Max Martin Interview

Check out Chapter 4 in particular.

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Only skimmed chapter 4 so far, but this part really jumped out at me:

This sums up the mindset I’ve had in the past in dealing with professional people who label themselves as “creative”. Attempting to judge or measure how a creative artifact “feels” is incredibly important, and in a domain like songwriting, Martin says “the most crucial thing is always how it feels”. Martin’s point about the value of having a framework to fall back on when you get stuck really resonated with me. Sadly, it seems that self-described creatives are sometimes too quick to automatically reject anything they perceive as an invasion of more “structured” thinking, even when less structured thought processes aren’t working.

Having an intellectual framework for trying different ideas to see what works can be an important tool for helping move the creative process forward when “sheer creative intuition” hits a roadblock. It’s reassuring to hear someone as high profile as Max Martin talk about the value of these different tools even in something as unscientific as songwriting. And of course, this ties very closely to some themes that have emerged from CTC, with respect to the value of self-aware experimentation for learning technique.

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Oh yeah this is great. I love the idea of building up a sort of toolbox of creative tricks / methods / frameworks. And absolutely, constraints can be so useful in all kinds of scenarios.

A couple other things this makes me think of — the Oulipo, one of my favorite examples of a literary movement highly driven by constraints and rules that produced a remarkable output of creative work. And the “Oblique Strategies” card deck, made by the artists Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, where each card has an interesting short constraint or aphorism to help break through creative blocks.

I think in all these cases the rules, prompts, or theories a creator draws from are neither a replacement for creativity, nor a direct source, but kind of a set of lenses that can help coax it out and direct it in different ways to bring greater focus to your creative energies.

If you enjoyed this interview, you’ll probably also like this book on the whole Max Martin et al world of hit pop song production…not a lot in terms of specific musical analysis, but some good history / behind the scenes:


I was going to mention Oblique Strategies but @Brendan beat me to it. I have a deck of them in my office at work and occasionally randomly select a card. For some reason “Be Dirty” often comes up!