Songwriting Advice from Kurt Denny, VP Creative Still Working Music/Orbison Productions
I'm going to give you some advice as if you were writing for me. I'd suggest that if you want to make this your career that you do a couple of things. You obviously have a fairly good idea about what is on popular radio and tv. That's good. You have to know what's working now to know what's going to work in the future.
But if you really want to write, you have to go deeper than that. You need to cultivate a real curiosity about music. Explore all forms. You'll find that you are drawn to some stuff and that other stuff you can do without. That's cool. But listen to as much as you possibly can. Dive in. Listen to everything. 9 times out of 10 you'll find something in the music that you can use later, even if you don't like the whole thing.
When you find some music that you love, dive deeper. Figure out why and how they wrote the songs the way they did it. Figure out what about it you like. Figure out how and why the music speaks to you. Figure out who influenced them and what made them do it that way. If you know where you came from, you'll know how to get where you want to be.
Play your instrument(s) every day. Notice I didn't say "practice" your instrument. True enough, you'll have to practice to become good. But practice has always had a negative feeling to me. PLAY your instrument. Learn it and know what it can and can't do. Make practice an opportunity to explore the sounds and voices of your instrument. Learn how to make it do things you didn't think it could do. Explore, challenge, be creative. PLAY!!!
Read. READ. READ!!!!! READ!!!!! READ!!!!! READ!!!!!!!!! I'm guessing you are already a pretty good student. I'm not going to give you all the "adult-speak" about grades and all that stuff. I'm not saying that isn't important because it certainly is, but that's not where I'm going with this. Every book, (even the pure fiction, light pulp stuff) has one thing in common: WORDS! You CANNOT write great lyrics without a great command of the language. Words are your voice. Words are your weapons. Words are your gifts. Become crazy about it. Read books like you were eating your first meal at a buffet for the first time in a week and it was nothing but chocolate (my personal favorite). The other great thing about books is most of them tell a story. As a songwriter, sometimes you will be story-teller. The difference is you only have 3 - 4 minutes to tell the story. You'll learn from books what the really important elements of a story are.
Be honest with yourself. Recognize what you do well and recognize what you need to do better. We are all good at something and not so good at other things. That's fine. That's what makes it so cool to be human and to meet other humans. Don't be afraid to admit your shortcomings. Examine those and try to improve them. And don't be afraid to embrace the things at which you excell. Work on those too and be the very best you can find.
Finally, be patient. It could take you a lifetime to figure how to do this the way you want to do it. That's totally cool. Find joy in the journey. Find some fun in the things that you create all along the way and realize that everything you create is a stepping stone to the next thing you create. That's the coolest thing of all I think.