Hit songwriter Kirsty Bertarelli believes that we can stay inspired.
13 years ago All Saints hit the number 1 spot with “Black Coffee”, a song written by an unknown singer/songwriter from Stoke on Trent called Kirsty Bertarelli.
She’s since gone onto a very successful recording and writing career.
We were lucky enough to catch up with her as she prepares her first UK album release to ask her insight on the songwriting process.
The world thinks in terms of songs that ‘fail’ and songs that ‘succeed’ – as a songwriter, do you think that way?
A good song to one person won’t necessarily be a good song to someone else. I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time!
A very famous artist recently said, “either you are a genius and you devote yourself to music, or you aren’t and you don’t.” – do you agree with this or disagree?
I think you have to do more than one thing in your life….it’s the other areas of my life that inspire my music!
If you were to tell a dispirited and lonely group of songwriters some things to do to find inspiration and energy, what would you tell them?
Sometimes if you are having a bit of a blank, it helps to start with a title or topic and go from there. For example with Wild Flower, I pictured a flower with the petals falling off and that imagery led to me thinking about someone who was hurting themselves or falling apart. Starting with just one word that you really focus on can be the trigger.
Great – and if that doesn’t work?
Sometimes it can be good to write with other people, with me it pulled me out of my comfort zone. It can give you a different perspective to write with other people. It is a different way of working and you can learn about their techniques
What are your guiding principles in the songwriting process?
Try to be original and be real. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Don’t worry about what is popular…by the time you get there it won’t be popular anymore!
Is there a ‘best place’ for you to do your songwriting? If so, what is that place?
Anywhere really. I would say quite often a thought springs up in the middle of the night. I have a notepad by the side of my bed so I jot it down.
What about other places?
I can be at a cafe or restaurant and someone will say something and it sparks an idea and I’ll scribble it down on a napkin. I’ll also record a line it two on my ipad using an app. If I want to work on something at home I have a little study where I go. Sometimes people send me a backing track and I’ll work on that at home. And nowadays I often go and work with other writers in a studio
Do you complete any of your songs and then find that they ‘don’t work’? If so, what do you do with them?
I find that that the best songs tend to come quickly and easily – it’s very hard to fix a song later.
Did it require courage to put your first songs ‘out there’?
Yes, but if you don’t do it you will never know! You have got to put your heart out there, put yourself on the line – not everyone will love what you do but that’s OK too! To see other people respond to a song means a lot.
How can songwriters maximize their chances at having their material see the light of day?
First you must believe that your work is good. And then realise that things won’t come to you, you have to get out there yourself.
It is important to find someone who can encourage you and who will bring the best out of you and nurture your talent. Avoid people with big egos!
Point taken – any other advice for what can be a grueling process?
It is daunting but you need to get out there! I found out about my first manager and just turned up at his office one day and started singing a song to him. Now it is a little easier as you can also use the internet to get yourself and your songs out there online – but don’t assume that people will discover your YouTube videos, you need to make sure they see them so find managers/publishers/artists who you think would like your songs and contact them and also use social media to help spread the word.
Who was the first songwriter to make an impact on you and why?
Don Mclean and specifically American Pie. This is one of the first songs I remember singing along to and it influenced me in my younger years. I still remember all the words now. It is great storytelling, with such depth and meaning, he really paints such a vivid picture.
Is there a favorite quote on life (or music/songwriting that inspires you?)
Where there’s a will there’s a way!
Kirsty Bertarelli’s ‘Love Is’, will be released later this year; it will be her first UK album release. The first single from the album is ‘Send Out A Message (To The World)’, on which she duets with Ronan Keating. See the video here! 13 years ago All Saints hit the number 1 spot with Black Coffee a song written by an unknown singer/songwriter from Stoke on Trent called Kirsty. Originally called ‘I Wouldn’t Wanna Be’, the song was written about… READ MORE