Songwriting is an art! So, it is only natural that artists struggle with songwriting, especially when just starting. Don’t believe us? Keep reading to find out what Taylor Swift, Madonna, John Legend, and other Grammy-nominated artists have to say.
— October 8th, 2020
In 2006, John Legend won Grammys for Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album for his album Get Lifted. He has received a total of 23 nominations over the years, with 10 wins, including earlier this year, where he won a Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media for his song “Glory.” He is quoted on americansongwriter.com, discussing his craft as such: “I just try to go with what feels right musically and melodically. I’ll sometimes establish the musical format of the song and the melody of the song within the first ten minutes of the original idea coming to me…I think music should dictate the lyrics always.”
Madonna has been nominated for 28 Grammys over the years and won seven of those awards. In an interview with Time Magazine in March of 2015, Madonna said, “Songwriting is a really intimate experience, it’s kind of like sitting down with a stranger and telling them every secret of your soul…you have to be not afraid to make a fool of yourself.”
Billy Joel has garnered 23 Grammy nominations and six wins since his first big year in 1977, with his album, The Stranger (right). He was presented with a Grammy Legend Award in 1990 and later inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992. At the Melbourne Music Festival in 1991, Joel said, “I find I write best when I sit myself down, have a coffee, go into wherever my space is, and I have to have something that I like to look at because there’s a lot of dead time in the writing process … I like to have a view of the ocean.”
Taylor Swift has been nominated for 29 Grammys since 2008, having taken home 10 awards over the years, including the Album of the Year award earlier this year, with 1989. In a 2013 interview with the Associated Press, she said she needs her identity as a songwriter always to take precedence to her identity as a pop star.
“I see myself as kind of this girl who writes songs in her bedroom. You can kind of dress it up all you want, and you can put together an amazing theatrical production, you can become a better performer as time goes by, and you can try to excite people, but I’m always going to be a girl who writes songs in her bedroom in my own personal perception of myself. And I think it’s important that I don’t necessarily think too hard about what everybody else’s perception of me is or else I’d get completely lost in it. It’s just easier to think of myself that way.”
In addition to his 25 Grammy awards, Stevie Wonder is only one of two artists to have won the Album of the Year Grammy three times as the main credited artist. The only other artist is Frank Sinatra, who is not known for writing his own material. During an interview with Larry King on CNN, Wonder said, in regards to songwriting, “I can’t say that I’m always writing in my head, but I do spend a lot of time in my head writing and coming up with ideas. And what I do usually is write the music and melody and maybe the basic idea, but when I feel that I don’t have a song, I just say ‘God, please give me another song,’ and I just am quiet, and it happens, and it’s just amazing.”
So, there you go! Trust the process, be patient, and let the music speak for itself. Those are a few of the takeaways we learned through these artists’ quotes.
This article is a re-post, with small modifications, of “Songwriting Advice from 10 Grammy-Nominated Songwriters” by Nora Tirrell an article published on Berklee.edu