Thriving pro songwriter Simon Wilcox opens up about career, process, self

Simon Wilcox (left) chatted with SOCAN executive Michael McCarty (right) during a master class in songwriting during the first-ever Music Week at YouTube Space Toronto on Nov. 29, 2017. (Photo: Barry Roden)
December 4, 2017

SOCAN presented a master class in songwriting from thriving professional songwriter Simon Wilcox during the inaugural edition of Music Week at YouTube Space, in Toronto, on Nov. 29, 2017 – where she took questions, and was interviewed by SOCAN Chief Membership and Business Development Officer Michael McCarty (who used to be her publisher at EMI Music Publishing Canada).

Wilcox – who’s co-written hit songs recorded by such winning pop artists as Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, DNCE, Britney Spears, Carly Rae Jepsen, Scott Helman, and Fifth Harmony, among many others – was uncommonly open and accessible in explaining her co-writing process, her career path, and ultimately, herself.

Wilcox said that sometimes the best route to success is working with young artists that you love, rather than established ones where it’s a huge competition to get into the writing room. She discussed how her focus is usually lyrics and melody, and how she’s always looking to improve, wanting “the song to be the best it can be.” “I always try to be listening,” she said, to combinations of words, vocal cadences, and subconscious choices that occur in everyday life. Songwriting is a combination of inspiration and craft, she said, and added that you can work the craft constantly so that you’re ready when the inspiration comes along. “All I’m interested in is what is real and what is true,” she said, and added that in co-writing sessions, “you have to be generous with your ideas.”

“Every time something happened [for my career], it happened because of the song,” said Wilcox. “It had nothing to do with my looks, or how cool I was.” On moving to Los Angeles from Toronto, Wilcox allowed that “it’s exhausting trying to prove that you belong in the [writing] room” when you move to a new location. Having survived a rough childhood, Wilcox admitted that she’d been “propelled by rage,” and the attitude that “I will not let you win, you will not beat me,” until the day she realized that the anger didn’t serve her anymore.

“My definition of success at work,” she said, “is having people whose songwriting I love wanting to work with me.” By that definition, she’s very successful indeed.