As one half of the songwriting and production duo Saltwives, David Phelan boasts an impressive catalog with his partner Alex Oriet. The two have worked with some of the biggest names in popular music. Their most recognized singles include: Zayn and Sia’s single, “Dusk Till Dawn,” to Bebe Rexha’s single, “No Broken Hearts” ft. Nicki Minaj. The songs written and produced by Saltwives have garnered over 5 billion streams worldwide and the duo earned a BMI Award for the US Top 10 “Remind Me To Forget”performed by Kygo and Miguel.
London-based world-renowned music producer Phelan joined Vampr for a live Q&A session last month and shared his tips on making it in the music business. “Create, network and then create and network some more,” he advised listeners during the session. Here are a few more helpful tips he shared that can help you move your career forward.
Write songs that are catchy or elicit emotion. “I think the main things have to be emotion and catchiness. Either the song is so catchy it does not have to have strong emotion or communicates so much emotion it doesn’t even have to be that catchy! Normally somewhere in the middle of that is great. If you don’t have either, write something else.”
Use constructive criticism when collaborating. “I’m very grateful to have had an excellent working relationship with Alex for many years now. We have no set way of working, we just follow each other’s enthusiasm and have healthy arguments about who’s right. The best way to prove that is by coming up with something else rather than trashing what is there. That tends to mean you can stay friends.”
Be dedicated to songwriting & you will hit upon success. “Every now and then the stars align and I get shivers from the song, that’s when something has turned a corner and become very special. It’s a very rare occasion, but when it does, I have full faith in the song and won’t give up on it, no matter how long it takes to figure it out. That can mean changing the production 10 times or more, finding a different singer, tweaking the song, whatever makes it better.
Most career advancements come from a mix of luck with constant grind. “I think it’s a bit of both for sure. You can definitely control how much you grind and to a smaller extent you can create your own luck also. By trying to put your grind in the right situations, by contacting people, grinding in isolation is hoping only to get by with luck and that might not always play out.”
Stick with it. “I think the number one thing I notice when I work with new people is that the biggest determining factor in whether we continue to work with them can be their enthusiasm and stick-to-it-ive-ness. Cultivating those skills is so important. So many people starting I’ve thought were musically talented, but then after we worked together they never send me more ideas or follow up. They expect maybe I don’t want to hear from them or whatever, but the truth is I really value people who communicate ideas. Even if the ideas are not great, as long as they are improving then I’m interested.”
Take responsibility for the work: “I appreciate collaborators who have complementary skill sets, creative honesty, and people I enjoy hanging out with people who take personal responsibility for what we are making. Also sometimes when I’m working with new writers and artists, they can lean back a little and expect the more experienced people to take care of making sure the song is great. You should always aim to take responsibility for the song you are working on, even if you are a first time songwriter with the world’s biggest hitmaker people really appreciate that effort.”
If you didn’t know who David Phelan and Alex Oriet were, you do now. You should definitely take their advice when it comes to music and the industry because they certainly know a thing or two!