One of the hardest things for songwriters to do is to break out of the style of music they grew up on.
Obviously, I have a tough time breaking away from the influence of the Beatles and other bands from the 60’s and 70’s. But one thing that helps me is listening to lots of different music.
I would encourage songwriters to listen to a wide range of stuff.
I listen to things like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (jazz fused with bluegrass), Irish music (like Riverdance), soundtracks (like those by John Williams [get his Greatest Hits - you can't beat the soundtracks from Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and others]), Broadway stuff (like Le Miserables). Sometimes I listen to classical music and lately I’ve been listening to Ricky Skaggs new album, “Mosaic.”
I’m also grateful that my kids keep me posted on current music to listen to as well. I try to listen to bands like Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, etc. and analyze their songs – what makes their melodies so good? What kind of rhythms do they use? What kinds of chord progressions do they use?
In this glorious day and age of technology, you can listen to all kinds of stuff for free on sites like Pandora and Grooveshark.
Just as writers must read a lot, songwriters must listen to lots of music. The more you listen to, the more of a “reservoir” you’ll have to draw upon.
photo by jordanfischer