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Originals -- is this a common problem?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by dbd1963, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    I'm in two different bands and I'm not the band leader of either. But they both share a common problem.

    In one band, which is mostly a cover band, the band leader is an affable enough fellow for the most part. But when it comes to originals, I think he feels like he needs to have his stamp on them somehow, even though he doesn't know much about songwriting. He's been involved in a few songs over the years, but I haven't seen many and of those I've seen none of them are good. I hate to be so blunt but it's true, they are stinkers.

    I've been writing songs since I was 19 and though I'm not awesome, I have definitely learned a few things. I have dozens of songs the band could take and make its own. I feel like this would be much easier for a band that isn't chock full of songwriters, and I wouldn't mind what they did to the songs.

    Also, I'm not the singer of the band, and I don't think the singer likes me after I suggested his song could be improved with a simple edit. He never heard me out about that edit, he just doesn't communicate with me unless we're in the same room, where he's nice enough to my face, but I can tell he's totally not over it. What was the edit? It's that his song was about two things that weren't related and I thought that was a little distracting. He should just make it about one or the other. The two things, btw, were partying on a friday night and honoring military service. (I suppose you can see that those are two pretty different things even if I don't quote the song..)

    Since then, I have not ever heard another of his songs, either, though I gather he's shared some with the others in the band, but that might have been before I got there. Whenever I send around a song he makes no comment.

    BTW, these are older guys in positions of responsibility and authority in their real lives. Music brings out the kid in all of us, not always in a good way!

    OK, so we all want to do some originals, but we agreed to make them as a collaborative process. I was eager to try this, actually, because I wanted everyone to be 100% behind whatever we did, and I knew that wasn't going to happen if we used any of mine, and nobody else was proposing anything.

    So we began this process in February. Since that time, we have advanced to having two parts. And these two parts both came during the first writing session when the BL came over to my house. I wrote both of them. At that point I stopped actively suggesting parts, wanting the others to contribute what they wanted to. We've worked on these two parts since then, and though they've been fleshed out a bit here and there, to my ear, the writing process has not progressed at all. We're just spinning in circles.

    I probably don't have to explain how frustrating this is. Even though the band has not been working on this full time since Feb., still, if it were me, the song would have been done a long time ago. Like, IN FEBRUARY! :help:

    Since I wasn't feeling creatively fulfilled in that band, I joined another which already has several songwriters. But there's a simliar problem. Each of the songwriters is a friend of the BL, or the BL himself. They all have written some good songs so I do not complain a bit about playing their songs. But when it comes time to talk about or work on one of mine, the BL will immediately start talking about a new song he's just written. If it happened just once, I would chalk it off to that usual self-centeredness that all of us creative types fall into from time to time. But it's happened every time now. The other two songwriters want to do some of my songs, but he has slowed the process by never downloading any of my stuff to learn it in the first place, and pretending he didn't hear it when others suggest working on them.

    Obviously, neither of these situations is going to work for me. Is this just par for the course for writing originals in bands? Or can you find a band that will be as open to your stuff as you are to theirs?

    EDIT -- this is pretty condensed so I apologize if things are a bit confusing. I'm skipping over things to make it a shorter post.
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    As far as the last dude was concerned, just call him out on it. If he did it again I'd just tell him, "Hey, we have yet to actually work on a song of mine and I'd really like to have a go at it. We've done a few of yours already so give someone else a chance." Don't argue about it or make it a big deal - just state it to the point and move on.
  3. the yeti

    the yeti

    Nov 6, 2007
    raleigh, nc
    that's not all that common in my experience. maybe i've been lucky. sounds like you should start a band where you're the songwriter.
  4. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    When I was in an original project, I had made demos of all my stuff, with me playing all the parts. I was not great on those parts, and some of those parts did no more than serve the basic melody and feel.

    When we went to record them "for real," the "real" bass player; the "real" guitar players and the "real" drummers made those parts come alive, and I still handled the keyboards and vocal arrangements. My partner in that project was also a songwriter, and his songs received the same treatment.

    He and I did a few collaborative songs, but usually with me writing most of the song, and he the bridge, or vice versa. Most great songs do not come from collaborative writing. Write the chords, melody and lyrics, and then let the band run with it!

    And if a song sucks, the writer is going to have to face it, eventually.

    You can only have so many sub-par songs before you become a sub-par band.
  5. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    If I stick with this band, that's what I'll do.

    I've only gotten back to playing live since last October. I tried to get my own band going a while ago and didn't get a nibble. I may try again.

    That's what I'd like but I haven't found it yet. It's good to hear that it's out there, somewhere...
  6. Corbeau


    Dec 14, 2011
    I find some musicians tend to be pretty precious about originals. If they hear a comment they don't like, then they get offended. Then there are others who think they have to impose themselves onto any original songs. It sounds like that's what happening with you.

    It might be a good idea to work out your own songs alone, then record them and use them to see if you can get a nibble with regards to forming your own group. One thing I've found with cover bands is generally they're not good with making their own originals, because they're more accustomed to playing other people's material.
  7. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    That's what I do. I record songs doing all the parts myself, except for the drums -- for those I use JamStix now. They are completely demoed to the best of my ability before I even show them to people.

    I have had very bad luck with this over the years. That's one reason I got into home recording and learned how to play the guitar and keyboards.

    So now I am my own personal "band in a box". But that's not really satisfying.
  8. Nyarl


    Aug 19, 2012
    With reference to the first band, have you discussed your fristrations with them? If the BL is an "affable fellow," it seems like a discussion with them might be a logical first step. Especially if its an otherwise good situation, I would do this before joining or starting other bands.

    I also noticed this:

    It looks like you're saying two different things here. First you seem to be down on the BL adding his two cents, but then you say you have songs that you want band collaboration on. Which is it? If its confusing to read here, it is probably confusing for your bandmates as well. If it was me, I would give these guys the benefit of the doubt and be clear on what you think you want out of the situation. You should probably allow for the fact that if it's years and years of the same problem with every band you've ever tried to write with, maybe the other bands aren't the problem.

    Also, when you say that the BL wants to have his "stamp" on your songs, what does that mean? Is he completely changing the song or suggesting improvements? If it's the first, then that's probably an issue. If it's the second, then you should be happy that the guy cares enough to try to improve something that isn't really "his song" in the first place. That sounds a lot like "collaboration" to me.
  9. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    The confusion comes from the fact that he doesn't want to do any songs that are already written, and he wants his stamp on anything new. If you read the situation with the song we started in February, then you really do understand my frustration. There isn't any improving happening.

    I know I said that I wouldn't mind what they did, but I should have added, so long as it didn't make the song worse. That's subjective, but really, I doubt you would have a different sense of things if you were in my shoes. And I was talking about completed songs there. I'm talking about trying to write a song from scratch, toward which I contributed two parts. They did change those parts several times, which I didn't mind at all. But very little that is new has been done.
  10. Nyarl


    Aug 19, 2012
    OK, but that's not what you said in your OP. You said:

    So if you approached the band with that expectation, perhaps in offering his suggestions, he was doing what he thought you wanted? You seem to be saying that because the BL has written some songs that you don't like, you think the guy's opinion sucks and his suggestions are going to make your songs worse.

    If you want the band to simply perform your songs as-written, that's fair enough. Have you tried doing this? If so, how did the band (and the BL) respond?
  11. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    Now I'm confused about your confusion. They have not expressed interest in any of my songs.
  12. Nyarl


    Aug 19, 2012
    OK....but you didn't answer my question. Have you ever brought any finished songs to the band and asked that they be performed as-is? If so, how did they respond?
  13. gmarcus

    gmarcus Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2003
    Some songs will resonate with a band and some won't. I wrote a couple of songs and they just didn't fit into my last band. All I got was....cool songs......now what were we working on.

    In my new band I floated out the same songs and everyone jumped on them and thought they were great and we have morphed them into something with the bands finger prints all over them.

    If it works it works, if not save it for later
  14. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    I have emailed songs to all of them, and have pointed them to the SoundCloud page. They all have heard me say that I'm open to making them the way they want them. I have not said they'd have to play it as is.
  15. Nyarl


    Aug 19, 2012
    OK....but in this same thread, you have expressed disdain for the suggestions your BL makes and the songs he's written in the past. Honestly, you seem to be contradicting yourself here. You want collaboration, but then you really don't want anyone suggesting your songs could be better.

    But look, I don't know you or your bandmates. But I'm very confused trying to follow what you seem to want here, and if I am confused, I would guess that your bandmates may be as well, and that further that confusion could be getting in the way of a lot of good intentions. This may be expecially true if, as you suggest, they are relatively inexperienced songwriters and really need your help and leadership to get a song finished. It sounds like you may be watching these guys struggle and getting frustrated that they are having problems getting a song done. Let's face it: songwriting isn't easy.

    My original suggestion stands that you should should have a face-to-face discussion with them about this. If they are closed off or unreceptive, then you have to consider your next steps with regards to songwriting with them. But if they seem to be trying to meet you halfway, then maybe you are the one with the problem.
  16. THIS

    "there is DO, or DO NOT, there is no TRY".

    Think Tom Scholz=BOSTON
  17. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    I see that you just joined and these are your first comments on the board. Is that just a coincidence? Your questions relate to things that really are answered in the OP.

    If that's not relevant, then I feel like your questions have a natural answer that I'd expect should have occurred to you but seems not to have. For instance, just because I'd be open to someone making competent or useful changes to a song does not mean that any particular band member has the skills to do it. So my position and the facts of the situation aren't contradictory.
  18. Nyarl


    Aug 19, 2012
    Sorry....you seemed to be posting because you wanted feedback on a situation. My objective feedback is that you seem to be contradicting yourself with regards to your expectations.

    That really sounds like you have determined that your bandmates aren't competent to make suggestions about your songs. I'm not in any kind of position to know if this is true. But if you really think that, then why do you expect these guys to come up with a gem or even be able to finish a song on their own? It sounds from your own posts as though they are at least trying.
  19. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    I'll just quote Whitman and have done -- "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself."
  20. Nyarl


    Aug 19, 2012
    Wow. OK. Good luck finding collaborators then.

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