problem i wish i had (hh goes pop country)

Cowriting is a curious business. The melding of minds is responsible for arguably the greatest songs ever written (think McCartney-Lennon, Lieber and Stoller) but on the flip side of that coin, just as many promising ideas (if not more) have been killed by the process. Cowriting is risky. Usually one party will bring the core of the idea to the other party or parties and risk its destruction for the possibility of its realisation. Mood, taste, the mythic ‘vibe’; if these don’t align, you will find yourself pushing a boulder up a hill, and for what? In my experience boulder songs amount to nothing but proof to your ‘people’ that you did an honest day's work. Boulder songs seldom make for a great listening experience and can happen to anyone. You might be writing with the best, you might bring the most inspired concept to the party, but there is no guarantee ever that it is going to work. I have risked some of my most ambitious ideas on cowrites and watched them shrivel and die on the vine. But I've also been pleasantly surprised by the unwitting distance travelled by ideas I thought were half-baked at best. As Chuck Berry says, you never can tell. All I can say is this, the best cowritten songs in my experience come from a humility or purpose, and some shared zilch point.

This brings me to Nashville, Tennessee, possibly the cowriting mecca of the 21st century. Cowriting in Nashville is a 9 to 5 factory floor kind of business. You turn up to a publisher's office, with, or sometimes even the personal residence of, a complete stranger. You may or may not share taste or style with this stranger but your job is to have a chart topper signed, sealed and delivered to your respective publishers by the end of day. You enter the room, make some idle conversation, each looking for the trigger point somewhere to kick things off. The pros will always have something ready to work with if you don’t find anything in your meandering chit chat. The pros will always have something finished by the end of the day.

I wrote Problem I wish I had with Chris Robbins and Michael Davey. These guys were pros, the kind of guys that had carved a living having songs cut by solid topliners. They hadn’t made enough to buy yachts and exotic birds (back then anyway…) but they had survived in the music business, and the music business ain’t the goose that laid the golden egg let me tell you. These guys were shooting to score a hit, and as soon as I worked that out, the write was a blast. I didn’t have to worry about who I was in the process at all, all that mattered is that the song made sense and didn’t get boring. It was like dissolving my ego in a tall glass of cherry coke. What your hearing is the demo we put together to pitch to other artists. I sang with an accent more affected than my usual, I was playing a part. Have a listen and see what you think. Maybe I’ll release it under the alias Hank Hook someday?

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