A very talented friend of mine, Angelo "Levi" Themelkos is here to shed some light on the subject of songwriting, particularily in the realm of mainstream pop. He's easily one of the best I've ever met and it'll be very much worth your time to have a look at the interview and hopefully learn a little about how to improve your game.
Who Is Levi?
Levi has written songs all around the world, from Swedan to Los Angeles and right here in Toronto Canada, his home base. He's written with some of the best producers around including Anthony M. Jones (R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Day 26, JoJo), Printsz Board (Black Eyed Peas) and Hit-Boy (Eminem, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg).
Levi has been nominated for two JUNO Awards ("Talk To Me" by George and "Test Drive" by Keshia Chante) and has had two Much Music number-one hits ("About Us" by Neverest and "Talk To Me" by George) and Eight Top-40 singles, two of which were Top-ten hits.
He's currently working on projects with Neverest, Dan Talevski, Keshia Chante, Massari and many more.
So now that everyone is acquainted, let's get down to it.
Dr. Sean: How long have you been writing songs and when did you realize you were good at it?
Levi: I've been writing songs for a long while. It only took me ten years to get a number one on Much. lol I knew I had a knack for songwriting because I'm a dreamer--artistic with an imagination. I also hear melodies very easily to instrumentals. It's like a sixth sense.
Dr. Sean: Describe the writing method that has been successful for you.
Levi: My method to writing a song is... I see it first... I see the video move from scene to scene, then I write. I write about true experiences 90% of the time. The lyrics come easier that way, I find.
Dr. Sean: If someone has written a song they believe has hit potential, how do they get it out there?
Levi: When you "service your song to radio" you must do it right. You must hire a radio tracker, you must visit the top radio stations in the country and meet the Program Directors. Shake hands and blow them away with your performance. You must have talent. Having a team behind you is crucial, and you must have financial backing. Without it, you will fail.
Dr. Sean: Can you give us a breakdown of the main elements that you believe are essential when it comes to writing hits?
Levi: Writing a 'hit' must have a formula. Try to write three catchy or hooky sections--verse, pre chorus, chorus. Keep your chorus simple and repetitive. While your verses can show your feeling, talent, heartache, etc., having a witty punchline and a catchy melody helps. And lastly, believe in it!
Dr. Sean: What do you say to people who think it's easy to write a hit?
Levi: I say, write one.
Dr. Sean: What steps would an artist take if they'd like to record one of your songs or write a song with you?
Levi: Contact me via Twitter (@levisingit). You must be passionate, hard working and believe in yourself.
Dr. Sean: How do song-splits work in terms of the ownership of a song?
Levi: Splits are 50% production and 50% lyrics and melodies. Splits can be tricky... I usually chop the song evenly amongst the writers and producers. This way, you get the best song--no egos, just one common goal: help each other, better each other, push each other. This only applies if you're starting from scratch. If your song is written, you own 50% of the 100%.
Dr. Sean: How do writers get paid for their songs?
Levi: We get paid through SOCAN and the CMRRA everytime a song is played on the radio or television, and we get mechanical royalties everytime a CD is manufactured and purchased. Good songwriters also get paid for writing good songs.