Have you ever written songs that just don’t seem to fit in with the rest of your songs?
Perhaps you write pop songs, but ended up writing a song that bends a little more folk-y or country. Or maybe you wrote a blues song by accident.
This happens sometimes.
Personally, if I hear a song or see a show I find particularly inspiring, sometimes I’ll end up writing a few songs in the same vein.
This can be confusing as an artist, because despite being stylistically left of center, you may still like the song you’ve written. And, sometimes it may not be in a popular music genre.
I’ve also found myself writing songs that are much less commercial than what I normally write.
I don’t set out to write “commercial” sounding music, and never have. But for myself and many other people, commercial sounding music is what comes out.
Still, when you have an emotionally intense experience or feel inspired to write, you sometimes produce things that are less commercial, but still meaningful (and potentially good).
What do you do with songs that are less commercial or don’t fit your general style?
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Write The Song Anyway
First off, if you’re halfway through a song, and are growing worried because the song isn’t turning out like your other songs or is turning out less commercial, don’t stop.
You’re always writing for a reason, and I believe that songs always come from somewhere.
The point of writing a song is not always to release the song and promote it, sometimes it’s just to write a song.
The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. If you make a habit of finishing songs, you’ll be more likely to finish the next great song you write.
Beyond that, the songs we write when we’re feeling free of genre and constraints can be authentic and raw in a way that music sometimes lacks.
I believe that this is why artists sometimes drink or take drugs and write – they don’t feel all the pressure that writing songs sometimes comes along with.
If the song seems commercial, but doesn’t fit with the genre you normally write, again, just write the song.
As an experiment and a test of your production skills, try demoing the song in different genres.
The interesting thing about commercial music and popular music in general, is that the songs can often fit into different genres – it’s just how the artist chooses to interpret the song.
Once a song is written, it will forever be there for interpretation. I believe that once you’re singing a song that has been written, you turn into an artist interpreting a song – even if it’s your own song, you’re still interpreting the things you were feeling when you wrote the song.
There is no pressure. Write the song even if it doesn’t feel like it belongs in your catalog. And, when you’re done, you can think about what you want to do with it.
What To Do With Songs That Don’t Fit
So, you’ve written a song, and you like it. But, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t fit in the album you’re working on, and it doesn’t have a place in your live show. What’s the deal? What’s there to do? Just scrap the song?
Not necessarily. Here are a few options:
Start A Side Project
Many artists write songs that don’t fit into their main project’s aesthetic. That’s why people have side projects and solo projects.
I think it’s smart to curate your releases so that everything you’re releasing makes sense and feels cohesive.
For that reason, you could consider starting a side project and releasing songs that don’t fit there.
You can release a bunch of songs under a new name, or just drop singles every once in a while.
Rappers, producers, and hip-hop artists do this all the time. MF Doom (a personal favorite) released albums with different monikers and characters, just because that’s his vision. And, it’s awesome (his characters are mostly all super villains of one type or another).
Release An EP Or A Collection Of Misfit Songs
Alternatively, you can collect all of your misfit songs and release them as a unit, and communicate to your audience that these are songs that don’t fit your other albums, but still needed to be released.
If all of your misfit songs have a similar “vibe”, this can be a cool project that will only make your fans more interested.
If your misfit songs are all over the map, all you have to do is do a good job of producing them. If you’re successful at making all of your misfit songs into the best songs they can be, you’ll end up with an impressive, eclectic album of songs that mean something to you.
Work With A Producer To Create Cohesion
On the other hand, if you’re consistently stuck making music that just doesn’t want to fit together, it may be wise to bring in another creative brain.
Having a producer or collaborator that you work well with can take your music to the next level.
To start, a good producer is a strainer for your ideas.
They will develop an understanding of your creative vision and help you focus your vision and realize it.
Theoretically, you should be able to take almost any song and make it work on a collection of songs. It’s just that some songs will require a little more massaging than others.
A trusted partner that can give you validation and direction is invaluable.
I am always working with a few close, and frequent creative partners. Sometimes, all they are there for is to engineer and tell me that a performance was good enough, when I get too in my head about it.
Sometimes they’re there to take a song that sounds nothing like my other songs to the next level. Sometimes they’re there to take a song that sounds exactly like all of my other songs to an unexpected place.
Write The Music First
Write for the sake of writing. Your principal job as an artist is to create and interpret work, so that's what you need to do.
If you create something that doesn’t fit into a popular genre, you’re still doing your job, and you’ll thank yourself for giving every song a chance.