Songwriting seems like it comes effortlessly to the world’s most successful musical artists. They continuously top the charts with one great hit after another, each one telling a moving story that touches our hearts and stirs up emotions. Obviously, they’ve never struggled with writer’s block, and they just have a plethora of creative stories to tell that naturally stun listeners around the globe. Actually, that’s not entirely true-sure, they are creative and talented, but they struggle with the same problems facing many songwriters. Check out two of the hottest musical artists currently topping the charts, and learn a little bit about their creative processes:
It is nearly impossible to dislike the funky and contagious tunes this guy comes out with-and the lyrics? They tell a story. The stories Bruno Mars tells with his lyrics make us laugh, make us cry, and often leave us with goose bumps. This 39-time Grammy Award nominee consistently tops the charts all over the world with his hits. Mars not only writes a lot of his own music, he’s also written songs for notable artists like Cee Lo Green. So how does he do it? How did he go from a charming little 4-year old boy in Hawaii, watching his family perform doo-wop medleys on the beach, to the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator, to Hollywood, where he made his dreams come true?
This may surprise you, but songwriting doesn’t come effortlessly to this talented star. Mars admits that writing a hit song is one of the hardest things he’s ever done. He strives for his music to be better than just “good”-he states that a great song should be an “event”, and lists Bohemian Rhapsody, Billie Jean, and Smells Like Teen Spirit as some of his favorites. Mars describes his own lyrics as shocking poetry-he understands the shock value of lyrics, but also hopes his audience can see the beauty in the poetry. Mars shares one secret behind his songwriting:
“To me the best songs are like a joke. Like, you have to set it up in a way that no one’s ever heard it before. And then the hook is the punch line.”
Ed Sheeran has stunned the world with songs that stir up a wide range of emotions. Sheeran had a passion for music at a young age, and began playing the acoustic guitar which led to an interest in songwriting. Influenced by musical greats such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan, Sheeran began pursuing his musical career when he was just a teenager. He quickly wrote and released two albums, started opening shows for established musical acts, and by 2009 was playing more than 300 live shows in one year. Sheeran got his big break after meeting Jamie Foxx in the United States and appearing on his Sirius radio show-shortly after this, he signed with Atlantic Records. You might wonder how in the world someone could come so far, so fast-how did he write so many stunning songs so quickly? Surely he must have some sort of mystifying songwriting secret? Well, it his songwriting tactics seem to vary from song to song.
Sheeran’s haunting tune “I See Fire“, from the second film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, was mostly written and recorded in just one day. Sheeran described this song as an emotional response to the film-writing from the perspective of a dwarf was a motivational tactic that he used to create such moving lyrics. Picking up a new instrument also helped Sheeran create this song-he learned to play the violin, despite never having played one before.
The touching song, “Photograph” had slightly less structured origins. Sheeran collaborated on this song with Snow Patrol guitarist Johnny McDaid while they were on tour in 2012. The song was written in a Kansas hotel room-Sheeran recalls building an X-Wing Fighter for a charity auction and listening to a loop of a piano piece over and over. He eventually came up with one line and started singing, claiming the song developed from that point. Sheeran and McDaid worked for about four hours on the piece, creating bits on the laptop-when Sheeran finished building his LEGO, he picked up the guitar and they polished it up.
The difference in the creative development of Ed Sheeran’s music shows that inspiration can strike at any time. Sheeran’s motivation often comes from real life experiences, and he states that he usually writes within hours of experiencing an emotional event. The most important songwriting tip he follows is being true to himself:
“I write for myself and my music is raw and straight from the heart. All my music is deeply personal and I think it’s good when you can just be yourself and not worry about what other people think.”
Please feel free to contact Indie International to learn more about the motivation behind some of the world’s most famous songwriters’ lyrics.