I remember when Kaisie came home from a Soundcheck event where she had learned from, and met, Trina Harmon. Trina had a great impact on her, so when we started this series I knew I wanted to interview her. I was not disappointed!
1. What has been frustrating for you, as a songwriter?
I would say the first 4 years of my professional songwriting career were the most frustrating because I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully authentic. I was practically born being able to channel my emotions through playing the piano, and everyone would affirm to me how powerful my melodies were. But I didn’t have the natural ability to translate that into lyrics, so I wouldn’t. I made that someone else’s job.
Then, I worked with a publisher that reflected my belief back to me daily by saying, “You shouldn’t write lyrics.” During that time, I think I felt relieved that I didn’t have to learn or grow into something that didn’t come easy for me. In every writing appointment, I would just give my music away, usually to strangers, that would write the words.
So when my publishers or the labels weren’t moved by my songs, I felt powerless, and truly thought without the perfect lyricist, I would never have a career. The moment I found my own voice, and began trusting myself to write only what moved me, I began having success.
Today, people come to me for my lyrics, and it didn’t take years and years of practice to get good at it. I simply just gave myself permission to say what I would say. Once I changed, my publisher changed.
That was the biggest lesson for me.
2. What do your songwriting clients tend to have the hardest time
I think the other part of the process where most Artists are challenged, happens after the song is written. The ability to sell your work and market yourself is essential to being successful. When I approach getting my song recorded or on an album, as a means to get money, recognition, or proof that I am good enough, it’s more than frustrating, it’s painful.
This is where all of us must shift our perspective to the Truth, which is, “They need us more than we need them.”
We are the creators. If we treat our Artistry with the respect, responsibility, honesty and authenticity it requires, then it’s going to hold the power to impact people, to document moments in time that want to be remembered, or to lift people’s spirits, or to even heal them in a moment of crisis. Isn’t this why most of us were inspired to be
Artists in the first place?
When you have a song that you know holds that power, you WANT to share it. It’s an honor. You are grateful to be able to give the gifts you’ve been given to anyone who is needing it. It changes the whole ‘marketing yourself’ equation completely, and honestly, it becomes fun. Why wouldn’t sharing our work be the most rewarding part of all?
3. You have a lot of experience working with many successful
songwriters – How do you (or have you) break through writing
I guess I don’t look at the writing ‘slumps’ as something to break through. I’ve accepted that it’s an essential part of being a truly prolific Artist, so I lean into it. I ask myself, “What is this uninspired moment wanting to show me?” Maybe it’s a call to center and balance my life more. Maybe I want to open myself up to receiving more joy in my life at this time. How is my meditation and prayer practice, and do I feel connected to my Source?
The uninspired moments are always a call to refuel, to realign. I always tell my clients, “Your Spiritual life is never separate from your Artist life. They will always mirror each other.”
A healthy life in any area is a constant flow of giving and receiving. As Artists, we’re not wired to only give, give, give all the time, or vice versa. We must balance our lives, to give AND receive inspiration as well. Our society has trained us to believe that we must be working and doing something all the time, or we are ‘lazy’, or deserve the
struggle we’re in.
But when we’re called to be Artists, we must honor the full process that it takes to create the cure for the one who is stuck in the ‘doing’ part of their own lives. Where do most people turn to for a break from their minds, or to process their own stress and emotions? Music. Movies. Television. Books. Our responsibility as Artists is a great one.
Release the judgment of being in a ‘slump,’ and allow yourself to complete the process. You’ll be amazed at how your writing abilities will expand by just doing that.
4. Who is your ideal cowriter, and why? (could be a person, or
characteristics of a person)
When I was in my early 20’s I got the chance to spend a week writing with the legend, Hal David. (What the World Needs Now, Close to You, Always Something There to Remind Me, I Say A Little Prayer). I asked him why he only wrote with Burt Bacharach all those years of his career. He revealed to me the secret to co-writing, that changed my life. He said, “You have to be able to TRUST your co-writer.”
I told him that all my co-writers had become good friends, so I had no problem with that. Then he cut me off, and re-explained. He said, “I know my strength is writing a great lyric. So if I had a question whether the music was right, I could always trust Burt to make the best decision for the song, not his ego. He could question my lyric, but he always trusted me to make the best choice as well.”
I went home that night, and listed all of my 128 active co-writers. I put a check mark by the ones that I trusted in that way, and there were 2. I still write with those two people today.
In the end, I feel confident in my abilities, I know what I’m bringing to the table, and I’ve finally released the need to prove that I deserve to be in that writing room. If I’m feeling blocked one day, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer.
If you’re in the room, then you have attracted it because of who you are, not who you should be.
I’m willing to be challenged and grow, I want to be inspired and I enjoy not knowing the answers all the time. That’s why I co-write. So when I’m around someone like that, I write with them because it works. When both of us care deeply, but neither of us have anything to prove. That’s when we can have fun, and the song pretty much writes itself.
5. Share some of your favorite lyrics, and why you love those lyrics.
There are hundreds of songs I wish I would have written. There are several I feel like I could have written, and sound like I did. There are even a couple of well known songs out there where I was in the room and had the chance to write on them, and I chose not too! I cringe when they come on the radio. Haha…
So picking my favorite lyric is impossible. But I will say there is an Artist who is currently transcending all my original standard of a great lyric right now, and that is Bon Iver. I was talking to my bodyworker about this awhile ago, as his music was playing during one of our sessions. We were amazed by how you can’t really hear what he’s saying, but you always tend to hear what you need to hear at that moment. It’s beyond the mind, and I don’t know how he does that, but I’m on a mission to know.
6. What’s one of your favorite songs that you’ve written, and why is
it one of your favorites?
I’ve always despised this question. I think for most Artists, our favorite song is usually the last one we just completed. If I didn’t think I could beat what I’ve already done, I’m not sure I’d have a reason to keep going through what it takes to birth a really great song.
The songs that I’ve written that have received hundreds of thousands of emails, letters, or comments as to the impact it’s had in someone’s life…how could I not love those? That’s why I write.
So songs like “Everything is Beautiful”, or “I Would Die for That”, ‘When You Lie Next to Me”, “Something More”, “Beautiful” and of course, the last song I wrote, “Amenjena”. Those would probably be my best attempts at
getting out of my own way.
7. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
“The process is part of the plan.” – A good friend wrote this on a post it note and gave to me when I was on my way to Nashville to begin my songwriting career. I carried that note around for years, until I understood what it really meant.
8. What’s the worst advice you’ve gotten, as a songwriter?
“If you’re willing to change the way you write, and everything about how you do it, then I will spend the money to sign you.” I’m sad to say I did torture myself and gave it some thought, but thankfully I came to my senses, and politely declined this publishers offer a week later. He then sent me an email that said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I still think you’re the best songwriter in this city, and the only writer to make me care this much in a long time.” There are no words to describe how messed up that was.
There’s nothing inspiring about an executive trying to clone the success of others, so he can keep his job. Today I’m grateful for that man. I love that man for what he made me question, and the true courage and love for myself that I was forced to discover through that time. From that day forward, my career has never suffered, and the only thing I’ve changed is what I believe about myself….and that changed everything.
So maybe that was the best advice I’d ever gotten. Hmmm.
I love it – thank you Trina Harmon!