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June, 2010:

Insider Secrets to Great Songwriting

nprlogo_138x46[1] For over 25 years, Diane Warren has written top ten hits for some of the greatest voices in the recording industry. She reveals her secrets to great songwriting. And Jack Perricone, chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music, talks about songwriting across musical genres.

You can listen to the NPR Talk of the Nation program from earlier this week right here:

Drake’s Songwriting Tip: Use a BlackBerry

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  Rapper Drake poses duri...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Maybe it’s conducive to his rap style of music, but Toronto-born artist/musician/songwriter/actor, Drake, uses his BlackBerry to write his raps:

In this clip from the upcoming doc, Drake bops to the track Kanye West produced for "Show Me a Good Time" and then picks up a BlackBerry and starts punching out some rhymes.

"All Drake’s raps for eternity have been written inside of a Blackberry," producer and engineer Noah "40" Shebib says in the clip. "I mean, to the point where if he doesn’t have a BlackBerry, we gotta go get somebody who’s got one. I’ve had dummy BlackBerrys around that I just pull out for him to write on, like if he needs one … that don’t actually even work!"

Drake cops to his need for a BlackBerry when working on his lyrics. "I can’t write my raps on paper," Drake says. "The BlackBerry keys — my thumbs were made for touching them." The clip wraps up with Drizzy in the booth recording and referencing his lyrics on his trusty smartphone.

Hey, whatever works for you, I say… May the Muse be with him… I’m sure we’re going to see iPad and Android apps for songwriters at some point… (rhyming dictionaries and tab/chord software… hmmm, maybe I should get on that…)

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Recent Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala

_48108056_009572690-1[1] Last weekend, singer Phil Collins received the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame gala.  The singer, who has sold over 100 million records as a solo artist and with the band Genesis, said writing a popular track is "a complete accident".

This year’s inducted songwriters included Leonard Cohen, Jackie DeShannon, David Foster, and R&B band Earth Wind and Fire.  Singer Taylor Swift received the Hal David starlight award.  The link above has all the awards and inductees for 2010.

Speaking on the red carpet, Collins said: "For a songwriter, it’s a huge honour. I was very surprised when I got the news."  The musician revealed that when organizers contacted him about the award, he had originally assumed he would have been presenting it, instead of receiving it. "That’s something that I never thought I’d be qualified to get, I still don’t think I’m qualified to get," he said.  The award is the second major honour this year for the 59-year-old, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March.

Phil Ramone was given the hitmakers award, which is given to songwriters who have written a number of hit songs over an extended period.  Billy Joel, who cited the producer as a major influence on his music, presented Ramone with his trophy at the ceremony in New York.

Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water was also honoured to commemorate its 40th anniversary.

May the Muse stay with all the worthy inductees…

Acoustic Guitar: Jakob Dylan

JakobDylan[1] I really enjoyed the article in the latest edition of Acoustic Guitar magazine that featured Jakob Dylan.  He discusses his latest, Women and Country, and waxes poetic on songwriting in general.  Here’s a little snippet, but check out the whole article:

When you’re working on a song, do you feel as if you understand what you’re writing about, or do you even want to understand?
DYLAN No. I think the people who are really good can’t explain how they do it or why, and you should be very suspicious of people who can. Truthfully, when I am asked to explain a song, I always find it an awkward question because I think the song is the explanation. But that’s just the kind of songs I write. If you were able to ask Phil Ochs what his songs were about, he could probably tell you because they are very specific.

Some people aim for a kind of writing where words fall out that on some level make no sense.
DYLAN But what’s unique about that is he or she is the only one who had that idea drop out. You know, a lot of times you let that happen, and you look at the page and you wonder, “I don’t know, is that right or not? Does that make perfect sense?” But if you question it too much and try to use too much logic, it’ll slip away.

Do you ever share songs in progress with your father (Bob Dylan)?
DYLAN No, I never have, and really for no other reason than that I was always confident, especially when I came up in groups—we were chasing our own ideas. I don’t know that somebody like him could truthfully give anybody . . . I think if you’re that good, it’s very difficult to put into a dialogue how [someone else] can also do it. It’s very hard to point somebody in that direction.

I don’t mean necessarily that you’d ask him to explain or teach, but just simply to be an audience.
DYLAN No, I honestly don’t do that with anybody. Also, I really like writing a song and keeping it until the very last moment of playing it for who is going to be playing it with you, because there’s a snapshot that happens one time. There’s an exciting moment when you first record a song; that’s probably the most lasting impression anyone will have of a song, but really it’s just the way you wanted to record it one day, one afternoon, and who knows why.

And now for a treat… a mini-office concert put on by Mr. Dylan and his cohorts in the NPR offices…

 

May the Muse be with you…

Ray Charles’ copyrights a lucrative business

A very interesting article from Reuters about Ray Charles’ effect as a performer on both the songs he interpreted (helping out those songwriters’ catalogues) and his own publishing catalogue that he owned or that he wrote while under Warner/Chappell Music.

Ahead of the 80th anniversary of Ray Charles’ birth on September 23, 2010, the Ray Charles Marketing Group is working with partners on numerous projects including a new documentary on the Biography Channel and the debut this fall of "Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical" set for November.  So get ready for a lot of Ray Charles in the near future (hurrah!).

But while he helped other artists/songwriters with his interpretations of their songs, the same didn’t work out for Ray Charles since his reputation sometimes proved daunting to other singers. In other words, because Charles often did the definitive versions of his songs, nobody will record/cover his songs.

Ah, to have that problem one day!  But I won’t, ‘cos I’m a “non-performing” songwriter for good reason… I can’t perform… but I keep the Muse with me…

Back to work…

BACKTOWORKLOGO[1] Well, I’ve been away from the songwriting blog for a while… Very busy at the day job and there were changes in my hosting/server that caused me some problems (the blog was actually down for a couple of weeks)…

Anyway, I’ll be back to pass on songwriting tidbits in the near future…

Ci vedimes and may the Muse be with you…

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