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  • 06.07.17

Creative Advice From One Of Music’s Top Songwriters: It’s Okay To Suck

A songwriting veteran like Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd hasn’t spent 20-plus years in the music industry without any creative pearls of wisdom to share.

Creative Advice From One Of Music’s Top Songwriters: It’s Okay To Suck
[Photo: Dustin Downing, courtesy of Red Bull]

After more than 20 years in the music business as a songwriter and with four Grammys to his name, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd still finds himself explaining what he does for a living. It’s not that people can’t grasp the concept of a writing a song–they can’t quite grasp what goes into songwriting as a profession.

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“When I say ‘songwriter’ they look at it like writing poems, and it’s really on a whole other level than that. It’s a formula. It’s a concept,” Poo Bear says. “They just get it misunderstood because they feel like it’s an arts project. People always look at my job and they downplay it like it’s not that hard.”

Should anyone be mistaken about just how challenging Poo Bear’s job really is, the Red Bull TV doc Afraid of Forever is required viewing.

Afraid of Forever follows Poo Bear as he’s trying to write his next hit song after his career spiked by working on Justin Bieber’s platinum album Purpose, churning out chart-defying tracks like “What Do You Mean?” and “Where Are Ü Now.”

[Photo: Dustin Downing, courtesy of Red Bull]
For the better part of his career, Poo Bear has been a silent force in the industry, penning smash hits for some of biggest names across R&B, hip-hop, and pop including Chris Brown, DJ Khaled, J Balvin, 112, Jill Scott, Usher, and Pink. As accomplished as Poo Bear is, Purpose reinvigorated his passion for songwriting, and put him in the unique position of being both a music veteran and an overnight success. Bieber openly praised his collaboration with Poo Bear while doing press for Purpose, thrusting Poo Bear beyond a big music industry name and into being a celebrity in his own right.

“I got so numb and used to people not giving me credit that it was weird when Justin started saying my name. He was like, I want everybody to know what you just did–you deserve it,” Poo Bear says. “I can say that album gave me a whole new confidence and more security in my ideas and my melodies, knowing that it did connect with the people so well. And it inspired me to be great and to be consistent and persistent with my music.”

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Poo Bear is undoubtedly one of the hardest working songwriters in the game who, as it’s shown in Afraid of Forever, is continually overlapping multiple, and very different, projects. Anyone who can juggle writing folk, R&B, puppet comedy, and Spanish-language music is a creative force worth learning from. So here, Poo Bear lays out his blueprint for staying creative.

Sometimes You Just Suck–And That’s Fine . . .

“The most difficult part of my career would be getting the whackness out of my system. Most people quit because if everything you’re doing is garbage, it’s easy to be discouraged. The hardest part for me was accepting that, yes I suck and this is garbage–and yet doing it again and again until I get something that I like even a little bit. It’s so easy to be afraid of the unknown, and not knowing if you could be successful at [something]. I had people telling me how much I sucked, and how bad my music was, but I didn’t allow that to discourage me to the point where I didn’t want to do music anymore.”

. . . Then Again Sometimes Sucking Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

“Just because I make something doesn’t mean that it’s going to be amazing, and most creative people don’t like to admit when their music is just okay. I learned years ago that the more honest you are about anything you’re doing in life, you can grow and learn from your mistakes. I just want to grow. It took me years to get to this through trial and error. There are some songs I wrote that I didn’t love. Like ‘What Do You Mean?’ I wasn’t sure about it. And [Bieber’s manager] Scooter [Braun] was like, ‘That’s a smash number-one hit.’ And I’m like, I don’t know about that. But he was right. So me being honest with myself saying I don’t know everything all of the time either is another key part.”

Creative Blocks Are All In Your Head

“I don’t have writer’s block–I don’t believe in that. Even if I write something and it’s not amazing I’m still going to create it. Most writer’s blocks come from people second-guessing to the point where they get discouraged and they just quit. For me, if I write something and it’s not amazing, I don’t care because even if I feel like it might not be amazing, it could still be a number-one hit. So I believe in getting the idea out, getting the creativity out. If it’s not amazing to you, so what. You should just get it out of your system. A lot of people allow their insecurities to discourage them to the point where they won’t even start an idea because they don’t believe in their thoughts. I know all my thoughts aren’t going to be great, but at least it’ll be out and it’ll be recorded.”

Get Uncomfortable

“I never want to get to a place where I think everything I write is dope. I appreciate myself second-guessing, and wanting to make sure it’s great and amazing, and at the same time I value other people’s opinions even if they’re not a musician. It makes me better. It allows me to keep growing, and it allows me to be honest with myself.”

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Watch Afraid of Forever here.

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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