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The Muse's News

Issue 1.4 - July 1998
ISSN 1480-6975


In This Issue:


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

Wow, what fun Alan was to interview!  I wish I could have included the entire thing here, but I've chosen to publish as much of it as I can fit and instead direct you to the web page where you can view the rest of it (thereby saving some wear and tear on your e-mail).  Believe me when I say that it's well worth finishing the read.  From collaboration, to world markets, to writing for film and tv, he has a lot of wisdom to share.  I learned *tons* and I think you will too.

There's also a feature article from Jerry Cupit, the author of NASHVILLE SONGWRITING.  Another handy dandy checklist is included for your evaluation.  I should add that while everyone seems to have an opinion on how to write the best songs, it's really up to you to take elements from the methods you're exposed to and put them together to make your own special combination. No one way is write. (Pardon the pun.  I couldn't resist. ;-)) That said, Jerry has some great advice to pass on in his article. (Thanks, Jerry!)

I'm hoping that the next issue will be a themed issue around songwriting for children.  I have just about everything I need, but I would *love* for someone out there to provide me with a book review I could publish.  Hopefully that book would have something to do with songwriting for children - or maybe even a book of popular songs for children that one of you has come across and been impressed by.  If you would like to submit a book review for the newsletter, feel free to contact me at editor@musesmuse.com .  I'll look forward to hearing from you.

One request before I lead into the rest of the newsletter: If you see any articles about The Muse's Muse in any magazines or newspapers or the like, will you contact me and let me know? In many cases, I miss seeing these as the publications don't notify me about their reviews before publishing them.  I'll probably miss them without your help - and hey - we all like good press. ;-)

Thanks once again for listening (reading) & participating, folks! I couldn't produce this newsletter without you. :-)

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Songwriting Book Reviews:

The Soul Of A Writer - Intimate Interviews with Successful  Songwriters (or at the author's site)
by Susan Tucker with Linda Lee Strother

Susan has really put together a wonderful book here.  It's presentation is unique and elegant and rather than splitting up the interviews by songwriter, she has chosen to divide them by topic.  She poses such questions as, "A blank sheet of paper - now what?" or "If you ever find yourself in a rut, how do you shake things up?"  Each songwriter has his or her own unique answers to these questions (and there are a *lot* of questions!). I found it an enjoyable and engrossing read.  Plus, each songwriter has a bio and picture in the back of the book so that you'll know a little bit more about the credentials behind the answers they give.  The list of those credentials is *very* impressive.  These are true experts in the field.

In conclusion, I enjoyed reading this book a great deal. The pleasant layout of it and the information packed in its pages made it a very worthy investment of my time. If you're looking for inspiration, reading THE SOUL OF A WRITER will definitely supply it.

******

For a chance to win this helpful book, please fill out the Site Info Survey or access it from the intro page and help me make The Muse's Muse a better site for you.  Thanks!

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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: Alan Roy Scott

Question:
What's your first "musical memory" and how do you think it's influenced you in later life?

Answer:
I was very fortunate to grow up on the South Side of Chicago at a very special time musically and society wise, the early 60's. My father who was a car dealer by day (The 2nd largest Pontiac dealership in the US at the time... in a black neighborhood, all the employees were African/American)and white, was also a civil rights leader and music aficianado. Our closest family friends at the time were the Chess family of Chess Records fame (B.B. KING, etc.) who always had us around the recording studio or at gigs. My father who as a white man was President of the local Urban League and NAACP chapters at that time was also very involved in the Gospel scene in the neighborhood. To that end he hosted a weekly Gospel Radio show and later TV show called "Jubilee Showcase" from his automobile showroom featuring many local greats like the Heavenly Sunbeams (later The Emotions), a child Chaka Khan, The Norfleet Brothers, Edwin Hawkins Singers and many others. I being a little carrot top (I wish I still had that thick, bright orange hair and freckles now!!) 7 or 8 eight year old completely immersed in this black gospel world, was always watching from the side soaking it up. In fact for a while until I realized how these things work, I always assumed I was black or should be or something was wrong.  Something like Opie from The Andy Griffith Show transplanted to The Jeffersons. Anyway, my earliest childhood and musical impressions and memories all revolve around these times and some of those amazing gospel singing groups, choirs, and soloists I was regularly exposed to.  After regular doses of this kind of soul, like chicken soup to me, I have always been drawn to any music with that kind of soul, thunder, and gospel in it. More the feel of the music and the spirit in the room then any lyrical thing. I can't pinpoint any one musical moment as standing out as there were so many of them that I took that kind of thing as the norm. It's more a collage of musical moments in my mind all from that time.  Certainly, although later we moved to the suburbs and I discovered my latent whiteness for a while moving into a musical theatre phase acting and singing in shows like 'Brigadoon" and "Fiddler On The Roof" segueing through Gilbert & Sullivan and into a very white singer/songwriter phase absorbing and loving early Elton John, Billy Joel, the de riguer love of The Beatles, etc. , later on when I became serious about my songwriting and that life as a profession, I returned to my real childhood roots. Therefore, I've always had some of that childhood musical vibe in my work. My good friend and sometimes collaborator in Memphis Mary Unobsky who comes from a similar background calls us "pigmentally challenged" (PC). In fact to best illustrate this point , a few weeks ago Mary and I, two white PC writers, co-wrote the theme song for Martin Luther King's 30th Anniversary Celebration in Memphis. How's that for ironic? The song was performed just like my childhood with a 70 member Gospel Children's choir and soloists, backed up by musicians like George Duke, Kirk Whalun, Larry Carlton, and Michael McDonald. Now THAT was a moment for little South Side Opie.  Most of the best cuts in my career have been by old school R & B singers (Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, Evelyn "Champagne" King" , CeCe Winans,etc.). My first professional writing gig in the business was being part of the stable at an R&B Production house in New York called Love/Zager in the late 70's  with writers in cubicles competing for slots on records by The Spinners, Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom....little Nappy aged 10 or 11 sang on all our demos), Deneice Williams, etc.  Around me were other great writers who went on to success as well but started there (Allan Rich "I Don't Have The Heart", "Run To You" etc., Doug James "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You").  Later I was signed to Jobete Music (Motown at the time) for 5 years. So you can see my childhood musical influences have never been too far away from my adult career.

Question:
When did you start writing songs and what was it that got you started?  Do you recall what your first song was about and why you wrote it?

Answer:
I started writing songs like many people when I was very young around 7 or 8. I was a  very shy and fairly unhappy kid who didn't really fit in too well to normal childhood pursuits like sports, etc. So when I was about 6 my parents bought a piano and gave me lessons with some old lady that I really hated. I don't know if it was her or the lessons and practicing I hated more, but in either case after 6 months I just refused to continue. Even though I'd had the intense musical bombardment I mentioned earlier from my earliest childhood, I went through a period of musical avoidance, save for my continuing passion for singing along to 45's in my bedroom. I seem to remember Elvis Presley's "Bossa Nova" and "Witchcraft" and "Wild Thing" by the Troggs as my personal favorites during this mimicry period.The piano sat gathering moss for a year or two.

Then I rediscovered it and starting noodling and just having fun as an escape and release from my parents divorce and other personal problems I was going through.. Then I started loving it, experimenting, and shortly therafter writing my own little nonsense songs. So although I was actually starting to write, I wouldn't call it writing at that point. A few years of this kind of casual experimenting set the stage for later. I reached high school and a few key events occured musically.

One, I fell in love with The Beatles, early Elton John, early Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and GILBERT & SULLIVAN !!! ( I became a star briefly appearing in "The Gondoliers", and "Pirates of Penzance" during my summers at Interlochen Arts Camp in Northern Michigan. All the girls there were arts lovers so I became very popular which helped fuel my permanent awareness that being in the arts was a viable way to live your life, creatively and socially.)

I remember these aforementioned artists vivdly because I lived and breathed these artists like air from Freshman year into sophomore. Then I met my best friend Larry Kramer around this time, who was equally socially inept and musically passionate about the same things. So writing with him was my first real writing collaboration and we started writing songs together and making little demos almost everyday for a while, sure we could be the next Simon & Garfunkel or some other famous Duet.

The actual songs are a bit of a blur as there were many during that creative burst period but I do remember one called "Indian Sunset" (Ughhh!!!) and I think we called our first compilation album of hits "The Best of the Worst"...(mostly of the worst certainly). I find it very interesting in remembering this and telling you this because although later on my early childhood musical memories would play such a big role in the writer I became and the songs I wrote, at this juncture I was a million miles away from my background being as lilywhite in my songwriting and everything as I could be. I remember at this point going to concerts like The Cowsills (Oh, my god!!!), and Paul Revere & The Raiders, etc. And I loved them.

One of my first professional songwriting jobs, and I'll mention this anecdote as a close to my answer of this question, was that in Junior year in an attempt to fit in to the mainstream of high school , painful though it was, I joined the Junior Varsity soccer team. Although I was doing quite nicely socially being in choir and plays and musicals over in the Music and Drama building (hell, I even had a girlfriend and got lead parts in musicals and solos during choir recitals), joining the soccer team was a leap into the dark abyss.

As I quickly realized my athletic abilities were never going to take me far in this world, I realized my only hope was to utilize other skills I did have, like people skills and being a good listener. I managed to befriend the star player of the team because one day in the locker room I overheard him mention to his friend offhandedly how he had this girl he wanted bad, but couldn't get to first base with because she didn't care about jocks, she was more a creative type. Shades of Cyrano De Bergerac. Enter me with the answer. Larry and I took it upon ourselves to help this guy out through music by composing and demoing the most heartfelt song we had ever written up to that point. Almost like we were part of it. The girl's name was Karen so the song became you guessed it......."OH, KAREN".  I even told him to tell her he wote it. It must have worked out needless to say because they were inseparable after that and we had other requests from various members of different sports teams at school, football, basketball, etc. a little professional jingle house for the inept high school jock. We even got stuck, ran out of ideas, and recycled a song once with a different girl's name. Hope the 2 jocks weren't on the same team or were after the same girl. Well, the happy ending is that even though I was still a lousy athlete, the star player made it clear to everyone I was cool, and took me in as one of the guys.

I'm sure that made a lasting impression on me as far as the rewards of songwriting as a profession even though I took a left turn through college and a stint for some years as a professional working actor before returning to songwriting as my real road later on.  

Question:
You mention collaboration as an early experiment.  How do you feel about collaboration now and how do you think your early experiments led up to what you're doing at the moment?  Would you recommend collaboration to others?

Answer:
Collaboration for me is more than something I have done or experimented with, it is a way of life. Not only in my songwriting but with all my international projects. Everything I do in my career is about collaboration. Whether it is writing a song or bringing people from Cuba and the US into the same room to work together.  I have written plenty of songs by myself and it is necessary occasionally to say things in a fully personal way but as in nature where humans are social animals, I feel that the best of people comes out when they share their musical gifts and emotions with each other. For instance, one of the interesting creative particulars of my recent "Celtic Harmony"  Irish project was the fact that traditionally Irish writers never collaborate, but keep their brilliance to themselves like diamonds to be protected. American writers for the most part are from the beginning raised on the idea of writing with others. It was so amazing to watch these Irish writers afraid and fighting the idea only to go through it like anything you are afraid of in life and come through it so inspired by sharing their writing process that now I've created these Irish writing monsters who collaborate all the time with each other and internationally. I'm really quite proud of this development I had a hand in nurturing.

As far as the nuts and bolts of my own collaboration experiences I can say that after 20 years I have been involved in almost everything from writing with artists who contribute the word "baby" (I won't mention names) and ask for 50%, to writing with 3 people , 4 people, 2 elephants and a seal, and occasionally even ending up with someone who is so wonderful and perfectly suited to working with me together that writing a great song is effortless, fun, and as easy as breathing. These are the magic times you live for. If you're really lucky you find someone that you can create this special magic with regularly and then you have a team. All the great teams have that special chemistry that makes what they do together come out sounding like it was written by one person. Seamless writing!!

Another benefit of so many years of working with others is that I can go on a writing trip (like I'm doing to Germany next week), and write with a different collaborative situation every day for 5 days and always have a good time and be in the moment of it without being worried it won't happen. It's kind of an inner knowing and comfort that your craft and ability to give and take creatively in the moment will see you through.

Besides all the more philosophical and cosmic things I've said, let me say the following nuts and bolts things:

I always believe a successful collaboration starts before you walk in the room. If you are collaborating with someone who has material available to listen to before you meet, it is always a good idea.  But when you try to write don't just copy a new version of what they've already done as they're probably coming to you to find the "next step" in their writing or artist development. You should try more to get an essence of their abilities so that you come to the meeting already with some ideas started, little musical phrases or at least a bunch of titles  or both. It always gets things off to the right start if you have some musical or lyrical place to start from. Maybe you won't end up working on any of the ideas you have to start with, but it's still bound to lead you in the right direction. Or if you're most comfortable winging it and if you're dealing with a stranger or someone you don't know well, the best writing strategy is not writing at all. First just talk. Get to know the person and a little bit of where they're coming from. You'll be surprised how you're bound to get inspired from just communicating as people first. Too many people think collaborating is some kind of almost macho show-off thing like "I can write a hit song with you in 10 minutes or less and then go to lunch".

If you are collaborating on a deadline or a specific project with someone that you've kind of been thrown with politically, i.e. you're writing a song with an actor who's in the film you're writing for, or you're collaborating with a film score person who's great at scoring but has little experience in the 3 minute commercial song arena, or there's several writers involved, one a non writing producer, boyfriend, gardener, etc. who you know is getting some of the credit or money for being in the room, the best advice sometimes is to pull out an old song you'd already finished that you know is solid  and works ( don't tell them it's a finished song, present it as a rough idea with lyric sketches or just a title, etc.)and then let it go off in new directions. It'll end up being a brand new song that started from a firm foundation. Another important piece of advice in any collaboration, especially if you're used to writing alone or being the one to carry things through, is  when you start trying to write and that little voice  in your head starts telling you immediately that all the ideas the other people in the room are suggesting are shit, intentionally try exactly what they're suggesting. Either you will be pleasantly surprised to find that someone else actually does have a good idea too occasionally, or you will be so convinced that you were right about that idea not working that they'll probably go in your direction when you tell them a different idea. 

Question:
You've had a lot of experience with markets outside of North America and I was wondering how the musical tastes differ?  Do you think there's a difference between the musical "expectations" of the listening audience in the States and say, the listening audience in Germany?  What about other places?

For the answers to these and other questions, please continue reading HERE

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Muse's Clues - Web Site Reviews by Jodi Krangle

Harmony Central
Created by: Scott Lehman & Wilson Chan

One big resounding WOW from me on this site.  Scott & Wilson have assembled a fabulous assortment of information for musicians in one easy to navigate, pleasantly arranged web site - and I'm super impressed.  Besides having daily changing news items, there are articles, forums for guitar and MIDI, "departments" on many popular instruments plus interesting tidbits about computers and music and a bands page, there is also guitar tablatures, a chat section, classifieds, a buyer's guide, a listing of events, and let's face it - just about *anything* a musician could ever want to know about.  I have no idea how they managed to assemble all this wonderful information into one place and then managed to find the time to continually update it, but however they did it, they did it right.  If you haven't yet been by Harmony Central, you're missing out BIG TIME.  This is a definite "must see"!

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Feature Article: Beware Of Unpolished Songs!!!
By Jerry Cupit

Songwriters are a rare breed.  The bug gets into your system and you spend a lifetime trying to write it out.

Although you may have all the creative ideas, and possibly even the melodies, you need to constantly strive to improve your communication of the lyric to the listener, most new writers believe that whatever comes off the tip of their pen is prolific and past perfection. 

My first years in Nashville , I felt the same way.  After several years I wondered why I was not getting cuts, I decided I would try to improve my lyrics - if possible.  Sure enough, that was it.  Naturally, we want everything we write to be perfect.  We strive to write the best lyrics possible.  However, sometimes we miss the forest for the trees.  It is too easy to get into a mode of writing a song, thinking it's done after you write the last line, and not going back and examining each word to make sure it's the best.  Every writer needs to constantly go back over each song with a fine toothed comb. 

Publishing companies, record labels, and artists look for a reason not to like a song.  Any phrase or word that is out of place, gives them a reason to turn your song off.  Everything you write will not be perfect the moment you put it on paper.  Polishing a song is one of the most important steps in writing a hit song.  I hear hundreds of good songs every week.  However, I only hear one or two great ones.  Those great ones are the ones that have been polished til they shine!

Warning:  Some writers take offense to criticism.  (If that's the case, you are in the wrong field!!!  This is a business of opinions and criticism!!!)

Polished songs can be a hard habit to get into.  However, my book, NASHVILLE SONGWRITING has a check list that I will share with you.

Song Polishing Check List

1.  In one listen, will the listener know the title and remember the chorus melody?

2.  Are the lyrics conversational?

3.  Does every line tie to the title?

4.  Are the key words of each line aligned with the strongest musical part of each line?

5.  Are any of the words of the title used in any other part of the song?

6.  Are there conflicting titles?

7.  Will the opening lines grab the listener's attention?

8.  Is every word, line and phrase of the song in sequence?

9.  Are rhyme schemes and tenses consistent?

10. Are all verse melodies and chorus melodies the same?

My book, NASHVILLE SONGWRITING is designed to give you the vehicle you need to better communicate your ideas to the listener, in turn helping them to remember your songs.

Don't waste years like I did.  Start polishing your craft today.  Make your songs the best they can be.  Songwriting is a very competitive field and in many cases, you only get one shot with a music business executive.

******

Jerry Cupit is an award winning songwriter, producer, and 18 year veteran of the Nashville music scene.  Jerry has had over 50 songs recorded including "Jukebox Junkie", a top 10 hit recognized by ASCAP and BMI as one of the most played songs of 1995.  Jerry has also written NASHVILLE SONGWRITING, a complete guide to writing hit songs and getting them heard in Nashville.  Jerry is currently producing a third CD for Curb recording artist Ken Mellons, due out this summer.!

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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 :
"POTENT NOTIONS" & the Evolution of a Song - by Irene Bom Method and inspiration combine to make this article a helpful guide to those seeking that ever-ellusive "hook".
Classifieds & Useful Services:

LYRICAL LINE - SONGWRITER RESOURCE
Lyrical Line offers free resources such as song critiques by your peers, a place to showcase your best work, original articles, Q&A with a professional songwriter and author and other useful tid-bits.  Sign up for the free newsletter at http://www.lyricalline.com/newsletter.html and send in a song.

INTRODUCING STARLIGHT SONGWRITER'S SOFTWARE
Quick - you've just learned about someone looking for upbeat, pop, love songs. What songs have you written that fit?  How quickly can you list the people you've pitched songs to and the result?  Was that co-writer a BMI, ASCAP or SESAC member? What, no manager to handle this for you? Starlight can help. Visit http://www.swansongmusic.com/.

UP & COMING FEMALE TRIO LOOKING FOR ORIGINAL R&B/POP MATERIAL
Tfor project in Sept. Please contact Grace at gkim_1@hotmail.com

CHRISTOPHER BORK - CHRISTIAN SINGER/SONGWRITER
I am a contemporary gospel singer out of Rochester, NY that is new to the music industry.  I am looking for good, solid contemporary gospel songs to use for a three-song demo and my first CD.  I am also interested in collaborating with another songwriter to do some writing.  If you are interested, please email me at  chrisb@watchcare.com and we can discuss it further. http//members.watchcare.com/~chrisb

SINGER/SONGWRITERLOOKING FOR MUSICIAN/SONGWRITER
in the Nashville area. Lyrics/theory are my strong points, needing a musician/composer to help me make my music stronger. email <countryboy4ever@webtv.net>

SONGS NEEDED FOR DEMO
Young singer with golden baritone voice who also plays ac. guitar fingerstyles is looking for contemporary folk songs and ballads to use on demo. Can you help me out? Greg Stewart <gstewart@acusd.edu>

WEEKLY CHATS EVERY MONDAY NIGHT FROM 9pm EST ONWARD
The Muse's Muse in cooperation with Jeff Mallett & UNISONG bring you a weekly chat. Drop by http://www.musesmuse.com/songdisc.html for more details. Now accessible by IRC! A special thanks goes to ParaChat for their wonderful chat interface. It's one of the best I've seen yet. Why not come by and have a look for yourself? We'll look forward to seeing you there.

SONGWRITING NEEDS COMPOSER
Needs to live nr Twin Cities, MN to help with composing song.  Writes for country/christian.  Contact Denise Jachymowski <djachymows@aol.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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