I am genre agnostic. I don’t care what the genre, a great song is a great song, and that’s what I’m looking for. I think the best songs often come out of collaboration. Artist, writer collaboration, multiple writers, writer and producer combo, for me it’s all about collaboration. Take what you know, feel, and want to share out of your comfort zone, find the edges, look for the special.
I love music that doesn’t fit neatly inside a box. In fact, that’s part of why I feel it’s a great time to be in the music business. Streaming and the dropping cost of production have created opportunities for some real stand out acts. Look at Anderson Paak for example. Where do you classify or categorize his music? He is a true musician and entertainer, he brings a vision to everything he does, and it works more than it doesn’t. That’s a bit of practice makes perfect.
Collaborate outside of your comfort zone. Surround yourself with people who make you want to get better. The magic is in originality, not the sound-alike nonsense that fills up so much of the indie music landscape. Originality and authenticity are what fans connect with and the more original and authentic the better the connection. Don’t look for what you THINK people want to hear but look inward for what you really want to say, and be.
Obviously, there are some basic boundaries to collaboration. Some things, or folks, just won’t mix well. But I find it really comes down to the people, if they vibe and get along then you are poised to find some magic. It absolutely has to be a mutually respectful relationship. Don’t go hire an engineer or songwriter just because he or she worked on some popular album. Find someone that you can develop a good working relationship with. Someone that is comfortable trying this musically that you think of and that you feel mutually comfortable with.
If you really want to make a great song, get out of your comfort zone. It may not even happen when you do, rather it may happen after you have been collaborating with someone that made you look at things differently. Then when you get back in your home production situation you start applying some of these practices. Learn new moves try new things; try old things like analog production and effects methods. Be brave and experiment but be cognizant of your overall identity and how it relates to the record that you are trying to make.