Josh Osborne, Cole Swindell and Other Great Songwriters Share Their Top Tips
When it comes to songwriting, there’s more than one way to succeed in the business. If you ask 10 songwriters for advice, you’ll get 10 different answers. But each answer shares a bit more information about the long road it takes to succeed in the music industry.
So American Songwriter chatted with some of the best songwriters, asking them what’s the best songwriting advice you can give budding songwriters? Here is what they said.
Some of his hits: “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves, “Take Your Time” and “Make You Miss Me” by Sam Hunt, “Sangria” by Blake Shelton, “Vice” by Miranda Lambert and “7 Summers” by Morgan Wallen.
“The industry is constantly evolving. I think there are opportunities now where young writers are moving into bigger venues more quickly. The whole affair accelerated. When I first moved to Nashville, there was a very successful songwriter I loved and admired, and I met his publisher and asked him “how long before I can perform in a room with this guy because if I can write with this guy, I could write a hit song He said, “Honestly, it’s gonna be a while.” ‘be in this room, you’ll be in this room. And finally, it happened. And to be honest, it was seven years later. It took me a long time to walk into this room with this writer in particular, and the funniest thing is that everything was fine. So what I learned from all of this is that if you are a person who thinks that I write my best songs by myself , so focus on that and really work on that. I would really encourage you to find joy in creating without people. st why I love being a co-writer.
Some of his hits: “Beers On Me” by Dierks Bentley Ft. Hardy & Breland, “Holy Water” by Michael Ray, “New Truck” by Dylan Scott, “Best Thing Since Backroads” by Jake Owen and “Take My Name” by Parmalee
“If you don’t like the process, you’ll burn out very quickly. Be happy with the success of others and don’t be discouraged if you don’t keep pace with someone else.
Some of his hits: “Smile” by Uncle Kracker, “Somewhere With You” by Kenny Chesney, “Sangria” by Blake Shelton, “Different For Girls” by Dierks Bentley and “Alone With You” by Jake Owen.
“Be yourself. Don’t try to copy what’s popular, be the next trend. I wrote ‘Somewhere With You’ which Kenny Chesney recorded and turned into a huge hit. At the time it had a melody of unique fast vocals that weren’t on country radio and a unique breaking angle. If I had tried to write a beach song or a sexy tractor song, Kenny would never have noticed. My song went stands out from the crowd. I didn’t know it was unique but I wasn’t trying to be anyone else either. Also, co-write. Your ideas become better when examined under different angles, and your network of people who can get your songs heard also grows when there are a few writers on a song…all write, all write, all write!
Some of his hits: “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and “She Keeps Me Warm” by Lambert
“You don’t have to self-destruct or create chaos in your life to be a good songwriter. I used to think I had to be drug-free, unhinged, and reckless to have a good story, but I see now that pain is not the same as passion Chaos is not art, it is chaos.
Some of his hits: “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber, 10,000 Hours by Dan + Shay, “Burning” by Sam Smith and “I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber.
“Just to be brutally honest as a songwriter. A lot of songwriters feel like everything they write is amazing and I think it’s important to realize that everything you write doesn’t won’t be great. It’s also important not to surround yourself with “yes men”, but with people who will honestly criticize you. It’s the only way to grow as a writer and become better. I would also say listen the radio to see if the music you create is on the same level as what you hear. If you are brutally honest with yourself as a writer and understand that not everything you write will be amazing, you will be able to continue to grow.
Some of his hits: “Faithfully”, “Open Arms” “Separate Ways” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” by Journey, “Oh Sherrie” by Perry,
“I was watching the Beatles documentary Come back, and John [Lennon] says the best time to sort them [songs] that’s when you make them [says Perry in his best John Lennon accent]. I’ve always been okay with that.
Don’t delay, because the best time is when they first show up. That’s when they’re alive. And you can sort them pretty well at that time.
Producer: Artists he has worked with: Lorde, Ed Sheehan, Portugal. The Man, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Pink, Cashmere Cat and Kehlani
“Make friends. Collaborate. Share your toys. The spoiled brat plays alone in the sandbox while all the other kids have fun in the other sandbox. If you think you can do it all yourself- you’re not even giving the universe a chance to help you. Spread material that other people have been working on with you. If you cling to it, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you’re insulting everyone who touched on your project No one wants to be last year’s dress.
“If I’m working on something with you, get it out as soon as you can while the art is fresh, don’t let it be last year’s dress, it’s just embarrassing.” Don’t be so afraid of all the horror stories that it inhibits your ability to break bread. I’ve been ripped off a lot, but I don’t get bored. More than not, when I put my neck out there, I make stronger, deeper relationships. Also, when I put my neck there, it’s easier to see when the snakes bare their fangs. They can’t help it, and it becomes easy to know who you can trust.
Some of his hits: “This Is How We Roll” by Florida Georgia Line, “Get Me Some of That” by Thomas Rhett, “Roller Coaster” and “Out Like That” by Luke Bryan, “You Should Be Here” , “Chillin’ It”, “Middle of a Memory” and “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” by Swindell.
“People I looked up to told me to write, write, write. The more you write, the better you get. That was my approach. But also, you wanted to write the best song. You always think that. For me, it was just about gaining experience. Looking back, there are probably some ideas that I wish I had kept until I now knew how to write them. Back then , I don’t know if I got the point right. It’s definitely not easy.
Some of his hits: “Boy” by Lee Brice, “Break Up in the End” by Cole Swindell, “Gonna Wanna Tonight” by Chase Rice, “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett, “Strip it Down” and “Knockin ‘ Boots” by Luke Bryan and “Tip It On Back” by Dierks Bentley.
“I encourage you to write with artists because a lot of new artists are fantastic writers and started out as writers, but I also think you should just write on your own and write with other writers who are awesome, who do things that you can’t because then you’re really chasing the song and not the career. You’re just chasing a great piece of music that the world had in there. So that’s what I did A lot of times I used to do “Friday songs” and it was like “Friday we do one for us”. Whatever we feel like doing, we write it. And then all the Friday songs started getting cut. And I was like, well, maybe we’ll do Wednesday, Friday, and Tuesday, you know? So I really think there’s something to just having fun .
“You have to be the guy who’s cool and a chameleon and pretty nice and gets along with pretty much everyone. And if you can do that, they can put you in any room. And at at the end of the day there will be a great song. And that’s all that really matters to everyone. They want a great song with their friends that they love, and the more I write, the more I have feeling like I didn’t know as much as I thought I did,” he explains.
Some of his hits: “A Beautiful Noise” by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile, “Happy People” by Little Big Town, “The Older I Get” by Alan Jackson
“I had someone tell me that – and that’s literally what kept me going. It was, ‘Find your people. Find the people who love what you do and focus on that. It’s helped me so many times. It’s so easy to look around and say, ‘What is everybody doing, and why am I not doing this? I have to do better. But I think it’s just important to focus on your art and your craft and what you do well and what you do that stands out. Just focus on that and make it as good as possible and Do not abandon.
Photo of Cole Swindell by Robby Klein