Becoming “Promiscuous Collaborator”

John Legend

Lesson time 08:35 min

John calls himself a “promiscuous collaborator” because he loves to write songs with other artists. Learn how to be a songwriter others want to work with.

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Topics include: Choosing a Cowriter


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Now, I've been talking a lot about songwriting, but just know that even though I'm here by myself, I cowrite a lot. I'm a promiscuous collaborator. [MUSIC PLAYING] I love to collaborate with other writers, with producers, with other musicians. I feel like I get great energy from other people. I get great ideas from other people, and it gets me out of any songwriting ruts that I might be in because if you can be sparked by another idea from another person, it can push you in a direction you may not have gone by yourself, and I think that's really helpful. And I think it makes me more prolific as a writer, and it makes the end result better. So when you're starting out as a songwriter, you're thinking, well, I don't know any producers, or I haven't built these relationships yet. I don't a bunch of other musicians. Well, it's time to start going out there and getting to know them. So go to jam sessions, go to maybe-- to school. People go to Berklee, people go to Juilliard for this reason, so they can be around other musicians and be inspired by them. But it could also just be a group of folks you get together with and jam with. And so you start to make relationships with other musicians. You start to find people who speak your language musically, who make you better, who you relate to personally, who want to make the same kind of music you want to make, and you start to create together. Some of my best songs I wrote by myself, so a couple of the ones I've been illustrating to you today, "Again" and "Free", I wrote completely by myself. But I wrote "Ordinary People" with Will.I.Am. I wrote "All of Me" with Toby Gad. I've written a lot of my newer songs on my new album with other people, and I think it's really important to find collaborators that you connect with who maybe bring something different to the table than what you bring. So you have your own point of view, you have your own background, your own experience. I grew up in the church. I grew up with soul music. You know, so I have my own background, but it's cool to work with people who have different backgrounds and can bring something different to the table that complements your own skill as a writer and your own point of view. And you can make something together that's even more interesting and exciting than what you would do on your own. One of the things I like to do when I'm co-writing with someone is we open a Google Document so that we can edit live on the same document and share those changes as we're making them. But you need to be a good communicator and a good collaborator. And then sometimes, you may have written the full song, but you need someone else to help you arrange it or produce it, or you need a guitarist, or a pianist, or a drummer to help you realize your vision. You may need a producer to help you realize your vision, so you need to start to develop a vocabulary for explaining the things you want. Somet...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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