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David Hodges on writing with Ed Sheeran, selling his catalog, and refusing to be fixated on fame – Music Business Worldwide

MBW’s World’s Greatest Songwriters collection celebrates the pop composers behind the globe’s largest hits. This time, we discuss to David Hodges, the Kobalt-signed, Grammy-winning author and producer behind hits for the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Christina Perri, Carrie Underwood and, most not too long ago, Ed Sheeran. World’s Greatest Songwriters is supported by AMRA – the worldwide digital music assortment society which strives to maximize worth for songwriters and publishers within the digital age.


World's Greatest Songwriters with AMRA

Growing up in “a very Southern Baptist kind of family” in Little Rock, Arkansas, David Hodges didn’t hear quite a lot of music in his childhood dwelling.

It wasn’t till center college that he started to take an curiosity; one thing greater than an curiosity, in truth.

“I heard Ten Summoner’s Tales by Sting, and I was completely obsessed,” he says. “This is super nerdy, but I went to the music store and bought the Songbook of Soul Cages and Ten Summoner’s Tales and Mercury Falling, because the construction of the songs, how he built these chords, there was something about his music that really turned a corner in my head.”

Looking again, Hodges was not simply liking these songs, however appreciating them, even analyzing them. Listening not as a passive fan, however as a budding songwriter, which, because it seems, he was.

“I was sitting in biology class and I heard this melody going through my head. I was like, ‘What is that song?’ And I realized about 10 minutes later, ‘Oh, it doesn’t exist yet.’

“I got home from school, sat down at the piano and I wrote this melody that was spinning around in my head. And sometime between getting home from school and sitting down at the dinner table that evening, I knew exactly what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”

Later, says Hodges, he realized how uncommon (and fortunate) it’s {that a} tune is sort of ‘given’ to a author, a tune they pray they’re not half-remembering from someplace else that seems to be a present from the universe.

“Let’s say I’ve written 1,500 songs or so in the last 25 years. There were a handful of them that felt like they just fell into my lap. And oddly enough, not to get too far ahead, Afterglow is the best example of that that I’ve ever witnessed.”

By “too far ahead”, Hodges actually means bang up to date: Afterglow, co-written with and recorded by Ed Sheeran (with Fred Again additionally on writing and manufacturing duties), is the newest hit in Hodges’ second act – a profession as a behind-the-scenes author who has additionally labored with Kelly Clarkson, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Christina Perri (together with A Thousand Years), Jason Mraz, Weezer and Avril Lavigne.

Before that, Hodges was a member of Grammy-winning rock band Evanescence and co-wrote [along with founder members Amy Lee and Ben Moody] the overwhelming majority of tracks on their debut album, Fallen (2003, 7x Platinum within the US, 4x Platinum within the UK).

Asked if he loved the Evanescence expertise Hodges pauses, pauses some extra, and says, “a little bit [another pause] – no, not really”.

He provides: “I don’t have a ton of regrets, but in the process of us making that record, things were really tumultuous between the three of us. We were really different people.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have known how to make a second Evanescence album. I’m really, really proud of that [debut] record, and it’s interesting to see it as a time capsule, but I wouldn’t have known what to do next after that.”

The challenge by no means got here up, as Hodges was requested to depart Evanescence on the top of their fame. “The day before the [first] record was mastered, Ben and Amy kicked me out of the band. Less than a year after that, Ben left the band as well. So it’s really just been Amy for the last 15 years of it.”

Hodges was left “completely crushed, with a bruised ego”. But the expertise taught him some essential classes. Some had been in regards to the nature of fame (“it can be the enemy of creativity”), some had been in regards to the calls for of being an artist (“so much of it is not about making music – and so much of it is about photoshoots and sitting on a tour bus”), however a very powerful ones had been about himself.

“Evanescence made me re-examine, what do I actually love about this job? And what do I not love about it? And what I loved was writing; sitting in a room and creating something that didn’t exist before. What I didn’t love was pretty much everything else.”

Ironically, it was a connection with a present predicated on the desirability of fame that was to assist Hodges reinvent himself away from the highlight and create a brand new profession that wouldn’t make him an Idol, however would at all times preserve him busy, as one of many world’s most in-demand, versatile and (crucially) glad songwriters…

After Evanescence, When and how did you understand there was one other manner, a extra behind the scenes route to success in music?

My previous band mate [Ben Lee] referred to as me up – he and I had type of patched issues up at that time – and he stated, ‘Hey, the manager for this girl Kelly Clarkson loves the Evanescence record and really wants her to write with us. Would you be down to do that?’

Ben and I had been like, ‘Oh, okay. I guess, we’ll spend a day and hang around with this lady, and if she’s cool, we’ll write a tune and we’ll see the way it goes.’ And the primary tune that we wrote was Because Of You, which ended up being an enormous ballad for her on that report.

“When that record came out, it just went gangbusters.”

There undoubtedly wasn’t part of my mind that thought, ‘Oh, this is going to make me a lot of money’, or, ‘This is going to be the path that I’m going to select for my livelihood.’ And then when that report got here out, it simply went gangbusters. I imply, Since U Been Gone was such an enormous tune and then Behind These Hazel Eyes was the one after that and Because Of You was the one after that.

Then the world opened up by way of conferences with artists and A&R folks. This was the period that American Idol actually began to dominate [US] pop radio. In the songwriting world all of us knew each summer season there have been going to be a minimum of three albums’ price of fabric [for Idol winners and runners-up], and that A&R folks would look to us to assist these folks strive to inform their tales and get a product out actually, actually quick.

Fortunately, I believe Kelly was a pure inroad into that world for me, and I bought to work with Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood and a handful of folks due to that occuring.

Was writing for, and even in, another person’s voice one thing that got here naturally to you?

It felt a bit odd at first, primarily as a result of once I assume again to the Evanescence days, there have been a few instances that the A&R for that report wished us to collaborate with different folks. And at the moment, in rock music, it was seen as such a promote-out transfer to carry someone else in.

But it was high quality, as a result of the factor that I at all times wished to do, and that is what I inform younger writers, is to do that job effectively; when the artist comes into the studio, be competent sufficient that any route they need to chase down, you go with them on that.

How did you come to meet and work with Ed Sheeran and what was that have like?

There’s a spot in Nashville referred to as The Bluebird Cafe, a legendary dive bar. It’s 80 seats and it’s full magic.

A buddy of mine referred to as me up, I assume a yr and a half in the past, and stated, ‘Hey, I’m enjoying on the Bluebird subsequent Tuesday, it’s my first time to play it, would you be down to be part of?’ And I used to be like, ‘Sure, I’m not doing something, that may be nice.’ Just a random night time.

I get there and I used to be sitting subsequent to [British songwriter] Amy Wadge. I knew who she was, however she and I had by no means met earlier than or written collectively, and I’m such a fan of hers. So I used to be excited to meet her that night time, and she was actually candy.

“right before we started, I mean, four seconds before I started playing my first song, she goes, ‘Hey, don’t freak out but Ed Sheeran’s sitting in the corner.’”

Then, proper earlier than we began, I imply, 4 seconds earlier than I began enjoying my first tune, she goes, ‘Hey, don’t freak out however Ed Sheeran’s sitting within the nook.’ Okay…

Going into the night time, I believed I might check out some new songs. But the second I knew Ed Sheeran was sitting within the nook, I used to be like, ‘Nope, I’m enjoying the hits!’

Truth be informed, the present wasn’t nice. There’s one thing about having the most important pop star on the planet sitting within the nook… I imply even when I didn’t need it to be the case, there’s some a part of me like, ‘I kind of hope I impress him.’

Amy and I had exchanged numbers, and I get a message about half-hour after the present: ‘Hey, this is Ed, I got your number from Amy. I really loved the songs you played tonight. I’m going to be on the town for a few months and would love to get collectively and write sooner or later.’

I used to be so stoked about it. But I additionally thought, okay, effectively-intentioned, however I’m certain he’s the busiest man on the planet and there’s most likely not going to be time to work this out. But, certain sufficient, about three weeks later we bought collectively and wrote a tune.

How was that?

My pals and my supervisor had been like, ‘So you’re going to work some stuff up for the session with Ed Sheeran, proper? You need to make certain the day goes effectively.’ I used to be like, ‘No, I’m simply going to present up with my guitar.’ Because, reality be informed, he’ll both like me and then we’ll work out some songs, or he received’t like me and it received’t be price attempting to present him one thing I’m not.

I most likely take this with no consideration just a little bit, however I do assume that being anxious within the room [with an artist], attempting to be sure that it’s some excellent factor, can usually sabotage it. You actually have to adore it deeply, lean in exhausting, however maintain it loosely.

Truth be informed, that day we wrote what I believe probably the greatest songs I’ve ever been part of writing. [The track in question is currently unreleased, so Hodges is tight-lipped on more details.]

Ed Sheeran

What else did you’re taking away from the Ed expertise?

I’ll say this, as a result of Ed and I’ve laughed about this since, and it could come throughout as bizarre, however I used to be not intimidated by him.

Not as a result of his expertise is just not intimidating; he’s extremely gifted. His capability as a author is so superb and so fast. But I wasn’t intimidated as a result of I knew that me being intimidated steals away from the factor that I’ve to supply him. And I’m within the service of him and within the service of the tune we’re writing that day.

I simply felt just like the three of us had a extremely fascinating chemistry. Fred [writer, producer and established Sheeran collaborator] is de facto, actually cool, and he has a skillset that you simply shouldn’t have should you’re as younger as he’s; it’s so easy.

“I wasn’t intimidated by Ed because I knew that me being intimidated steals away from the thing that I have to offer him. And I’m in the service of him and in the service of the song we’re writing that day.”

Part of the dynamic within the room is Ed Fred to say, ‘Is this cool?’ And then Fred me to say, ‘Is this sound? Is this a proper song?’ And I’m Ed going, ‘Yeah, but is this yours? Does this feel like your thing?’ The rapport of all that, of the three of these issues spinning again and forth, was actually particular.

From there, issues opened up. Ed stated he was going to be on the street for some time, however that I ought to come to England in a yr, we must always write some extra songs. Again, I believed, what a stunning man, what an ideal day we’ve had, however there’s no manner he’s planning 12 months from now. Sure sufficient, virtually to the week, a yr later, I went off to England and we wrote some extra songs. Afterglow was one of many first.

You left EMI publishing within the aftermath of the Sony/ATV acquisition and determined to signal with Kobalt, who you’ve you been with ever since. How has that partnership has gone for you?

I can’t think about being with every other writer. Their sync division’s actually nice, and they work tirelessly to join quite a lot of dots.

I used to be signed to EMI for about seven years, and I used to be glad to have the expertise of seeing what it was like to be signed with what’s now the most important writer on the planet. But I had little interest in working with a significant writer ever once more: these techniques work for sure varieties of writers who do sure varieties of issues, which have by no means been the issues which might be fascinating to me.

Fortunately, my enterprise associate and supervisor, Lucas Keller [founder of global management company Milk & Honey], the entire artistic choices in my profession over the past 10 or 11 years have been he and I working collectively. There is only a pure rhythm between us.

Lucas is aware of who I’m, he is aware of what my strengths are, and he is aware of that writing songs actually issues to me, but in addition that I’ve a household. I imply, I might love to write with the most important artists on the planet on a regular basis, however I’m not clamoring for it, particularly if the match doesn’t really feel proper.

Kobalt are centered on the flexibility to use the factor that Lucas and I have already got and to maximize it. The different aspect of Kobalt that has been unbelievable is that they’ve been our three way partnership associate with Third & Verse, the publishing firm that Lucas and I’ve been doing; they’re a extremely nice useful resource behind that.

You offered your catalog to a fund managed by Kobalt late final yr. What prompted that call? We’ve seen some writers say they couldn’t ever think about selling.

I had conversations with a handful of pals who had completed it not too long ago asking them how they felt afterwards. Because you’re proper, I’ve some pals and mentors in my life that say by no means promote your catalog; that is your legacy.

But reality be informed, once I’m within the automobile and Christina Perri’s, A Thousand Years comes on, I’m so deeply happy with that tune that we made, and he indisputable fact that I now don’t personal the publishing on that tune by no means modifications my connection to it emotionally or creatively.

It actually was only a cash transaction. And I believe, a minimum of within the US, the way in which that issues are structured now, that cash transaction simply made a ton of sense.

“The precious thing is the songs themselves, and no one takes that away from you.”

I wasn’t nervous in regards to the emotional element of it, as a result of I by no means noticed the cash from the songs that I made as being the valuable factor. The treasured factor is the songs themselves, and nobody takes that away from you. It’s not like, Willard [Ahdritz, Kobalt founder] places his identify as a author on A Thousand Years now that they purchased it, proper?

My nervousness was truly: What if somebody writes me a test so large I don’t really feel like I’ve to work anymore?!

And then to work with Ed in that course of, for us to write a handful of songs collectively; simply the simplicity of us sitting with acoustic guitars and telling tales and writing songs, it made me enthusiastic about the entire course of once more.

You talked about Lucas and Milk & Honey, how did that relationship come about and what does it carry to your skilled life?

It was accidentally. I had been with totally different managers earlier than and a few of them had been unhealthy, and with a few of them we simply didn’t completely click on.

I converted to this larger agency, The Collective, and, truthfully, my expectations of a supervisor had been low. I knew it was price having them in my life due to the small print that they work out, which permits me to actually focus on the factor that I believe I’m good at. But I by no means considered far more than that.

Lucas was a extremely younger man at [The Collective] at the moment, and they assigned me to him.

It’s at all times been deeply essential for me to be sure that the publishers and the managers that I’m working with understand that I don’t work for them. I work for the artist, I work for the tune. So I don’t take kindly to publishers and managers who’re like, ‘You’re going to do what we inform you to do as a result of we inform you to do it.’ Lucas and I had quite a lot of early conversations about that stuff.

“Lucas works tirelessly and he deserves the accolades that he gets, because I don’t think that his job is easy at all.”

I’m tremendous excited that publishing and administration exists as entities, however they exist as entities for the perform of letting us be one of the best at what we do. And Lucas, from the get go, has been actually intuitively nice at that.

To me I believe that’s the cornerstone of the success of Milk & Honey; Lucas works tirelessly and he deserves the accolades that he will get, as a result of I don’t assume that his job is straightforward in any respect.

Lucas is aware of the price of the work that we do and he honors that by actually attempting to maximize it. And then attempting to flip our songs into as a lot cash as attainable.

That’s a deeply essential factor, proper? Because I don’t try this. The second that the tune leaves my studio, the second I ship that electronic mail off, I’m onto the subsequent tune.

AMRA is the primary of its type — a worldwide digital music assortment society, constructed on know-how and belief. AMRA is designed to maximize worth for songwriters and publishers in at the moment’s digital age, whereas offering the best degree of transparency and effectivity.Music Business Worldwide

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