Hi Everybody, Charlie Karp here. So excited about the new blog on adventures in songwriting and life… from my perspective anyway.
People often ask me how I start a song. I always tell them I think about themes or titles first. What’s happening in your life? I tell them to come up with at least ten of these titles. It’s the jumping off point. Then you can get a notebook and dig deeper into it.
Back in the day they used to say there was a formula to songwriting. It was something like an intro that grabbed your attention, a verse, a chorus, second verse, chorus, bridge with solo then back to the verse, chorus sequence again and fade out sort of thing. In a perfect world the song would be around three minutes long. That’s what the record companies were looking for back when they ruled over the industry. Now of course the business has totally changed. There are no formulas in songwriting. Everyone is free to write and produce their own 10 minute song. You can pretty much do what you want.
Early on I had the wonderful opportunity of writing some songs with Artie Resnick. the great songwriter of Under the Boardwalk and Good Lovin among many others, I used to talk to him about his formula for success. He had produced so many hit songs. When I pressed him on what it was that made a hit record he said, “Hell if I know and anyone who tells you they do know are full of shit.”
Turns out he had hated some of his hit songs when he heard them on pre-release. He so disliked a few that he tried to use all his power to stop the records from coming out. To no avail they became #1. “Isn’t THAT too bad?” From then on when Artie and I were working on songs I had this idea that if he hated the song we were working on we were doing really well. If he liked it, I actually worried. We went on to write Buzz Buzz for Joe Perry and Too Bad on Your Birthday for Joan Jett among others.
In the end none of us really knows what’s going to sell. You just have to keep at it. As long as you want to keep listening to the song over and over again before it's even over, you are in good shape.
Until my next post, CK