Songwriter U: Planning for a Writer’s Round with Sierra Hull

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In middle school, I had a teacher who lived by a phrase he called “The Six Ps for Success.” The phrase is as follows: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The phrase has stuck with me for years, partially due to the irresistible alliteration and partially because it always seems so obvious. Of course, planning is a good thing. But how, exactly, do you begin to construct your plans for success?

Thankfully, acclaimed musician and singer/songwriter Sierra Hull sat down with us to explain how she plans for a successful writer’s round.

First, it’s important to play to your strengths regardless of what that may look like.

“I’m thinking, ‘What do I bring [to a writer’s round]?’ Because I write on guitar, and mandolin, and octave mandolin,” Hull says of planning for a round. “I feel like they’re all pretty important parts of how I go about writing the songs and the riffs and the sound of the song.”

Consequently, she takes everything to a round—guitar, mandolin, and any other instrument she feels drawn to. Essentially, you should plan to bring all of the necessary inspirations and tools you need to enter your specific creative space. Don’t leave anything behind because you’re afraid of how you might be perceived.

“It is interesting how the instrument you choose to write on can really inform the way a song turns out,” she continues. “And sometimes writing something on one particular instrument, and then deciding to go, ‘You know what? This feels like this could actually be a cool mandolin thing for whatever.’ Then I’ll start working on that, and it may sort of shift the dynamic of the song in a way that ends up working better, even though it wasn’t originally written or inspired on that instrument.

“And it’s not that I couldn’t just go, ‘Well, I’m going to do this song on mandolin,’ and change it to fit that, but a lot of the things that I write tend to be woven with the instrument being an integral part of the song,” she concludes.

Hull also explained that planning for a writer’s round, and even planning for your career, is still different for a woman trying to make it in the industry,

“It is different being a young woman in the business, where there’s not just the natural questions, there’s also the biological questions,” she says. “People [are] asking you, ‘Are you going to have a family? Are you going to do all these things?'”

Hull’s advice for preparing for those questions is straightforward, too: follow your heart.

“I’m very still committed to my career, and would love to see my kids someday know their mom does something that she’s passionate about,” Hull says.

Enough said.

Photo by John Shearer/WireImage

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