In the early days of lockdown, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol started Saturday Songwriters, a weekly collective songwriting session on Instagram Live.
Lightbody was not new to songwriting collaboration: any songwriter these days is used to working with others. He has worked with Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and many others, but this project was different. He was putting himself in front 5,000 people on Instagram and asking them to write a song together.
He was not new to songwriting either: he’s been doing it for 25 years and knows how hard it can be. Some years ago he confessed that he struggles with lyrics and that on one occasion, it took him five years to write a single song.
It’s understandable that he didn’t want to put a lot of expectations on the Saturday Songwriters sessions. He didn’t design a complex process; he just thought “Let’s have fun and let’s see if we can write one song together.”
The result was extraordinary. Over the space of eleven weeks Saturday Songwriters wrote twelve songs together, five of which made it onto an album called Snow Patrol and the Saturday Songwriters: The Fireside Sessions.
This is what Gary Lightbody said at the end of the process: “I think you can put these songs beside other songs that I’ve written in lockdown that took me days or weeks to finish and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in terms of quality.”
Over and over again I’m surprised by the power of collective thinking and collective intelligence, by how much we can achieve without agendas, just with a common goal and vision. Storytellers know that there’s an animated force that switches on when people gather in a group, but somehow we keep underestimating the transformational power of this force.
When I listen to stories like this I can’t help wondering whether the most genius answers to our global struggles will come not from remarkable individuals and their teams, but from the same individuals daring to harness the power of collective thinking.