Damon Sharpe is an L.A. based songwriter and producer who has worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Anastacia, and Kelly Rowland. He is the man behind songs such as 'Love Don't Cost a Thing' by Jennifer Lopez. In 2005 he released the Hurricane Katrina relief record 'Come Together' now, written with Sharon Stone and featuring contributions from Celine Dion, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean and John Legend amongst others. Damon has won an ASCAP Pop award for 'Love Don't Cost A Thing' and a Grammy award for 'Chicago' (Best Soundtrack). Here he shares his songwriting tips.
- Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? A little of both. Being a full time producer/writer means you don't always have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. With that said though I'm constantly writing down titles, lyric ideas and recording music and melody ideas into my voice memos and stockpile them for later.
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? Get any emails, calls, texts etc out of the way and turn your ringer off. Check your social media if you feel the need and once that is done you can relax and get in a creative zone.
- Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Really depends on the song and whether I'm collaborating with another writer or an artist. Sometimes I'll start with a title, chords, melody, lyric fragments or even a drum loop.
- Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? The melody and lyric are equally as important with a strong hook being a necessity! People sing along to both! ;)
- How long does it take you to write a song? It varies. Sometimes less than an hour, sometimes days or even weeks of rewrites.
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? One of my biggest songs was 'Love Don't Cost A Thing' by Jennifer Lopez. That song was written in a very unorthodox way. My co-writer Greg Lawson called me and said he had a cool track vibe going and a shape of melody for a hook. After hearing the rough track and a scratch of the melody the first two lines of the hook came to me; 'Think you gotta keep me iced you don't think I'm gonna spend your cash I won't'. I called him back immediately and when I told him the first couple of lines I was thinking he told me "come over now!". On the way to his apartment I sang a melody pass into my recorder that essentially became the verse and pre-chorus melody. By the time I arrived at his apartment Greg had come up with the iconic 'even if you were broke my love don't cost a thing'. We basically finish it in less than an hour sitting on the floor of his studio apartment!
- What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? Anything that strikes a chord with me emotionally. Usually a song I connect with grabs me by the first hook.
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? It's a double edge sword. Having a basic grasp of theory helps but can also get in the way of the process. There are no rules in songwriting. If it feels good go with it.
- Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? Absolutely. Coming back with fresh ears and tweaking is the key.
- Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? Every song is different. I try to write the best song possible but it is important to be aware of the current musical trend and what you think will be the future.
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? Co-writing is very beneficial creatively; even if someone contributes a few words or acts as a sounding board it can make a song stronger. Also from a political stand point it opens up more doors for that particular song.
- Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Prince, Max Martin.
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? I've written many songs from personal experience but when you are a full time songwriter you have to learn to craft great stories and pull from outside sources for inspiration.
- Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? I think subconsciously we are inspired by music, TV, film and pop culture throughout our lives.
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Never take no for an answer. Believe in yourself and in your songs. No matter what success you achieve continue to learn from others and never forget where you came from and the people that helped you get there.
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Click on the following to find Damon on the web.