The Struggles of Co-Writing as a Solo Artist

Danielle Todd by a lake

Danielle Todd’s personal story telling performances has gained fans across Northern American and Australia.

She regularly perform at the famous ‘Tootsies’ in Nashville and regularly writes songs for other artists.

She spoke to us about her songwriting inspirations and music industry struggles.

How did you start songwriting?

One day, when I came home from high school, my dad said “I have a surprise for you”. He took me into the living room and there was an upright piano. He said “You don’t have to get a summer job this year if you promise to learn piano”. That’s when I started to write songs. As I became older I started to write songs on guitar and started analysing the form and structure of hit songs.

Tell us about your song “Be the One” which address mental health themes…

I had a friend who was sent to a mental hospital against their will. They called me in tears saying “I don’t want anyone to know I’m here”. I felt so sad for them because, if they had broken their leg, everyone would sign their cast, but if it’s something to do with your mind, it’s personal. My friend doesn’t actually know this song is for her, but it says I’ll be there to listen – I’m not going to judge you.

At the end of my set, someone will always come up to me and comment on that song, telling their own story. People see me as a safe person to open up to.

Here is a video of Danielle Todd using the Vidial app 

Do you have a songwriting formula?

I do have rules that I have learned along the way like, I want to get to a chorus in a particular amount of time, and I want to change the melody form verse to chorus, but I have had to become a chameleon so I can write for other artist’s records.

How difficult is it to write with others?

Since moving to Nashville I have started writing with others. The hardest part is coming up with, and agreeing on a solid idea to begin with. Once you’ve got that first hook, it becomes easier.

Sometimes when you are working with someone, you don’t want to throw out your best ideas because you don’t know how the writing session is going to go. You don’t want to waste that idea. I tend to ask them what they want before volunteering my own ideas.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I had writer’s block this summer which coincided with my move to Nashville. I thought the city would really inspire me but I felt totally drained. I would come home from a gig and would just want to sit in silence.

I went home for a weekend and called my musician friend Ambre Mclean and said “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t write”. She sat me down at the piano and said “We’re gonna write a song right now”. We closed our eyes and placed our hands on the piano and those were the chords we were going to use. You can easily convince yourself that you have writer’s block, but a push from someone can really help you break out of that frame of mind.

What are the downsides to being an artist?

No matter how many people are on your side, and how many fans you have – you’re on your own.

You are constantly worried about people liking you, and people applauding your performances. You are constantly dependant on how people view you. Ultimately, no matter how many people are on your side, and how many fans you have – you’re on your own.

Also, there is so much competition, so you have to define your own levels of success. Will you only be happy if you win a Grammy or perform on Broadway? People think that because I’ve moved to Nashville that I’ve ‘made it’, but I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about life online?

You have to balance quantity and quality. Most people won’t watch a video all the way though, and they certainly won’t watch it twice. I still want to be connected with my fans but I struggle with posting enough quality content.

How do you best connect with your fans?

When I’m on stage I explain what my songs are about. For example, I have a song about a friend whose boyfriend died in a car accident. If people know the story behind the song, they connect better.

What piece of advice to you wish you were able to tell your younger self?

Move to Nashville earlier and focus more on my original material. I started off playing covers in bars but you can get stuck in that cycle. It’s hard to move from doing paid cover gigs to free original gigs.

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Danielle ToddIn 2011, Danielle released her first CD “Between You and Me…” with wild success. Since then she has been touring Canada, Australia, and the States. In 2014, Danielle released her next 4 song EP “The One for Me” recorded at Northwood Studios. This EP was sold offstage for a year while she planned her next project. Her most recent CD “Danielle Todd Live at Two Chick’s Café” was recorded live in Sauble Beach on the May 24 weekend of 2015. With fireworks in the background, Danielle serenaded the crowd all weekend. Danielle released her live CD to a sold out crowd in October 2015.

danielletoddmusic.ca


  • Janice Douglas

    Anyone who has seen Danielle in concert knows that she is destined for great things. So exciting watching her career unfold.