“Developing an Idea”
Blog by - Amanda Flynn Phillps
“It’s very helpful to start with something that’s true. If you start with something that’s false. You're always covering your tracks. Something simple and true, that has a lot of possibilities, is a nice way to begin.” - Paul Simon
You’re driving and all of a sudden a lightbulb comes on and a great idea comes to mind… You overhear someone at the grocery store say something and your brain instantly puts a twist on it making it a great idea for a hook… You casually say something at a family gathering and your Mom says “That sounds like a song” and then immediately follows it with “If it makes it big, I get half!” Right?! Just me?! Cool…
What do you do with those ideas? Where do you put them? Do you keep them in your mind because you just know you’ll remember it later? Make a voice or note memo in your phone? Find a napkin or paper immediately to write it down, then add it to the random drawer that holds all the other ideas (along with some paperclips, old chapsticks and lighter)?
As a writer and as someone who thrives with creativity, my brain never really turns off. I have ideas constantly. Some are good. Some are awful. Some are in between but there they are, like little hyper hamsters on a wheel, running a hundred miles a minute. Good or bad, I try to record a voice memo or keep them in my notes so that I don’t forget. Then I have an easy go-to folder of idle hamster ideas waiting for the right day and companion to run on the wheel with.
When an idea comes to mind, where do you go from there?
o Do you take it into a cowrite as an idea?
o Do you work on it on your own to get a blueprint of how you want it to go?
What is the goal for the song?
o Radio or Sync placement?
o To tell a story?
o To create a connection?
o To heal?
Take some time to think about your best ideas
o Write those down and create a “hook book” (whether it’s on your phone or in a notebook, create a one-stop-shop of your best stuff! This way it’s easy to access and ready to go at the right time!)
Take a current song of yours that you really love. Spend some time with it and test it to see if it’s truly the best it could be.
o Play with the melody… the tempo – If it’s a slower song, try it up tempo just for fun.
§ Does it need a bridge? Does it not need a bridge?
§ Is the 2nd verse really the 1st verse?
§ Does every line help paint the picture towards the hook?
§ Is there any line that could use more color or imagery in the lyric?
§ Does the chorus melody stand out from the verses?
When it comes to developing ideas, I think it’s important to be open and not be married to its destination, especially when bringing it in to a co-write. Songs are our babies, and we can be protective -rightfully so- but you can be protective and open minded at the same time. When sharing an idea that you LOVE, make sure you are sharing it strategically, with a co-writer you trust and respect the opinion of. Someone that you feel will be a compliment to the vision and add to it in a positive way. If it’s an idea you aren’t sure about, don’t be afraid to bring that into a co-write as well. It’s amazing how people can hear the same thing but think about it in a completely different way.
Take these songs for instance… the song doesn’t necessarily go in the direction some would think, just by looking at the title.
“Ocean Front Property” – George Strait (Dean Dillon / Royce Porter / Hank Cochran)
“Victoria’s Secret” – Jax (Dan Henig / Jacqueline Miskanic / Mark Nilan Jr.)
“Reverse Cowgirl” – Jon Pardi (Jared Scott / Joseph Fox / Zachary Robert Dyer)
“Ex to See” – Sam Hunt (Sam Hunt / Matthew Ramsey / Joshua Shaun Osborne)
Embrace and value the ideas that come mind. Sit with them. Try them out. Try them in different ways. Remove any self-induced insecurities, expectations or restrictions and let those idea hamsters run wild towards developing and creating a great song that makes you proud.
Cheering you on,