Words from the Pros: Dan Couch Shares Tips for Writing with Artists

dan couch kip moore
Photo by Rick Diamond

Not all songwriters thrive as sonic wingmen to artists, but for Dan Couch, even the most cursory look at his writing credits deems him a pro. Couch is one of Kip Moore’s closest co-writers – he’s part of the magic behind singles “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck,” “Hey Pretty Girl,” “Young Love,” “Dirt Road,” and “Mary Was The Marrying Kind.” He also shares writing credits with Canaan Smith on his current single “Hole In A Bottle” as well as on several songs with Cody Johnson. For those keeping score at home, his co-writes with Moore have also impressed other artists, including Jewel – Couch, Moore, and Brett James co-wrote her new single “Pretty Faced Fool.” We asked Couch to share his insights on writing with an artist (as opposed to writing for them or writing with other non-artist songwriters):

The chance to write with an artist who is actively writing songs for an upcoming record is a TREMENDOUS opportunity to land a cut. All you have to do is knock it out of the park… which is easier said than done most times. My friend Annie asked me to discuss the difference between writer/writer co-writes and writer/artist co-writes, so here’s my two cents: get on the same page as the artist, know what they do, and don’t get in a hurry.

If given the opportunity to write with an artist, chances are the artist, their manager, or their publisher likes something about your writing. The initial instinct could be to floor the artist with one of your best hooks or partially developed ideas. You may write the hell out of that idea together, only to realize later that the artist switched to “songwriter” mode and while the song is cool, the artist wouldn’t actually cut it or perform it.  I personally try really hard to listen to the artist – I try to make sure we build a house the artist will be excited to live in when we’re finished. Hopefully, the song can fill a hole on an upcoming project where something’s been missing.  

Conversely, sometimes the artist has been so focused on writing for their record that they just want to write and be creative without the expectations or pressure that can kill the creative process. Hopefully, the artist enjoys creating with you, which could lead to future co-writing opportunities as well as great songs that could end up on future records.