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The Muse's News

Issue 1.2 - May 1998
ISSN 1480-6975


In This Issue:


ISSN 1480-6975. Copyright 1998 - Jodi Krangle. For more info about placing ads,
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Editor's Musings:

This issue features an exceptionally exciting interview with Paul Zollo, the author of the book, "Songwriters On Songwriting". Besides having written this book based on the many interviews he was able to conduct with such notables as Paul Simon, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and many others, he is also a songwriter himself with a new CD coming out very shortly that includes (among other things) a duet between himself and Art Garfunkel.  I'm very pleased to be able to include this interview since Paul's comments are particularly revealing when it comes to the songwriting process of those many of us would consider the "cream of the crop".

Also featured, is an article contributed by songwriting consultant Seneca Schurbon.  When does laziness pay off? Well, the answers to that are debatable, but Seneca makes a pretty good argument.  Take a look at the article and form your own opinion.

Once again, there are tons of songwriting contests accepting entries.  (I sent in two of my own songs to UNISONG a little while ago!) My list is very similar to last month's but includes due dates and whatever updates the various contests have put on their web pages or have sent off to me.  I'll definitely keep everyone up to date on those and hope that if any of you enter, you'll let me know if you receive awards or honourable mentions!  I'd love to hear from you about it.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS:

If you'd like to contribute a book review or a site review, please do contact me.  I'm looking for reviews for the June issue.  I'm also looking to contact people who are involved in musical theatre, and those that are involved in writing songs and performing them for children.  I intend to do theme issues on each of these topics and if you or someone you know is interested in writing an article, suggesting someone for the Songwriter In Profile feature, or contributing a book or site review, I hope you'll contact me.

Thanks again for reading, everyone. Best of luck to you.

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Songwriting Book Reviews:

The Craft of Lyric Writing & The Songwriters Idea Book By Sheila Davis

"The Craft of Lyric Writing" is a self-study lyric-writing course, complete with exercises, and songwriting assignments.  If I had to pick only one book to have ever read on songwriting craft from among all those I've read to date, I would probably vote for that one.  "The Songwriter's Idea Book" is a more advanced book, and pretty much assumes you've either read SLW or "The Craft of Lyric Writing" first.  It provides 40 strategies to try and get the creative juices flowing. Rather than short anecdotes, like the Lisa Aschmann book, it goes into depth on each of the ideas presented, including giving well-known examples that fit the model and student lyric examples.

Writing the Natural Way By Gabriele Lusser Rico

Sheila Davis cites this writer, and this book, as an influence in some of the techniques she mentions in "The Craft Of Lyric Writing".  Basically this book is oriented at trying to get the right brain (the creative side -- as opposed to the left brain, which is the logical side) working, while also attempting to tie the switching of modes together.  It would probalby best be used as a textbook, complete with exercises, for a formal writing class, but it is also excellent for self-study.  It is not the easiest reading, especially if you're not ready to sit down and do the exercises while you're reading as they are fairly integral to getting the most out of the book.  However, it is definitely worthwhile if you can handle the challenge.  It also does not only apply to songwriting, but rather can be used with any type of writing.

**********

Rick Paul is a songwriter based in Southern California. He specializes in writing country, pop/rock, and adult contemporary, while also writing in other genres. He is a member of the National Academy of Songwriters (NAS) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Rick participated in the NSAI Song Camp 101 workshop in Spring 1997. Rick also sings and plays piano and other keyboard instruments. To find out more, visit his web page .

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Musical Notes: Songwriting Contests & Market Information

For Up-To-Date listings, please go to:

http://www.musesmuse.com/contests.html

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Songwriter In Profile: Paul Zollo

Question:
How did you find yourself with the opportunity to interview all these wonderful songwriters?  What led up to your work on the book?

Answer:
I've been writing songs myself since I was 11 years old. And from that early age on I have always been very curious about the songwriting process as experienced by great songwriters. My favorite writer from an early age was Paul Simon, and I studied his work thoroughly growing up, and always had an abundance of questions I wanted to ask him. At the same time, I was often frustrated by songwriting books written by authors who had no songwriting credentials, and I always longed for a book with people such as Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan or Carole King talking about how they wrote their famous songs. I was also frustrated that when these people did interviews, they were rarely asked about songwriting, the subject about which they are, of course, experts.

In 1987 I became editor of SongTalk, the then-journal of the National Academy of Songwriters, which was mostly a calendar of events at that time. I convinced them to make me editor, and promised that I could get major interviews:  in-depth, thoughtful ones -- with the major songwriters of our time. They scoffed at me but told me to try it anyway. I requested an interview with Frank Zappa for my first issue. He responded with a Yes and told me to come over to his home. Which led me to believe all interviews could be set up as easily and that all interview subjects would be as brilliant as Zappa. I was wrong on both accounts. But this started me on what became a grand adventure of trying to convince all the songwriters on my big hit list to do interviews. Many of them were convinced by reading others -- when I finally got a very long and in-depth interview with Simon, Dylan saw that, saw how much Simon had spoken about songwriting, and this inspired him to give me an interview. And once I got Dylan, which was a miracle really -- and got him to open up about his songwriting -- that led the way to many that I couldn't get before, such as Laura Nyro and Leonard Cohen.

It took me ten years to compile the 52 interviews for the book -- some people I interviewed twice and even three times --- and combined those into one for the book. Some I got right at the last minute, after ten years of work, such as Bacharach. The book, at 642 pages, is longer than my limit given to me by the great Da Capo Press, which published it. And rather than cut someone out, they printed the whole thing. For which I am very grateful. I did have to exclude some people myself that  I had interviewed because I didn't have the space. And others I simply was never able to get, but not without a huge amount of effort. So there are a few notables absences, but all in all I am very gratified by the people I got, and the interviews I was able to do with them when I finally convinced them to do it.

Question:
Which interview was the most unusual for you?

Answer:
Maybe Bob Dylan. Just because setting it up was so weird -- after many many years of requesting an interview with him (and being initially scoffed at in this regard and then turned down many times), I was finally told by his press rep that "Mr. Dylan enjoys your magazine and might be willing to talk." Weeks later I received a call telling me that sometime in the middle of the week, in a hotel somewhere in the middle of L.A., in the middle of the day, I would receive a cal telling me to come and interview Dylan. And most importantly: COME ALONE. And that is how it happened -- I did receive the call -- on a Wednesday -- told me that the interview would be at the Beverly Hills hotel that day at 1:00 -- and to COME ALONE. Which I did, of course, feeling like I was about to meet Batman or something.... I was led, after about fifteen minutes of nervous pacing around the hotel, to Dylan's bungalow -- out towards the back of the hotel's grounds. And out came Bob after a few minutes, looking as if he'd just awakened, and sat down with me wearing  a sly smile, drinking coffee out of a glass, as I did with him, happy to do ANYTHING with Bob Dylan. He said, "Songwriting? What do I know about songwriting? Start me off somewhere." Which I happily did. And despite the decades of writing and talk that depict Dylan as a difficult guy with whom to talk, he couldn't have been nicer, or more funny or brilliant. We broke up into laughter many times throughout the talk, which was also punctuated by his playing a little peruvian flute he had with him.

But I would have to also include Brian Wilson in this category of "most unusual interview" in that I interviewed Brian at his then- Doctor's office -- Dr. Eugene Landy, who had really taken over Brian's life at that time, controlling all his activity and even writing songs with him. Brian laid on a couch as he spoke to me -- as if in analysis -- and darted back and forth between expressions of great misery and manic happiness. It was distressing, to say the least, especially as Brian's first solo album had just been released and from that I believed his mental state to be more healthy than it proved to be. But he still gave me a thoughtful and moving interview. 

Question:
Do you have a favourite interview?  Which one would that be and why?

Answer:
I can't name one. My first favorite was Paul Simon. Because I idolized him more than any of these great songwriters while growing up, and studied his music seriously for many years. I felt that our connection was especially strong, and he was extremely generous with his time, allowing me to interview him three times, and each time devoting a remarkable amount of focus and brilliance and candor to answering my questions.

But I would also have to include Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, Rickie Lee Jones, Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, Frank Zappa and certainly Dylan in my favorite interview category. And that still leaves out so many. Please understand that in my time I have interviewed more than three times the amount of songwriters who are in the book. These one who made the cut are the ones I truly love -- I love their songs and I love them as people. Other interviews I did simply didn't work out as well. But all of these people in the book are ones who gave me a lot of time and wisdom and humor and inspiration. No one is funnier, I don't think, than Randy Newman. And no one is as eloquent and wise as Leonard Cohen. And I loved Laura Nyro even before I met her, and so much more after getting to know her. She was such a wonderful, dear person, and such an inspirational and influential songwriter.  Rickie Lee Jones is very gentle and quiet and spiritual.

Question:
Which songwriter was the most difficult to interview?  How did you get around the difficulties?

Answer:
The most difficult aren't in the book. I've had interviews that simply fell flat for one reason or another. Often people are quite reluctant to talk about their songwriting process. Dwight Yoakam spent a long time telling me why he wouldn't talk about it -- not a good interview. Laurie Anderson wouldn't focus on my questions, and that one didn't turn out well. As far as those who are in the book, Michael Stipe of REM was initially difficult but got over it -- we were also distracted by Cindy Crawford, who was giving a photo shoot outside their hotel window during the interview. And Rickie Lee Jones was not difficult -- but did reconsider the wisdom of making public this most private area of her life. She asked me at first not to print much of what she said, but after I let her read it, she okayed its publication.

Question:
Which songwriter(s) inspired you the most in your own songwriting?

Answer:
All of them in so many different ways. Certainly in this category for me, Paul Simon would be number one, with Dylan a very close second. Growing up I didn't understand or appreciate Dylan to the extent I did when I got a little older. And probably didn't understand all of what Simon was doing, either, but was powerfully drawn to it. But I was also very influenced in my own writing by so many of these songwriters -- Donovan, Burt Bacharach, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, David Byrne, Suzanne Vega, Tom Petty, Richard Thompson, Mose Allison, Tom Lehrer, Jules Shear, Los Lobos, Carole King, Frank Zappa, Jackson Browne -- and more.

Question:
What were the words of advice given to you most often by these talented songwriters? Were there ideas, philosophies, resources that consistently came up again and again in your conversations with them?

Answer:
Randy Newman put it this way Don't let the critic become bigger than the creator." In other words, don't get in your own way while doing it. Let it happen -- don't judge it while it is happening. Both Paul Simon and Bob Dylan said that you must see where a song leads you, as opposed to leading it yourself. Both said that as soon as they are aware that a story is developing, and their mind is on and expected to come up with good lines, that is big trouble. Many songwriters emphasized that songwriting is both a conscious and an unconscious process -- and that while one must be conscious of craft elements of writing songs, that there is a bigger process possible -- that of connecting with that source of inspiration from where all great timeless songs come. Is this a divine source? Or does it simply seem divine? Songwriters disagree about that. But not one of them can point to the source, or to a way that it is easily accessed. As Leonard Cohen put it, "If I knew where the good songs came from, I would go there more often. It's much like the life of a nun -- you're married to a mystery." Because -- as I write in the introduction to the book -- songwriting is much more than a mere craft., It's a conscious attempt to connect with the unconcious -- or subconsious if you prefer. There's no right way of doing it. As Simon said, "You can't teach someone songwriting, but you can teach them a lot ABOUT songwriting." As Dylan said, "There's no rhyme or rule to it. Which is what makes it so attractive, as you well know, or you wouldn't be doing it yourself."

Laura Nyro called songwriting her "serious playground." That it is a joyful, wonderful, playful experience -- but a deeply serious one. She was unusual in that she embraced the process and loved it, and this joy is imbued in all her songs. Tom Petty also told me of the joy he felt getting on a songwriting roll, when songs start to come almost on their own accord. Jules Shear also talks about that process that allows not just one song to come through but many. He does it by -- going back to the start of this -- not questioning ir or judging it when it comes, but going with it. he believes that it's always best to finish songs -- even if they are not great -- to move onto the next one. That even "bad" songs can serve as stepping stones to get you closer to those great ones. But if you are not finishing anything, all you have are fragments which add up to nothing. Like him and others, I believe in not giving up on a song -- going back to it over and over , untill the mind is working on it almost without you, and the song eventually falls into place. It often feels that there is a true form of the song there -- if you work hard enough to uncover it, as opposed to imposing meaning or content onto a song. One must discover the heart of a song while writing it. It's not easy -- but is often fun -- and when it works, there's nothing better. As Van Dyke Parks says in my book, the writing of any song is a "triumph of the spirit."

Question:
Can you tell us a little bit about what you're doing now?  What is your latest project and how's that going?   What do you have planned for the future?

Answer:
Much is planned. I've recently finished recording my own CD -- my first as a solo artist, called "Orange Avenue" -- which features a duet I did with Art Garfunkel on one of my songs called "Being In This World" that I'm very excited about, as well as the other tracks. We are shopping this presently to labels in hope of getting a record deal, and will release this independently if a good deal doesn't happen.

I also keep writing for many magazines about music, including Musician magazine, Acoustic Guitar, Sing Out!, and a recent story for an upcoming issue of the Oxford American on Ben Folds Five. I'm also doing inflight audio channels for United Ailines -- presently my show with Tom Petty is airing -- it's like a radio show, with Petty answering my questions interspersed with his music. Also did one with Randy Newman that will be on in a few months, as well as some others on their "songwriting channel" -- with Graham Nash, Jules Shear, Rickie Lee Jones, Martin Page, John Sebastian and others.

I'm also spending a lot of time traveling around publicizing my book, doing radio interviews, discussion/readings at various bookstores, schools and organizations, and playing musical examples from the book. I recently did a small tour of New York and Boston. If anyone out there would like me to come and speak anywhere -- and they can help with travelling expense -- please contact me!

I'm working here in L.A. with a new band, and we are about to start performing around here and elsewhere to help launch the album.

I'm also working on a new book about Hollywood -- somewhat of an oral history of the town itself, for which I have been interviewing many old-timers who are still around town, rich with their memories.

And some other stuff I can't yet mention for fear of jinxing it. Looks like something's on the horizon, might be exciting and will keep you informed.

**********

Paul Zollois a singer-songwriter, music journalist and author. His latest book, SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING (Da Capo Press), is a collection of 52 interviews with the world's greatest songwriters and can be purchased through his web site. Born in Chicago, Paul now lives in Hollywood with his wife Leslie.  His web page can be found at:http://home.earthlink.net/~zollo/

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Muse's Clues - Web Site Reviews by Jodi Krangle

Kaleidospace Independent Internet Artists:
Founded by: Jeannie Novak

Kaleidospace bills itself as "a promoter and distributor of independent arts and entertainment" and while I'm unsure about the company's ability to actually get songwriters signed, or their work in the hands of the professional artists that can record it, the services and information on this web site are pretty tough to match anywhere else.  Not only am I impressed with the no-nonsense approach to web design (the graphics are understated yet still colourful enough to show up well on a black background - the links are clearly marked and everything seems to tie together - there's a search function that's easily accessible from just about anywhere on the site) but I'm also almost dazed by the amount of information to be found here.

Articles, information on individual independent artists, up to date news and industry info, a huge list of links, and helpful merchandise that can be purchased through the site are all a part of this multi-faceted media experience. 

Kaleidospace also hosts web pages.  For more information on their services, you can go to: http://kspace.com/signup .

For the Music Kiosk specifically, you can check out: http://kspace.com/music

I'm giving Kaleidospace one of my highest recommendations yet.  If you haven't been by this site, you are definitely missing something.  Drop by.  You'll be glad you did!.

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Feature Article: Rewriting: Sometimes Laziness Pays Off
By Seneca Schurbon

Making my first draft my final draft was something that evolved out of laziness for me.  It started with a general dislike for writing English essays back in school.  I had better things to do, so I wrote my final draft and that was it unless I had to prove I wrote an outline and first draft.  Then I scribbled something unintelligible after I wrote the final draft.  I started getting A's, and since it worked so well for English, I started applying it to songs.  I had to cut down gradually on my number of drafts, but now I nail it on the first or second and my writing is better for it.  So for once in life, laziness pays off. 

Usually, the best thing to do is to write and rewrite all in one sitting.  Try to get it all done and ready to go in one shot.  If that seems a little daunting, don't let it be.  You can come back to it and fix some things if it's necessary, but don't go into it with that mind set.  Here's why:

1.If you've planned on doing a lot of drafts before you start writing, you will subconciously know that you can write any sort of garbage and fix it later.  Over time, the first drafts get worse and worse and the revisions get more and more extensive until the ability to write good is almost gone.

2. When you first write a song, you are writing with your emotions.  You're using left brain logic too, but it hasn't taken over like it does when you do revisions.  You're going to have the strongest feeling for what you're writing about during your first draft so that's where the emotional drama comes out.  If you go back over it twenty times, (slight exaggeration) you edit out the freshness and emotional intensity and it becomes less and less human.

3. It just takes too long!  Here we are back to the laziness thing again.  I used to spend more time rewriting than I did writing.  Now I revise as I write, and I get more writing done so I'm happier.  Rewriting takes away the time you could be spending working on new material and the more actual writing you do, the better you're going to become.  Not everything you write is going to be genius.  You don't have to whip all your bad stuff into shape.  If a song can't be easily fixed, go write something else.

4. If you keep going over and over the same stuff you eventually get so familiar with it that you lose perspective.  It gets hard to tell what is good and what isn't.  I've gone back and looked at some first and second drafts of lyrics that I rewrote numerous times.  It's a sad thing to see what happens when you've reached that point but still think you're revising intelligently.  You're better off fixing up your first draft when you can still see the forest and the trees.

5.This is the opposite of number 4.  When you write and then put it away before the revisions, you become too distanced.  The longer you put it away,  the further away you're going to be from it.  Even if it's just a couple days, you'll still be in a different state of mind and it will be hard, if not impossible to get back into it again. 

It's a mood thing.  Pure and simple.  Your first choice of words and phrases that you made will be more closely in contex with your other verses, music and overall emotional tone.  That doesn't mean it will be perfect, but it will go a long way towards getting there if you put your trust into that first draft.  Go into it with the idea of getting it right the first time and if that doesn't scare you into a block, then your first drafts will get better and better and you'll revise less and less.  When you get done, you'd be smart to check back over it, but do not get carried away.  Make changes only when you're sure they're necessary.  If your changes aren't much better than the originals, don't mess with it.  Leave it alone.  You can write down the alternative for later (just in case you change your mind), but in most cases the originals fit better.  You may not be able to quit cold turkey.  You may need to gradually cut down on drafts until you can do it right on the first or second draft.  It might take some time, but it's worth it..

**********

Seneca Schurbon is a columnist for Songwriter's Monthly and a songwriting consultant.  She can be reached at schurbon@camasnet.com. She's also in the process of putting up a web page for Songwriter's Monthly.  It can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Labyrinth/1917/index.htm

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" O N   S I T E "   F E A T U R E D   A R T I C L E :
"SOURCES OF PUBLISHING INCOME" by Robert R. Carter, Jr., attorney at law.  This article is a facinating look at where your money is going to be coming from when you finally write that big hit.  Legal advice from someone who knows: http://www.musesmuse.com/robcarter-art.html
Classifieds & Useful Services:

THE MINING CO. FOLK MUSIC SITE RECENTLY ADDED A BULLETIN BOARD 
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FEMALE COUNTRY VOCALIST NEEDS SONGS
We are looking for great contempoary upbeat female country songs for CD project. We have studio, musicians and managment Contact Julius Szalay c/o Katfish Productions at rcardguy@mindspring.com

NEW SONG CHAT!
New late night song chat from LAMPUBCO! Writers, singers, musicians invited. Sundays at 11:30pm est -- http://www.geocities.com/Nashville/5009/chat.html

YOUR MUSIC -- REVIEWED ON THE WEB!
100% Independent reviews demo, self-released, and home-taped recordings from unsigned and independent bands from around the world.  It's free, and we'll link your review to your website so interested parties can contact you immediately.  All Rock\Pop\Alt\Blues styles accepted.  Mail to 100% Independent, PO Box 1408, Minnetonka MN 55345.  Come say hi at http//pw2.netcom.com/~chrispy5/index.html

THE MUSE'S MUSIC FORUMS & SONGWRITING DISCUSSION CHATS:
Brought to you by Rancho DeNada and The Muse's Muse, these new discussion boards can be reached at http://www.newsome.org/cgibin2/Ultimate.cgi . The Muse's Muse in cooperation with Jeff Mallett & UNISONG also host a weekly chat happening every Monday night from 9pm EST onward:Please check out http://www.musesmuse.com/chat-tutor.html for more details! Lots of fun and good conversation to be had by all.  Hope to see you there!

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RECORD PRODUCERS UPDATE:
The Encyclopedia of Record Producers is the most comprehensive source of producer discographies. The web site has just been loaded with a further 1,000 producer discographies, bringing the total number of producers to 2,000 in over 5,100 pages of data. The price has been reduced to $24.95 US a year for unlimited access.

ARE YOU IN A MAINSTREAM BAND
(jazz, blues, folk, acoustic, a-cappella) or a solo act looking for more exposure and more gigs in the Northeastern United States?  Times Communications handles everything from PR and media relations to bookings and recording live venues.  We're looking for some great musicians to work with throughout the summer and fall. Check out our website at http//www.massachusetts.com/times

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US$2/line/issue. Min. 2 lines, max. 7 lines, where a line = 65 characters including spaces and punctuation. All contracts must be prepaid. E-mail to: adinfo@musesmuse.com

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Contact Info & Credits:

Jodi Krangle ..........EDITOR
Kathryn Obenshain......GRACIOUS PROOFREADER
Bryan Fullerton ............SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR

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The Muse's News is part of The Muse's Muse, a web resource for songwriters.

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