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Stay True to YOU Whatever YOU Do!

By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer/

Authenticity wins every time.

If you’re weird, be weird.

If you’re shy, be shy.

If you’re the life of the party….put a lampshade on your head, get on top of the piano and perform baby!!

Inauthenticity is a bit like forcing a bee to be a flower. Yes. They co-exist but serve two very different purposes within a co-dependent ecosystem.

Collaborating creatively is no different. A great collaboration is where everyone in the room supports each other by contributing their specialty to serve the greater purpose. An awesome song!!

Here are 5 (and a bonus) collaborator personalities and how they each serve a very different and defined purpose in "the write." Which one are you?

The Fire Starter - There is always that one person in the room that may only contribute a great title, melodic idea, or even just a song concept. That might be everything you need to write that smash. A great concept or fresh flip on a lyric can be the difference between average and a Grammy. One of my favorite clever concepts I was a part of was a song called "Space For Two." My co-writer Nana came back from the bathroom exclaiming "If crazy is a place, then I hope they got space for two." We’d already had the melody and vibe. New twist on a familiar concept. Home-run. 250 million streams later across all platforms.

The Hype Person - Perhaps the most underrated participant in any songwriting session is the hype person. They’re the ones that make sure that when the track is being played back, they’re dancing. They provide the energy in the room that keeps you moving when that lyric doesn’t show up as quickly as you would like. It’s not uncommon that the hype person is there just to provide the necessary energy and vibe. I know a lot of hype people who are not awesome writers, but they seem to have an uncanny ability to communicate directly with an artist and make them feel good and vulnerable in order to write the best song possible. Without the hype person…who is going to say "I think we wrote a smash!!" over and over and over again?

The Producer - The Producer is the person in the room whose job is to keep it moving from a technical standpoint. They are the ones whose IG presence is only recognizable from the backs of their heads. The Producer is the arbiter of taste, and oftentimes the final decision in the room. They also make sure that your stuff gets recorded and assembled the right way. Ever heard a GREAT song done as an awful cover? We all have. Don’t diminish the value of the producer. A great producer is somebody that knows how to interject themselves into any creative situation. They are the decider of what’s "cool" and what isn’t.

The Songwriter - To be clear, everybody in a writing session is a songwriter. With that said, there should always be that person in the room who’s sole responsibility is to just actually "write. "They’re the ones tracking the lyrics, they’re the ones that determine how to write the story to and from the concept. They are usually the ones that lobbing out initial idea on whatever the line might be. Typically the writer doesn’t have a lot of interest in "producing" even though obviously (of course) their opinion is just as valid as anybody else in the room. Their job is almost solely to move the story of the song along.

The Facilitator - The Facilitator is the person who manages the dynamics in the room. Not only that, they might have great relationships once the song has been written and completed. Maybe they have relationships with music supervisors, managers, artists or labels. As the facilitator your job is to take what you’ve done in the room and let the world know about it. Never undervalue or underestimate the facilitator, because more often than not, they’re the ones that are actually getting the songs placed.

BONUS - The Artist - It is always a benefit when the artist is in the room writing with you. You automatically have an outlet, and more importantly (and hopefully) someone with a distinct creative point of view. Any good collaborator's job is to creatively serve the artist. If the artist loves it, they'll fight for it. If they don't, then your session could wind up being a dud. Help the artist channel their voice and vision and they will come back to that creative partnership time and time again. Make sure the hype person is sitting next to them. It's also important to know who sits where in a room. It's weird, but everything adds or detracts from the dynamics.

The CODA: The best collaborations are when everyone in the room allows the space for their collaborators to shine through. Maybe today you contributed more than 25% in your 4 way…maybe you hardly contributed at all. Good collaborators understand how great collaborations work. Regardless of how you got there, it wouldn’t have happened without YOU. Trust that!!

See you next week and keep writing them hits.


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