When Songland arrived last summer, the numbers proved it was different.
The opportunity to see talented songwriters pitch songs and talented producers workshop those songs in realtime not only made Songland one of the top shows of the summer but a bonafide hit factory. Songland is a powerful channel for songwriters and provides an opportunity to celebrate their work. Right now, when we’re itching for feel-good stories, Songland delivers one every single week. This week, the show managed to deliver a little bit more positivity through a Zoom party as well.
“It’s so good to see your faces and your smiles,” shared Scott Evans (Host, Access Hollywood) at the beginning of NBC ‘s Songland listening party. “This energy is, I think, what we all needed right now.”
Evan’s jubilant smile radiates through Zoom. So does the infectious energy, wisdom, and passion of producers Ester Dean, Ryan Tedder, and Shane McAnally.
To celebrate the second season of Songland and share the stories behind the songs, NBC hosted a virtual Listening Party on Monday, April 27th. Every week on Songland, songwriters pitch a song to the producers (Tedder, Dean, and McAnally) and guest talent. In Season 1, artists included John Legend, will.i.am, Macklemore, and The Jonas Brothers. So far, Season 2 has featured Lady Antebellum, Luis Fonsi, H.E.R, and Martina McBride.
“People realized that first and foremost, it’s about collaboration and giving exposure to unsigned songwriters,” Ryan Tedder shared. “My goal for the show is that the highest amount of people possible come off the show with a publishing deal, or they become professional songwriters full time because that’s the point of what we’re doing. And showing the beauty of songwriting and the magic behind it.”
Ryan, Ester, and Shane shared more behind the songwriting magic during the Listening Party. Below are the key lessons we learned along the way.
Chase waves, not money.
While we debate whether to open beaches outside of Zoomlandia, the Songland crew is committed to the ocean metaphor for pop songwriting. “You’re a surfer,” Ryan Tedder explained. “Your ability to find and catch waves is directly impacting how long you can stay out at sea.” Seeing and assessing the dips and valleys of popular music and the industry as a whole is important to Dean as well. “When you respect the ocean, when you respect that you have to need a wave…you need to want to crash and burn,” Dean shared. “You’re not chasing it for money and you’re not chasing it for number one. You’re chasing it for the feeling.” While earning money as a songwriter is, of course, important, Tedder agrees that seeking the money is not how to ride the waves. “The money finds you when you understand your own reality,” Tedder explained. “Understand your reality, maximize it and if it’s songwriting and creativity, maximize it and then money finds you.”
Write. Write. Write. Then write some more.
The Songland crew believes the key to songwriting is continuing to write and learning to let go of your songs. Referring to your songs as “your babies,” as Dean quipped, or not letting it grow into something new can actually hinder its success. “That happens so much especially to younger newer writers where they write what they think is THE song and they’re so precious with it,” McAnally shared. “If you’re a songwriter, it doesn’t stop.” This is good news: If you write songs, there will always be more songs. Trusting that piece of wisdom is part of the process. Experimenting with a new genre can also help expand your song base. “If you write R&B, start writing pop. If you write pop, start writing country,” Dean shared. “This is a time where you can learn your voice.” Not only will continually writing help you hone your craft, but it may provide a spark of joy and improve your overall wellbeing (and let’s be honest, we all need that right now). “Creativity wins and opens up your heart and make[s] you healthy,” Dean enthused. “You should be singing and writing songs just to even keep yourself in a higher vibration of health.” There were, perhaps, 88 new songs written that day, one for every guest on Zoom, after that piece of advice. So, here’s to higher vibrations.
Success takes persistence and serendipity.
The Songland Listening Party guests included journalists and Songland songwriters such as Filippo Gabella, otherwise knowing as PipoBeats. The week before, Luis Fonsi released the PipoBeats penned song “Sway” and it hit number 1 on the iTunes sales chart. Gabella jumped into the party with a question of his own: “If you guys are PipoBeats, a 22-year-old singer/songwriter/producer who just won the show Songland for the episode of Luis Fonsi, what would you do from this second to capitalize on that opportunity if you were in his shoes?”
“I believe that you belong in a new generation of Latin music,” Dean started. “I think you should go and get a deal right now. You see people who pitch songs and it’s a hit. You don’t have to give away your next one. Go figure out how to be on the tour with Luis Fonsi.” The moment, even in its imperfect Zoom form, brought two things to light: 1) Songland can certainly provide songwriters a platform, and 2) it’s not perfect and you have to capitalize on it.
Throughout the talk, Tedder, Dean, and McAnally referred to writing a perfect song as a moment when “God walked in the room.” It’s a serendipitous experience. And it doesn’t happen often.
So, to songwriters: I hope God walks in your room. Until then, we can see it walk into the room, together, on Songland.
— The Knockturnal (@_TheKnockturnal) May 3, 2020