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9 Ways To Get Into The Songwriting Headspace, With High Tension’s Karina Utomo

Written by Mitch Feltscheer on April 27, 2016

As the front person for High Tension and its main songwriter, Karina Utomo has penned numerous songs for a number of musical outfits.

As part of our campaign with AustralianSuper, helping you kick start your creative career, Karina takes us through her processes as a solo songwriter and also collaborating with others and delivers her tips and tricks on getting the most out of writing music.

Find out what activates you

Find out what sets off your creative outburst – I would consider myself a ‘riff’ driven songwriter, so I benefit from writing with others. When I hear a good riff (whether it’s a guitar or bass riff or a drum beat) I will immediately get a feeling and respond with a vocal line or melody.

There are times that even with my very limited ability to play an instrument, I’m able to find and orchestrate a vision by getting musicians to play me a mess of noise.

Ultimately, when you find that thing that triggers you and it forms something in your head, get it out as soon as possible.

You, activating IRL.

Be a strong communicator

Believe in your vision and don’t be afraid to communicate your ideas – no matter how ridiculous they may be. Sometimes all it takes is a little tweaking from your collaborators and the action of ‘doing’ to see through whether the idea was a really good one, or not so good.

Show people your roughest lyrics, sing a tune to someone over the phone, draw a picture of what you’re feeling and shove it front of someone’s eyes. Communicate everything and anything, and observe the response.

Move on/Revisit

If after exploring different directions and tweaking the hell out of something, and that something is still not working, simply move on.

Don’t necessarily bin the idea or riff, but move on for now; keeping in mind that you can always revisit at another time. Sometimes things sound or feel better the second time round.

You heard the lady.

Listen to your instincts

Never deny your instincts when you are song writing; you should feel excited and challenged. Remember you will be the person performing the song – authenticity comes through in performance and music, like all creative pursuits, should be controlled by your gut feelings from the start.

Always try to better yourself

Don’t ever deny yourself achieving self-progress. Never accept that you are not capable of achieving certain things or learning a new skill. If you really want to learn a new instrument or get better at whatever your expertise is, seek out methods and be in an ‘always learning’ state-of-mind.

Learn from others, get lessons and set aside time and energy to dedicate yourself to whatever art you’d like to be a master of.


Practice all the time. The more experience you have, the better you’ll get. Your body and mind is like one huge muscle that you need to exercise.

Not that kind of practice, weirdo.

Study and research

Keep learning, studying and researching topics that matter to you. If you are the member of the project responsible for lyrical content – it pays to be knowledgeable on topics that matter to you so you have more ‘ammo’ when you are reflecting, feeling and writing.

Don’t be afraid to fail

The most crucial thing is to not be afraid. Do not be afraid of failing as no one becomes a master overnight. Most of all do not be afraid of any negative feedback that you might cop – it is all part of the process.

Remember that it is impossible to please everyone.

Some fails, are wins in disguise.

Ride the positives

Celebrate all the positives, no matter how small.

If you’re just starting out in your career, a few right moves early on can help set you up for life. For more stories in our AustralianSuper KickStart series, click here or go to AustralianSuper.

This article has been sponsored by AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788. The views and opinions expressed in any article accessed through Music Feeds are those of the author or Music Feeds and not the responsibility of AustralianSuper. For more information, please visit

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