Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriter Story: The Life & Struggles of a Pro Songwriter

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jun 05, 2014 @11:01 AM

STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES, LETTERS HOME FROM THE WARS. THE LIFE AND STRUGGLES OF A PRO SONGWRITER.

 by John Capek

John Capek, songwriter

It was the early nineties. Arriving in Los Angeles with Australian and Canadian hit song credits under my belt, I thought it would be a breeze to get into the scene. A year later and my life savings gone I couldn't get arrested as a songwriter, keyboard player or producer.

Somehow, I fell into the "B list" session scene as a keyboard player for songwriters who needed their songs demoed. I was a pretty good keyboard player, the pay was poor, but the work was consistent and the songwriters liked my playing.

David Gresham (a former business partner with Mutt Lang) was making annual trips to Los Angeles from South Africa promoting artists and writers from his label in Jo-berg. He needed some demos done and someone recommended me. I worked on his stuff and we became friends.

Some years later, after I had graduated into the "A - list" LA studio musician scene, David called me from South Africa quite excited about an artist he had signed. He asked me if I would try to work with him. A few weeks later, his new artist, Byron Duplessis arrived at my studio in North Hollywood.

Imagine Terence Trent Darby, Prince, Michael Jackson and Lenny Kravitz in a male model's physique with talent and a voice beyond anything that I had heard before. That was Byron.

We immediately fell into writing and recording a song and "LOVE HAS THE POWER" was born.

Without notice, Byron left, and I didn't hear back from him again for some months.

"LOVE HAS THE POWER" was pitched to all the labels. The response was great. But we consistently heard the same comment, "We can't sign an artist based on only one song"..

David called me again from South Africa asking what could be done. I had an idea. If I worked with Byron in LA, he would be just like any other R&B act. However if I went to South Africa to work with him, we might be able to come up with something interesting and unique. The idea was to combine contemporary pop with Byron's African roots.

So, I packed my bags and went off on safari. I was right. The music that we made was great and different. Back in LA, the labels jumped at it. We had record companies in a bidding war for Byron. I thought that I had it made.

One day, our combined demo/masters were being played in the offices of Columbia Records in New York, Coincidentally, the band, TOTO was next door wondering what they were going to do about a lead singer for their next recording and tour. Someone made the connection. In an instant I lost my artist.

Byron Duplessis became Jean-Michel Byron and the new lead singer for TOTO.

Almost immediately, They put a "best of" album together. "LOVE HAS THE POWER" made it to that album and is forever cast in stone, (or vinyl or whatever CDs are made of), on the TOTO album, "PAST TO PRESENT". These were the best musicians in the world at that time playing my song. There is a live Youtube performance of my song from one of the TOTO shows in Paris at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyY5EBuHHiA

I was deeply disappointed with the loss of Byron as my songwriting partner and production client. I felt that he and our songs could have been "bigger than Jesus", to quote John Lennon. But, I did get some compensation in getting a TOTO cut.

I had a strong feeling that Byron had been badly miscast as a member of TOTO and this feeling turned out to be a truth with some unfortunate results for both Byron and the band. His amazing talent is still yet to be fully expressed.

After that, there was a certain lack of creative and artistic fulfillment for me. The music in South Africa had affected me so profoundly that I had to find my way back there and make more music - at any cost.

David Gresham and I stayed in touch, bemoaning our loss and plotted to find some way to recoup. As a result, I returned to the 'veldt' with David's help and set to recording my own album. Paul Simon's, "Graceland" had just come out. To me it was a revelation and an epiphany albeit a little too smooth for my taste. I wanted to get down to the root of the matter.

INDABA, my album, was recorded in Johannesburg exactly at the time that Nelson Mandela was released from prison. I have had the profound experience of being in South Africa during "the time off starvation", which is what apartheid was sometimes called, as well as afterwards when the system collapsed. Freedom reigned.

INDABA was a musical photograph of that moment in time.

One of the songs on INDABA ultimately created its own challenges, creatively. geographically, financially, legally, digitally and business-wise and with Joe Cocker... and much more.

I'll get into that with my next installment as well as more discussion about songwriting, its craft and its art.

 

 

John Capek has achieved international acclaim as a composer, songwriter, keyboard player, producer, arranger and scorer for feature films and television.

 

Rod Stewart leads the list of popular music icons who have recorded Capek compositions. Others include Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, Toto, Chicago, Olivia Newton John, Little River Band, Heart, Manhattan Transfer, Isaac Hayes and Amanda Marshall. John Capek’s most performed award winning songs include : “Rhythm of My Heart”, ”This”, ”Soul on Soul” and “Carmelia”.  Capek’s most performed productions include Dan Hill’s Billboard hit duet with Vonda Sheppard, “Can’t We Try” as well as work with Ken Tobias, Gene McLellan, Good Brothers and Downchild. As a keyboard player, John has recorded with Diana Ross, Olivia Newton John, Ian Thomas, Marc Jordan, Dan Hill, Kermit, The Chipmunks, The Simpsons and countless other international performers. John’s songs are heard in the feature films, “A Perfect Storm”, “Cocktail”, “Blown Away” and many others. For more information go to www.johncapek.com

 


For more information on the 19th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to:http://www.songwriting.net


Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, 4-track, A&R, Billboard Charts, Diana Ross, Billboard, musician, studio, Bonnie Raitt, Cher

Songwriting Fact: Donna Summer Wrote 8 of her Top 10 Hits

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 17, 2012 @03:30 PM

Songwriting Fact: Donna Summer Wrote 8 of her Top 10 Hits

Donna Summer, singer-songwriter

Donna Summer, whose music dominated the 1970s disco era, died of cancer on Thursday at age 63, leaving a legacy of hit singles like "Bad Girls", "Love to Love You Baby," "Last Dance" and "Hot Stuff."

Summer, who won five Grammys and sold more than 130 million records worldwide, died in Florida. She began her career in Germany where she performed in productions of the shows "Hair" and "Porgy and Bess" and worked as a studio session singer. However, Donna Summer has been given credit as a powerful vocalist, has not been given much credit as a songwriter. She has co-written eight of her top 10 hit songs, co-writing a total of 12 Billboard Hot 100 Hit Singles. These are the songs that she co-wrote her hit songs as follows:

With Eddie Hokenson, Bruce Sudano, Joe "Bean" Esposito:
"Bad Girls", which hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1979 and became a classic dance hit.

With Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotte:
"Love To Love You", which hit #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1975

With Michael Omartian:
"She Works Hard for the Money", which hit #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980

With Giorgio Moroder:
"The Wanderer", which hit #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980

With Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte:
"Heaven Knows", which hit #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1979

With Giorgio Moroder:
"On the Radio", which hit #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980

With Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte:
"I Feel Love", which hit #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1977

With the legendary songwriting and production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman:
This Time I Know It's for Real" #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1989

With Michael Omartian:
"Unconditional Love" (featuring Musical Youth), which hit #43 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

With Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte:
Spring Affair, which hit #58 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

With Bruce Sudano, Michael Omartian
"Love Has a Mind of Its Own" (with Matthew Ward), which hit #70 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

With Michael Omartian, Bruce Sudano
"Supernatural Love", which hit #75 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

 

 (Edited by Jessica Brandon)

For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, Songwriting, hit song, Billboard, Donna Summer

Singer Songwriter Barry Manilow Fears Songwriting Is History

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 @02:32 PM

Singer Songwriter Barry Manilow Fears Songwriting Is History

Barry Manilow, singer songwriter

Veteran singer Barry Manilow fears the art of songwriting has been lost amid the mass of modern technology used by young musicians.

The Mandy hitmaker loves listening to new music created using computers and drum machines, but he is adamant the devices are replacing the craft of penning simple tracks that can be performed on any instrument.

He tells Fox411's Pop Tarts column, "I'm very involved in the machinery and the technical ways of making music these days, and it is exciting for young people, writing music on their computers with loops and drum machines and making gorgeous, exciting sounding records.

"But what I miss is well-written songs with great ideas, wonderful lyrics, beautiful rhymes and wonderful melodies. I don't hear that anymore, I feel very angry about that. People are making great records because of all the technical abilities, but what I try to do is turn all that stuff off. Do you have a song when you're done?

"I tell these young people to turn off the drums and all that stuff, and ask themselves is there a melody and lyrics there? Can you just sing it there with a guitar or are you locked into all these machines? I don't think they do. If there is one thing I miss in music these days it is great songwriting. I think we've lost it."

(Source: FOX411’s Pop Tarts)

For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: Billboard Charts, singer songwriter, top 40, Billboard #1 Hit, Grammy, Grammy Awards, Billboard, Barry Manilow, Songwriting Fears, modern technology, music computer, loops, drum machines

Songwriting Tip: Creating in a Group, The Collaborating Game

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 @10:39 AM

Creating in a Group – The Collaborating Game

 Pat & Pete Luboff

Here’s a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. Get two or three, or more people in a room to play the collaboration game. The rules are simple:

 

1. NO NOES!

 

You can point to your nose and shake your head to emphasize this rule! This means anything goes! Ignore all your self-imposed limitations and barriers. Utterances such as “I can’t sing,” “That won’t work,” “I’m not good at lyrics,” “That’s stupid,” and all the variations on that theme are NOT ALLOWED. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to eliminate the negative if everyone agrees to this rule.

 

2. NO EVALUATIONS

 

If you judge your ideas before you express them or simultaneously with expressing them, you stop the flow of your ideas. When working in a group, each person has the responsibility to say WHATEVER IDEAS ARE TRIGGERED IN THE PROCESS. If you think to yourself, (trying to avoid Rule 1 by not saying it out loud) “That’s stupid,” and stop yourself from saying it, you have eliminated the stimulus that might have inspired the next person’s thought. Our rule of thumb is, if you really think it’s stupid, you are OBLIGATED to say it out loud. In the early stages of creating, all ideas are good ideas! The time for judging them comes much later in the process. Leave your judge outside the door for now.

 

3. STAY POSITIVE

 

No noes means all yeses! Every idea can be greeted with a “yes.” Every idea will inspire new ideas in other members of the group. Here are some positive phrases that can be used to build on ideas:

 

Yes, and…. Suppose…. Another idea….

Or…. Also…. How about….

What if…. And…. Let’s….

 

These phrases are indispensable tools for expressing respect for all the ideas that flow in a collaboration.

 

 

4. HAVE FUN!

 

Be silly. Make jokes. Say the wildest thing you can think of. Laugh! Aren’t we lucky to be writing songs?

 

Let’s play the collaboration game:

 

You can use any photo as the stimulus for the game. For example, use a photograph of two people kissing.

 

There’s one at http://www.masters-of-photography.com/D/doisneau/doisneau_kiss.html Double-click the photo and it will be large enough to fill one page, which you can print out. Each person in the room takes a turn saying a sentence or two about the story of the picture.

 

The idea is to say anything that comes to mind very quickly and then pass the picture to the next person. Keep going round and round until you really feel you’ve dug that kissing well as deep as you can! Here are a couple of examples:

- She just told him she’s pregnant.

- Their braces are stuck together and they’re going to an orthodontist to get unstuck.

- He doesn’t know her at all. He’s kissing her to distract her while he picks her pocket.

 

There is no end to the ideas that you can come up with. What did s/he he say just before this photo was taken? What are the fellow behind them and the woman next to them thinking? What’s going to happen next? These are the questions you will be asking about the people in your songs, so you are practicing the art of characterization.

 

This game of getting the creative flow going without boundaries can be played with any photograph or curious item. You will have to remind yourself to return to the fun, open attitude of this game whenever you feel yourself getting bogged down creatively.

 

Collaboration business tip: We think it’s best if everyone agrees up front that the song will be shared equally by all the writers who are participating in the collaboration. Mathematics can kill a collaboration. That’s why they call it division!

 

Write On!

 

Pat & Pete Luboff have recordings by Snoop Dogg ("Trust Me," the first single from the platinum-selling album "Top Dogg") Patti LaBelle (gold album and the title song for "Body Language: the Musical"), Bobby Womack (No. 2 on Billboard's Black Music chart), "Hometown, USA" from the John Travolta movie "Experts," on Michael Peterson's new CD, recently charting Miko Marks, and more.  They've been teaching songwriting workshops together since 1979. The Luboffs are the authors of the Writer's Digest new book "101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them" and "12 Steps to Building Better Songs," which they self-publish. For more information, visit http://www.writesongs.com

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Billboard Charts, Songwriting Tips, Billboard Books, Billboard Album Charts, Billboard #1 Hit, Billboard, Creating in a Group, The Collaborating Game, Pat, Pete Luboff

USA Songwriting Competition Winner Kate Voegele on TV, Releases CD

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 18, 2011 @03:20 PM

USA Songwriting Competition Winner Kate Voegele Back on "One Tree Hill," Releases 3rd Album

Knitting Factory

NEW YORK (Billboard Magazine) – USA Songwriting Competition Winner Kate Voegele is back on TV show “One Tree Hill” and has just released her third album yesterday "Gravity Happens" under ATO records. Kate Voegele won first prize in the 10th Annual USA Songwriting Competition in the Pop category. She went on to perform at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase during SXSW (see picture), went on to get signed after winning the USA Songwriting Competition and she hit Top 40 in the Billboard charts with the same song that she won at the USA Songwriting Competition with “Only Fooling Myself”. 


On the May 17 episode of CW's teen drama "One Tree Hill," Mia Catalano -- the character played by Kate Voegele -- returns to Tree Hill feeling refreshed after a brief sojourn to work on her music.


Voegele knew exactly how her character felt: the pop-rock singer/songwriter missed a few episodes of "One Tree Hill" this past winter to finish her third album "Gravity Happens" for ATO Records (May 17).


"It was a much-needed little sabbatical to take because music is really my first language," the 24-year-old artist said. "I've been doing it a lot longer than I've been in this acting world, and I'm so happy that I took the plunge and did it."


Since joining the show in early 2008, Voegele has juggled her musical endeavors (her last album, 2009's "A Fine Mess," hit top 10 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts) with her filming schedule. She also toured the country with Jordin Sparks. 


While the dual commitment has made Voegele's day-to-day life more hectic, her role on the show has resulted in original songs like "No Good" and "Wish You Were" garnering prime placements on the long-running program.


"Heart in Chains," the first single from "Gravity Happens," will be performed by Voegele on the show's season finale -- the same day the album is released.


Meanwhile, Voegele will showcase her visual artistry in an upcoming sponsorship with Oakley sunglasses: The budding painter designed original artwork for a signature pair of shades that will hit stores this summer. Each pair will include a free download card for "Gravity Happens.""It's all very connected," Voegele says. "Even some of my lyrics are in this design for the sunglasses. Oakley has been an amazing partner and sponsor, and I'm stoked to see come out soon."


In the meantime, Voegele will be busy unveiling "Gravity Happens," which she described as "more honest and raw." The set features sing-along tracks like "Hundred Million Dollar Soul" and "Sunshine in My Sky." She's joining Natasha Bedingfield on the latter's Less Is More summer tour, which kicks off June 5 in Northampton, Mass.


As for taking on additional acting projects aside from "Hill," Voegele says, "I never would have dreamed that we would have such a cool tie-in with a show like 'One Tree Hill.' So you kind of just take it as it comes."


(Editing by Jessica Brandon & Zorianna Kit)

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Kate Voegele, One Tree Hill, Billboard, Gravity Happens, ATO Records, CW, Jordin Sparks, Oakley sunglasses