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Songwriting

Inspiration and Collaboration

with Tove Lo and Charli XCX

The singer-songwriters discuss their approach to songwriting and offer practical tips on how to navigate collaboration inside writing rooms and in the studio.

Summary:

Tove Lo and Charli XCX demystify the elusive idea of inspiration and give tips on how to become an A+ collaborator. From seeking out creative partners, to knowing how to read a room, the pair offer insider tips on how to navigate the writer’s room and the studio.

About Tove Lo and Charli XCX:

Sweden is known for its polished pop exports, but Tove Lo rewrote the script with her dark, boundary-pushing music. She watched the confessional “Habits (Stay High)” become one of 2013’s biggest hits, and continued to enchant audiences over the years with tracks like “Talking Body,” “Cool Girl,” and “Disco Tits.” She’s since put her pen to work for pop stars like Lorde, Dua Lipa, and Ellie Goulding too. 

U.K.-born singer-songwriter Charli XCX first got her start on MySpace, and gained a following in London’s underground rave scene before bursting onto the charts with earworm hooks on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” She’s since delivered bangers like “Boom Clap,” “Boys,” and “1999” while cultivating an experimental electro-pop sound thanks to her work with PC Music-affiliated producers like A.G. Cook and SOPHIE. Charli has also landed writing credits for Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes, and more. 

Charli and Tove recently spent some time songwriting together at a writer’s camp. Keep your ears peeled for the results. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Seek collaborators who balance your strengths and weaknesses:

    This means you’ll need to understand your own skills and shortcomings to know when to lead and when to step back and be open to collaboration and feedback.

  • Learn to read the room:

    How is everyone feeling?

  • Serve the song:

    It’s not about

    who

    has the best idea, it's about

    which idea

    is best for the song.

  • Simplicity can be powerful:

    Try not to shy away from writing about everyday life.

  • Dare to be rubbish:

    Not every idea is going to be your best, but don’t be afraid to take risks.

  • Be kind and respectful to your collaborators:

    Professionalism is key in a small industry, and it’s important to create safe spaces for everyone you work with.

SONG STARTERS:

  • Set a timer for 10 minutes. Do a “stream-of-consciousness” write and jot down everything you’re thinking or feeling in the moment.  When the timer is finished, highlight any phrases that could be integrated into your next song.

  • Find a friend or family member and have a conversation with them about their day, week, or even a past memory. From your conversation, write down five phrases that could inspire a song title. Can you write a short story from that conversation? When paired with a melody, could that short story evolve into a song?

  • Write a list of 10 topics that inspire you. Choose one thing off that list, and write down three reasons

    why

    it might inspire you. Can these reasons be channeled into lyric or melody ideas for a chorus?

KEY TERMS:

  • Inspiration:

    an idea or observation that can be translated into art.

  • Collaborator:

    someone who you work with on a song.

  • Stream-of-consciousness writing:

    a freeform writing approach in which you write down everything and anything that comes into your head without a filter. 

  • Theme:

    the subject of a song or a body of work, like an album, EP, or mixtape.

Engineer:

in the music industry, an engineer usually refers to the person who uses technology to record music. They use microphones, studio consoles, patch cables and other devices to record and edit music.

Watch more episodes about songwriting, production, and collaboration, plus listen to Song Start: The Podcast, here.

For more info on Song Start click here.