For most of my songwriting career I've written by myself. When I was a teenager (before I felt confident enough to write my own lyrics) I tried asking some friends from school to come up with lyrics for some tunes I had written, but they never seemed quite right. It wasn't until 2015 that I completed my first successful writing collaboration - 'Shona Mona Mae', which I co-wrote with my producer Joe Lonsdale, and was released as part of the 'Mae & Max' single.
In 2018 I decided to start a project called 'Write, Co.', a collection of songs co-written with other people (see what I did there?) Over the years a couple of fans had reached out to me with lyrics they wanted me to put to music, and these became the first two demos I recorded for the project. Eager to do some more co-writing, I reached out to fellow songwriters on Twitter and found several who were happy to collaborate.
For a while I only wrote with people who were just writers and not performers as well, but I soon started writing with singer-songwriters, and those songs became their own separate project (which you can read all about here.)
In between working on other songs and projects of my own, I will be recording more of these collaborations when I can. I intend for 'Write, Co.' to be an ongoing project, so if you'd be interested in writing with me (or if you know of any songwriters who would), please get in touch!
The "WRITE, CO." project
"let's make music together..."
REMEMBER (co-written with Hannah Tyley)
A sad song about longing for a time when things were simpler, and lamenting a lost chance at love. I kept the lyrics brief and the arrangement simple as I felt that's what the song required.
FALLING (co-written with Lara Lynn Hixon)
The lyrics for this song were brought to me by someone who has bravely dealt with depression in the past, and it marks the first time since 'Down Days' (from my first album) that I've written a song dealing with this subject. The melody was one I had already written, and with minor adjustments I was able to make the lyrics fit. The arrangement is the simplest of any of the demos on this project so far (just piano and vocals), which, in a way, matches the feeling of isolation the song describes.
27-4-77 (co-written with Munindran Vasuthavan)
When Munindran sent me the opening verse and bridge for this song, he told me the real-life story that inspired it - back in the 70s he was in love with someone who he couldn't be with because their families disapproved of their union. I thought the chords he used were beautiful and I found the story heartbreaking, so my challenge became to write a chorus that lived up to them (as the final line says, "In a world where love is so hard to find, who would wish for it to end?"). Even though it's just a demo, I wanted to give the recording a 70s folk-ballad feel (something reminiscent of singer/songwriter Rodriguez), so I added a flute sound and a gentle electric piano, which I think sounds really lovely.
AN ANGEL CRIES (co-written with Sam Long)
With this song, I sent Sam a melody I had already written, and he came up with the lyric idea of a singer who performs in a small back-street club, providing a weary man with a brief escape from the bleak world. I don't often write 'story' songs myself, so I'm very grateful that the 'Write, Co.' project has enabled me to write three so far that I'm very proud of. I wanted to make the song as atmospheric as the lyrics, so I ended up using a lot of layers of swirling keyboard pads in the arrangement.
NIGHT FALLS (co-written with Fady El Hachem)
This song started out as a voice memo Fady sent me of him singing his idea for the melody. I went to the keyboard to work out the notes and the chords that could accompany it, and it turned out there was a very solid tune in there - so, in effect, I was just translating/transcribing it. After that all I did was come up with the middle 8 and adjust some of the other lyrics to fit the melodic pattern that had already been established.
FIRST BASE (co-written with Anders Bay Jensen)
This is the only song I've ever written where I came up with the bass part first (hence the title - get it?) From the songs on his Soundcloud page I could tell that Anders was really good at arrangement and production, so I sent him the parts I already had and he came up with a great drum beat (inspired, at my request, by "Off The Wall"-era Michael Jackson) as well as ideas for the verse melody, and chords for the middle 8 and the end of the chorus. For the lyrics, I tried to write something that could make sense both in the context of baseball and the dating scene - it wasn't easy, but I think it just about works! (I was inspired by the 'radio' segment from the middle of the Meat Loaf song "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" - hence the line, "...and it reminds me of a time when I was halfway to paradise"!)
TURN IT OFF (co-written with Gene Rowan)
In the autumn of 2020 I came across Gene's Twitter page, where he had posted 30-second clips of instrumentals that required lyrics and vocals. I asked him if I could try writing some for one which had the working title of 'Singularity', so he sent me the full-length track. I felt the lyrics should have some attitude to match the funky rock sound, so I took inspiration from the volatile political climate at the time. In the run-up to the US presidential election it seemed impossible to escape from people who were more interested in hurling abuse at each other and spreading misinformation than trying to engage in civil discussion, so I wrote the lyrics from the point of view of someone in the middle of that situation. It was a tricky song to record vocals for as there were several tempo changes, and it required more shouting than my songs usually do! I'm pleased with the result, however.
IN A HUNDRED YEARS (co-written with Allison Leah)
Allison Leah was an artist I discovered through Luna Keller, and I'm glad I did because her music is beautiful. I reached out to her in the autumn of 2020 suggesting a collaboration, and together we finished a song I started writing years ago. The title and chorus were already in place, and Allison wrote the melody and lyrics for the verses, which were inspired by serious issues including climate change, racism and the Covid pandemic. As Allison was busy with other musical commitments in 2021, we were unable to record a duet version of the song, so I recorded a demo of it myself at home. I hope we are able to record it properly one day, as I'm very proud of the finished song, and I think our voices would sound great together on it.
ON THE SHELF (co-written with Sebastian Briggs)
Sebastian Briggs is a theatrical singer/songwriter from Minnesota who goes by the stage name The Lone Daydreamer. After hearing his incredible song 'Nobody's Fool', I reached out to him asking if he wanted to collaborate. I sent him the tune for a piano ballad I had written years ago, and very quickly wrote lyrics for it and sent me back this demo. I always felt the tune had the potential to be like a big ballad from a stage (or film) musical, and so Sebastian's decided to sing the song from the point of view of a toy who spends his days sitting on a shelf waiting to be played with, which I thought was a brilliant idea. We experimented with giving the song an orchestral arrangement, but changing circumstances meant we were never able to finish it. We may record it properly one day, but Sebastian's demo has a beautiful, melancholy innocence to it too.
EMBRACE IT (co-written with Stefanie Drexler)
Stefanie Drexler is a superb power-pop singer/songwriter/producer from Austria who goes by the stage name Dear Stella. After discovering her excellent EP 'Time Zones' I reached out to her asking if she'd like to collaborate. I sent her a chorus idea I'd had a couple of years ago for a song called 'Not A Guilty Pleasure', about being unashamed of liking things you enjoy (the style of the tune was inspired by my unashamed fondness for the Taylor Swift song '22'!). I wrote the rest of the lyrics and Stefanie put them to music. Unfortunately, changing circumstances meant we were unable to perform the song as a duet, so I recorded this demo on my own (but using her original piano track).
IN OUR NAIVETY (co-written with Lydia Andersen)
In 2018 my supremely talented wife had an idea for a nativity musical called 'Where Are My Wings?', and together we wrote several songs for it. I really loved some of the melody ideas we came up with, and I thought they could work really well as a medley-type song (in the vein of "Band On The Run" by Wings or "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" by The Beatles). I took sections from three of the nativity songs and put them together in an
A-B-C-B structure, and for the lyrics I took inspiration from times in both of our lives when we had naively entered into various endeavours, not fully aware of what exactly they would entail or how they would go.