Creativity Under Pressure: Keep it on Tap.

stevie cliff electro selfie
Posted by admin Category: Recording

Having signed my first publishing deal in early 2016 following the release of “Burn Baby Burn” I started to expand my horizons beyond writing for my self to writing for other acts in the global market. Following years of hustle and networking I was in a position to receive a couple of songwriting briefs. For anyone unfamiliar with the world of commercial songwriting, briefs provide sniper like detail on who the act are, who they are trying to reach with their music, the key they can sing in, bpm and desired lyrical content.

After conversations with the publisher I figured out the turnaround time needed on the 3 briefs was two weeks. So I had two weeks to write the songs and produce decent enough demos of all 3. Two weeks may seem like a lot of time – unfortunately at the time I didn’t have the luxury of dedicating 2 full weeks of time to the songs. I have somewhat of a Clark Kent type existence between music and my day gig in Advertising so I had to be smart with my time.

I feel the world is full of creative people, but lacking in those who can turn it on under time pressure. This has been a quality I have attempted to cultivate within myself over the years. In this two week period I knocked out the three songs while working 9-6 mon-fri. Below is how I did it.

1. Slept less: In my earlier 20s I experimented a lot with sleep. Going on just 6 hours a night a lot of the time. I have since realized that 8 is optimal for me but I know I can run on as little as 4 hours when I need to and still have some form of creative output. I pulled this one out of the toolbox at this time.

2. Ruthless with time: For these songwriting briefs I had to be smart with my time. A huge part was understanding similar artists music who the briefs referenced. I would go to the gym first thing in the morning and binge on Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Lukas Graham, Little Mix – all music I wouldn’t listen too normally. Shit – the production on those tracks is good. What’s more the hooks are addictive. Total new found respect for the producers and artists involved in these projects as a result. I’d be back from the gym and ready to work 7-8:40am on songs before heading to the office at 9am. I’d get home around 6pm and then work solid for another 3 hours.

3. Take a formulaic approach to lyric writing: For me song-writing emerged as a unconscious form of creative expression in my teens. Which means when I felt like writing I would write. Responding to briefs is a little more mechanical. Having said that I have developed a formulaic approach to lyric writing that challenges me to compose coherent pieces that I can stand behind. It involves post-its, a rhyming dictionary and sometimes annoying my roommates to get them to tell me what I’m writing isn’t pure garbage.

4. Have a solid bank of samples in your DAW: I’ve been self producing using various versions of logic since 2011. So I have a number of presets, drum samples and production tricks in my back pocket to get demos together fairly sharpish. This helps when under time pressure.

5. Mix up your work space. Our brains become stagnant if our environment is the always the same. As this was during the summer if I became stuck in the apartment on a certain part of a song I’d up sticks and take a walk to the park with my book of lyrics and take another stab at a tricky line.

To summarize the 5 points above: what helps me be creative and produce often when I don’t feel like it is to:

Carve out more time, combine work and play, use hacks and mix up my workspace.

Unfortunately I can’t post the songs here as they could still end up on some random Siamese pop acts album.

Big love,

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