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Alan O'Day ("Angie Baby" writer) said his new CD "made his day."
By Jan Fabyankovic - 10/17/2008 - 03:23 PM EDT

Hit singer-songwriter Alan O’Day has released his first new album in 28 years. The “Undercover Angel”/Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby”/Righteous Brothers “Rock and Roll Heaven” hitmaker has written or co-written all the songs on Alan's recent CD, “I Hear Voices” which was released on September 15th, 2008.

In 1983 O'Day met singer-songwriter Janis Liebhart, with whom he co-wrote a children's song for a new Saturday morning animated TV show, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies. Within eight years they had written almost 100 songs for the program, which won an Emmy Award, and has since been syndicated internationally.

The collaboration continued after Muppet Babies, as O'Day and Liebhart co-wrote for other kid-focused projects, including National Geographic's "Really Wild Animals", a series of videos which they helped produce and on which they also sang. They also worked on some children's products for Alaska Video.

His awards include:

Visit Alan and his band-new CD news on http://alanoday.com or http://myspace.com/alanoday.

Q & A Interview

Jan: What makes a great vs. just good lyric?

Alan: It's interesting, and confusing, how sometimes a lyric can follow all the "rules" & still just sit there.  Or conversely, break some rules & yet be successful.  But most of the time, a great lyric follows the rules, plus gives something "extra".  A twist, a tug at the heart, memorable imagery, use of the same words to mean something different later in the song, maybe a moment of inspired poetry.  A great lyric is usually "universal", yet "personal".  And quite often, before you ever hear or see it, a great lyric has been re-written, even though it looks like it came easily.

Jan: How long does it usually take you to write a song once you start it?

Alan:  Well, I keep thinking I'll learn how to just "toss them off" in a few hours, but I'm a tweaker, a re-thinker, and a re-writer.  Even though the lyrics we hear on "hit" albums are sometimes full of holes, if we are "outside writers" we have to be so damn good that we make it past the gatekeepers.  So for me, its often several days, sometimes several weeks.  "Angie Baby" took about three months to complete.  But when it hit number one, it somehow felt worth the time!

Jan: Do you focus on one song at a time or work on a few at a time?

Alan: Usually its just one, although on the few times I've juggled two, they sometimes seemed to "feed" each other.  Maybe I'll try that again!

Jan:  Approximately how much expense was involved from song idea to song pitch?

Alan:  Well, the writing doesn't cost anything but time.  Then I usually make a "MIDI" demo of my song-in-progress, at my home project studio, so still not much expense.  But lately the type of writing I'm doing calls for real musicians, and since I'm often in Nashville working at my old friend Denny Martin's studio, we schedule basic tracks, overdubs, lead & background vocals.  Producers usually want to hear a "little record", meaning a produced, completed version of the song.  So then with mixing it can easily cost $700 to $1000 for a completed recording.  For pitching in Nashville, I use a song plugger.  Without going into detail, that adds to the budget, although the plugger is of course pitching more than just one song. 

Jan: Are there cases where a song can be pitched with just a guitar & vocal, or piano & vocal? 

Alan: Yes, but they are the vast minority.  Without stepping on any toes, I will say my belief is there were many more "golden ears" on the business side of the desks in years gone by than there are now.  I'm referring to people who could listen to a simple demo and hear it in their mind fully completed, arranged, produced, and on the radio (remember radios?).  These days, if you find someone who can help you expand your beginning musical ideas and have a vision of what your song or demo should ultimately be, and you trust that person, you've found something valuable.

Jan: What usually comes first: hook, title, melody, lyrics etc...?

Alan: A famous songwriter (wish I could recall who), answered this question by saying "The phone call".  Of course if you're lucky enough to be asked to write for a project, that's a tremendous motivation to your brain, which may start spewing titles, melodies, pieces of lyric, faster than you can get them on paper or recorded.  For me, when I'm working on my own, a title usually comes to my mind.  The words of the title feed rhythm & tempo ideas, these in turn feed lyric & melody choices.  I can write lyrics to an existing melody, but it works easier for me the other way around.  Melodies deserve re-writes, just as lyrics do.

Jan: Do you co-write/collaborate? If so, do you usually collaborate with the same songwriters or with different ones? Any advice on co-writing (where you could find an established co-writer especially if you don't live in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles etc...)?

Alan: I love co-writing with a competent writer.  We fill in each others blanks, pull each other out of energy lapses, give each other courage to set a good approach aside to try a better approach, keep each other chuckling with jokes based on our (sometimes) sucky ideas, and maybe even laugh at our egos..  I have people waiting to co-write with me, so I guess I give good co-write! 

If I were away from Los Angeles, or Nashville, I'd look for local songwriting organizations or clubs that feature a writer's night, I'd look for a co-writer online (being careful to lay down, in a nice way, a mutual understanding of who will own what), I'd hang around a local music store, and I'd visit the nearest recording studio.  I'd have  a lyric, or a melody, ready in presentable form.  These ideas, with some patience, should yield something positive.  I would find ways to keep myself motivated & upbeat, but I would be open to critiques from qualified pro's.  Painful, but sometimes educational.

Jan: What's your best song so far?

Alan: Haven't written it yet.  But hear my upcoming CD, maybe I'm wrong!

Jan:  What's your style in writing (do you write fast as the lines just flow out i.e.a few songs daily/staff writer style) or do you write slower with many re-writes to make sure your piece is perfect?

Alan: Often I write rapidly at the point of inspiration, then slower & more purposefully (if that's a word) as I put the jigsaw puzzle together.  At some point I will usually play my current draft for  one or two trusted "pro" friends and ask for feedback, to see if the song holds up.  Sometimes I'll take it to a song critiquing meeting, such as Pete & Pat Luboff's, if I'm in Nashville.  I believe regardless of one's experience or track record, this kind of feedback can be very valuable.

Jan: Any advice for new or partially new songwriters?

Alan: These days in the "music business" are a time of transition.  Staff writer layoffs, illegal downloading (gee, really?) and general economic challenges. The technology is running ahead of the law.  Its hard to find support, and easy to conclude that there's no room for your contributions.  But if as a writer you discipline your mind, learn the basics of the biz, and polish your craft, there are at least opportunities to be found.  Feedback is extremely important in improving your craft.  The computer can be a big help in this endeavor.  Did you know that as of recently, the US Copyright Office allows you to copyright your work, and if its a recording, actually email them the mp3!  Success probably won't happen quickly, and it may not happen at all, but if you love the process, there's a lot of satisfaction in creating something from nothing, something that can entertain and move people.

Jan: How do you deal with rejection when pitching your songs?

Alan: Not as well as I wish.  After all this time, I still can slip into taking it personally.  But I get over it quickly, realizing that although my song came from me, its not me who's being rejected.  And a contact who rejects one song may love the next one.  Years ago, my friend Artie Wayne was a manager at Warner Brothers, when I was a staff writer there.  He was probably the most aggressive & tenacious in getting producers to hear new songs, of anyone in the biz I've ever met.  As he tells it, he pitched one song to 122 different producers and artists, getting turned down each time.  But producer number 123 said yes, & the song became a hit!  The song was "You're 16 (You're Beautiful And You're Mine)", Ringo Starr cut it and sold 5,000,000 records!

Jan: What was the hardest obstacle to overcome while songwriting?

Alan: Staying focused.  Its insane for me to drift away from something I love so much, but hey, I need a nap/some decafe/to check my email/have a snack...   I do allow myself to go for a walk with the song in my head, because the change of scene & physical activity can often start a new approach?

Jan: Do you feel your ideas sometimes come from another source (God, dreams, etc...)?

Alan: Absolutely.  Ideas come through me, more than from me.  And its not under my control.  But if I show up to do the "grunt work" of considering my story line, where to have things happen in the song, in other words just live in the song for awhile, sometimes a spark of magic will hit me when I least expect it.  Though I've tried to control my life, and others' lives, too much, I've always felt a personal relationship with God, and I've had some experiences that have made it very obvious that we're here to grow and to love.  I try to stay out of my own way during the inspiration process, and remain patient during the inevitable re-writing & editing.

Jan: Do you always carry a paper and pen with you in case an idea occurs?

Alan: I carry a PDA that allows recording of audio memos.  So I can catch the inspiration as it flies by!  Be careful while driving though!

Jan: Do you feel that people know you through your music?

Alan: I'm pretty open in my songwriting, but still its probably an "idealized" reflection of me.  These days I write mostly "uplifting" material, but the truth is I'm not always in a positive mood, I can be a bit of a grouch, and I occasionally need some time alone.  I am so lucky to have a wife who just waits for my little "storms" to blow over, at which time I apologize.  I guess I show my best self in my songs, and in my live performances.  I get to really entertain people, and make them smile, and audiences give back so much love, if you can just learn to feel it.

Jan: How would you like to be remembered?

Alan: Often.

Jan: How is writing for your own CD different than writing for another performing artist's CD?

Alan: I like to say I know this recording artist named Alan O'Day, and I really enjoy working with him, because he loves practically everything I write.  Seriously, I have much more control in writing for myself, and I find that I create more freely because I'm worrying less about what "the industry" wants.  Having said that, I still rigorously tweak & re-write the songs I will be performing.  But I have a sense of how my own voice, and my own attitude, can best come across, and that's empowering.

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