Shelly Peiken talks technological changes
Author of the book Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, Shelly Peiken, spoke with Argonaut Online about her book, the changes that the writing process seems to have taken, and more! Read an excerpt of the interview below and let us know your thoughts on the interview in the comments section below.
“Hit songwriter” sounds oxymoronic, considering the process by which commercial pop songs are frequently constructed. But Shelly Peiken belongs to that echelon of “career songwriters” who’ve made a living crafting songs for other artists.
“I was actively getting up every day and writing and pitching to artists,” she recalls, estimating that she would write or co-write 30 songs a year. The sassy writer’s best-known cuts are “Bitch” (Meredith Brooks), “Who You Are” (Jessie J), “Almost Doesn’t Count” (Brandy), “What a Girl Wants” and “Come on Over” (Christina Aguilera).
A short list of other artists for whom she’s composed includes Aaliyah, Natasha Bedingfield, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Miley Cyrus, Celine Dion, Selena Gomez, Gladys Knight, Lisa Loeb, Reba McEntire, the Pretenders, Britney Spears, Keith Urban, and the cast of “Glee.”
Now, 25 years into her career, Peiken has become choosier in her projects. As she spells out in her witty, compulsively readable book “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter,” she still joyfully sings along at the top of her lungs to songs she hears on her car radio.
But something fundamental has shifted in the way mainstream pop music is created, largely as a consequence of technological changes that continue to rewire the industry.
The thrill of connecting with a song that perfectly encapsulates the listener’s own circumstances — that three-minute rush that addicted Peiken to songs and songwriting in the first place — is rooted in very human experience.
She writes poignantly about how the Beatles and singer-songwriters such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon “were all able to reach a place inside of me with their self-examination, honesty, incongruities, longings and whimsical pleasures.”
But when songs are treated as templates with interchangeable parts, rather than as vehicles for meaningful personal expression, their capacity to connect deeply with listeners is undercut, which in turn shortens their shelf life.
That lack of relationship between co-writers — the trust-building collaboration Peiken dubs “SongSex” — affects the quality of music and disenfranchises songwriters from the process of song creation, she argues.
To read the full interview click HERE.