Songwriting Tips from Nile Rodgers, Poo Bear and Jamie Scott | #ItsAllAboutYourTopline

3rd May 2020
Our #ItsAllAboutYourTopline songwriting competition may have closed, but fret not, our judges Nile Rodgers, Poo Bear and Jamie Scott are still on hand to share their knowledge and expertise with you! We’ve extracted some of our favourite tips on songwriting from the three judges and shared below.

Nile Rodgers

As a multi-GRAMMY-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist, he is constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music. As the co-founder of CHIC and the elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping pop hits like Le Freak (the biggest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records) and sparked the advent of hip hop with Good Times. Nile Rodgers transcends all style of music across every generation with a body of work that's garnered him inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (2017) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2016).

In 2018, he was appointed as our first ever Chief Creative Advisor for Abbey Road Studios (which has seen him work with the likes of Anderson .Paak, Jorja Smith, Bruno Mars, Maverick Sabre, Rudimental, Mura Masa, Emeli Sande and JP Cooper).

Nile's Tips for Songwriting

- If the hook is the part everyone is going to sing, let’s do it first. I start all my songs with the chorus. It’s certainly not the way most people do it. But we always wanted to grab attention straight away.

- If you go out looking for hits, you won't be in the business for very long. But if you make music because you love it, you’ll be in it for your whole life...

- Ennio Morricone told me he composes every day, even if it’s garbage, because he wants to make his brain write music…. I write every night, even if it stinks the next morning, because when you do, it will inspire you. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to fix something that stinks, than to create from scratch.

- When we did Get Lucky, I started playing, and because we had never worked together before, they [Daft Punk] didn’t realise what I was doing … I was looking for all of the variations of the music that I would play later on … because whenever you listen to any guitar part that I play, even though it sounds like I’m playing the same thing, I really never play the same thing twice. I make it close, but it’s definitely different. They were looking at me like ‘what the hell is he doing?’ so I explained … they said ‘oh cool’ and then I settled on the part, and they were like, ‘wow that’s great’. Then they said, ‘can you do the same to this? And this?’ And I wound up doing three songs.

- Getting to know people through music, at least for me, feels like one of the closest relationships you could have. Even if you were fighting while doing that song, even if you had total disagreement, because by the end of that process, you have so much respect and love for the other person because they’ve helped you create something. And I really believe that.

- Don’t be a music snob. Any song that makes it into the Top 40 makes it a great composition, because it speaks to the souls of a million strangers.

- Without the different mentors that I’ve had throughout my life, I would never have achieved what I have achieved. People around me were so generous, altruistic and loving. It’s ubiquitous in music, people are happy to share their knowledge. Build a community of songwriting and development around you. In the music business there are all sorts of partnerships and relationships. Find what works for you.

- If you’re true to your heart, you will keep going not matter what. If I write a song and it makes me happy, but it didn’t work for you, that’s ok. I guarantee I will write another one.

Poo Bear

4x Grammy award winning songwriter and producer Poo Bear, is the man behind some of the biggest hits of the past two decades, collaborating with the likes of Usher, David Guetta, DJ Khaled, Chris Brown, Fifth Harmony, Jennifer Lopez and Skrillex, but is best known as one of Justin Bieber’s closest collaborators.

Poo Bear, real name Jason Boyd, has undoubtedly left his mark on the face of modern pop music. With his clever blend of various genres and intricate use of words and harmonies, it is without question that after over 500 million records sold worldwide, he is a force to be reckoned with.

Poo Bear's Tips for Songwriting

- The most difficult part of my career would be getting the whackness out of my system. Most people quit because if everything you’re doing is garbage, it’s easy to be discouraged. The hardest part for me was accepting that, yes I suck and this is garbage–and yet doing it again and again until I get something that I like even a little bit. It’s so easy to be afraid of the unknown, and not knowing if you could be successful at something. I had people telling me how much I sucked, and how bad my music was, but I didn’t allow that to discourage me to the point where I didn’t want to do music anymore.

- I work every day, and I do one, two or three songs a day, which means I get at least eight or nine songs in a week and I try and keep that average. I aim for 600 songs a year. It’s like me in the gym, shooting free throws over and over again.

- Just because I make something doesn’t mean that it’s going to be amazing, and most creative people don’t like to admit when their music is just okay. I learned years ago that the more honest you are about anything you’re doing in life, you can grow and learn from your mistakes. I just want to grow. It took me years to get to this through trial and error. There are some songs I wrote that I didn’t love. Like What Do You Mean? I wasn’t sure about it. And [Bieber’s manager] Scooter [Braun] was like, ‘That’s a smash number-one hit.’ And I’m like, I don’t know about that. But he was right. So me being honest with myself saying I don’t know everything all of the time either is another key part.

- I don’t have writer’s block – I don’t believe in that. Even if I write something and it’s not amazing I’m still going to create it. Most writer’s blocks come from people second-guessing to the point where they get discouraged and they just quit. For me, if I write something and it’s not amazing, I don’t care because even if I feel like it might not be amazing, it could still be a number-one hit. So I believe in getting the idea out, getting the creativity out. If it’s not amazing to you, so what. You should just get it out of your system. A lot of people allow their insecurities to discourage them to the point where they won’t even start an idea because they don’t believe in their thoughts. I know all my thoughts aren’t going to be great, but at least it’ll be out and it’ll be recorded.

- I never want to get to a place where I think everything I write is dope. I appreciate myself second-guessing, and wanting to make sure it’s great and amazing, and at the same time I value other people’s opinions even if they’re not a musician. It makes me better. It allows me to keep growing, and it allows me to be honest with myself.

Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott has sold over 50 million albums, 50 million singles, has had 9 UK No.1 albums, 4 US Billboard No.1 albums and 3 No. 1 UK singles. Jamie has featured on the writing credits on all five of One Direction’s global-conquering albums, but his close association with the group should not overshadow his diverse range of work with a number of other artists.

The singer, songwriter and producer can also count among his many collaborators an eclectic mix of names that includes Enrique Iglesias, Christina Perri, 5 Seconds of Summer, Olly Murs and Ella Henderson, which has all happened alongside his own career as an artist.

Jamie Scott's Tips for Songwriting

- I want to write great music, not good music. There’s no place for good in the industry. Great is truth, honesty and authenticity.

- Don’t get me wrong, I like working with the likes of Major Lazer and Adele and Justin Bieber - suddenly you hear your song everywhere in the world. With new artists you invest more. There’s more risk. A lot of times their music doesn’t get heard; I love the challenges. You can get involved in someone’s career right from the beginning and try to give them an experience they’ve not had but you’ve had through the years. Being involved from the start is an exciting thing. I quite like the challenges.

- No matter how I work with an artist, I get to know them. We sit down, have a coffee, get to a place where you trust them. Be their friend. The honesty, the integrity of the relationship in the session is what makes a session great. I’ve never written a great song where you’re worried about saying something. You have to trust the vibe in the room. You really have to trust them. You’ve got to open the door to where you’re free to say what you want.

- Great music comes out of a room where people trust each other, whether it’s a producer and engineer or producer and a writer. Everyone in that room has to be on the same page.


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