Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tip: In Defense Of The Title

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 12, 2011 @12:57 PM

In Defense Of The Title

by Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley, Songwritier Advice

As songwriters we’re all paying attention to lyric, melody, structure, rhyme scheme, groove, track and more. In coaching writers I usually find the last thing a young writer considers is “the idea”. What is the song about? Is it an idea that will make a listener want to discover the song, listen further and get you beyond the dreaded “nice” comment? Is it relatable?

 

Sometimes it starts with a title, I admit to being a title writer. I think if the title gets people to listen to the song, open the book, try the movie then we have a leg up.

 

Not to say that every great song has to have a clever title but it sure can help a co-write get off the ground, give your subconscious something to work on or make a publisher pick your CD out of the pile.

 

I have to share one instance with you of a title really working. Years ago I moved to Nashville and while most of my success was in Pop music, especially in the UK at that time, I was getting country cuts. I was writing with Hall Of Fame songwriter Kye Fleming, still one of my best friends and the best pure lyricist I know. So.. we were stuck and she suggested we take a break in the middle of the day and go see a movie. We went to see Jerry Maguire. You remember, the “show me the money” movie.

 

The theatre was mostly empty aside from a few songwriters and music folk we both knew. Midway through the movie René Zellweger looks at Tom Cruise and says...."you had me at hello”. Kye elbowed me and said, “watch this”. Sure enough 4 people got up and made their way out, in the middle of the movie. They knew they had found their idea, or the perfect title. In her wisdom Kye told me that they would all go write it, a couple will demo it, a few publishers will get it to producers and one will be a hit in 6 months!

 

Around 6 months later Kenny Chesney had a number one called “you had me from hello”.

 

I still keep a running list of anything that remotely sounds like an opening line, great title or just a good idea.

 

One Nashville writer I know always cautioned me to “make sure the journey was worth the destination.” Don’t just depend on the twist or the hook to carry a song but make sure every part of lyric is seamless leading up to the big idea. In other words, a great title on it’s own is not a great lyric. Good advice!

 

Mark Cawleys’ songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK and around the world. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cut’s in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website “Song Journey” created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one on one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists in the US, UK and Australia with a new one on one co-active coaching service. Visit www.idocoach.com for details.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, USA Songwriting Competition, Mark Cawley, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross, Chaka Kahn, The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing

The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 09, 2011 @04:02 PM

The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville

~written by Cliff Goldmacher

 

Cliff Goldmacher

As a transplanted songwriter from Nashville to New York City, I’ve had the chance to observe, up close, the approaches to songwriting and the songwriting communities in both cities.  While there are of course many similarities, there are also quite a few differences. By the way, I feel I should mention that the following observations are really more my impressions than hard facts.

 

Differences Within the Similarities

In this article, I’ll start with a similarity between New York and Nashville as it’s readily apparent and then explain how, within that similarity, one city differs from the other.  One of the first similarities is that both cities have huge songwriting populations.  The depth and breadth of talent in both places encompass many more genres that the obvious country music for Nashville and pop and rock music for New York.  There are great pop writers in the suburbs of Nashville and extremely accomplished country songwriters living in Greenwich Village. 

 

Finding the Songwriters

One difference between the two songwriting communities is how easy they are to locate.  Because Nashville’s artistic community is predominantly made up of singers, songwriters and musicians, it’s much easier to find the music/songwriting community there.  New York, on the other hand, has a wonderful songwriter population, but it’s mixed in with the countless other artists and creative types that live there and is thus less obvious.  In other words, it takes a little more effort to find the songwriters in New York, but believe me, they’re there.

 

Before moving from Nashville to New York, I’d taken several writing trips a year up to New York and, by a process or trial and error, I found a core group of NYC songwriters that became my go to people on every trip.  This way, when I eventually moved to New York, I felt like I was instantly part of the community even though I had to discover it little by little.   I highly recommend this approach for anyone considering a move to New York as it eases the transition and makes the entire process much less overwhelming.

 

Co-writing

Although both New York and Nashville have large numbers of songwriters, co-writing is much more a part of the day to day routine in Nashville.  It’s not unusual for a Nashville writer to have five co-writing appointments in a week where they meet with a different cowriter every day in a publishing company office on Music Row.  This happens for several reasons.  First of all, as a hired staff songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, you are given a yearly quota of songs that you need to fulfill. The more songs you write,  the more quickly you’ll fulfill your quota.  Publishers make a real effort to connect songwriters they think will work well together and go as far as to set up co-writing appointments for their writers.  As a result, it’s fairly common in Nashville to be set up on a “blind date” cowrite. Secondly, even though you’re only credited with half a song for a cowrite, it’s easier to motivate yourself to write if you’ve got someone to collaborate with.  The act of scheduling appointments and being expected to show up significantly eases the stress of having to create on a schedule.  This approach seems odd to a lot of New York writers who are either artists themselves and used to writing with their own bands or are songwriters used to working with artists whose schedules are much less predictable.

 

Lyrics

Staying with the generality that you’re writing country in Nashville and pop or rock in New York,  I’ve noticed  that the rules of lyric-writing between these genres and cities differ significantly.  In Nashville, the story is king.  This means that the lyric has to make perfect sense, the images are concrete and the story has a logical flow from beginning to end.  There’s not a lot of room for poetic, impressionistic lyrics that don’t have the arc of a story.  New York, on the other hand, while it certainly has its share of great songwriter/storytellers,  has a broader tolerance in its pop and rock genres for words that “feel” and “sound” good together.  Please don’t misunderstand.  It takes just as much skill to write a great pop lyric where the words convey the emotion of the song and carry the nuances of the melody as it does to write a great story in a country song, but it’s a different skill set.  I’ve found that switching from one approach to the other can be creatively liberating and quite a bit of fun.  Also, it’s interesting to see how one city’s lyrical approach can bleed into the other’s.  In this way, you can end up with country lyrics where the words in the story sound good next to each other or pop lyrics with the arc of a story to them.

 

Labels

Speaking of artists, another similarity in the two cities is that they are both home to major record labels and their signed artists.  This alone attracts a huge number of songwriters to both cities.  The difference here is that country music artists are still largely dependent upon outside songs for their projects.  In New York, bands tend to write their own material and it is less common for these artists to go looking for outside songs.  Occasionally songwriters will be paired with these bands/artists in New York allowing the writers to end up with cuts on these acts.  Of course, all of these distinctions are lessening as more country artists write and cowrite their albums as well.

 

You Can’t Lose

At the end of the day, both communities are great places to work and create.  Ironically, after living in Nashville, working as a staff songwriter and writing for the country market for twelve years, my first cut was with a New York writer and was recorded by an Irish tenor on Universal Records named Ronan Tynan.  In my opinion, it was the blend of our New York and Nashville songwriting sensibilities that came together to create that song.  What I mean by this is that somewhere between the soaring melody more suited to pop and the lyric that had more of a country attention to detail, we came up with a classical crossover song.  So, if you’re a Nashville writer thinking about working in New York (or vice versa) I’d highly recommend it.  Sometimes it’s the differences that create the best art.

 

Good luck!

 

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter and his company http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos. 

Tags: song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, Music Row, co-writing, Differences, New York City, NYC, SongCircle, songwriting community, music publishing, collaborations, Universal Records, Ronan Tynan

Songwriting & Lyric Writing Tip: Prosody

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 05, 2011 @05:07 PM

Prosody

by Pat Pattison

 
Pat Pattison, Songwriting Professor

Songs are your best teachers. I try to learn something from every song I hear. I try to see what's working, and why where the song connects with me where it makes me feel something. Then I look under the hood to see how it was put together, to extract tools that I can pass on to my students. I¹ve found great advice for writing in Aristotle's Poetics, where he says that every great work of art displays the same quality: Unity. Everything works together, everything in the work belongs and serves the purpose of the work.

Aristotle's may have been the first statement of Prosody: appropriate relationship between elements, whatever they may be: melody and words, chords and message, rhyme scheme and emotion, and many others. This has become the guiding principle in all my writing and teaching. In Leonard Bernstein's brilliant lecture series at Harvard in 1973, "The Unanswered Question," he shows how both music and poetry use the same fundamental principles. True indeed, for all the arts -- they are all fundamentally the same, just having different avenues of expression. Painting is different than song, but at the deepest level, they all use the same principles: tension/resolution, symmetry/asymmetry, etc. This has allowed me to teach poetry to musicians, using a language they know and love to explain how poems work: counter-pointing, rhythm, syncopation; constructing tonic, subdominant or dominant functions at the ends of lines.

They get it instantly, and it allows them to look at the other arts the same way. Paul Fussell's Poetic Meter and Poetic Form is a marvelous book, especially chapter three where he talks about poetic use of rhythm, and the emotional effects of various syncopations within a line of metered poetry. The relationship between lyric and melody works in the same way. The combined effect of the three works creates compelling reasons to have a huge toolbox to draw from, and to select and use these tools in support of the central idea of your song: its number of lines, lengths of lines, rhythm and phrasing of lines, rhyme scheme, and rhyme types. The structure you create acts as a film score would adding additional emotion to the message, even controlling how the listener perceives it.

Looking at writing through the eye glasses of Prosody focuses everything. It keeps the message and emotion central, and organizes the elements of structure to support them. I've learned a lot by reading and paying attention tot songs, and I've tried to pass those ideas along in my book Writing Better Lyrics, now in its second edition.

Pat Pattison is a professor at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, USA. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Prosody, Lyrics, Pat Pattison, Paul Fussell, Berklee College of Music, Harvard, Leonard Bernstein, Songwriting Coach

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

Songwriting Tip: Creating Cool, Daily Content for Your Fans. Easily.

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 03, 2011 @04:58 PM

Creating Cool, Daily Content for Your Fans. Easily.
by Tess Cychosz

So you’re an emerging artist. That means by now, you probably feel like you’ve seen about a million articles from industry reps talking about how important it is for you have daily interaction with your fans. You need to be on Facebook getting “Likes,” Youtube getting hits, tweeting until your hands are raw, etc. etc. You get it. But unless your last name is Gaga, your life probably isn’t that fascinating on a daily basis.

So the question is, how can you create content that’s actually cool and interesting to your fans on a daily basis? Well, I’m here to try and help answer that. Here are a couple ideas and tools to capture your daily activities and make them look pretty nifty too. Added bonus: these apps and tools all allow you to immediately share via Twitter, Facebook and more.

Take “Vintage” Digital Photos. Typing “Making my morning coffee” on Twitter doesn’t sound that rad… when you say it like that. But using a photo is a fun and easy way to share something simple from your day. To make it even more exciting, there are a few fun “vintage photo” apps out there to make your morning coffee even look cool. See my super-awesome examples below. Voilà! An ordinary coffee cup is turned into a photo that could qualify for the wall of your local Starbucks (ok, that might be stretching it, but you get the idea). If you’re a Droid user, my favorite app is Retro Cam. iPhone users should check out Instagram.

From boring coffee to cool coffee

 

 

Mix Daily Video Clips with your Tunes. You’ve seen it a million times: A person sitting in front of their computer, the backdrop is a bedroom or basement, and it’s just another talking head. This is fine every once and a while to give several updates at once (a nice alternative to a newsletter) but it’s easy to expose daily activities in a more creative way. Check these out: Taking a ski trip? Pidgeon eat your lunch? Or maybe you’re really happy about a Snow Day? Putting together a few clips taken with your data phone and using some of your music as a soundtrack can be a clever way to showcase a new demo or bring back an old tune you released a few years ago. Apps with cool video effects: 8MM Vintage Camera app for iPhone and Videocam Illusion for Android. Edit clips together on your phone with apps like Reel Director or Qik.

 

Make Gig or Studio Photos into a Mini Production. Sonicbids Product Manager (and pal) Lou gave me this idea and I’m a fan. Once you’ve taken all of your cool content in the ways listed above, use it to create a quick and easy mini production. Play a gig last night? This is a great way to showcase your favorite photos from the evening in a snappier way than your average Facebook photo gallery. Animoto, lets you create quick 30 second productions (which you can throw together in minutes) for free and seems to hit it out of the park. But you can also check out Masher, too.

So there you have it. A few ideas to make that experience waiting in line at Guitar Center staving off the headache from the florescent lighting an opportunity to engage your fans. Don’t forget to show me a photo (@SonicbidsTess) when you do. This article is written by Tess Cychosz from Sonicbids

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, sonicbids, EPK, press kit, electronic press kit, Reverbnation, Rootmusic, Myspace

Photos From USA Songwriting Competition's Showcase During SXSW

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 @08:06 PM

In response to all of you that have asked, here are the pictures of our songwriters showcase during SXSW Week in Austin, TX at Barnes & Noble book store:

 

Dave Merena Performing at songwriters showcase during SXSW

Dave Merenda (2010 USA Songwriting Competition)

 

 

Drew Jacobs

Drew Jacobs (2010 USA Songwriting Competition First Prize Winner, Novelty category)

 

Jacinta

Jacinta (2010 USA Songwriting Competition First Prize, Dance/Electronica)

 

Raleigh Hall & Ian Holmes

Raleigh Hall & Ian Holmes (2010 USA Songwriting Competition First Prize, Gospel)

 

Shane Cooley

Shane Cooley (2010 USA Songwriting Competition, Finalist)

 

Melissa Greener

Melissa Greener (2008 USA Songwriting Competition First Prize, Folk)

 

For videos of the showcase, please click here:

http://www.youtube.com/usasongcomp

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Melissa Greener, USA Songwriting Competition, sxsw, Songwriter Showcase, Shane Cooley, Raleigh Hall, Ian Holmes, Jacinta, Drew Jacobs, Dave Merenda

Strategies For A Successful Career In Songwriting

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

Strategies For A Successful Career In Songwriting
By Sara Light

Before landing my first staff writing deal and major label cut, I served as the membership director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Over the course of four years I worked with, talked to and counseled new and aspiring songwriters and I began to recognize certain similarities between those songwriters who continually realized their goals and those who didn't. As I watched people move to town, leave town, reach goals or give-up, I learned some important strategies to achieving long-term success as a songwriter.

Strategy 1: Find your team
From the day we make the decision to pursue our dream of becoming a professional songwriter we're beginning a long and often frustrating journey. Like Dorothy on her way to Oz, we need help reaching our destination. At first, our family and friends may be the ones to give us the emotional support we need to keep going. Eventually, however, we must expand our team of supporters to include industry professionals who can keep us moving in the right direction. Performing Rights Organization representatives (in the US: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, in Canada: SOCAN, in the UK: ALCS), publishers, professional songwriters, producers and even major label recording artists, all may eventually become part of our team. Attending songwriting workshops given by local, national and international songwriting organizations is one way to start. You never know if the unknown guy you bump into today might be the Garth Brooks of tomorrow. Just a few of the hit songwriters and artists who have attended songwriting workshops include Mark D. Sanders ("I Hope You Dance"), Mike Reid ("I Can't Make You Love Me"), Carolyn Dawn Johnson ("I Don't Want You To Go") and Dianne Warren ("How Do I Live"). By continually improving our songwriting craft and expanding our knowledge of the industry, we let our potential team know that we're serious and motivated. In addition, by having the patience to form honest relationships and showing appreciation when someone helps us, we earn the trust and respect that we need to add members to our team little by little. Rarely is success achieved overnight. It usually takes years of hard work and persistence. Take for example, Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross who were both given a helping hand by the artists for whom they had been singing backup. Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill made contacts by singing demos while looking for their label deals. Luckily, we don't need everybody in town to like our songs, but we do need a strong team who does.

Strategy 2: Stay Focused
Most of the aspiring songwriters I've met actually begin with some kind of plan. For some, it is to take frequent trips from their hometown to a major music center in order to write and establish relationships. For example, Northern California songwriter, Steve Seskin ("Don't Laugh At Me"), and up-state NY songwriter, Hugh Prestwood ("The Song Remembers When"), both have had great success writing for the Nashville market. However, one thing most "out-of-town" writers would probably tell you is that making and maintaining contacts from a distance takes an incredible commitment of time, money and energy. For other songwriters, the plan is to move to a major music center and find an alternate means of income until the ship carrying their hit song comes in. Don Schlitz ("The Gambler") tells the story of how he wrote songs while working as a computer operator at night. Garth Brooks had a variety of jobs when he moved to Nashville, including selling boots.

Strategy 3: Set Goals
Even if we're living in a major music center, it's easy to get sidetracked or discouraged if things aren't happening as quickly as we might have hoped. Organization and goal setting are key ingredients to persevering and moving forward on our journey. In his book, Life Is A Contact Sport (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994), manager Ken Kragen, whose past and present client roster includes Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood, discusses how using a step-by-step approach has made him and his clients successful. Instead of looking at a desired outcome as an overwhelming task, Kragen sets smaller goals. He helps his clients create a road map beginning from where they are and the steps they need to accomplish to reach their ultimate goal. By reaching intermediate goals along the way, the payoff is constant and the journey is satisfying. I followed Kragen's advice and over the years some of the goals I set for myself and reached included: I will take guitar lessons; I will host a show at the Bluebird Café in Nashville; I will get meetings with five music publishers this month; I will write everyday; I will save enough money to demo ten songs this year; I will get a major artist cut.

Strategy 4: Take chances
In an industry as competitive as this one, we cannot afford to let our fears of failure hold us back. To "take a chance" means something different for everyone. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and different "comfort zones." What might feel like a risk to one person, might be a piece of cake to another. But, as my favorite T-shirt says, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I've been told that Jodee Messina walked right up to the head of Curb Records, Mike Curb, and told him that he needed a redhead on the label. If she hadn't done that, who knows if today she'd have several number one singles and a platinum album. So keep in mind that if you're not writing a song today, someone else is. If you're not calling a certain publisher, someone else is. If you're not booking a gig - well, you get the point. If we never step outside of what feels comfortable to us we can't learn the skills we need to succeed. We must be willing to accept possible rejection or failure and keep going in spite of it. A good example of this kind of perspective and persistence is exemplified by what Thomas Edison said to his wife while watching his laboratory burn down - "that's a good way to get rid of all those mistakes I was making in there."

You've already taken a huge step, just by allowing yourself to pursue your dream. It's not always an easy thing to do, but don't let yourself give up too easily. You can do it!

--Sara

Short Bio:
Songwriter Sara Light Sara Light
is a Tony-Award nominated, hit songwriter and co-founder of www.SongU.com. SongU.com provides multi-level song writing courses developed by award-winning songwriters, song feedback, mentoring, one-on-one song coaching, co-writing, unscreened pitching opportunities and more. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Sara Light, SongU.com, Songwriting Teacher, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, NSAI, SongU

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

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 04, 2011 @01:51 PM

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting, interviewed by Kiran Michaels

Ken Hirsch, Hit Songwriter


Ken Hirsch won First Prize in the Pop category of the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition as well as the Overall Second Prize with the song he wrote "Is That So Bad", co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell. He has also written the numerous hit songs such as “I've Never Been To Me” by Charlene and top 40 hit song “Two Less Lonely People In The World” by Air Supply. His songs have been recorded by legends in the music business. He talks to Kiran Michaels about how he writes songs and how he gets inspiration for it.  

1. You have written with the top names in the business today such as Hal David ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", "This Guy's in Love with You"), Gerry Goffin ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), Paul Williams ("Evergreen"), Howard Greenfield ("Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"), Ron Miller ("I've Never Been To Me" & "Touch Me in the Morning') and have written songs that have been recorded by the the biggest names: Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Air Supply, etc. Can you describe how you write a song? 

In my case, with most of the above co-writers, I created a complete melody first (which is always subject to change and molding)and then played it for them either live or on tape.  Most of these co-writers like to be inspired by a melody and rarely just write a freestanding lyric.  With Howie Greenfield, "Two Less Lonely People In The World" started as a title he had come up with from his personal book of titles and lyric fragments.  However, there have been just as many co-writes that happen simultaneously in the room which brings a whole other type of energy to the process.  On rare occasions I am given a partial/completed lyric or a lyric idea.  All three procedures are viable as long as the results work.  Every other blue moon I write both music and lyrics and thus avoid any creative conflicts and sharing of royalties!



2. Hal David, Gerry Goffin  and Howard Greenfield sounded like the people from the Brill Building. Did you ever write songs at the famed Brill building? 


No, when I was hitting the streets in 1970, it was kind of the end of the Brill building era  but a publisher I played my songs for in the building connected me with Doc Pomus ("Save The Last Dance For Me", "This Magic Moment"), one of the most famous of the Brill Building writers, who became my partner and mentor.  



3. How do you get ideas for creating a melody?

Other than seeing what bills need to be paid, usually an interesting set of intervals or chord progression can get the juices flowing.  

 

4. Who is your favorite songwriter, music wise? What did you learn from him/her?

In Pop it would have to be Burt Bacharach and Carol King.  Burt's sophistication combined with his innate soulfulness and Carol's ability to write hooks with a soulful energy are masterful.  They write melodies that are both accessible and unpredictable.  Then there's everyone else from Irving Berlin to Richard Rogers to Jule Styne to McCartney/Lennon to James Taylor to Ashford & Simpson, etc.



5. Who is your favorite songwriter, lyric wise?

I've been fortunate to write with some of the best so they all fall into that category.  I personally like lyrics that aren't too obscure, can be easily grasped or tell a great story.  Everyone from Sammy Cahn to Marty Panzer to so many of the country writers who really are wordsmiths of the first order.



6. How did you write your winning song? Did the melody come first or the lyrics or background music?

Our song "Is That So Bad" (co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell) actually started with a track that Peter was working on.  I added most of the melody and Rosie and Hillary, an artist we were working with, created the lyric.  It was loosely based on Hillary's own experience and then fleshed out by Rosie.  A fortunate confluence of events!  The final demo was produced by Smidi Smith and sung by Windy Wagner, so it's had quite a journey - so far! 



7. The top 3 winners this past year were all collaborations. Is collaboration in Songwriting important these days? 

It is and it isn't.  It depends on your strengths and ability to work with others.  But collaborations generally bring a lot of energy and ideas to the table that you necessarily wouldn't have come up with yourself.



8. Can you describe the collaboration with other writers and producers?

If everyone is pulling in the same direction it can be inspiring.  It helps if everyone can put their egos aside and concentrate on the work.  It's always a gamble, certain collaborators pull things out of you that you did not foresee.  It sometimes puts you into a different zone than what you're comfortable with but that can have positive results.  I've been writing a musical "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Robin Lerner ("This Kiss") and although we've never collaborated before we're both bringing different sensibilities to the project and it seems to be melding really well.  So the crapshoot this time is paying off!



9. What advice would you give to up-and-coming songwriters out there? 

It's all been said a million times but try to go with your gut and try not to compromise too much.  Having said that, try to be as objective as you can.  Don't fall in love with everything you write, many of the times it can be improved.  Don't be reluctant to give up on an idea if it's not working.  I try to separate myself from the writing and put myself in the place of the audience and imagine if I would enjoy listening to this song or if it moves me.  And it helps to have a very thick skin, never take the rejections personally - as hard as they may be to accept, there might be a fairy tale ending just around the corner.  And always keep the tape recorder running!

Ken will be performing his winning song along with a medley of his hit songs “I've Never Been To Me”, “Two Less Only People In The World”, etc at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at Bluebird Cafe on May 5th

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Ken Hirsch, hit songwriter, Billboard Top 40 Hit, Grammy, Gerry Goffin, Hal David, Carol King, Paul Williams, Howard Greenfield, Ron Miller, Brill Building

The 3 “PS” of Songwriting — Present, Protect, Promote

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 23, 2011 @03:01 PM

The 3 “PS” of Songwriting — Present, Protect, Promote

Simple strategies for making sure your hard work gets what it deserves
By Bruce Kaphan
Bruce Kaphan (Photo by James Saxson)
 

(Bruce Kaphan, Photo by James Saxon)

You write songs, but are you doing everything you should to take care of the business end of songwriting?
As a reader of Recording you are, by definition, a recording musician who knows how to make a song sound good. Today we’ll help you focus on how to present the song so as to maximize the business potential of your production.
Protection of your work is important. You may have seen the monthly columns that entertainment lawyer Todd Gascon and I have been co-authoring, called It’s Your Music—Know Your Rights. From those texts I’m summarizing points to keep in mind for the protection of your work.
Lastly we’ll suggest ways to promote your songs—some time-tested ideas for how to turn your songs into income generating entities.
   

Presentation

Focus is a challenge to most self-recording singer/songwriter/musicians. Do you wear lots of different hats? Are you trying to promote yourself as a singer, songwriter, musician, recording engineer, or producer? That can be distracting.
How do you prioritize? And how far should you go with the recording and production of your songs? Do you intend to sell your song “as is” to someone who will record and produce and release it? Or do you record and produce your own songs and sell the finished recordings?
Whichever of these two paths you choose should determine how you present (produce) the recording of your song.

Selling your song

If you’re looking to just shop the song, for someone to sing who will take it elsewhere for production, then present it accordingly as a song demo. [Note that this is different from the artist demo which isn’t really done much any longer, now that you might as well make a finished record for sale, since the technology allows for that even on a modest level.—LzR]
When I’m producing a singer and looking for songs, I prefer to hear the songs as unadorned as possible. While the most stripped-down version isn’t necessarily always better, I like for the song to stand out clearly, maybe with just a single voice accompanied by a single instrument (most likely guitar or keyboard). There may be exceptions—cases where a musical hook is so deeply embedded in the essence of the song that it must be present in the song demo, in a way that requires a more elaborate production than I’d usually suggest.
Still—if you are trying to sell just your song, it will be to an artist or possibly a team comprised of artist, producer, management, record company, etc., etc., who will have their own ideas about how best to produce the song.
Your song, even though you’re not making a big production out of it, will have a better chance at getting picked up if it is presented properly. If you can’t effectively sing your song, hire somebody who can, so it sounds convincing rather than questionable.

Selling a record of you and your song

Do you sing and perform on the recordings of your own songs? If you’re just starting out, and you think you have what it takes to be a star, but you have hardly begun to launch the business side of your career, think about how your recordings represent you.
One of my clients plays mostly solo shows, singing and playing guitar. He sells CDs at his gigs. He’s made a few albums. All but one of them present the music similarly to what people hear at his gigs—mostly just one guitar and a vocal. 
He had a dream of doing an album with a full band, so we did one, at much greater expense than his solo albums—musicians had to be paid, we needed to work in a bigger, more expensive studio, etc., etc.
He loved the way the album came out, but has noticed that it doesn’t sell as well as his other albums, because his audiences generally want to hear his recorded music presented the same way as his live shows.
If you’re a singer-songwriter starting out, it’s going to be a lot easier and much more economically realistic to work as a solo artist—with fewer mouths to feed, airline tickets and hotel rooms to purchase, etc., etc. If this is how you’ll present yourself onstage, doesn’t it make sense to make recordings that reflect this same presentation? In business, this is called branding.
Last—take pride in your work! With recording tools improving all the time, you may as well put the effort into making your recordings sound as good as they can be.
 

Protection

There are certain legal steps you must take to protect your interest in your intellectual property. In past issues in our column It’s Your Music—Know Your Rights, we’ve discussed the following tasks in great detail. Let’s summarize them in this list that should never be far from your eyes...
Step 1: Copyright your songs. We describe copyright in detail in our March 2010 issue. In our April 2010 issue, we show you how to file a copyright claim.
Step 2: If you record with other musicians or singers, ask them to sign a Service (or Sideman) Release. You’ll find more details for this and Steps 3–6 in our June, 2010 issue.
Step 3: If you use the pre-existing work of others (sampling), depending on the type of sampling, you’ll need to get the permission of the copyright owner and/or publisher.
Step 4: To earn royalties when your songs are broadcast, affiliate with a PRO (in the USA, ASCAP, BMI or SESAC), either as a writer, or writer and publisher.
Step 5: To earn royalties when your masters are broadcast on the internet, digital cable, and satellite radio, register with SoundExchange.
Step 6: If you manufacture a physical product (like a CD or vinyl), get a UPC bar code for the packaging and ISRC code for the master recordings.
Step 7: If you publish your songs, form a publishing company. This can involve forming a business entity, obtaining a business license in the city in which you live, doing a DBA name search/filing for a fictitious business name in the county in which you live, possibly filing for permits for doing business in your home, etc., etc. You’ll find more details on these topics in our July, 2010 and August, 2010 issues.
Step 8: If you’re self-publishing, provide adequate notice of your copyrights on your packaging and on your discs. We describe this in detail in our March 2010 issue.
 

Promotion
Words From An Expert

I asked Steve Seskin, one of the most successful writers in Nashville today, to share his thoughts about getting songs into the right hands. Steve had his songs recorded by Tim McGraw, Neal McCoy, John Michael Montgomery, Kenny Chesney, Collin Raye, Peter Frampton, Waylon Jennings, Alabama, Mark Wills, and Peter Paul and Mary. His song “Don’t Laugh At Me” was a finalist for CMA “Song of the Year” in 1999, and has spurred an entire tolerance movement, launched by the Don’t Laugh at Me Project. Other Seskin hits include: “I Think About You,” “Life’s A Dance,” “No Doubt About It,” “If You’ve Got Love” and “Grown Men Don’t Cry.” (More at www.steveseskin.com)
 
Here’s what Steve had to say:
“When it comes to writing songs for others to record, there are many ways to go at getting songs to the artists looking for them. The best way is to partner with a good publisher who will act as a middleman between the writer and the various people involved in a recording project. It’s not that easy to get a publishing deal these days, so what else can a writer do to pitch their songs?
In Nashville, writers collaborate on songs, and it has just as much to do with business as creativity. I tend to choose collaborators strictly because of the creative connection, but I see a trend towards more writers hooking up with emerging artists to co-write specifically because there’s a greater chance the song will be recorded if you write it with the artist.
If a writer wants to pursue this route, the best thing to do is to perform at lots of writers’ nights and showcases with the hope that an up-and-coming artist or producer will hear their songs and either be interested in cutting one of them or possibly co-writing for their project.
This is also a good way to meet other co-writers in general, because it lets writers hear each others’ songs, which is one of the things to do before considering co-writing with someone.
Lastly, if you have a song that you think would be good for a specific artist, I would certainly try being creative about finding ways to get it to them, such as sending it to the manager, producer, or A&R person at the label. It’s a long shot but there’s no harm in trying. Let’s not forget that Kris Kristofferson pitched “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” to Johnny Cash by landing a helicopter on his front lawn. Flying lessons, anyone?”
In the music business, just having talent and skill usually isn’t enough to further your career—you need to be in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing; you have to jump into the stream at just the right time... and you have to be able to swim!
Perhaps the title of this article should have been The Four P’s, because persistence will have to be a permanent partner on your path to success.
 
Bruce Kaphan ([email protected]) appears every month in our column “It’s Your Music—Know Your Rights”.
 
Excerpted from the March edition of Recording Magazine 2011  ©2011 Music Maker Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission. 5408 Idylwild Trail, Boulder, CO 80301  Tel: (303) 516-9118 Fax: (303) 516-9119 
For Subscription Information, call: 1-800-582-8326 or www.recordingmag.com For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting Tip, The 3 “PS” of Songwriting, Present, Protect, Promote, Bruce Kaphan, James Saxon, Recording magazine