Collaboration & Co-writing: Why We’re Better Together

An interview with Gitika and Rachel

One songwriter arrived via a course at the Sydney Conservatorium, and the other through an online workshop with UK Ivor’s Academy, but they both ended up in an I Heart Songwriting Club group together writing 100 songs next to each other, virtually, from opposite sides of the world. To celebrate 100 songs, they decided to join a live session and write a song together on Zoom.

If you’d like an insight into co-writing and collaborating in real-time with songwriters from around the world in the club, be inspired by this story from Gitika Partington (UK) and Rachel Harding (AUS). And receive a treat to hear their first co-write together below.

Why did you join an online songwriting group?

Rachel: I knew from past experience that writing on my own steam all the time takes more mental energy and motivation than I can sustain long-term. Generally, I am a pretty motivated person and used to being disciplined. But community makes it SO much easier. And coming back to that community every week reminded me that I was pursuing a legitimate and worthy goal. As a result of joining, I have 100 songs written and now I actually tell people I am a songwriter.

Gitika: I would have sold my granny (if I had one) for something that would take my mind off the grimness of the pandemic. But I thought, what have I got to lose? So I gave it a try and was immediately hooked. 100 weeks later, it is one of the most important parts of my creative life.

Tell us about sharing ideas and collaborating on songs with strangers

Rachel: It’s pretty terrifying sharing your songs with strangers. However, there’s no way around it. A song a week is rarely going to feel polished or “finished”. Because I had been struggling so long, it felt that the pain of not doing something was worse than the pain of trying to do something, even if it could end in failure. Ultimately, everyone was generous, kind, respectful and encouraging.

Gitika: I love it.  People may have started as strangers, but they don’t stay strangers for very long. You can’t be strangers for very long if you regularly open your heart and share your process. Undoubtedly, I feel like I have made friends for life. 

What does 100 songs mean for you?

Rachel: I grew up in western Sydney. There was this unwritten code that women could be musicians but not really composers, bandleaders, conductors, or songwriters. During this time, I had a belief that “all the good stuff has been written already”, so writing and creating music always felt a bit subversive. Without a doubt, writing 100 songs has shifted that. I now own what I do, allowing myself to pursue it wholeheartedly, and it’s a relief. And I actually tell people I am a songwriter.

Gitika: I was always a songwriter, even as a very young child; I just never got the official t-shirt. At this time, I had never really found a place where I felt understood and truly encouraged. Some family members did not understand and definitely did not encourage. It can be very wearing. For me, the club is like finally coming home. I am now legitimately accepted as a songwriter, not apologising or having to be really strong, as so few people understand what I do. 

What are your thoughts on success as a songwriter?

Gitika: It feels like if you are not churning out ‘hits, ’ people often don’t understand the songwriting thing at all. Songwriting for me is akin to being a writer, a novelist with a tune or an artist. I often think there are so many types of songwriters, just like many types of artists, working with different mediums in different ways. All our processes are different. I feel like a collage songwriter. Now I am owning my craft as a huge part of who I am.

Rachel: I value the “useful fail”! We have this awful culture of talent shows in Australia where it’s always about success, fame, and the “big” moment or the “big” hit. By contrast, I have learnt more and progressed more by failures than by wins by feeling awkward and raw and trying, even when it feels like it ends in humiliation. True creativity is diving in and enjoying the process, not always worrying or obsessing about the outcome.

Waiting for inspiration or showing up and working?

Gitika: Like being a dancer or an athlete, you need to continue using the muscles. Not waiting for the ‘muse’. I believe you have to be at your desk or have an instrument in hand, doing the process for the muse to arrive. Like buying the lottery ticket to win.

Most weeks, I sit down, I feel like I have never written a song before and am a complete novice, and then I get caught up in the flow and love that flow so much. It can be gruelling and uncomfortable. Like running or pulling weights but the deep joy of being in that zone (which must be what athletes feel), creating and finishing a song. The absolute joy of being in that moment is almost indescribable.

Rachel: 100 songs in, everything is so much easier. I am never stuck waiting for inspiration, moods, or muses to descend. Instead I know enough to say that I can write a song regardless of whether I feel like it or not. It may not be brilliant; I may not love it. But the practice of showing up every week makes it that much easier to get into the pathway of the things I love. Sometimes I fall behind but have managed to submit something for all 100 prompts. And the process gets easier and faster the more you do it.

Tell us about your experience in the Club

Gitika: The wondrousness of sharing your song with a tribe who ‘get you’ is so precious. I have a handful of very special songwriting buddies now in the Club.  As it turns out, I look forward to an email coming through saying that they have listened to or shared a song. By now, I would have listened to around 900-1000 songs of other IHSC songwriters, which is just incredibly feeding for my soul.

I also love that I can write total ‘turkeys’ and relish writing totally out of the box. I’m willing to try weird and wacky sounds from my library and feel I have permission to try anything. I have written some very grief-stricken, sad, joyous, annoyed, politically motivated and funny songs over the last 2 years. Roll on to the next 100 songs.

Rachel: The best part is the community. Finding your tribe. Realising you are not alone in the world. I have plenty of amazing and awesome friends both in and out of the music world. But songwriting is a different kind of beast, and sharing and communicating with people who do the same thing is gold.

Tell us about co-writing a song together in real life

Gitika: I have listened to and commented on 90 of Rachel’s songs. When I met Rachel on Zoom a couple of weeks ago to co-write our 100th song, it was like meeting an old good friend. I bet this is what old-fashioned pen pals felt like before the internet, who hand-wrote letters for years and then met at a railway station in their shiny old leather brogues.

Describe 100 weeks in an online songwriting club

Rachel: Impossible! The first 10 songs were essentially running my own race, just pushing myself to put something in every week and not worry about who would hear it. After that, I found myself with some incredibly professional people, and they have challenged, inspired and pushed me to keep going! In the last year, I have just had more and more space to play with ideas and learn from those around me.

What is exciting is that every time I think I have plateaued, I make another breakthrough – just by showing up every week. And there are so many diverse styles in every group; I am always learning something new!

The value of a club like this is that if you’re having a bad day and start to forget who you are and are valued, others will always remind you and pick you up! And if you’re super lucky, you get to meet people like Gitika and then 90 songs later, we are still in the same group and finally meeting up over zoom to write a song! (And realizing how much we already know each other.) It is absolutely fantastic!

“I am about to do an album of just songs from the club with a musician I met over lockdown and rework them all in his studio. That’s 100 weeks in a songwriting club!”

Gitika: I am about to do an album of just songs from the club with a musician I met over lockdown and rework them all in his studio. On account of writing every week – that’s 100 weeks in a songwriting club! I want to thank this incredible community, the friends I have made, Francesca for her guiding light and Rachel for her beautiful generous heart, incredible talent and dedication to her own and her tribe’s songwriting journey.

What are you most proud of in your music career? 

Rachel: I hold a couple of classical music degrees and have accompanied and conducted choirs, toured Europe, and played in the Sydney Town Hall and Madeleine Cathedral in Paris. I’ve studied with people like composer John Peterson and pianist Christine Logan. But I think the real highlights for me have been getting the opportunity to meet and play with so many awesome people worldwide. From Zambia and Malawi to India, South Korea, Russia and Mongolia. And now, Wales with Gitika!

With these connections, it’s not been about concert hall performances. Instead, it has often been sitting around someone’s piano late at night with a thousand cups of tea and a whole lot of music and discovering the joy that comes from making connections beyond language and culture, the kind of connections that only music can make!

“…writing and recording 100 songs in the last 100 weeks with I Heart Songwriting Club.”

Gitika: I have taught classroom music to 500 inner-city kids every week in groups of 30  for several years, AND I know all their names. I overheard one of them saying about me, ‘she was the best teacher we ever had’. Also, writing and recording 100 songs in the last 100 weeks with I Heart Songwriting Club.

Would you like a collaboration experience similar to the one above?

With our upcoming co-writing course, you can have an experience similar to Gitika and Rachel. As part of this course, you will learn essential tools to build co-writing skills, confidence and networks. This includes training sessions, facilitated co-writing sessions, song-sharing sessions, homework activities and plenty of time to ask questions.

 Sign up and see more info here.

By |2023-01-30T18:00:04+10:00October 12th, 2022|0 Comments

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