To kick off their poetry writing unit, Hampton’s Creative Writing students have been participating in a Famous Songwriters’ Series, three Zoom meetings with professional songwriters. “For every single student who reads poetry, a hundred listen to lyrics,” their teacher Mrs. Cupps says. “In general, kids are more immersed in songwriting than they are in poetry, so I wanted to capture that and give them a chance to learn about the inner workings of the songwriting process.”
First, they met with Wens, a newer singer/songwriter who recently released her second EP Lemoncholy. When asked how she comes up with songs, the artist shared, “I’ve been writing songs since fourth grade, and I wrote some really bad songs first. For every good one, there are a hundred awful ones, so you have to be willing to fail to succeed.” She also shared how she came up with the name Wens, explaining how she based it on the character of Wednesday Adams. In a sense, assuming another identity while writing helps her to generate content and get into a creative zone where she isn’t limited by having to be what everyone expects her to be.
Jennifer DeCilveo, a producer and songwriter who has been nominated for a Grammy after co-writing “Rise Up” with Andra Day, was the next to meet with the class. DeCilveo has worked with Ben Platt, Anne-Marie, Machine Gun Kelly, Timbaland, and Rhianna, and recently she co-wrote the radio hit “I Love Me” for Demi Lovato. With DeCilveo, students discussed the songwriting process, her work with other artists, and which software to use, even getting some specific tips on how to edit and improve their own songs. “It was very interesting to hear music making perspective from Jennifer DeCilveo,” Griffin Ernyei (‘20) said. “I feel like I learned a lot in the zoom call, and I’ve been taking her advice and putting it into my own workflow. Hearing a professional workflow and creative processes is very beneficial to an amateur producer and editor like me.”
DeCilveo told about how after she graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in finance, and after working on Wall Street at Microsoft Excel for some time, she realized she was not happy with her life and moved to LA to write music.
Kaden Herchenroether (‘23) says, “It was amazing to not meet with two successful artists, but to ask them questions and receive answers. It has truly broadened by view on the entire singing/ songwriting process and what it takes to get there.”
When asked about what comes first in the writing process, DeCilveo explained that many times, the melody and the words just come together naturally, but that it isn’t out of nowhere. DeCilveo says that “how you create is a direct reflection of what you consume” and that “everything you’ve been absorbing over the years, all your past experiences, will become your lens on something.” She even took a lyric and played it three different ways, showing that originality is based on “how someone interacts with the instrument.” As she wisely said to the students, “There’s an endless amount of music in the world, and there is an endless way to interpret it.”
Davis Gindlesperger (‘22) said, “I thought it was a really cool experience getting to hear the creative process for making music directly from those that use it. Especially since I’ve always wanted to make my own music, this actually gave me that little push to start going through with it.”
This songwriting series is a fresh, unique opportunity for all students. Those who are songwriters had the opportunity to learn more about their skills, and those who are not songwriters got the chance to learn about a new style of writing.
Kylie Capsambelis (‘22) said, “The biggest thing I’ve taken away, as far as writing advice goes, is that even as a professional you will have bad days, it’s just important to stay consistent.” Talking with a professional is a once in a lifetime experience for many, and it is a great way to make quarantine more enjoyable. As Kylie commented, “The video calls have definitely been one of the best things I get to do for school, and also one of the best things I get to do in quarantine!”
Though this opportunity is mainly for her Creative Writing students, Mrs. Cupps welcomes any interested student to join the third and final videochat tomorrow with Kevin Garrett, a popular singer/songwriter and Hampton alum. Email her tonight at [email protected] if you’d like to attend!