Can you briefly describe how you got into the music business?
In the early seventies, I was playing original material in the only venues that featured it for unknowns at the time...gay bars. I met Roger Gordon at an ASCAP meeting and he was a publisher with EMI (Colgems, at the time). He asked me where I was playing and he came to see me at the Bitter End West. Shortly afterward, he offered me a publishing deal. It was between Warner Brothers and EMI and I chose the latter. They made demos of my songs and I soon got signed by Russ Regan at 20th Century Records.
I made my first album with my song, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" on it. It got played enough for Helen Reddy to hear my record on the radio and she covered it. A year later (1975) she had a hit with it. I made three more albums for 20th Century, had lots of covers by other people and went on to write songs for film in TV through the 80s up till now. In the nineties, I met Nik Venet, who discovered and produced the first hits on Linda Ronstadt, The Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, Jim Croce, John Stewart, Lou Rawls, Dory Previn and many others. He produced my fourth and fifth albums which are currently available. While working with him, I wrote regular articles about songwriting which were published around the U.S. They later became the book, which is currently out, BECOMING REMARKABLE. That's how I got to be someone with so many hyphens in my credits...(songwriter-recording artist-author).
In what music genre do you mainly compose? Do you have a special composing theme?
Some call it Pop, although it's not teenage Pop, of course. I was fortunate enough to receive a review in Discoveries Magazine last month from Joe Tortelli who said my American Romance CD redefined popular music for the 21st century. I'm not sure everyone is aware of this redefinition, but it was nice to hear. Basically, its melody you can sing, chord changes that don't confound people but hopefully don't bore them either and lyrics they can see their own lives in. I generally write from my own life, but I try to find the truth within the incident which will inspire or be universal enough to write a song about. Usually, it comes from a burning desire to communicate.
What kind of instruments do you play?
Keyboards only. No guitar. Wish I'd taken up a more portable instrument.
Can you tell us something about your latest project?
My latest project is a live album I recorded very recently which the producer, Phil Appelbaum, is currently mixing in New Mexico. I recorded four live shows in Los Angeles, two at Genghis Cohen on Fairfax and two at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Pasadena. I was recently interviewed by Neumann Microphones for an article for their website, because we recorded on the new Neumann live performance mics. There's been a lot of demand for a live album and this is the first one I've ever done before an audience. I generally record live in that I sing and play at the same time, rather than overdubbing. But in this one (my sixth solo album), I hope to capture the live show, which is quite a different experience for both me and for the listener.
Are there any persons with whom you would like to co-operate in a music project?
I've done a lot of songwriting for films. I'd like to work with some of the new filmmakers and film composers. When working with film composers, I either write the lyric or help them compose the melody for the song and write the lyric. When working with filmmakers, I help them solve the scene problem with a song or I help deepen th the audience's experience of the film by writing the end title song. Because I write melody and lyrics but I don't score, I enjoy working with the composer of films and there are a number of composers I'd like to work with whom I haven't yet had the opportunity to.
Do you have projects/activities outside the music business?
I love film and I have written three screenplays. Currently I'm acting in a film which the award-winning actress, Karen Black is directing. I'm very excited about that. My book, BECOMING REMARKABLE, is being read by lots of people other than just songwriters, apparently, because I get e-mails from visual artists, actors, and creative people of all kinds who are reading it. This is thrilling to me.
What genre of music / composers / producers / events in life have influenced your work?
My father played cello and marimba and introduced me to classical music as well as taught me to play the piano by ear. I would say my early classical appreciation helped shape my desire for real melody and harmony rather than allowing me to be satisfied with simple repetition of one melodic theme. This is a blessing to my fans and a curse to my ability to fit snugly into strict categories like "Folk" and "Americana." Happily, these categories are broadening to include keyboard and melody.
What was your greatest musical experience?
My most moving musical experience was driving in the car with my producer, the late legendary Nik Venet, and listening to my "American Romance" album for the first time all the way through. I relived all the songs and their stories and heard it as one piece of work in a moment in time I'll always remember. I know this is a bit self-absorbed, and I feel I should refer to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl or something, but this is the truth.
Of what music organizations are you currently a member?
ASCAP, NARAS (the Recording Academy), Songwriters Guild of America, L.A. Women In Music, Just Plain Folks (Mentor), Society of Composers and Lyricists and the Film Music Network.
What are your ideas about the future of the music business?
As you may know, I'm a songwriting teacher, as well as a songwriter/recording artist. If I didn't think the music business was changing in a substantial way, I wouldn't have the heart to teach half my students. Half of them are doing it simply for the love of it, but the other half want to make a living at it and some are. I see more favorable changes in the business than I did a decade ago. Today, the industry is being forced to realize there are alternative markets to the ones the "old guard" believes is the only buying public. I was beginning to wonder how many different regimes of A&R men were going to cater to teenage boys before they realized there are actually grown people out there buying records.
Now that there are triple A, World Music, college, public broadcasting and Americana format radio stations, not to mention Internet and satellite stations, where artists can often get heard without major record labels, things have changed. Now that there are websites like Soundartist.com where songs can be heard without major publishing deals, things have changed. The middlemen who have kept the artist from the public are being crushed by the sheer volume of alternative routes to getting heard. The common mistake, of course, is for the artist to believe now they can put out anything. On the contrary, now the artist really has to be good because there is no record label promoting him or her, no publisher wining and dining the producers before the demo is played. Now the quality of the work has to attract an audience from its merit. And acts have to perform live in order to be heard, in many cases. That's expensive with bands, so in order to tour, the act has to cut down to bare bones. Then if the songs aren't there, it's very obvious. For these reasons, I think songs and songwriting craft are more important than ever. And that is a change I'm in favor of.