Meet Carl Falk – Songwriter/Producer for One Direction
One of the blessings of my work is the opportunity to connect with artists across genres and learn about their creative journeys. Recently, I had the joy of interviewing Carl Falk – an LA and Stockholm-based songwriter/producer who’s been behind some of the biggest pop hits of the last decade.
A behind-the-scenes kind of guy, Carl’s unassuming confidence, humility and quiet grace are unmistakable. You get the impression that listening is one of his greatest strengths – and one of the keys to his long-standing success. (Carl’s written and/or produced for One Direction, Nicki Minaj, Lawson, Taio Cruz, Labrinth, Nicole Scherzinger, Lindsay Lohan, Dani Minogue, Journey South, The Backstreet Boys, Westlife, Darren Hayes, The Wanted, David Cook, AJ McLean, Clay Aiken, Russell Crowe, and more.) In addition to songwriting, Carl also has his own band – “Pilot” – that performs mostly at private events.
Here are some excerpts (and sound advice for all creatives) from the interview:
Fear and faith are issues that every artist has to contend with on their creative path. How do you handle fear?
Fear is the worst thing to have the room, in writing a song, to be afraid to speak up. When you get started as a songwriter in a writing session you may be afraid to speak up. The more songs you write, the more songs you produce, the more confidence you gain, I think that’s the best way to handle fear. To be really prepared. If you say something, if you have a vision, and you speak up, you never know, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good. Either way, you have to speak up. How do you handle fear? Be prepared, believe in yourself, have confidence in yourself, and realize that what you bring to the session, is going to be something good.
How do you know when the song you’re working on is working?
If a song you’re working on is just okay, but doesn’t feel like magic, find something else. Don’t waste your time on writing. It may seem like a great song, but you need to aim higher than that, and accept that sometimes it takes weeks to write a song. When it’s done, everything in the song feels like, ‘that is what it should be, three and a half minutes.’ That happens because you worked on every little detail.
As a producer, you are at the forefront of the business side of music. Given your experience, what would be the most important advice you would give an aspiring songwriter?
Looking back at my career, I think the best advice is this: it doesn’t matter if you write the best song in the world, the biggest mega smash in the world, if the right person never hears it. You have to surround yourself with people who are creative, inspired, but also have the contacts to get the songs out. There are so many fantastic writers, but they don’t have the connections to get their songs to the right people. It doesn’t matter what your song is until the right person hears it.
I think the first key is to put people who aren’t doing the same thing in a room. That is what true collaboration is. Not three doing the same thing. We bring different things to the table. We are all doing different things, but wanting the same results. That is the most important thing for collaboration or co-writing — to work with people who bring something you don’t.