by Hunter Lynch
“If you want it done right, do it yourself” is a phrase often used in a half-joking, half-serious way, typically in the context of collaborative efforts. If the words “Group Project” give you traumatic flashbacks to grade school, then this phrase may have found its way into your daily routine, during a time where your work was taken advantage of, or distorted, as the final product turned out less than ideal. Looking at my own creative tendencies, there have been few practices that have been harder to master than the art of collaborating with other songwriters. For the longest time, I felt the desire to compete; to be secluded to my own little island where only I could receive recognition for the work accomplished. However, as I grew as a songwriter, I noticed a constant thread that ran through the writing processes of the artists I looked up to: the practice of co-writing. I saw that the strongest songs that have persevered over the years lay on the shoulders of a team, not an individual. These are songs like “In Christ Alone” (Keith Getty and Stuart Townend), “Is He Worthy?” (Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive), and “My Worth is Not In What I Own” (Keith and Kristyn Getty with Graham Kendrick), all incredibly strong offerings that the church will use for years to come, written in community. As I began to seek out different artists to work with, I learned over time the necessity of collaboration for the health and soul of the artist, and I haven’t looked back since.
Working in community is a glorious thing, despite the fact that finding a rhythm can take time. My first attempts at co-writing were feeble, unorganized sessions where it all just felt like wasted time in the end. On one hand, it was a matter of conflicting writing styles. On the other, it was simply the feeling of creative anxiety, and the fear of not having anything worthwhile to bring to the table. It was a frustrating process. Yet, through trial and error, I eventually found artists whose work flowed naturally with mine, and who challenged me in spots where I needed to be challenged, and didn’t simply nod and agree for the sake of ending our time together.
Putting feet to my desire for co-writes has been life-giving and sanctifying. I can’t stress enough how relieving it is to have a fresh set of eyes on a text you’ve been staring at for weeks, or receiving from your co-writer a wonderful verse that was struggling to materialize in your own head. On the end of sanctification, good co-writes often have the potential to be tension-filled. Sometimes, you are faced with hard decisions and darlings to kill, and it can be incredibly gut-wrenching to put a beloved set of lines on the chopping block. However, time and time again, I have seen that those hard decisions that had me pulling my hair out were good calls I never would have made on my own. In these types of exchanges, it takes thick skin and a dedication to preserving the friendship to make it to the other side, but the end result is well worth the labor it took to get there.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” There is a particular satisfaction and fulfillment we can find in solo work, and this is by no means a condemnation of pursuing DIY projects. However, when songwriters work in harmony for the good of the Church and the Glory of God, it paints to the watching world a picture of unity, not division; camaraderie, not competition. Now more than ever, we need bridges built to unite our artistic islands. We need artists joined together, challenging one another, in the mission of creating songs that will stand the test of time.
For more articles on collaboration:
Fostering Collaboration by Kathryn Kircher
The Art of Critique by Stacey Reagan
Songwriting Together by Trevor McMaken
6 Tips for Songwriting with Friends