Steven Bashir is a young songwriter from Germany and reached #1 on the radio with his song Like A Riddle by Felix Jaehn. Steven can already register his 2nd radio hit in Europe. We spoke to him about pop music and what it takes for writing a hit song for the radio.
Today the term ‘pop music’ is often associated with meaningless, shallow and fabricated music to serve the masses and has no soul behind it. It’s calculated — not written. How do you feel about it ?
Yeah I hear that often. But I really think it differs from song to song. Although I admit that I have the feeling the density of heartfelt songs was definitely higher in earlier decades. But that has to do with the way we consume culture in general I guess. Not only music.On the other hand just because a song is very successful doesn’t mean it was made just with the intention to sell. By the way I think it was actually John Lennon or Paul McCartney who said something like: ‘We would actually sit down and say: Let’s write us another pool or another car.’ So who’s to say ?
There are many times when you hear that pop music not only sounds all the same but also lyrically covers nothing new. Do you agree?
Yeah but it’s not about actually telling something new. And it never was. I mean, nobody will listen to a song and be like — Wow they’re singing about love. Nobody has ever done that before. No. But ideally people will hear a song, knowing the exact story -although they hear it for the first time because they can relate to it -and yet have the feeling nobody ever nailed that particular feeling for them with that one phrase just like this one song does.
What do you think is the hardest part about writing a song ?
I think the most difficult part is getting back to just doing music. To just being honest. And no pretending. You know going back to that certain spark and magic that made you feel so passionate about the whole thing in the first place. If you manage to incorporate that into your songs, I feel like you’ve done all you could do. To me it comes down to always going back there. And many times — especially if you write under the pressure of writing a song that sells — just that alone is hard work.
Do you feel like you’re selling a piece of your soul when writing songs that MUST become a hit ?
No not at all. I think one of my biggest assets (let’s call it an asset) is that I have a very “cheap” and mainstream taste (laughing). So if I like something, it’s very likely a lot of other people are going to like it too. Bottom Line: I only have to do what I like.
Is there a certain ingredient you put into a song when knowing it’s aimed to go on air ?
I think the biggest misconception is that those songs are actually built and fabricated just to fit the masses. Well of course some of them are and there’s more to the success of a song than just the song itself (politics, the fame of the artist etc). But I truly believe with those really successful pop songs, that somewhere at some point somebody sat down and just had a really good time, that true spark of inspiration and creativity and actually just did what musicians do — music. Heartfelt — not artificially fabricated. Being surrounded by all the music business people, sometimes it can be hard not to forget that.
How do you see your job as a songwriter ?
As a songwriter you have to bring together different people’s interests. The label and publisher who want to make money (most of the time). The artists who wants to be true and artistic (most of the time). The best way to make them all happy is creating something that’s real and true. Because then you have the best chances of selling it anyway.
You talked about the labels and the artists. What about your interests ?
My interest is to create great music and help people live their dreams. If the artist is happy with the song I’m happy. So by focusing on what they want, I get what I want!