. 

But the Notes app didn’t fill up. I’d start to type, and immediately deleted it. Started again, deleted again.

After minutes that felt like a decade and with nothing to show for but a new gray hair, I remembered something:

“Hey Chris, how about breathing?” a kind voice in my head suggested. “Not a bad idea.” I (not crazily at all) thought back to myself. So I took a deep breath. I knew I had to do something differently.

And that’s when I remembered.

You see, I wasn’t actually as unprepared as I’d imagined myself to be. And I suddenly recalled not only my experience - but also my education. 

Back then, I wasn't a Holistic Songwriting team member yet. 

But I had been a student of Friedemann's work. I had completed his - now legendary, vaulted up and nearly impossible to get - 30 day lyric challenge a few weeks prior to the fateful date in the studio. 

Thank God, a technique I’d learned from that course came rushing back with the new intake of oxygen. 

Drawing from my cellular memory bank, I shouted over the beat to the singer and producer:

"Hey, give me two nouns!" 

The answer was forthcoming: "Demons" belted one of them and "addiction" the other. 

Demons worked. It fit the vibe and was visual. But addiction - nope, still too abstract as a noun to use directly. However, as a topic-prompt it worked. The lyrics could describe actions that showed the behavior of addiction.

Now my job was clear: translate this theme into visual images inside the listener’s mind. Into what Friedemann has now coined a "Head Cinema" (That’s the term he uses in HSA STORY's LYRICS, which you can find out more about here). 

Which pictures could my lyrics conjure up to show the spiraling, empty nature of addiction? Which words will grab the listener's hand and take them into this song's universe? 

I started writing. And I wrote. 20 minutes later, I proclaimed: "I think I've got something!"

An hour later I was at home, reflecting on what had happened. I felt happy. But the moment of panic still lingered in my mind. 

It’s genuinely scary when your skills are being put to the test and you’re unsure if they are fit for the job. When you feel like you can’t perform as you want yourself to. When your dreams feel like they're in arms reach, but your inability is stopping you from grasping them.

And that’s what I decided to never let happen to me again.

Which is why I believe in the work we do at Holistic Songwriting. The tools you learn here equip you for those moments. The moments that you need to get something done in your music and make the next step happen.

My story ends well: The lyrics got chosen and made the song. The song was released and, my personal highlight, it ended up being licensed by GTA (which happens to be the video game I loved most as a teen).

It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t remembered that “little” course I’d done before. As the OG (Old Greek) philosopher Archilocus said: “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

Question is, does your level of training match your level of expectations?

If not, consider finding out more about Holistic Songwriting Academy here.

And, if you’re looking for a waaaaay better cowriting experience, there’s an incredible last minute opportunity waiting for you: 

This April, disconnect from your day-to-day and collaborate with other awesome musicians, level up your abilities and enjoy sunshine and beach vibes, all at Holistic Songwriting Camp 2023 Tenerife Edition - Click Here.

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About the Author Christopher Lautemann

Co-founder of the legendary tech-house label bouq.rec, Chris has co-written songs in many genres with artists such as Butch, Kemelion, Goodmorning Yesterday and more, with a song licensed to GTA V.

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