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May, 2009:

101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them

101 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right Them

I recommend this book for songwriters looking for commercial success because it stresses:

  • building solid, marketable song structures
  • creating lyrics/melodies
  • forming productive and profitable collaboration ventures
  • producing effective demos, and
  • tracking your royalty collection (I’d like that problem!)

Pat and Pete Luboff, the authors of 101 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right Them, are platinum-selling hit songwriters, who also teach workshops for NSAI (Nashville Songwrites Association International). They have lots of insgight into what they’re writing about and write in an accessible manner to cover the 101 areas they do…

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Songwriters Hall of Fame – 2009 Ceremony

The Songwriters Hall of Fame will be having its induction ceremony on June 18, 2009 (not yet sure if it will be televised). From the press release:

Jack Ingram, Joe Nichols and American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi are among the singers, songwriters and musicians scheduled to appear at the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s 40th anniversary gala taking place June 18 at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati of the Rascals, Crosby, Stills & Nash; Galt MacDermot, Stephen Schwartz and James Rado and the late Gerome Ragni. Also being inducted is the songwriting duo of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. Cook, already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, is the father of CMT host Katie Cook. His songwriting credits Don Williams’ “I Believe in You” and Crystal Gayle’s “Talking in Your Sleep.” Others performing or presenting awards at the gala include Daughtry, Berry Gordy, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., John Ondrasik, James Taylor, Ryan Tedder, Rob Thomas and Paul Williams.

Should be some shindig I suppose…

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OCFF – Songs from the Heart Competition

Only a few days left (June 1, 2009 deadline) if you want to enter the Songs from the Heart Songwriting Competition of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (OCFF).

This competition highlights the talents of Ontario songwriters and provides an opportunity for the winners to showcase their work to festival presenters at the annual OCFF conference. Overall, one English and one French winner will be selected. In addition, fifteen nominations from the Songs From the Heart competition (not including the winners of the Galaxie Rising Stars of the CBC Award) are put forward by the OCFF to an Ontario Arts Council (OAC) selection panel, for consideration for the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award.

Good luck to those who enter and may the Muse be with you…

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Gamble and Huff Honoured

Last month I wrote about the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland being honoured, and now it’s time for Gamble and Huff.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff recently received the Icon Award for lifetime achievement from BMI.

Gamble and Huff embodied the “Philly Soul” sound of the early 1970’s that followed the Motown era and preceeded the Disco era… From Reuters:

They wrote or co-wrote about 3,000 songs during their heyday, still own the masters and copyrights, and keep busy licensing the tunes for use in movies, TV and commercials.

“Every time I turn around, my wife is hollerin’ ‘One of your songs is in the movies,'” Huff, 67, said in a recent interview with Reuters, sitting alongside Gamble.

One would have to try pretty hard to go through a week without hearing a Gamble and Huff tune on the radio or the screen. The catalog includes “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees, Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” Rawls’ “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” and Jerry Butler’s “Only the Strong Survive” (which Butler co-wrote).

And then there are the covers, whether it be Simply Red’s take on Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” for which Gamble and Huff won a songwriting Grammy; Third World’s update of the O’Jays’ “Now That We’ve Found Love”; or the Rolling Stones performing “Love Train” during their recent tour.

What was the Gamble & Huff formula?

“We were looking at standard classic music that you would hear 30 years later,” Huff said. “The quality was what we were into. The artists that we signed had to have a certain quality of voice and talent.”

The duo’s emphasis was on the arrangement of songs, establishing an undeniable rhythm with lots of strings and horns. They helped lay the foundation for disco.

Certainly a great songwriting team, and certainly worthy of the recognition… May the Muse remain with you both, Mssrs. Gamble and Huff…

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Lightfoot on Dylan

I just wanted to share some songwriting quotes from the illustrious Gordon Lightfoot as set out in a recent Huntsville (Alabama) Times article:

“Prior to the Woodstock Festival, there was a colony of artists working in the Woodstock area,” Lightfoot during a phone interview from Toronto, Canada.

“Bob Dylan lived there and used to type out his lyrics on a typewriter. I think he got my engine turned onto songwriting. We have a mutual respect toward one another. He would be my all-time favorite.”

Indeed, the respect is mutual. Lightfoot recorded one of Dylan’s songs, “Ring them Bells,” and Dylan recorded Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.” Dylan has also been quoted as saying that when he heard a Gordon Lightfoot song “he wished it would last forever.”

Many people feel the same way about Lightfoot, the legendary, 70-year-old songwriter who during his 40-plus year career has written more than 200 songs on 20 albums and performed timeless hits like “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” “Early Morning Rain,” “Carefree Highway,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and many more. He was a big influence on folk music of the 1960s and ’70s, including songwriters like Dylan, Dan Fogelberg others.

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Lightfoot said of influencing others. “I’ve always been about pressing the work ethic. You’ve got to get the job done.”

Lightfoot’s songwriting talent has earned him five Grammy nominations and 17 Canadian Juno Awards, Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys. Many talented musicians have recorded his songs, including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Peter, Paul & Mary, Barbara Streisand, and even present-day musicians like Jane’s Addiction.

“I just got lucky with Elvis,” Lightfoot said. “He recorded two (‘For Loving Me’ and ‘Early Morning Rain’). Elvis always had scouts looking for tunes, and he was getting his nightclub act together and getting ready for Las Vegas.

“I actually never met him. I was supposed to meet him and it didn’t work out.”

Well, at least he got to meet Dylan… May the Muse continue to be with you Gordon!

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Terri Clark – Return to Songwriting

From a Sun Media article by Mike Ross, here are some thoughts on the Nashville system by country music star, Terri Clark:

Terri Clark is trying to pull herself out of the tar pit that is the commercial Nashville country scene – where young singer-songwriters are discouraged from writing their own material, image is everything and nothing beats a hit.

The 40-year-old Medicine Hat star was hip deep in the status quo for a decade, so she’s got her work cut out.

Happily, a big change in her career could help: She’s no longer on a major label. She’s an indie now. She writes all her own songs – which fans can hear when she plays Sunday at the River Cree Casino.

Clark declares, “If you’re a songwriter, you should write your own songs.”

Sounds obvious. Doesn’t happen much in Nashville, which is as dependent on its professional songwriting corps as Alberta is on oil.

The stars will generally shop for a song to express their deepest feelings, rather than write it. The same can be said for the R&B scene of yore, of course, whose biggest hits came from largely unknown tunesmiths toiling in the Brill Building of New York City.

That bubble burst with the advent of rock ‘n’ rollers speaking their minds and writing their own hits – from the heart. Blame the Beatles.

(Editor’s note: this vastly oversimplified history of R n’ B songwriting is meant to be illustrative, not educational.)

Clark recalls a slippery slide, “I wrote almost all the songs on my first two records, but as the career progressed I wrote less and less. Got busy, plus got caught up in ‘we need the hits, we need the hits, we need the hits.’ We were chasing rather than just going with what was natural, coming out of me, which is what fans bought into in the first place.”

Good for Ms. Clark… as she returns to songwriting, may the Muse return to her…

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Songwriting Does Not Equal Poetry… even for Bono

Neil McCormick of the Telegraph recently provided the following insights in songwriting lyrics versus poetry… Visit the blog post to see the “poem” by Bono first-hand and then read the scathing review of Bono, with empathy to the man as an outstanding songwriter:

All you can really say in Bono’s defence is he is not the first good songwriter to be unveiled as a bad poet. Step forward Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. Indeed, the problem is moonlighting rock stars, who think because they are good at one thing they must be good at everything, and don’t have anyone around in the inner circle (usually comprised of people who owe their livings to the star) to persuade them otherwise. I really don’t want to see Madonna’s acting (or Prince’s, Bowie’s or Jagger’s), Ronnie Wood’s painting (I will make an exception for Bob Dylan, who seems to have some small talent in this field, and doesn’t push it on his public), and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t even have much time for Leonard Cohen’s poetry, which often lacks the discipline he brings to songwriting.

Indeed, much is made of the difference between poetry and lyrics, with the intellectual presumption being that the former are usually in some way superior, but I think the discipline of scanning, rhyming and metre, the challenge of vocal comprehensibility and the absolutely crucial interaction with melody (synchronising with the rich emotional language of music, which often renders words redundant) makes lyric writing a special art form, the greatest field of lyrical communication in our times, capable of striking people deeper and harder than almost any poem. Bono (and Dylan and McCartney and even Cohen) should stick proudly to writing songs. But probably not about Elvis.

Ah, the chasm between lyrics and poetry… certainly not one and the same, and most always the offspring, related though they are, of different Muses…

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Comox Valley Songwriters Circle

Just a plug for a local B.C. Songwriters Circle site I came across… The Comox Valley Songwriters Circle is a group of songwriters of all abilities who get together on the first Wednesday of each month to show off their songs… Check out their website for more info and may the Muse continue to be with them…

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Songwriting through celibacy?

From Celebuzz…

Lily Allen is truly willing to suffer for the sake of her art.

She’s taking a vow of celibacy in hopes of improving her songwriting skills.

“It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and test yourself,” Allen says. “I’m just going to see how it goes for a bit. I haven’t set a time limit or anything.”

“I’ve actually broken up with boyfriends for inspiration. When I hit a period of not being able to write music, I get up and I walk away,” Allen fesses up. “It’s pretty mean-but it’s true.”

Sounds like Lily Allen isn’t the only person who’s suffered for her art.

And may the Muse be with her for it…

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SongDoor 2009 – Open for Competition

From its promotional materials:

SongDoor is still the only songwriting competition where nobody loses. All entrants receive a free DIY SongU.com songwriting course and free melody-writing software, valuable tools worth $70. The entry fee is $10.

Entrants are eligible to win the Grand Award, valued at approximately USD $7,745 in music merchandise and services, including a single-song publishing contract with Hard Twist Music-BMI (owned by mega-hit songwriter Bill Shore), a full-band private session demo at 16 Ton Studios, Music Row’s hottest recording facility, a one-year full-access membership to SongU.com, a copy of MasterWriter songwriting software, a suite of songwriting software from Tanager Audioworks, a Primo MoB membership to Broadjam, a leather gear bag and an autographed copy of two of hitmaker Jason Blume’s best-selling songwriting books. Six Category Winners each receive a valuable package of awards valued at almost $4,670 including a first-rate guitar or vocal production demo and memberships to both SongU.com and Broadjam.

Songs may be entered in six different categories: Christian, Country, Pop, Rock/Alt, Soft Rock and Instrumental. Entries are accepted online or by mail through November 15, 2009.

The SongDoor International Songwriting Competition is an annual event, open to amateur and professional songwriters worldwide. Entries are accepted online or by mail from April 15 through November 15. The entry fee is just $10.

Good Luck and may the Muse be with you…

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