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Featuring: Sarah DeLeo, Melissa Ferrick, Paige Nichols,
Feb. ’10, #122
First I want to thank each and every one of you for last month. We had such a flood of readers that scribd made us a featured publication which, in turn, increased our visibility and allowed people who had never even heard of Songwriter’s Monthly a chance to stumble upon the January issue. Consequently, we ended up with over 4,000 readers for last month’s issue alone . . . and we’re nearing the 10,000 mark for overall reads. I have my fingers crossed that now that you’ve found us, you will realize we’re not the typical music magazine and you will continue reading month after month. We strive to get you as close as possible to each and every artist and writer we cover. We take you away from the gossip and dive deep into what makes the artist so very human — sometimes uncovering aspects that even the artist was not aware of. This month there is a new feature called “First Person.” “First Person” is all about you! If you have a story, an anecdote, or something that you think might entertain or enlighten other folks, I invite you to send it in to be considered for publication. It does not have to be long (200-300 words is perfect), but it does have to be personal, something you experienced yourself. Other than that, if you like what you read here, please, just spread the word, tell people about us. The more readers we have, the greater the exposure for each person who appears within these (virtual) pages. If you’re a writer or an artist, tell your fans. If you’re a fan, suggest Songwriter’s Monthly to your favorite artist (and maybe they’ll owe you one?). Thanks for being involved . . . and thanks for reading! Allen email@example.com Feel free to drop a note, introduce yourself, comment, or just say hi. I love getting email!
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Katia “Girl Like Me”
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“Nice Monkey,” Goldilocks
Beth Thornley grew up playing piano, singing in choirs and basically doing “everything that parents make their kids do.” The difference with Beth was she didn!t rebel. “I absolutely loved it and I knew I somehow wanted to make a living in music,“ she expressed in a delicate yet conﬁdent voice. “I just wasn!t exactly sure how I was going to do that. Then I started writing songs and I was like, "Wow, I think this is my thing!! It was like ﬁnally stumbling across what you think you!re suited for and it just feels like a warm, fuzzy coat or a lovely pair of comfortable shoes. I thought, Oh, I may be Goldilocks because this is just right!" Beth!s colorful, image-oriented manner of speaking is reﬂected in her songwriting. Her smart, memorable lines and inventive way of presenting a story or twisting a phrase to make it radiate with a brilliant freshness is both startling and worthy of praise. “I certainly work really hard on the lyrics,” she noted. “not to say that I don!t work hard on melodies and chord changes, but I!m just determined to make the words a craft as much as the music is. It!s really hard and when somebody notices, I really appreciate it.” Often, Beth!s hard work is something to
marvel at — the meaning in her words is always clearly evident, but at times it is so cleverly presented that it evokes a smile or that wonderful “ah hah” moment of discovery
“I’m just determined to make the words a craft as much as the music is.”
or revelation. However, the true magic of her lyrics is Thornley!s gift for knowing the perfect word or collage of words to use. For instance, in her title track, “Wash U Clean,” there is a two word phrase that might seem like a throw away or a ﬁ l l e r, b u t i t i s s o absolutely right for the moment of the song that it has become a kind of cult reference or secret phrase among her fans. In fact, at her CD release party, if you said, “Nice monkey,” at the door, you!d get in for a discount. Thornley!s ability to create ideas and phrases that truly “stick” with people doesn!t stop with monkeys. In another upbeat, fun track entitled, “You!re So Pony,” Beth is trying to do something beyond just writing a thoroughly enjoyable song. “I am trying to start a catch phrase . . . and I don!t know why I thought I could do that,”
she laughed. “It!s just such a nice little word and such a happy little word . . . if something is “pony,” then that must mean it!s good! The phrase, "you!re so pony,! popped into my head and for about two years I had the chorus in my head before I sat down to write it because I didn!t know what to do with it. Also, I was working on songs that I thought were far more "important.! Then one day I thought, Let!s just do this, I want this to be fun, I need to lighten up.” Thornley knew she needed to bounce around the music tracks with somebody else, so she asked her producer, Rob Cairns for some input on the music. “"Pony! went down really fast and easy,” Rob informed. “We wanted to keep its raw edge, so after a
simple beat, guitars, bass and a fast doubletrack vocal, we were 90% done.” “It!s always exciting to work with Beth,” Cairns added. “I know the material is going to be good. And since Beth has the same drive to try to perfect the material as I do, she!s a great person to "go into the trenches!
The Story Behind: “Never Your Girl”
“"Never Your Girl! was probably the second most difﬁcult song from an arranging standpoint – and possibly one of the most difﬁcult from a songwriting standpoint for Beth. There were several different versions of the chorus, in different keys, that were recorded. We did a little "focus group! on that chorus with some close friends whose ears we trust. That was another song where every additional instrument we added just killed the mood for us. The electric guitar was in there from the beginning (The "slide down! effect was actually achieved by Beth adjusting the delay time by turning a knob as I played the part, and then quickly returning it to the original setting before I played the next phrase.), but I resisted the addition of acoustic guitar until the very end. There were also a couple of long nights worrying about whether or not to use hi hats.” — Rob Cairns with. Even when we have really rough days in the studio, it!s okay because she understands that making records is sometimes very hard work.” When asked which track was the hardest, Rob responded, “Every track has its own set of challenges. I would say that "Still Can!t Hide! was the one on which I spent the most amount of effort and time. The basic tracks went down rather quickly, but getting the right instrumental layering took some trial and error.# As is often the case with Beth!s songs, the writing is so strong that the simple basic tracks (piano/bass/drums/ vocal) are often very satisfying, and my
instinct is to resist adding any instrumentation lest I over-arrange. I tried a version with only tubular bells and timpani in addition to basic tracks, but Beth shot it down.” ”Still Can!t Hide” is a masterful song with unexpected, yet appropriate harmonic shifts. “If I!m going to do something strange, I try to make it feel like it makes sense,” Thornley commented on the somewhat unusual chord progression. “It!s okay with me if somebody notices it, but if it!s so noticed that it takes you out of the song, then I need to go back to do something that transitions everything a little bit better.” When asked how she achieved such a magical progression, Beth was more than happy to get specific. “It!s in F major, so it starts on an F major chord and then I move the fifth up to a D while keeping the F and the
A in the bottom. In the next chord, I keep the F in the bass, but I add the Ab — which makes it an F minor — and the [top note] goes up to the major 7 [E] . . . which is just strange. For a while I was a little bit afraid of that progression, but completely intrigued by it.”
“Then I realized that it was very difficult to put a melody over it,” Beth continued. “but I was so happy with the sound of it and so much wanted to play with the major and then the minor . . . I actually did sit down and say I!m going to play a chord that!s major and then I!m going to follow it by the minor of that very same
“I don’t ever want to be weird for weird’s sake, but I do want to try to see what chords can do.”
chord, I just liked the way that sounds. It was hard but I wanted to give it a try so it actually kinda started out as a "science experiment.! I don!t ever want to be weird for weird!s sake, but I do want to try to see what chords can do. Maybe it would be better described as a music experiment? I!m just always playing with that to see where I can go.” Lyrically, ”Still Can!t Hide” is about: “Yeah, life is hard, and we do hide sometimes. You can escape under the covers for a little while, but then you gotta get up and go out
and kinda deal with it all.” Another song with a similar message is the tender track “Everyone Falls.” “I!ve never really thought of it till this moment,” Thornley realized. “but both songs have the same thread of how hard life can be sometimes and how we just have to keep trying to understand for each other. Life is difﬁcult, but we!re all in this together. There is a little bit of relief in that for me to know that I!m not alone in this, that we all struggle. It!s part of the human journey, we all gotta ﬁght sometimes, but then we all get to be happy sometimes, too.” When asked about any unifying theme or philosophy running through the rest of the album, Rob Cairns responded, “With all of Beth!s albums, there!s only been one philosophy — which is simply to serve each song the best we can, regardless of where the arrangements and production take us. For me, Beth!s "voice! as a songwriter has such a strong signature that I felt it was enough of an anchor to allow us to musically
explore.# Ultimately, we just wanted to make an album that we!d enjoy listening to, and would be proud of 20 years down the road.” Speaking of being proud, in the track “There!s No Way” Beth takes on a rather complex lyrical idea and manages to pull it off magniﬁcently. The song is about failing hard just to make a point. “I was really worried about the entire song because I knew I had
“It’s part of the human journey, we all gotta fight sometimes, but then we all get to be happy sometimes, too.”
The Story Behind: The Sax Riff On “Wash U Clean”
“The sax was 100% Beth!s idea. She knew sax was my main instrument at one time, but I hadn!t played in years. She approached me with that riff and said that she thought it would be great on baritone. The problem was that I didn!t own a baritone sax. I was a tenor player. One ebay auction and some repairs later, we had our opening track.” — Rob Cairns tackled a kind of upside down and backward!s concept,” Beth expressed. “I have learned in the past that it!s best — when you only have three minutes — to keep the concept rather simple . . . and there!s nothing wrong with simple. There!s a difference between simple and simplistic and I try to really pay attention to that.” “If you!ve got more than one or two twists it!s just too much for three minutes,” she continued. "There!s No Way! was a challenge for that very reason. I went through an earlier part of my life when I was just so down, not like terrible horrible bad things were happening or anything, but I think you can get to a place in your life where you don!t know what you want to do and you!re not sure that anybody believes in you, so you just think, I!ll show them, I!ll fail big! It!s not anything that makes any sense, but it!s what happens to people, they give up. "I!ll show you that I can!t learn, I!m going to crash right here!! It!s just a real backwards way of
trying to get back at somebody and trying to hurt somebody, but I think the thought crosses a lot of people!s mind!s. I kinda ﬁgure if it crosses mine, it must cross other people!s, right?” “And not only did it happen to me,” she noted, “but a friend of mine was telling me a story about a friend of his who is just under the thumb of his incredibly strict father. His father wants him to go to med school, but this guy is an artist at heart and he is struggling in a way that is just really, really hard. He!s got the pride of the entire family resting on his shoulders based on whether or not he goes to med school and becomes a doctor. I felt for him so much because he!s at that place in his life where he may fall off the edge just to show them. I don!t think going to med school is the answer, but I also don!t think falling off the edge and completely crashing is the answer either. Yet, he!s riding those extremes
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right now: go and be the savior for his family or crumble from the pressure.” “I don!t know what he!s going to do. I hope he ﬁnds his own path. That really is the harder thing, but it!s also the best thing . . . if you can ﬁnd it. When you!re in that situation, it!s the harder path to take because it!s not marked. Yeah, you can crash, everybody knows how that path looks, or you can go to med school because everyone knows how that path looks, too, but ﬁnding your own way, man, there are just no road signs.” T h a n k f u l l y, B e t h Thornley has found her path . . . and she!s well along her chosen road. Songwriting is a good ﬁt for her because not only does it seem comfortable for Beth, but she!s a warm, fuzzy coat for her audience, as well. Thornley is a wonderful musician, a clever composer, and a nimble lyricist with a remarkable ear for arranging. As far as music is concerned, Beth is, indeed,
Goldilocks because it truly is just right for her. To check out Beth!s latest album and learn more about this gifted artist, visit: http://beththornley.com
Imelda May Dazzles At The Grammy Awards
Imelda May performed a show-stopping version of “How High The Moon” with Jeff Beck during the tribute to Les Paul at this year's Grammy Awards. In an exclusive message on her website, Imelda stated (excerpt): "Music would not be as it is today with out Les Paul. His contributions to making one of the first solid bodied guitars and mastering the multi track recording systems that changed the course of recorded music can never be forgotten. I sang the parts of his amazingly talented wife Mary Ford on ‘How High The Moon’ (Hamilton/Lewis). Just as she did — to highlight Les Paul’s multi tracking discoveries — I pre-recorded four and five part harmonies onto a backing track and then sang the lead vocal along with them live at the Grammys. To perform this track with such a genius as Jeff Beck — possibly THE best guitarist in the world — was a huge thrill and honour. I will always be very grateful to him for asking me to do this and I will never forget the night for as long as I live."
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In March, Imelda will tour alongside Verve labelmate Jamie Cullum. For dates and more information, visit: www.imeldamay.com
“I want to make people feel.”
When Paige Nichols moved from Ohio to New York City, she knew she wanted to sing and play piano, however, she didn’t realize there was a piece missing from her plan. “I got here and I realized that I had nothing to sing except for other people’s songs,” Paige
“I realized that I had nothing to sing.”
noted. “I was like, ‘This is a problem, I should learn to write.’ So I started writing because I realized I needed to.” “ W h e n yo u ’ r e s t a r t i n g o u t a s a songwriter, there’s a fear: What if I’m not good at this? Will people like it?” Nichols continued. “You get halfway through a song and you think, This is bad, no one will like it! You can’t keep writing i f yo u ’ r e c r i t i c i z i n g halfway through. It wasn’t until I stopped listening to that voice that the songs started coming out more freely . . . and better.” In fact, the songs have come so freely that Paige is on the verge of releasing her debut EP. The five songs on this project are not her first recorded tracks, but they are the first collection of songs to utilize a producer and a full band.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of my recordings before this,” Paige confessed. “I was still kind of learning how to sing my own music and put feeling into it. I was singing it like I was singing somebody else’s songs, you know what I mean? The recordings were also in this very weird in-between zone . . . I would try to describe my music and I couldn’t.” But that all changed with these five songs. “The producer, Mikal Blue, helped me go in a definite direction,” Nichols explained, “now I feel that my music definitely fits in the pop/soul genre.” Paige’s songs are crisp, piano-driven tunes with dynamic melodies and haunting overtones. Her rich, soulful vocals and passionate performances provide an intriguing depth that pulls the listener in close and allows him to
truly feel what Paige was going through when she first wrote the music and lyrics. “The songs are from lots of bad experiences,” Nichols stated. The pain, hurt and confusion of failed relationships is what fuels Paige’s music, yet she manages to never sound angry or bitter. Contrary to what you might expect, her songs are uplifting, rousing and empowering. When asked how she is able to take
“When you’re starting out as a songwriter, there’s a fear.”
something so painful and turn it into something so positive, she responded, “I can only write about someone I felt really strongly about or whom I was in love with. Even though it ended badly, for somebody to have evoked that strong of a feeling in me, it had to have come from a place where I really cared for them.” “Also the producer whom I worked with really helped me not go too dark. Even though his stuff is deep, it’s lighter than what mine was when I originally took it to him. He helped me add that tone to it: ‘Even though you’re mad we’re not going to make people terribly depressed.’” This ability to take the dark and place it in the light while allowing a few lingering shadows to remain is one of the reasons why Paige Nichols’ music is so fascinating. She deftly applies subtle layers of contrast to offer her audience an astonishing degree of depth. The more you listen to her tracks, the deeper you can go. Another contrast — one that Paige continually wrestles with — is her look vs. her sound. She is a petite
“I can only write about someone I felt really strongly about or whom I was in love with.”
blonde, but she has a powerhouse voice. “I know a lot of times when people first see me they think I’m going to have a high voice and not really sing anything of substance. Maybe I’m paranoid about it,” she worried, “but I think the music does have depth. I want to make people feel and I hope they don’t see an image and decide to not even listen.” As far as the title of her debut EP, Paige expressed, “I was worried that you were going to ask about that! I’m trying to come up with the title and I have not yet because I am completely getting crazy about it. I don’ t like labeling because it’s like you do this whole big thing with a lot of different feelings — there are a lot of different emotions in these songs — and then you have to come up with just a couple of words to define it all? This is so hard, it’s driving me crazy.” “I have all these ideas and I’m testing them out by calling it that in my head and I’m like, ‘No! That’s not right,’” she continued. “I want to make sure the title creates a full, cohesive image.” Paige Nichols’ debut EP is an engaging collection of songs that are at once hardhitting and haunting. Her vocals are proud, confident, and thoroughly exciting. For more information on this dynamic artist, visit: http://www.myspace.com/paigenicholsmusic
Paige will be playing Room 5 in LA at 8:00 on March 20th.
“I was playing probably 180 shows a year and you really can only go so long doing that before you’re on the verge of dropping dead from exhaustion.”
Melissa Ferrick is one of the most engaging and enthusiastic performers you’ll ever experience. She has a seemingly limitless stamina that allows her to deliver remarkably high energy shows to her fans night after night
“Everything’s moving so fast, you know? And I don’t know if it’s better.”
after night. What ever obstacle or challenge is thrown in her path, she either overcomes it or adapts to it and keeps moving forward. It doesn’t seem possible to even slow her down, let alone stop her. From her early days on Atlantic Records to her current status of releasing albums on her own independent label [Right on Records], Melissa has continually evolved as an artist. Throughout the years, there have been monumental changes in the music industry which have forced many other musicians to abandon their dreams, but Ferrick has proven time and again that she is more than capable of forging ever onward. When Songwriter’s Monthly caught up with her, Melissa was wrapping up her latest studio project and getting ready to go on tour. She was also going through a painful period of loss and mourning, but true to her spirit, she remained remarkably strong and focused throughout the interview.
“I’m in record mode/hoping to write more mode,” Melissa stated. “I’ve got a handful of new songs — maybe half a record’s worth — but not enough to make a full record yet. Honestly, I like to have twice as many songs as I need when I go in to make a record so I can really whittle down to the “best ones,” the ones I think are the strongest.” H o w e v e r, j u s t b e c a u s e M e l i s s a currently only has a handful of original songs in her pocket, it doesn’t mean she isn’t getting ready to release a new album. To switch things up a little, Ferrick has decided to record a collection of covers. “I kinda got this idea: If I’m having a hard time writing, at least I’m still playing and singing
and being creative — keeping the juices flowing. And it has helped.” Rolling with the flow is nothing new to Melissa. Over the course of her career, she has remained fluid in her approach. “It was such a different world when you and I first met,” she recalled. “Nirvana was huge and they still pressed cassettes to sell at Tower Records! It’s not even like people release regular records anymore. There’s kind of a freedom in that,” she considered, “but there’s also kind of a sadness because there really isn’t the need to have a theme or an order in which you place the songs, a lot of that creativity has been taken away.” “My niece is 11 and she loved the Jonas Brothers . . . for like 2 seconds!” Melissa continued, reflecting on how
fast the music world turns. “I was on the phone with her yesterday and I said, ‘What about the Jonas Brothers, they kinda came and went really fast.’ She told me that Nick has his own solo project going already?! It used to take ten records for people to go solo! Or they never went solo, at all. Everything’s moving so fast, you know? And I don’t know if it’s better.” Ferrick noted that even the vibe at a live performance has changed drastically over just the past few years. “People are not used to being around other people anymore — the energy at a live show is chaotic,” the artist mourned. “We’re just not all that used to being around each other anymore and I think that is sad. I miss people knowing that you shouldn’t really get up in the middle of the song and go to the bathroom, you should wait till the
“I just couldn’t go any more.”
end of the song. There are less kids going to shows where you learn to clap after a solo and appreciate the artist and appreciate the show. There are cultural rules within a cultural exposition. For example, you don’t really talk that loud in a museum or a library. All these things are kind of going by the wayside because people are sitting behind a computer, talking, watching tv, eating and giving their dog a treat all while they are looking at Picasso online.”
“That’s what I felt the most sad about, I felt that I had no spirit, I just felt like a walking dead person.”
“I think that essentially what will end up happening, especially at a major label level,” Melissa predicted, “is that you will become incredibly famous in about six months and you will get a huge deal with Coke or Mountain Dew, then you will do three youtube concerts and people will buy a ticket to watch you play on a sound stage . . . and no one will ever actually see you in person!” Melissa took a moment to relate an amusing anecdote regarding live shows. “I’ve actually shown up to shows of
mine and had posters up in front of the club where I’m playing and they will have pulled a photo off of my website . . . but it’s not me!” she revealed, laughing. “It was my merch[andise] seller! It would be a poster declaring ‘Live Tonight Melissa
Ferrick’ and its this big smiley picture of my cousin who was selling merch with me that night.” On a more serious note, Melissa talked about a wall that she hit a few years ago, a wall that she just couldn’t break
through, and a drastic change she had to make in order to keep on performing. After a frightening experience, she realized she needed to slow down her pace. “I was playing probably 180 shows a year,” she noted, “and you really can only go so long doing that before you’re on the verge of dropping dead from exhaustion . . . or having a nervous breakdown. I hit a level of exhaustion about three years ago and I just couldn’t go any more. I was just done. I had lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t upset or depressed, my body was just done. My brain was still going, but my body was like ‘Yeah no, we’re not going to be able to do that this week.’”
ENOUGH ABOUT ME Track List:
1. Deathly (Aimee Mann) 2. How to be Righteous (Lori McKenna) 3. Such Great Heights (The Postal Service) 4. Babylon (David Gray) 5. Creep (Radiohead) 6. Call and Answer (The Bare Naked Ladies) 7. One (U2) 8. Moses (Patty Griffin) 9. Bad habit *produced version (Melissa Ferrick) 10. Hypocrite *produced version (Melissa Ferrick) “Without your health and without your spirit, you don’t have anything.” “I felt that I had no spirit, that’s what I was the most sad about, I just felt like a walking dead person.” But that was then, before the most recent change. Melissa was forced to confront the very real limits of what she was doing to her body by constantly being on overdrive. Now Melissa is once again thriving. “I took some time off and gained 15 pounds. I’m really healthy and feel fantastic physically and emotionally.” Melissa Ferrick is currently on tour supporting her album of covers entitled, ENOUGH ABOUT ME. To find out when she’ll be in your town, visit: www.melissaferrick.com
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“I took some time off and gained 15 pounds. I’m really healthy and feel fantastic physically and emotionally.”
“I remember people asking me — when I was in the middle of it and loving every minute of it — people would be like, ‘I can’t believe you do this, how do you do this?’ I would answer, ‘I don’t know, I just do, I love doing it.’ I once had a fan follow me for 4 days straight and on the 3rd day they looked at me and said, ‘I have so much more respect for you than ever before.’ I was like, ‘Dude it hasn’t even been 4 days, try 4 months . . . talk to me in 8 years!’” It was only by hitting that wall and simply not being able to go on any more that Melissa was forced to realize:
Sarah DeLeo is a class act with a silky tone that is at once bold and reserved, sultry and innocent. Her latest album is a collection of covers entitled I’M IN HEAVEN TONIGHT. Sarah doesn’t just sing the tracks on her album, she takes each song and gently sculpts it, molds it, shapes it into something that is completely her own. She twirls the melody innocuously like a girl absentmindedly playing with her hair and the subtle shifts in line and phrasing create an arrangement that not only sounds new, but is also perfectly natural and effortless. The opening track, “Rockin’ Robin,” is presented with a laid back swinging groove that features an enchanting flute solo. The song is not quite how you’ve ever experienced it before, yet somehow it sounds like it’s something you’ve listened to your whole life.
But for all her tweaking, Sarah doesn’t consider herself a writer. “I’m a song interpreter,” she explained. “I break down the songs harmonically, I break them down rhythmically, and I’ve always considered it to be taking liberties with the material when I perform. In some ways, I guess it is rewriting,” she offered, “but I consider it interpreting because the bare bones are somebody else’s.” Besides breaking the songs down from a musical perspective, DeLeo applies practices she learned while studying acting. Sarah studied with two actors who introduced her to the Stella Adler method. In a very simplistic summary, Stella Adler’s approach teaches actors to never limit their abilities by drawing on real memories and experiences, instead they should draw from their imagination in order to be able to express a far greater depth and range. As enthralling as her voice can be and
as captivating as her performances are, DeLeo expressed that she gets more comments on her choice of songs than anything else. One attention-worthy cover is the White Stripes’ “In The Cold, Cold Night.” Sarah outlined how she adapted the song to fit her style: “I had been doing “In The Cold, Cold Night” for a while and I didn’t record it on my first album even though I had been singing it at the time. I have the SEVEN N ATION A RMY album and I remember listening to that track and thinking, Gee this sounds a lot like ‘Fever.’ I listened to the arrangement that Peggy Lee did — she basically sings to the song once, then she modulates and that was it. So that’s what we did in this tune. We worked on it a little bit
and then we recorded it that way and it just really worked out great.” A personal favorite of Sarah’s is a song called “No Moon At All.” “I read the l y r i c s a n d I j u s t l ove d i t !” s h e expressed. “With a lot of the songs I sing, there’s something kind of serious and earnest about them, but with that one, I liked that there was a sense of irony about it. I don’t really do a lot of songs that could be considered ‘funny,’ but I thought there was actually some
humor in that one because it’s very ironic at the end when it says: “no moon at all up above/this is nothing like they told us of/just to think we fell in love/and there’s no moon at all.” I’M IN HEAVEN TONIGHT is a lush album, saturated with atmosphere and supper club charm. For more information on Sarah and her music, visit: http://www.sarahdeleo.com
The Story Behind The Song:
Ryan Hammer “Famous”
“Growing up, my Mom suffered from a lot of depression and anxiety, and my father was kicked out of the house for abuse when I was 14. The first verse of “Famous” is a summary of every experience I had when I was a kid, going to shows and meeting my idols and telling them how much I wanted to be like them when I grew up. The third verse is me now, realizing my dreams, living the life I love to live every single day. I never feel like doing music is a job, it's a passion. And my life is full of passion.” For more information on Ryan and his music, visit: http://facebook.com/RyanHammer826 http://www.myspace.com/RyanSHammer http://youtube.com/RyanHammer826
Quite often, the more hype, the less impressive a release. With all the hysteria surrounding Little Boots’ (aka Victoria Hesketh) HANDS you might think it’s impossible for the album to live up to the anticipation. But if anything, the hype falls far short of describing what a meticulous gem this full-length debut truly is. The entire album throbs with an invigorating pulse. There is simply not a single track that is not single-worthy. Victoria’s voice is as flawless as the edge of a diamond. She delivers her lyrics with a sharp, confident thrust. “New In Town” begins with a pointed staccato verse that explodes into a rousing, industrial carousel, i.e., the chorus. “Earthquake,” on the other hand, offers a slightly more lush and lyrical listening experience. As striking as Victoria’s vocal work is, ultimately it’s her synth wizardry which will leave listeners utterly enchanted. Her deft use of beats and fat, fat sounds is both hypnotic and adrenalizing. “Tune Into My Heart” is a hypnotic track that features a masterful threading of delicate, airy vocals that effortlessly manage to dominate the unyielding, propulsive bass. Also, don’t miss the supremely gratifying cameo of Philip Oakey’s (The Human League) unmistakable vocals on the tasty “Symmetry.” With the release of HANDS, Victoria Hesketh has earned herself a place in the top tier of the music world. The album is exquisitelycrafted, immaculately produced and an absolute rush to listen to.
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Q & A With Winston Gay
A protégé of Gamble & Huff's 'Sound of Philadelphia,' Philadelphia-born Winston Gay has toured with an impressive list of artists such as Maceo Parker, The Stylistics, The Delphonics, Bunny Siegler, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and many others. An accomplished songwriter and composer, Winston has recently written a charming, insightful how-to book for songwriters entitled THE ‘MONSTER’ SONGWRITER’S MANUAL. S o n g w r i t e r ’ s M o n t h l y : Yo u a r e talented in a wide variety of areas, if you could only have become accomplished in one of them, which area would it be and why? Winston Gay: This is a very challenging question for me, because I thoroughly enjoy the variety of things I do. Each one gives me a different type of pleasure. My best answer would be to produce original music in different styles. As a producer, I can sort of ‘have my cake and eat it too.’ SM: What is the driving force behind your accomplishments? WG: My life experiences have culminated into a personal experience with the God of the Holy Bible. For me His Word is the driving force and inspiration behind any of my accomplishments to date. SM: How long did it take to write THE ‘MONSTER’ SONGWRITER’S MANUAL? WG: A little over a year; however, it took two years for the finished work to come to print, because 75% of the original text was lost due to computer malfunction and a damaged backup copy. SM: Your writing style is engaging, upbeat and easy to understand. What is your background in writing? WG: Actually, my major in high school
was Art, not Literature. Though I have no who has been writing for a while? If so formal training in modern English, I have how? always been attracted to word usage and story telling from Shakespeare to Rod WG: Chapter 5 in my book is applicable Serling, Jane Austin, to for both the new or James Michener, and a experienced writer. When handful of other unique building something writers. In addition, my tangible, a builder family is a story telling usually constructs from family. Our tradition is to the bottom up, due have stimulating largely to the laws of conversation about physics. In the creative almost anything. I was art of songwriting, one is the one who took some free to build his/her song of my family’s ‘ordinary from any starting point conversation,’ and began he chooses. In Chapter to transform their ideas 5, I explain how to build into a ditty, poem or a a song using more song. conventional or ‘tangible’ methods. Whether you SM: As far as songare a novice or a writing and music, do you have any p r o f e s s i o n a l w r i t e r, t h e b a s i c favorite styles or artists/writers that you methodology of composition always look up to or draw from? yields a skeleton on which to ‘flesh out’ your song. Read section three of WG: As a ‘baby-boomer’, I certainly had Chapter 5 and you may find a scenario a select list of favorites pertinent to my that fits your current situation. own era, but truth is there are great artists/writers in every generation and culture; some, who in due season, rise to the top of their game through the sheer originality of their talent. In the manual, the chapter ‘Published & Unpublished’ expounds on this in greater detail.
“Writer’s Block is a mental or emotional condition or state that, like amnesia, should only be temporary.”
SM: In Chapter 5, you explain how to ‘build” a song in 7 steps. Do you think this outline is helpful to just the beginning writer, or do you think it could help someone
SM: In your book, you have an excellent line that states: “You can’t write what yo u r m i n d c a n ’ t s e e .” B e g i n n i n g songwriters can be very stubborn about this because they do not know all they do not see. What advice do you have for beginning (and seasoned) writers regarding this point? WG: True enough, you can’t get blood from a stone, but there is another approach or remedy for this. One may say, “I can’t write what I can’t see.” Granted, but what CAN you see? What is the one thing that you CAN get from that stone? Everyone has a vision of something whether they realize it or not. Focus in on what you CAN see, not what you can’t. It’s all a matter of perspective. Is your glass ‘half empty’ or ‘half full’? SM: Could you briefly talk about the importance of starting a song in a paragraph format? What are the benefits of doing this? WG: All songs begin as ideas in search of a medium of expression. It’s like asking a person to tell you what they’re thinking about. All of us have some opinion, viewpoint, comment, praise, question or criticism about most things. We all have something to say. These thoughts form long or short paragraphs that can become condensed or made palatable for general use. These paragraphs have songs hidden within. A
skilled ‘song-smith’ is able to extract the essence of the text, and lay (not discard) the excess on the side for future use. SM: Do you have any quick tips on breaking through Writer’s Block? WG: Not really. Writer’s Block is a mental or emotional condition or state that, like amnesia, should only be temporary. I know of no quick fix, (short of shock therapy), but it is fix-able. Chapter 11 should get the cobwebs out and start you on the road to productivity. SM: Is there anything you’d like to bring up that is important to you about songwriting (or any other aspect of your career/s)? WG: What is important to me is that true songwriting is an art and a craft. Words and ideas should not be strung together cavalierly or used carelessly. All gifts and talents carry with them a degree of responsibility and maintenance. See: “Standards of Excellence” in the ‘Monster Musician’s Manual’. For more information on the many things Winston is involved in, visit: http://www.winstongay.com
For more information on THE ‘MONSTER’ SONGWRITER’S MANUAL visit:
Xlibris Barnes & Noble Amazon
Do you love the high-energy infectious techno sound of Electric Valentine? Then this is your day because Chris Qualls and Lauren Baird are offering their debut album entitled AUTOMATIC for FREE! The music is defined by crisp, hypnotic b e a t s , d a z z l i n g vo c a l s , s p a r k l i n g synths, and arresting hooks. The album is available at Hot Topic and other locations, but Electric Valentine stated: “We would like you and all your friends to have "Automatic" for free because we worked really hard on it and are proud of the result. That's the benefit of recording, funding and releasing your own album: you can do crazy stuff like this. All we ask in return is that you tell a couple people about Electric Valentine and let them know that they c a n g e t i t f o r f r e e t o o.” To g e t AUTOMATIC, simply click HERE!
This article appears as a response to last month’s request for first person anecdotes.
One night, I crossed the wonderful page of The Irish Descendants http:// ( www.myspace.com/210278482 on Myspace, thanks to my friend who picked them ) for her profile song. And that encounter reminded me of my long-ago passion for Irish folk music — which has never really deceased — and The Dubliners. http:// ( www.myspace.com/thedublinersmyspace ) I met the Dubliners when I was about 4. They lived on a big brown tape and used to sing to me almost every day. I was given the ultimate priority right to handle my father's tape player all by myself (almost), and later a half-broken cassette player connected to stereo speakers (I believe I learned to attach the speakers myself, too). I wonder if they were the only Irish band known in Soviet Estonia in those times (around 1986)? Probably. And probably their recordings were not freely available either. I am not very sure about that. Maybe it was just rare (as everything) and you had no other choice than to make a copy. We had The Beatles, too, and that was surely forbidden stuff. Though, by that time, the Soviet state was kind of already breaking down, things were changing — I couldn't quite catch the whole thing with my child mind, but from a few years later I
remember my mother anxiously watching the news and broadcasts of the singing revolution gatherings in the capital Tallinn. (We ourselves lived in Tartu and we had borrowed a little TV from a friend for that occasion.) But in 1986, the Dubliners were part of my everyday life. I used to go to a children's dancing group — we did all kinds of stuff there like singing and playing and dancing with ribbons. I had my personal ribbon-sticks and I made up my own choreography to the Irish tunes at home. My special favourite was “Maids when you're young never wed an old man.” Let me assure you that I didn't understand a WORD of English at that time. But I will always remember that tune. Years later, I rediscovered the song, AND the meaning of the words (oh my, my) and I decided to sing it. Now, “Maids...” has become quite stuck in my repertoire. I often like to sing this jolly little song. In Estonia, half of the people don't get the meaning (and sometimes I pray that they don't!). Once an Irish band came to give a concert in my hometown Tartu. I have no idea who they were. Probably not the Dubliners! The tiny concert hall was overcrowded, chairs were behind t h e d o o r, l o t s o f p e o p l e everywhere. We were sitting outside on a chair — mainly because I believe my mom wanted to have a chance to escape quickly in case I became tired or just behaved badly. They must have sensed the lack of air in the main room, because they
took a break and people went out to breathe. So, I had a chance to walk around and, of course, I went to see the stage! The musicians were on the stage and they started speaking to me. I understood nothing, but I was still very excited because I liked them and their music a lot! They gave me some things, of which I had no idea of, but they looked interesting and colourful. I ran back to my mom and together we discovered that these were Irish coins, huge pieces of metal that had harps drawn on the backside and all kinds of other interesting pictures as well. I believe there were 4 coins altogether, all different. I kept them in a special place, a small green wallet (quite Irish green, actually). From time to time, I used to take them out and dream about going to Ireland. Now, more than 20 years later, I still have the coins, I still love Irish songs and dream about going there someday :) Long live the Dubliners and may you all have hope in your lives! http://myspace.com/haldjas
A young Haldjas, circa 1986.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
K e n nett F la sh
Looking for a new venue to enjoy live music? The Kennett Flash is located in Kennett Square, PA. This southern Chester County arts and music venue is close to Wilmington and only one hour from Philadelphia and Baltimore. The all-ages listening concert venue opened in January 2009 and continues to bring new fans to enjoy national, regional and local talent. 2010 started strong with a wide array of musicians. The next few months will see the Flash hosting such national acts as Steve Forbert, Johnny A, Jonathan Edwards, Ellis Paul, The Kennedys, John Lilley (The Hooters), and many others. Local and regional acts include IKE and Ben Arnold. Most of the shows occur on Friday and Saturday nights in this intimate 100 seat venue. Local musicians can try their songs out on Sunday evenings for the ever popular Open Mic Night. There have been occasions when local artists performing at the Open Mic Night have gained an opening slot for the Friday or Saturday shows. If you prefer, there is Blue Mondays where local blues musicians get up on stage to jam and groove as patrons listen and enjoy a snack or beverage. If live music is not your style, there are movie nights on Wednesdays and the Flash has had poetry slams and art shows. The Kennett Flash also hosts private events and fundraisers. There is not a bad seat in the house, although I do prefer the balcony as my choice to see and hear the live music. You can keep up to date with the Kennett Flash at www.kennettflash.org or on their Facebook, MySpace or Twitter pages. The Kennett Flash is an ongoing program of Historic Kennett Square www.historickennettsquare.com. Come in and show off your stuff! All levels of singers, songwriters and musicians, plus comics and poets. Everyone's invited. You don't have to perform. Kick back and relax and come early and check out our menu. Note: Bands are welcome! David Fiorenza is part of the duo Fiorenza-Dowlin. For more information on David, visit http://www.myspace.com/fiorenzadowlin
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From FOX: The executive producers of Glee have begun a nationwide casting search to fill three new roles that
will be added to the show's second season. Auditions will be open to professional and amateur individuals between the ages of 16-26. Look for more information on when you can submit auditions at http://www.fox.com/glee/ audition. [In the meantime, you can visit the site to enjoy audition videos of Glee's season one cast.]
Make The Cut
Make the Cut, hosted by American Idol Matt Giraud, is a talent contest for singers and vocalists. The contestant left standing after this multi-round, progressive-elimination competition will be declared the Grand Prize Winner and will – quite literally – Make the Cut: that is, the winner will cut a recording at the southeast Michigan studio with the encouragement and under the guidance of Matt Giraud and other industry professionals. Make The Cut
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S o n g w r i ti ng Contests
2010 THEME: LOVE SONGS Deadline for submissions: April 1, 2010 Be creative! This means all kinds of love: for a child, a friend, a pet, a place, your mom, God, a lover past or present. Love here now, long ago and far away, wished for, or love gone astray. Whether it be a ballad, dance tune, chant or shanty, we want to hear your emotion expressed musically and lyrically . . . anything goes. This year the Winners will earn local, regional and national performances opportunities at the following venues: The Kimmel Center Summer Solstice, Bethlehem Musik Fest, The Philadelphia Folk Festival Rose Tree Media Summer Concerts, Sellersville Theater, BRE Presents: Independent live music presenter and a National Radio Appearance. Click Here for all submission details. Guitar Center has teamed up with one of the greatest guitarists to ever walk the earth to present YOUR NEXT RECORD with SLASH, a groundbreaking unsigned band competition that will give one up-and-coming band the chance to win the ultimate career-altering opportunity: record a 3-song EP with the legendary producer behind Guns N' Roses, Mike Clink, and have Slash write, record and perform on the winning artists’ single. From now through April 30th bands across the U.S. are invited to submit their music at YourNextRecord.com for a chance to win.
Previously . . .
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For those who missed earlier issues of Songwriter’s Monthly, just click on the cover of your choice pictured below.
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Sept. ’09 Special Edition: Fe a t u r i n g : C o u n t r y / Po p artist Tawny Heath.
Sept. ’09 Featuring: Imelda May, Leona Lewis, Jeremy Greene, Pop Tarts, and Elizabeth and the Catapult.
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Oct. ’09 Featuring: The Postmarks, Black Gold, Nicky, Janet Robin, Miss Issa, The Drums, and Lantana. http://www.scribd.com/doc/ 25772977/Songwriter-sMonthly-Jan-10-121-Issue http://www.scribd.com/doc/ 25772977/Songwriter-sMonthly-Jan-10-121-Issue http://www.scribd.com/doc/ Abby Parks, 25772977/Songwriter-sJason Castro, Local Natives, Monthly-Jan-10-121-Issue Craig Kallman: http://www.scribd.com/doc/ Atlantic Records CEO, 25772977/Songwriter-s& Much, Much More Monthly-Jan-10-121-Issue Featuring: http://www.scribd.com/doc/ 25772977/Songwriter-sMonthly-Jan-10-121-Issue Jan. ’10 Featuring: Arika Kane, Jason Castro, Local Natives, Abby Parks, Atlantic Records’ CEO, Wallace Collins, and more!
Nov. ’09 Featuring: Andy Chase, Katia, Serena Ryder, Mark Wayne Glasmire, Mishon, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and more!
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Jan. ’10, #121
Dec. ’09 Featuring: Brigitte Zarie, Lisa Lisa, Beru Revue, Marty Paris, Billy Idol, Rosanne Cash, and more!