Henry Priestman

Contributor: Henry Priestman
www.henrypriestman.com/bio
www.myspace.com/henrypriestman
Born Hull, UK. Moved to Liverpool in 1975, where first band Yachts supported Sex Pistols in 1977 and signed to Stiff Records to record the cult new-wave classic “Suffice to Say”. Founding member of It’s Immaterial who enjoyed chart success with single 'Driving Away From Home'. Founding member & main song-writer for The Christians who in 80’s/90’s sold 3 million albums on Island Records.

Last 10 years also spent producing/co-writing/+ music for film/tv/ads etc....first solo album "The Chronicles of Modern Life", originally released in Sept '08 on Stiff Records (returning to his old label after over 30 years), now re-released on Universal Records (through Island Records, another former home)...who'd'a thought it?!

Tip1 If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing then give it up and get a proper job…builders, plumbers and carpenters etc all make more than most songwriters I know do!…but what’s there not to love about getting paid for doing something you adore…’cept also bear in mind another old adage “It’s not all beer ‘n’ skittles, you know”
Tip2 Buy the entire Beatles catalogue (Motown, and a country boxset too, while you’re at it). The Beatles are important because they wrote in so many different styles, but basically it was all about hits (apart from Revolution #9, almost every Beatles track could have been a single!)
Tip3 Re the above, that doesn’t mean switch off from what’s happening today...try and listen to lots of new artists/songs too...keep abreast of what’s happenin’, man!...by the same token, hits ain’t all what it’s about (most of my favourite artists hardly sell a bean)...but I’m assuming that anyone visiting this site is searching for a modicum of success, and hopefully a career in songwriting.
Tip4 ”Four Chords and the truth” is an old Country adage, but so right...don’t get bogged down with musical prowess and clever stuff...Burt Bacharach can get away with it, but most of the rest of us can’t.
Tip5 Get good at eavesdropping conversations on the bus/café/pub/wherever, or just keep alert when you’re with friends…somebody might come up with a gem of a title/song idea…thing is, don’t say “ooh that’s a good idea for a song” or they’ll want half the publishing!!
Tip6 When inspiration strikes, try and get it down somehow, cos you’ll forget it in the morning!….Jot down a song title, make a note of those chords you like, or la-la-la a melody into your mobile phone…it’s always useful for the “dry patches” (which luckily I don’t tend to suffer from) to have stuff “in the bank”.
Tip7 Beware the “techno-brat” and gadget freak…So many people I know say things like “I’ve just downloaded this amazing new soft synth” or “have you heard the latest plug-ins on such and such a programme”…These won’t make you write a better song, so sod the plug-ins, and the techno-brats, make sure the idea is strong enough to work on an acoustic guitar/piano and vocal.
Tip8 Especially if chasing a record deal, but equally, if you’re trying to get a “cut”, make the song OBVIOUS…don’t fanny around with clever intros, and intricate muso noodling… most A & R men listen to the first 30 seconds of any song, so get straight to the point, and try and get to chorus 1 asap.
Tip9 Beware the “Fame” school or Performing Arts college approach...you can’t “teach” people to write songs…remind me of what good stuff has ever come out of a performing arts establishment…lots of guitarists who can play 20 notes a second, but thatdon’timpressamemuch…use these places to meet good people, form a band, then leave!
Tip10 Try co-writing: so many writers I work with originally started off working on their own (me included)…”why would I want to co-write, I can do it all on my own”…try it, a threesome’s even better, and you’ll end up with a song that you’d have never come up with on your own................................................................................................... And in honour of the esteemed Spinal Tap (amazing songwriters…”Lick my Lovepump!” anyone?), I’m going to “up to 11”............................................................................ 11/ After over 30 years in the “biz” try not to get as grumpy and cynical as some of my above answers would perhaps appear to indicate…ultimately I still LOVE what I do as much as when I wrote my first song aged 20 or so, and I get a thrill each time I write a new tune.
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