Lorenzo Policelli's Songwriting Blog Rotating Header Image

Artists/Musicians

The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel

CC-MUS-BillyJoelConf-WebBanner-2016Colorado College hosted a symposium this past weekend.  I wish I had known about it before, I would have participated as it was open to the public… as per the symposium’s website:

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is a scholarly symposium on the music and lyrics of Billy Joel, the consummate singer-songwriter whose compositions translate larger cultural concerns into accessible and compelling musical narratives. In the spirit of Joel’s music, this public musicology conference aims to share academically oriented insights on this popular figure and his output in an accessible and approachable manner.

Thankfully, someone (Pianomanross) recorded the keynote event, which was actually a phone call with Billy Joel himself!  Here’s the content of the call with Mr. Joel and it adds a heap of colour to the art and craft of songwriting… enjoy the listen and may the muse be with you…

 

John Prine, Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan honoured for songwriting

John Prine

The Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award, awarded biennially, was created by PEN New England a few years back to celebrate the craft of songwriting, specifically the lyrics.  So it’s no surprise that John Prine and the husband/wife team of Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan were honoured for their lyrical prose this year! This year’s honorees were chosen by a committee that included U2’s Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello and Salman Rushdie.

These songwriters create such wonderful lyrical tapestries, fulfilling PEN’s description of the award:

Long before we were able to articulate our thoughts, we expressed joys and sorrows by singing. Patterns emerged, becoming language and making the world intelligible. That’s why the ancients depicted Orpheus, demi-god and singer, playing his lyre with animals around him in a peaceable kingdom, and it’s why we chose the lyre on the award medallion.

There is an unbroken lineage from that breakthrough Orphic moment, down through all the bards, troubadours, and balladeers to the present. Every literary genre is a tributary of that great river.

Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan

Here are some quotes from the event:

Prine’s lyrics are “sophisticated but simple… Who writes songs like that? Two people come to mind – God and John Prine.”  – John Mellencamp

“It’s not always fun writing together. Sometimes the fur flies. It’s not an easy enterprise, but it’s satisfying… We’re different. If two people know all the same things, one of you is unnecessary.” – Tom Waits on writing with his spouse and fellow honouree, Kathleen Brennan

May the Muse stay with these 3 wonderful songwriters…

Lucinda Williams talks Songwriting on PBS NewsHour

One of the faces of Americana music describes songwriting as the “life force that drives [her].”  You should take the time to watch/read this wonderful interview of Lucinda Williams by Phil Hirschkorn of PBS NewsHour.  Just one highlight in response to a query regarding whether she wrote everyday and was disciplined about her songwriting:

My brain is always going, and I’m always jotting down things. I might be sitting at a bar or anywhere I might be and hear something somebody says or something we’ll pop in my head, and I’ll jot it down on a lot of times on a cocktail napkin. I have a lot of cocktail napkins with lines on them. And I save everything. I put it all in a folder. And then when the muse strikes, I pull all that stuff out, bits and pieces. I’ve got 10 or a dozen songs or something right now that are almost finished. So I’ve always got kind of works in progress. But I don’t apply myself every day and get up at and say I’ve got to write between noon and whatever time. I don’t do that. I’m not disciplined about it necessarily. I had a therapist once describe it as “work,” because I was concerned, in the early years that I was going through a dry spell. And she said, “No, no, no. You just work on a J curve,” which means I might not write for a couple of months, and then, once I get into that mode, I might write ten new songs or something over a period of a few weeks.

And here’s the piece:

May the Muse stay with Lucinda and us all…

Billy Joel receives the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

Tune into your PBS stations on January 2, 2015, for the gala event that was held earlier this week in Washington. The Library of Congress awarded Billy Joel, one of my favourite songwriters, the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Tony Bennett, John Mellencamp and Kevin Spacey were among those on hand to celebrate the music legend, while Barbara Streisand, James Taylor and past Gershwin winner Paul McCartney appeared in video greetings.

Huffington Post wrote about the event here and this is just a snippet from that piece:

Joel’s tunes were enough to have Republican and Democratic congressional leaders sitting side by in the divided capital, clapping to the same beat.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor saluted Joel, a fellow New Yorker, for creating an enduring lyrical and musical legacy for the nation.

“For more than five decades, Billy Joel has inspired new generations of performers, musicians and singer-songwriters,” she said. “Tonight we recognize Long Island’s favorite son, even if he is a Mets fan.”

May the Muse stay with you Billy!

Here’s a video snippet from Euronews with Kevin Spacey on the harp with the Piano Man:

Willie Nelson – Songwriter Extraodinaire

Willie Nelson

Just enjoyed listening to an interview of Willie Nelson on NPR.  Mr. Nelson is promoting his new album, Band of Brothers, which is to be released today.  Here’s a little snippet of the interview:

ARUN RATH: Now you are such a great songwriter but it’s been more than a few years since you released an album and one with so much new material on it. I’m curious have you been writing songs the whole time or are all these very recently written?

WILLIE NELSON: I’m sort of a spasmodic writer I guess. Roger Miller said it pretty well. He said when a writer has to sometimes stop and let the well refill because you run out of things to write about or good things to say. So I think he’s right. Also you have to have some kind of challenge or goal. And there was this new album that we wanted to do. And I needed some new songs. And I said well you know why don’t I write something?

And when you’re Willie Nelson, you can do just that…

Listen to the interview now:

May the Muse stay with Willie and be with you (and that’s even funnier with the reference to Willie as the Yoda of songwriters)…

Yoda Willie!

Poet Asks Songwriters About Writing Process

Award-winning poet, Ariel Gordon, is guest-editing the Arts column for the National Post and had an interesting interview of three diverse songwriters about their writing process (upon Ariel’s confession that their songs assisted in her writing process as a poet).  You can find the short-but-compelling interview here.

The songwriters: Amelia Curran, Craig Cardiff and Nathan Rogers

Just one brief sample:

Q: Do you have a songwriting tic? By which I mean particular language or particular images (or sounds, I suppose…) that always seem to be a part of the first draft of a song? I became preoccupied with writing poems about pears in the weeks that followed picking small yellow pears from a friend’s yard. I also re-used an image from my first collection in my second, because it’s still something that sticks with me…

CC: Most of my writing is me working through my knots, my mistakes, trying to frame them, share them, get them out of my head to make room for all the new knots and mistakes that come out of living and bumping through this world.

AC: I absolutely succumb to this as well and it seems to tie album to album. I produced one album that seemed littered with jewel imagery; there were diamonds and rubies everywhere. And another that eked out themes of construction and architecture. But these happened unbeknownst to me at the time.

NR: I always seem to gravitate back to hidden meanings and non-linear thinking. I ask a lot of my “readers” but I truly believe they can handle a more literary approach to songwriting. I refuse to dumb down any part of a lyric for anyone’s sake.

May the Muse be with you…

DistroKid!

Okay, heard about DistroKid through TechCrunch…  Big kudos to Philip Kaplan for coming out with the easiest distribution system for songwriters/artists to get their music out there – and out there is where the people are listening to music nowadays – Google Music, Amazon, iTunes and Spotify…

I signed up and had Free Spirits online and selling within minutes…  Very easy to do… and only $19.99 to upload unlimited tracks for 1 year… Now, I’m publishing myself, recording myself and distributing myself (with DistroKid) as a tool…

If you’re thinking of signing up, please use this link if you found this helpful as it could mean an unlimited account for me…

Time to finish that album and get it online and see where the chips fall… May the Muse be with you…

Juno 2012 Songwriter’s Circle Part 2

From the Juno Awards site:

And here’s part 2 of the Juno Songwriters’ Circle courtesy of the CBC with Terri Clark, Max Kergan and Dan Mangan as host… May the Muse be with you as you listen and enjoy great Canadian (unsung) songsters!

 

Elvis Costello – National Ransom

elvis costello, villa solaria, sesto fiorentin...

Image via Wikipedia

Elvis Costello has a new CD out today – National Ransom.  The almost-Canuck discussed his songwriting in a QMI interview in our local freebie 24 hours newspaper in Toronto today, with a little snippet as follows:

Q: You’ve remained very prolific at an age when many songwriters lose touch with the muse. What’s your secret?

A: I suppose people would give you different views of whether I was connected with it or not, depending on how much they like my last recording – or my last 12 recordings. (Laughs)  I love people telling me how great my early records were, when they were mostly roundly ignored.  But I never really have done anything out of routine.  And I sort of feel I can do it with much more freedom because I have access to a lot of different music and different techniques.

Yes, the Muse remains with Elvis… and may the Muse be with you…

alt

Brian Wilson as Songwriter – Upcoming Documentary

On November 23, 2010, Songwriter 1962 – 1969: Exploring Brian’s Music in a Decade of Dreams will be released online.  The film is a 3-hour 2-DVD collection that examines Wilson’s time writing and recording with the Beach Boys in the 1960s. It also includes many rare and classic live performances, studio footage and archival interviews and photos, as well as discussions with fellow Beach Boys, studio technicians and a variety of other people close to Wilson at the time.

From the distributor’s website

Brian Wilson Songwriter 1962 – 1969 is a documentary film in which the rich tapestry of music written and produced by this brilliant 20th century composer is investigated and reviewed. With the main feature running at over three hours in length across two discs, the songs Brian wrote for and recorded with The Beach Boys during the 1960s are here re-assessed to quite startling effect. FEATURES INCLUDE – •Historical musical performances and rare and classic recordings re-assessed by a panel of esteemed experts •Obscure footage, rare archive interviews and seldom seen photographs •Exclusive contributions from fellow Beach Boys, Bruce Johnston and David Marks; Wrecking Crew musicians Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine; friend and Beach Boys manager Fred Vail; producers Russ Titelman and Bill Halverson; Wilson family friends Billy Hinsche and Danny Hutton, biographers Peter Ames Carlin and Domenic Priore and many others •Live and studio recordings of many Brian Wilson classics

May the Muse be with you Brian… check out the video clip below…

alt
Mobile application powered by Make me Droid, the online Android/IOS app builder.