July 10, 2018

Eight things we learned at The Melbourne Sessions

Eight things we learned at The Melbourne Sessions

The first-ever Melbourne Sessions went down on Friday, July 6 at Kindred Studios, and what a day it was. Over 200 songwriters and composers were in attendance, with most hailing from Victoria, but we also met keen participants from Hobart, Canberra and Adelaide.

So, with a program including a one hour keynote ‘in conversation’, 90-minute masterclasses, 3-hour small group workshops, and a special performance at the end, what did we learn at The Melbourne Sessions? Let’s go to the list-making experts.

Get out the bad songs

Grammy-winning R&B and hip-hop producer (and total legend) Warryn Campbell, regaled the full house with references to working with superstars like Tupac, Kanye West, and Alicia Keys (he knew her when she was high school student Alicia Cook). But he also hit on home truths:

  • On how to make a hit happen: when others go right, go left.
  • Write the bad song and get it out, and don’t let anyone hear it.
  • Don’t be anyone but yourself – your music is like your fingerprint. Stay true to that fingerprint and who you are

Ditch the ego

Another Warryn gem: when Quincy Jones recorded We Are The World, there was a sign on the studio entrance that simply said ‘Leave Your Ego at the Door’.

Any crowd is a good crowd

Ben Abraham spoke earnestly to a packed masterclass, touching upon the ten years he spent pursuing music, and working a good job, before breaking through. Set goals, he said.

“I kept doing shows. If 10 people came and the next time 20, I thought I could maybe get it to 100.”

To demo or not to demo

Is the demo dead? Video games composer Jared Underwood talked about how much time to spend on a demo for a developer. The client might tell you to send a rough idea in, but you want your demo to sound good. To be ready.

“Some say there is no such thing as a demo anymore,” and everything you do is considered the final.

Good grammar is king

Laura Jean got real about lyrics in her workshop. “Sometimes a song doesn’t work because we haven’t used the right tense – past, present, or future,” Jean told her rapt audience. Use grammar to create the mood, the feeling, a sense of nostalgia or of hopefulness.

Workshop, workshop, workshop

Writer, producer and Eskimo Joe member Joel Quartermain discussed the construct of the song in his workshop. “Writing from the chorus out is a good way to start – because then you don’t have to go back and figure out the point. You are starting with the main point.”

Use your weakness

Beatrice Lewis of Haiku Hands and Kardajala Kirridara went deep into electronic music production and talked about knowing your weakness. She said, “I’m not a good singer but I’m pretty good at distorting shit…and finding really good sounds.”

Layer it up

Screen composer Bryony Marks (Please Like Me, ANZAC Girls, Barracuda), told her workshop that when writing music for the screen, you need to write for the different layers of what’s happening: the story as it is being played out, the undercurrent of relationships, and the foreshadowing of what is to come.