Process Series

Creative Process Tips from Sia

When it comes to songwriting in the world of popular music there tends to be a few names which pop up again and again, hit after hit – so what is it about these creators which allows them to produce such high-quality work?

From the outside, it can seem as though these particular people may be naturally gifted however if you do some homework you may find the “secret” to their success comes through certain decisions made and the overall perspective they take towards their work. One such person who is responsible for writing many well-received pieces of music is Sia.

Sia – an Australian songwriter who began her musical journey as the lead singer of now-defunct Adelaide acid jazz band Crisp – at some point after leaving the band and moving to the USA became uncomfortable with the level of fame she had amassed and went into hiatus focusing on songwriting for others – it was during this phase beginning around 2010 that she would pen many hits for top commercial artists such as David Guetta (Titanium) and Rhianna (Diamonds)… Following this period she has gone on to release much of her own music as a solo artist including 1000 forms of fear which debuted at the top spot on the US billboard 200.

With such a long career there is plenty of interviews with Sia in which she shares many insights into her craft as a songwriter and performer, taking in this content we isolated a few key points to consider!

1. Ignore the critics

A clear perspective on your creative direction is essential.

Sia says Chrissie Hynde passed this onto her early in her career when talking about reading reviews from industry critics the suggestion given was to her to simply ignore it all – the danger lies in the fact that if you believe the good you will also believe the bad and there will be bad! Since taking this philosophy onboard, Sia went on to win multiple Grammy awards – which she still views as critical feedback and doesn’t use a measure of her own success!! Inspiring.

2. Get Inspiration from everywhere.

Input = output, exposing yourself to varying environments helps to unlock your potential

Working with sound can be a challenge, often using visual art as a metaphor is a useful perspective to take and with regards to inspiration, this can be shown clearly. A painter, for example – will take inspiration from the wilderness, perhaps going out into nature to sketch first hand the landscape in view or perhaps working from a photograph to create a new piece. As a songwriter – using the landscape is just as important. Whether it is walking through the city streets and letting the soundscapes wash over you or immersing yourself in a live performance – ensuring that you are exposing yourself to different stimuli and taking note of the intentionally ensures inspiration is always flowing and driving you to create new pieces which you are emotionally connected to through your experience in life. The best part is – nobody knows what is inside you so your inspiration – whilst clear to you – can remain a mystery to the world – something Einstein noted was the key to creativity.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” – Albert Einstein

3. Turn rejections into greatness

Turn negativity into fuel and strive for greatness.

Sia talks a lot about perseverance in her press coverage – pushing past rejection – something she knows a lot about often stating there were many times her career nearly died and was revived. Some of her album tracks were turned down by successful artists and labels repeatedly – her belief in the music transpired these rejections and she went on to record the very same songs as part of massively successful albums.

Winston Churchill summed this up quite well in saying that: 

Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

4. Find your creative process

Be mindful of your workflow and adjust each day

Sia used to record portions of records on her cassette player, and make a full 30mins of an outtake to focus on small examples of creativity which inspired her – some of these slices of music from her early inspiration are still techniques she strives to master as a singer now, many years later. This sort of approach – defining a tool, the desired outcome or a sequence in your workflow – can have a huge impact on your productivity. The other side of this, of course, is objectively analysing your output to ensure that your process delivers – which is where reflection becomes necessary.


Hope you enjoyed the first of the series, see you next month!

Process Series is written by Dylan @ Rast Sound