On the second day of the ASCAP Expo, I attended a lively class on collaborative songwriting taught by three illustrious New York songwriters whose collaborations include some pop hits. Organized by Keith Johnson of ASCAP’s New York office as a birthday gift to himself, the standing room only audience enjoyed stellar performances and high level industry shop talk. Above, Keith opens the class.
Gordon Chambers, a singer/songwriter/producer, had always dreamed of being a professional musician as a child, and, truly he has a gorgeous voice, in a style reminiscent of Stevie Wonder. His first hit song, in 1994, was The Brownstone Song.
Barry Eastmond, a pianist/songwriter/producer, played some fabulous post-bop jazz to demonstrate his orientation before going into pop songwriting. He learned the forms and conventions of writing in this genre while working as a recording session player for pop music, and wrote a hit song dedicated to his wife, “You Are My Lady.”
He and Gordon collaborated on “I Apologize,” which they performed for us (above photo). He said he thinks about pop songs like a producer, “Is it radio? Get to the hooks. The more hooks the better, because that’s what people remember.” Gordon added, “A hook is something cool to say in today’s language.”
Phil Galdston has written songs with both Barry and Gordon, but his collaboration story was about writing Vanessa William’s hit song “Save the Best for Last” with reknowned songwriter Wendy Waldman who was nine months pregnant, but worked on the song for two days straight with Phil, with no sleep. The song began as an afterthought while they were working on another tune that still has never been produced.
Phil had thought of the title and jotted it down weeks before. He told us that professional songwriters constantly write down ideas, scraps of conversation, and interesting word and musical phrases for later use. To this end, Phil recommends taping everything that happens during a songwriting collaborative session. Gordon recommended that we “listen to phrases people say that hit your heart.” Said Barry, “The hits I’ve had in my career came from my real life and my heart.”
After the class, I met Martin and Jude, founders and producers of the invaluable Musician’s Atlas, which gives current information each year on venues and media for touring performers.
Riccola Company, which makes herbal throat lozenges (and heaven knows, singers use throat lozenges from time to time), made an advertisement at the conference, with three singers and lots of free samples.
The back of the Hollywood Wax Museum, as seen from the parking lot exit of the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, as I left the ASCAP Expo.