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September 29th, 2008:

18 Year Old Songwriting Comedian – Bo Burnham and Judd Apatow

Bo Burnham is a web-based songwriting comedian with a strong YouTube and MySpace following (now with a record deal with his first album out).

Bo branched out into the real-world with a summer appearance at Just For Laughs in Montreal where he met comedy producer/director/writer extraordinaire, Judd Apatow, and Reuters reported last week that Bo will write the songs and perhaps star in Apatow’s anti-High School Musical musical that he’s developing. You can read the full article here and catch a clip of Bo here.

May the comedy Muse continue to be with Bo…

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Tilbrook and Difford to Squeeze Out Some More Songs

Thanks to Eric R. Danton’s blog Sound Check for providing the news on the reunion of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze on the A&E network show Private Sessions, which is a fantastic show featuring artists in an intimate New York studio with host, Lynn Hoffman. This Sunday, October 5, at 9 a.m., watch the episode as Tilbrook & Difford “sit down for an in-depth interview with host Lynn Hoffman and perform their smash hit songs Tempted, Goodbye Girl, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell), and Another Nail In My Heart.”

And here’s the clip from Mr. Danton’s blog as a quote from the interview by Tilbrook:

“In a weird way I was sort of happy with it,” he said in a clip of the show provided by A&E. “I was happy with my solo world and Chris was in his solo world, and to an extent, we’re continuing on with that. But it’s so nice to have the Squeeze thing back together again. And also, it’s nice to think that something we’re going to do now, we are going to work together on a record, a new record, and start writing together again.”

Damn, I wore out my ArgyBargy LP growing up… and I look forward to hearing what Tilbrook & Difford can do these days… may the Muse continue to be with them…

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Robin Thicke on Songwriting

Well, growing up in Canada (and with Growing Pains) I know Alan Thicke, actor and songwriter of TV Themes such as Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life and the theme to Growing Pains. Alan’s son, Robin Thicke, is an accomplished songwriter in his own “write” (for Christina Aguilera and Usher among others) and now an up-and-coming R&B/pop star to boot. From a recent New Zealand Herald article come the following quotes:

“I’ve never written a song for myself that I’ve given anybody else. And I’ve never written a song for somebody else that I’ve kept. I write all my songs for myself now,” he says, slightly shirty.

The song Dreamworld, a stand-out on the [new] album [Somethin’ Else], references [Marvin] Gaye’s tragic death with the line, “I would say Marvin Gaye your father didn’t want you to die”.

“It’s just about how we all make mistakes. We can pretty much assume that his father didn’t want that to happen.”

And with the poignancy that Thicke puts into singing the line you have to give it to this white boy from California, he knows the power of a good song.

As for how he writes his songs the process is simple and always the same: “Follow your gut and try and come up with something that you love.”

You know the drill… may the Muse stay with you Robin… though I’m not sure I agree with the Dreamworld line since Marvin Sr. was convicted of manslaughter and all…

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Canadian Radio Star New Songwriter Workshops

Yesterday, I attended the New Songwriters’ Workshop put on by the Canadian Radio Star songwriting competition folks and supported by Astral Media, and sponsored by the Songwriters Association of Canada and Sennheiser. The workshop was staged at Metalworks Studio (very cool setup).

The topics included What’s In a Song?, Music Publishing 101 and Writing for the Radio, along with a song review and critique session. Greg Simpson of Mindbenders Music was the host of the event and the presenters included songwriter Blair Packham, Wayne Webster, Music Director of Virgin Radio 99.9, John Alexander, Senior VP-Creative Affairs for ASCAP, and Vivian Barclay, head of music publisher Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd. Don Quarles of SAC was assisting as well.

Much was learned and will be shorlisted to the following points:

  • Music is patterns, but you have to break those patterns to keep the listener engaged.
  • You’re not a genius. Don’t overwork a song, but re-writing it as a craftsman can and usually does make it better.
  • There is no rule to songwriting other than – “Don’t be boring!”
  • Music is communication – the song should speak for itself and not have to be explained (my problem, big time).
  • Know your audience and listen with your audience’s ear.
  • Your mother is not a music critic when it comes to your songwriting/performing abilities – she doesn’t count (sorry Ma).

I brought my song She’s My Favourite Place to be critiqued and boy, was it ever! I know it was a bad mix (my fault) but the production and the song itself did not go over well… That leads to another point from the workshop – Do your demo well! You may only get one shot so whether it’s stripped down bare (just piano or guitar plus vocal) or with more advanced production, it has to work… if somebody is listening they’re only going to listen for a minute before moving on and if you can’t win them over, you get tossed in the “NO” pile… songs under 4 minutes and hook within 45 seconds…

I got some re-writing to do on some old songs and a new mindset to take into the new ones… may the Muse come to me!

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