"The main thing with co-writing with someone is to have respect and trust for each other." Mike Gieger, BMI 1989 Songwriter of the Year, made the statement at one of the NSAI March Symposium's mock-up Office of Co-Writers panels in Nashville.
Respect and trust sounds like something a married couple would be looking for. Believe it or not, that's exactly what many successful songwriters refer to when speaking of co-writers. I've heard repeatedly in Nashville songwriting seminars that co-writing is a marriage of two or more writers, whether they contribute equally to the lyrics and music or one does only the music and the other does only the lyrics. Either way, trust is important when developing a writing relationship.
Several months ago I was approached by a songwriter who said he had a "real good idea" that he didn't want spread around, but he thought I was honest and asked if I would be interested in co-writing the song with him. He let it be known that he didn't trust too many people. It was nice to know he had confidence in my writing skills, but it was an honor to me that I was one of the few people he would put his trust in.
Most songwriters looking for a co-writer seem to fall into two categories. The cautious (wait and see what kind of songs you do) type and the all-call (would any passerby on the street, no qualifications necessary, help me write any song in my catalogue) type which is not the marrying kind.
Taylor Dunn, who co-writes with Paul Overstreet on occasion (and who was on the same NSAI panel as Mike, said that at Writers Night, "You hear what they do and they hear what you do." He was referring to finding out if a writer's songs might fit into the songs you do as a writer when considering co-writing.
I enjoy co-writing. Exchanging ideas usually improves and moves the song along much faster and ends up making the song a much better one. Whether it's a marriage or not, it is at least a partnership between two individuals with a common goal and it should warrant enough seriousness to include respect and trust towards one another.