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

Songwriters Tip: Tearing Down Walls With Your Teeth

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 04, 2011 @10:31 AM

Tearing Down Walls With Your Teeth by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin

 

Have you looked at the Billboard charts lately, and wondered – why aren’t I there?

My songs, production chops, my voice, my performance – I’m as talented as anybody out there, and then some. So why is someone else having the hits, and not me?

Often, the difference between you and the guy in the front row at the Grammys holding the award, is one more phone call.

As sensitive people, we don’t have built-in hustle muscles. The irony is, we need them more than ever. Truthfully, no matter how talented, if you’re not willing to tear down walls with your teeth, stay out of the music business. The race is to the hungry, not necessarily the best.

The odds are against somebody swooping down and discovering you while you stay home singing to the squirrels. But, if you are brave enough to make one call a day, every day, to one new music contact, at the end of a year, you’ll have 365 new people in your business life. If only 10% of them ever listen to a note, that’s still 36. And all it takes is one.

Remember: the difference between you and the guy in the first row at the Grammys with the award in his hand, is one more phone call.

Make that call.

 

© 2011 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin is a Career Mastery Coach and Songwriting Consultant.  An Emmy nominee, Molly has 14 gold and platinum records, plus four ASCAP Country Music Awards.  She's the author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter" and has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Violet” that won an Oscar.  

Molly has helped launch the careers of thousands of singers and songwriters, three of whom have Grammy nominations. She can be reached at: www.songmd.com or 800-851-6588.

Tags: song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, writing songs, Billboard Charts, Molly-Ann Leikin, Grammy Awards, writing lyrics, music career, musician, Music Career Coach, How To Write A Hit Song

Songwriter Opinion: Whose Career Would You Kill to Have

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 05, 2011 @12:24 PM

Whose Career Would You Kill to Have(and what is stopping you from having it?) by Molly-Ann Leikin

 

Molly-Ann Leikin, Hit Songwriter


Yesterday, when no one was returning my calls and my lunch date bailed after I paid for valet parking in Beverly Hills, I tore into my secret stash of peanut M & M’s and made a list of everyone, in every field, whose career I’d like to have instead of mine.  

l. Mary Oliver – the poet’s poet.  Her first collection was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich when I was an intern there during my New York City Jingle Days.   

2.Whoopie Goldberg- the funniest woman in America, if not the world.  

3. Lois Capps – the member of Congress from Santa Barbara, CA.  Think of the changes me, my chutzpah and galloping Jewish guilt could make in the U.S. House of Representatives.    

4. Michelle Kwan – the epitome of grace and strength and miracles in a small blue dress.  She often skated to one of my songs, “An American Hymn”, and I’ve always wished we could change places.  (This comes from growing up in freezing Canada where little girls were sent out in storms to amuse themselves. ) 

5. Lady Gaga

The trouble with wanting to be any of the gifted people I listed above is we already have one of each.  We don’t need two.  What our world could really use is you and your unique contribution. By trying to imitate the success of somebody else, you will miss yourself completely.

Do you well, learn how to get your name in the papers, and maybe someday, you’ll be an even bigger star than Lady Gaga, who, y’never know, could be sitting on the edge of her egg, gobbling peanut M & M’s, shushing the cattle from which she derives her wardrobe, so she can hear your new song.


© 2011 Molly-Ann Leikin www.songmd.com
Molly-Ann Leikin is a Career Mastery Coach and Songwriting Consultant.  An Emmy nominee, Molly has 14 gold and platinum records, plus four ASCAP Country Music Awards.  She's the author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter" and has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Violet” that won an Oscar.   Molly has helped launch the careers of thousands of singers and songwriters, three of whom have Grammy nominations.  She can be reached at: www.songmd.com or 800-851-6588.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, writing songs, Molly-Ann Leikin, writing lyrics, music career, musician, Mary Oliver, Whoopie Goldberg, Lois Capps, Michelle Kwan, Lady Gaga