Reservoir Media Management - SONGWRITER Q&A: JAMIE HARTMAN
 
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SONGWRITER Q&A: JAMIE HARTMAN

SONGWRITER Q&A: JAMIE HARTMAN

4/20/2016

From penning The Voice UK winner's single and award winning songs down under, to having his lyrics adorn Coca-Cola products, Jamie Hartman is known for crafting songs that strike a chord around the globe. We caught up with the Reservoir writer to pick his brain about choosing collaborators and how to make it as a budding songwriter. Read more below:

Who do you consider your biggest songwriting influences?

My musical influences are more mundane - The Beatles, Dylan, Bowie, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, The Rolling Stones. The usual suspects.

My songwriting influences are more interesting to me: my father and mother and their outlook on life, my brother who was my yardstick and measure of when a song. I'd always play him any new idea. When it was great, which was rare, he'd get misty eyed. When it was just good or worse he'd say "Nah. Write another one." My harshest critic set me up perfectly for a life of knock backs in the music business.

Also, I should credit a guy I don't work with anymore but spent two years flat sharing with. He's a pretty crazy fella and certainly showed me the rock and roll end of the business, but most importantly he taught me the importance and power of a great lyric.

You were once the frontman of the Ivor Novello- and BRIT Award-nominated group, Ben's Brother, and have since released your own music as well. How are your days different when you're writing and producing your own repertoire versus creating songs for other musicians?

When I write for myself, it's intensely personal to me. It is about my life right at that moment and finding a way to express how it feels in a new way.

When I write with and for an artist, I still rely on hearing and creating something new, something original enough to be a new idea, but my job is to channel their emotions into something with which they truly connect.

The original idea is the key behind it. That is the only guiding principle behind hits. Something new enough that the human ear and the overall populus recognize it as such. Otherwise it's just the same old crap and it won't sell.

You've worked in several places around the world, from Los Angeles to London. Is there a particular place that most inspires you to create music?

No. I believe that music comes from a higher place. As long as you are in a position of openness and acceptance, and unwilling to compromise on the quality but are willing to be open to anything, however crazy it might first seem or feel, the music finds you.

You have a knack for developing the signature sounds of up-and-coming artists. Just a couple of recent examples include James Bay, the Grammy-nominated British singer-songwriter who got signed after performing his and your song "Move Together" on Youtube; and Conrad, the young Australian artist who's crossing over globally and who touted your collaboration as one of the most important elements of his songwriting career. Is working with young talent something you intentionally seek to do when arranging co-writes?

Ha! Not really! I always thought " I wanna work with the big stars!!" But then in the business of songwriting that is a very rare opportunity. The big artists already have their teams of successful collaborators and, more and more these days, those doors are kept shut because it's where the money is. People don't want you and if they're having hits, quite honestly, they don't need you. But the wonderful thing about new artists is they're usually more open. You walk into a room and sometimes you meet people like James Bay and Conrad Sewell, guys who have crazy talent and a willingness to create something bigger than themselves. That is a privilege to be a part of.

Not all of your followers might realize that, in addition to writing and producing songs to be released by recording artists, you've written for advertising projects for quite some time. What differs in your approach between writing an artist's song and writing a commercial one?

Honestly, writing for advertising is just fun. I never expect to hit the mark because who knows what 15 people around a boardroom in Wyoming want to hear when it comes to selling their product. But it's nice when it happens.

While we're sure you don't play favorites, are there any songs you've written and/or produced that hold particular significance for you? Why?

The song I wrote for Will Young - "All Time Love" - was my first hit. That was and is special because it was supposed to be my big break as an artist but I had to let go of it in order to have a recording career. I 100% credit my friend Tina Harris with telling me to give it to Will - she told me I'd write another and I'd get many opportunities from it - which was totally right and the best advice on a phone call I've ever received. I do listen to other people a lot. Okay, sometimes…Sometimes!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing developing songwriters today? Do you have any advice about how to navigate it?

Only do it if you literally have to. I mean that. Have to. But not "Have to" in a bad way. I mean if you can't stand the thought of doing anything else and the world would end for you if you didn't. Because songwriting is a calling not a job. And it's incredibly hard to get it right and earn a living from it. Don't ever focus on money as your reason for doing it or you'll be unsuccessful. You do it for love and because you can't even think of doing anything else.

And lastly - be open. Open to other people's ideas and open to other ideas not just a single one of your own. Holding on to an average idea in a writing session can often prevent you from allowing a much better one to emerge. I call it not accepting God's first offer.

What are you focused on accomplishing next?

In my career I always focus on achieving excellence and improving my craft - whether that is a melody and lyric or now, as I'm producing a lot more, making a great record that will stand the test of time.

Outside of that, I want to focus on being a good member of my family, an attentive and present father and husband. My songs are precious, they are members of my extended family, but my wife and my children mean the world to me.

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