Songwriter's Square

Songwriter’s Square Newsletter – August 2016

four square Songwriters Square August 2016 Poster

August And Everything After

In this issue: Licensing Agreements, Write Club, Disbanding the Band, NSAI Grammy Seminar, Musical Theatre News, and more!!

August 21st Songwriter’s Square features
Art Podell, Harriet Schock and Stewart Lewis!

ART PODELL  Grammy winning performer, folk music legend, former New Christy Minstrels, Art & Paul, latest album: From the Village to the Canyon, A Songwriter’s Journey (Amsqosh Records).

HARRIET SCHOCK – Platinum songwriter and recording artist with five solo albums. Voted best new female artist by Cashbox magazine, Aint No Way To Treat A Lady, Mama, First Time On A Ferris Wheel, and many more hits!

STEWART LEWIS  Novelist and songwriter with songs in film and tv, “Stunning Guitar Work And Soaring Voice” – Denver Post, “A New Breed Of Blue Eyed Soul” – Performing Songwriter.

Sunday Night, August 21, 2016
Doors open at 6:30PM, Show starts at 7:00PM (sharp).
At the Lyric/Hyperion Theater & Cafe.
2106 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
$15 or $12 with discount code online HERE!

The monthly showcase is hosted by BILL BERRY and features songwriters from country to cabaret, r&b to folk and everything in between. Enjoy a glass of wine and dinner with your show. Free parking. More information at

I’m involved in a couple of great shows this month thanks to show producers Harriet Schock and Brad Colerick. Harriet’s show, SNAP! features ten singer -songwriters from the L.A. scene and is held every other month in Hollywood at the Scientology Celebrity Center.
Brad’s WINE & SONG is one of the most popular shows in South Pasadena. He is taking it on the road and his first stop is, North Pasadena! (Hey, you gotta start somewhere.) We will be at the Ice House Comedy Club and the show features a batch of funny songwriters who need no introduction.

I hope you can join us on one or both these events!
Click on the flyers for more info!

And now, on with the show!

What’s Happening…
by Bill Berry
Paul 1: Our good friend, photographer and music teacher Paul Landry is recovering from heart surgery. Send him some love HERE when you get the chance… Paul 2: There’s a benefit for Paul Riopelle‘s Medical Fund with Milo Binx, Josh Lewis, Sofia Wolfson, and The Motion on August 13th at the Kibitz Room at Canter’s Deli. Admission is free, but proceeds from food and drinks will go to help Paul with his medical bills and recovery from brain surgery. Info HERE… Jeannie Willets is having a fundraising campaign to help get her new CD manufactured. Info HERE… Wayne Kramer (MC5) and friends will present the third annual Rock Out! for Jail Guitar Doors, in support of his charity to bring guitars and music educatiion to prisoners. Past artists on the show have been Tom Morello, Jackson Browne, Ben Harper, Jill Sobule, and Billy Bragg. More info HERE... The Bootleg Theatre is presenting a new play about the formation of the RAMONES. “Four Chords And A Gun” by John Ross Bowie has been getting rave reviews for its dark comedy and fine acting. It runs through August 14th. More info HERE

Dept. of Justice to Uphold Licensing Agreements
from VarietyThe Justice Department has completed its review of 75-year-old consent decrees that govern how music rights organizations set rates for licensing songs — and they are proposing no changes. “Although stakeholders on all sides have raised some concerns with the status quo, the division’s investigation confirmed that the current system has well served music creators and music users for decades and should remain intact,” the DOJ said in a statement on Thursday.

Confessions of a Serial Songwriter
Elusive Butterflies
by Shelly Peiken
A creative mind never punches out. It’s always working. And that’s probably a good thing. As long as we’re prepared to catch a butterfly.
Continue reading here

Musical Odds and Ends
by David HolmesAttention all Sondheim fans!! Mark it on your 2017 calendars…Mr. S has a new musical scheduled to appear at the NY Public Theatre!  What’s it about? Well, it seems Stephen (or Steve as I like to call him), along with playwright David Ives, are adapting two films by Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel.
The first is a story of a group of people trying to find a place to dine together. In the second one they dine during the end of the world, where, after the meal, none of the guests are able to leave the room and return home. Hmmm…sounds like some ‘YELP’ dining experiences my wife and I have gone on. Interesting to see what happens to this show.

Speaking of 2017 and ‘Stephens’, ASCAP and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will be hosting an evening with Stephen Schwartz entitled “Music & Broadway Memories” on Friday, February 2, 2017.

Featuring the composer and Special Broadway Guest Stars (Names TBA at a future date), it promises to be a eclectic and informative evening as Mr. Schwartz regales the audience with stories and songs from his formidable list of stage and screen musical work including Wicked, Godspell, Pippin, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Enchanted and Prince of Egypt.

Want to win a cool grand to spend on tickets for any Broadway show you want?  Here it is! “”  is going national for their theatre contest giveaway!  Between now and August 31 (at 5pm East Coast Time), every time you log onto “” and ‘score’ a current show; you get an automatic entry into the contest. The more shows you score, the more chances to win.
Interested? Click HERE for all the details and an article to see how Show-Score member and former contest winner “Guilty One” spent his $1000.

And finally, even though it’s not a musical, I’m including a true rarity. It’s the 1946 animated collaboration of Salvador Dali and Walt Disneycalled ‘Destino.’  Languishing in the Disney vaults for decades, this lost masterpiece was finished, produced and released in 2003 through the efforts of Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew.

It’s now online for viewing HERE  Take a look…it’s amazing!

Letting Go of Your Band (or – performing alone as a singer-songwriter after ten years of support, camaraderie, harmony and a huge safety net)
by Tracy Newman
tracynewman.comFor 16 years I was a TV writer/producer, but in 2003 I left “According to Jim,” a Disney/ABC show I had co-created with my writing partner, Jonathan Stark, to return to being a singer/songwriter, which I was before writing for TV.

I joined Harriet Schock‘s amazing songwriting class, and started writing songs like crazy. I loved it. No one was telling me what to write. I was my own boss. I started performing solo at small venues in LA, like Kulak’s and The Talking Stick, (which at that time was just a hole in the wall on Ocean Park Blvd.) At one of my Talking Stick shows, Gene Lippmann and Lorie Doswell were in the audience, (they were in my songwriting class at the time,) and from their seats, they started harmonizing with me to one of my songs. I think it was “Laraine.” It sounded good so I invited them up on stage. It was dreamy! So mellow! I actually thought to myself, “Wow, we really have something!” They had such great voices and the blend was incredible. We became a trio. Then the bass player, John Cartwright heard us at Kulak’s and joined us. Drummer, Doug Knoll joined in pretty much the same way. It all happened so organically. We called ourselves Tracy Newman and the Reinforcements, and I quickly had a full set of original songs and a whole lot of local bookings. Because of my long TV career, I had the money to pay everyone, too. So it all felt right. In 2007 we released our first CD, “A Place in the Sun.

After 5 years or so, Lorie Doswell moved on to do her own thing, and Rebecca Leigh, who had been coming to all of our shows and was a diehard fan, stepped in and took Lorie’s place with almost no rehearsal time. It wasn’t exactly the same blend, but it was still terrific. We released another CD in 2012 called “I just See You.” Then Rebecca moved to New Orleans to pursue her own career. Paula Fong took her place, and after a few years, she moved on to be in a duet with the great Tom Kell. A strong solo performer, Annie Boxell jumped in and took her place. Several wonderful musicians came and went as well.

During all this, I did a CD for children called “I Can Swing Forever.” I began focusing on just songs for kids. As 2016 approached, I realized it was probably time to call it quits with my band. I wasn’t writing anything new for grown-ups, I wasn’t enjoying rehearsals, (none of us were,) and I was reluctant to book new gigs. It was obviously over, but I dragged my feet. I don’t know if it was fear or just laziness. I knew I would miss the harmony. Gene Lippmann has a timbre to his voice that is truly wonderful. Annie Boxell has remarkable energy and a unique tone. But the three of us together – that mellow blend I was in love with wasn’t really happening anymore. We had our moments, but overall, it just wasn’t there. It was hard for me to face that. The Reinforcements were a great comfort to me.

I made a few lame attempts at cutting back on band members, adding new ones, generally shaking it up, but my heart wasn’t in it. I finally cut the cord about a month ago. I wanted to do it at a special dinner – the right way – but couldn’t get everyone together at the same time, so I did it through emails and phone calls. To my great relief, everyone seemed fine about it. I think they were burned out on the band as well.

Clearly, it’s time for a new challenge. I needed to get back the feeling I had when I first started performing alone in New York in the 60s. I don’t know if I can, but I’ll never know if I don’t try. To that end, I’ve booked a few dates starting in September and am preparing a new kind of show for myself. I’m practicing a lot and figuring out a set list that works without a band… songs that don’t require harmony. I’m very lyric-driven, so I think it will be fine. I’m hoping my fans will accept the change. I’ll be doing Fireside Concerts on Friday, Sept 9 out in Newbury Park. This is the 4th year in a row I’ve been in this show, but this will be the first time without my band. Yikes! I’m so grateful to Bob Kroll for allowing me to do this. John Zipperer and Tom Corbett are the other acts. I will also be at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena on Tuesday, Sept 27th in Dave Harvey Presents. I hope I will see you there!

Summertime Blues… and Other Courses

by Diana Weynand

When we think of summertime, we are sort of hard wired to think: “Schools out – let’s play.” I just got back from a road trip to Washington state for my summer vacation. Whales, boats, and mountains, oh my! But while I was away from my home base, I didn’t keep up a consistent songwriting schedule as I usually do. So instead, I went to summer school!

Rather than show up at a class or songwriting group in-person or meet online, I signed up for a course through If you haven’t taken advantage of this online course delivery site, check it out. Most of the classes are free, if you don’t need or want any formal certification. Currently, there are numerous music classes you might find enjoyable and enriching. Any one of them would offer a nice support to your songwriting skills without having to actually write songs!

I signed up for a course on the Blues, and I’m not just learning about the blues, I’m learning how to perform the blues as well. Other courses on music include music theory, music production, classical music, and even the Music of the Beatles. Click here for the list. And if you want to use your remaining summer time to brush up on marketing your music, there are classes on that as well.

So by all means, take a summer break, but treat yourself to a shot of musical knowledge that just may have a positive impact on your songwriting.

August 2016
(shows that come across my desk)8.2 – Lovers & Poets
8.3 – Jodi Siegel
8.3 – Chris Price
8.5 – John M.
8.5 – Mason’s Noise Parlour
8.5 – Severin Browne, Ric Taylor
8.5 – The Explorers Club
8.6 – Laura Martin, Dave Morrison, Dale LaDuke, Jeb Lipsom
8.6 – Tim Tedrow, Wild Mountain Mystics
8.6 – Celluloid Heroes (Kinks Tribute)
8.6 – Britta Lee Shain
8.7 – Rosemary Butler
8.9 – Tuesday Music Club 
8.11 – Note by Note Songwriters’ Night
8.11 – James Houlahan, RoboPope, The Velopheliacs
8.13 – Rosa Pullman, Marina Gutman
8.13 – Paul Riopelle’s Medical Fund benefit
8.13 – BUSted!
8.14 – SNAP! Harriet Schock & Friends
8.14 – Michael McNevin, Honeysuckle Possums
8.14 – Ernest Troost
8.14 – Patti Smith Tribute
8.14 – Deb Ryder
8.20 – Tall Man Group 
8.20 – Lauren Adams CD release show
8.20 – Hollywood Poets
8.20 – Berkley Hart, Gary Stockdale
8.20 – Shelly’s West Coast All-Star Blues Revue
8.21 – Sharon Goldman Album release
8.25 – Bill Berry, Cynthia Carle, Brad Colerick, Chauncey Bowers
8.26 – John M, Secret Gardners
8.27 – Donna Lynn Caskey, Steve Werner, Merlin Snider & Pretty Good Acquaintances 
8.27 – Rod MacDonald
8.27 – Dan Frechette and Laurel Thomsen 

8.31 – Jeanie Willets fundraiser

Other Venues:
Kulak’s Woodshed
Coffee Gallery Backstage
Pasadena Folk Music Society

photo of Shelly Peiken, Dan Petty & Michelle Lewis and Che Zuro with Bill Berry in July 2016

July Songwriter’s Square
by Bill BerryWe had a heck of a night at Songwriter’s Square this past July 17th. Featuring Shelly Peiken, Dan Petty & Michelle Lewis and Che Zuro (above l to r), it was a night full of great stories and songs. Michelle and Shelly are both part of SONA, (Songwriters of North America) and shared about their work in participating with the US Department of Justice regarding the Antitrust Division’s ruling on their 100% licensing scheme. It was riveting and, as mentioned in the earlier article, heartbreaking stuff. Che shared stories of when I was a teenage fanboy for her all-girl band the Orchids! It was a great night. Thanks to all who attended. And watch out for the upcoming podcast! More photos HERE!

Grammy Seminar in Malibu
Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Malibu Chapter will host the seminar, Road To The Grammys on Sunday, August 14, 2016 from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. at the Malibu Library, 23519 Civic Center Way, Malibu, CA 90265. Hosted by Diana Weynand and Bill Berry, the seminar will share the rules and regulations for getting your album, song or performance in consideration for the National Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Awards. Featured guests are  Director of Membership & Marketing at The Recording Academy Rob Accatino, Grammy nominee and hit songwriter Shelley Peiken, Grammy winner Tony Braunagel and more. RSVP to reserve your seat!Cost: $10 for NSAI Members – $15 for Non-Members. Pay check or cash at the door or in advance via Paypal –

The meeting room is located just inside the main entrance to the left. There is ample parking on site and nearby, and it’s just a few steps away from the Malibu Country Mart and  Malibu Lagoon State Beach.

Record Release Show
by Bill Berry
I want to thank each of you who attended the AWKWARD STAGE record release show on July 22nd. We had a big crowd of great friends come out to support me and the band, along with The Records with John Wicks and Carla Olson & Todd Wolfe. Here are a few very nice notes from some who attended. Thank you!What a band! What a show! Great songs delivered with pizzazz, panache, and gusto as only Bill Berry can deliver. So much fun! Congrats on a fantastic night!
– Patricia Bahia
This show last night leapfrogged into my top 10 all time shows. Power from the first note to the last. Stellar showmanship, outstanding band, tight songs, super duper!
– Peggy Glenn
A truly memorable musical experience! 
– Suzy Williams
Your album release show was SPECTACULAR!!! I’m ecstatic and so inspired by you, and so is Jeff!
–Suzanne Whang

That was a great show! And completely sold out! I could barely squeeze in the back!
– Terry Okey

Great showmanship and your new CD “Awkward Stage” sounds really great. It was a magical night!
– Jeffery Stoffer

Fighting Words!
by Craig Lincoln
sabrinaandcraig.comIt was only words…
So let’s cut to the core, you and me.  Strip away the songwriter gloves of melody and harmony and get down to bare knuckles.  Organized phonemes only, structured into words as weapons and phrases as fighting strategies.
Literal words as literary fists.   Not as in as in wimpy-ass debate, but as in-your-face, bare-knuckle prize fighting.  ”Literature as Bloodsport” — or so reads the marquis for Write Club Los Angeles.
Taking as inspiration the movie Fight Club, a monthly gathering of wordsmiths and their rowdy fans takes place at the appropriately named Bootleg Bar & Grill, (also home of the Bootleg Theatre Company.)
On the second Monday of July I entered this bohemian bar and performance space to watch two writers I know, Crickett Rumleyand Dylan Brody, each go word-against-word with an intimidating opponent in a viciously benevolent, one-round, literary prize fight.  7 minutes (timed by the bell) to read a piece written specifically for the event.  The entire audience would choose the winner after being flogged to a respectful frenzy by the high-energy hosts:  The Archdukeof Awesome and The Whore of Hollywood Babylon Herself (Justin Welborn and Paula Killen) —
Dylan went down in honorably close but decisive defeat.  But Crickett triumphed over powerfully deft, brilliantly clever wordplay by doing what so many of us want to accomplish with our songs – she drew us in and then touched our hearts.
I am returned to my songwriting world of melody, harmony, and groove, with a new-found appreciation for both the power of words and the spirit of those who celebrate them.

Write Club Los Angeles: Literature as Bloodsport, Prize Money to Charity
2nd Monday of every month 7pm doors, 7:30 fight time
Bootleg Theatre – 2220 Beverly Blvd.
Rule #1 of Write Club: Tell 5-7 people about Write Club
Rule #2 of Write Club: Tell 5-7 people about Write Club
Write Club Los Angeles Facebook

I’m Not Hearing A Single
The Secret Narcotic
 By Robert Morgan Fisher
www.robertmorganfisher.comThe guitar. That’s my instrument of choice. Can’t really play piano very well. Love mandolin—but don’t own one. This year marks 50 years of me playing guitar. Fifty—hard to believe.
I started out doing group lessons as a kid. Along the way I had many different guitars. I subscribed to Guitar Player Magazine for years. When they published an anthology of their best interviews in the late 1970s, I not only bought it and read it but memorized it. When Albert Lee, who by the time I was 21 had already been elected to the Guitar Player Magazine Gallery of the Greats, played on my second album—Built Myself a Greenhouse in 2005—it was one of the most satisfying moments of my career.
One of the songs Albert played on was “A Life in Music.” If you haven’t heard it, the song is about the life of a guitar—from pinecone to guitar then back to the earth. I wrote it in a trance. One of those I channeled from beyond. It’s a “companion song” to a short story I eventually wrote by the same name, originally published in, Paul Zollo’s magnificent online journal of the arts. He published both the story and the song. (Recently, Dime Show Review, another online literary journal, published a story and companion song of mine, Harold Examiner—but I digress.) When I sang the part (in a British accent, “Proudly displayed with those he’d collected, but I didn’t feel special—I just felt neglected…”) about the rock star collector of guitars (the bad guy in the song and story), Albert’s lovely wife Karen laughed and said, “Ooh! That’s us!”
The acoustic guitar has always been part of my soul (“I first heard it on the radio, a solitary symphony, I didn’t know exactly what it was but it had something to do with me. It wasn’t till I was five years old when I found out that that thing, was 20 frets on a wooden box with Six Steel Strings…”). I’ve included at least one song about a guitar on every one of my three albums. In the 80s, I felt the folk music I loved was well on the way to extinction, so I focused on becoming an instrumentalist. My goal was to marry the delicious acoustic textures of Leo Kottke with the arpeggiated pyrotechnics of Al Di Meola. I used, and continue to use, heavy gauge fingerpicks and a plastic thumbpick for this purpose. I wear the fingerpicks straight out—not curved, as most do—so I can arpeggiate, flamenco style. It’s a signature technique for me. For a while I dreamed of doing a Keith Jarrett-type-thing, where I’d improvise free-form as opposed to creating permanent compositions. I probably could have pulled that off—but suddenly, at the end of the 80s, the great coffeehouse renaissance happened. The Robert Morgan Fisher Köln Concerts would have to wait.
Songs with lyrics were back; artists were telling stories again. My friends in the LA folk scene included Dan BernJohn Andrew Parks and my producer Chad Watson. Also Darryl Purpose, who shares my passion for soaring fingerstyle guitar.  I’d always been a literary kind of fellow, so I put aside the dreams of being an instrumentalist and got serious about writing songs again.
And yet, the guitar remained my “secret narcotic” as John Fahey describes it in the introduction to his 1978 book, The Best of John Fahey. The lengthy essay is wildly funny and politically-incorrect by today’s standards, but well worth reading. I continued practicing scales and music theory, but one thing that never changed for me was my love affair with tone. Leo Kottke has been quoted as saying: “My whole thing is tone.  That’s more than enough for me.  I can listen to a beginner and have my mind blown if he has good tone.” In another interview he said this about guitars: “I don’t care if a top warps or braces fall out.  The only thing that matters is if it sounds good and is playable.” Amen to that.

For flatpicking, I’ve long used the now defunct-unavailable Jim Dunlop Strummer. It is seven flatpicks rolled into one. My recording and performing guitar of choice, btw, is a 1986 Martin D-28S—a real cannon, i.e. loud. The Jim Dunlop Strummer makes any six string sound like the most in-tune 12-string you’ve ever heard. I gave one to Dan Bern and he covets it. He calls it his “voodoo pick.” The late great Richie Havens used and endorsed the Jim Dunlop Strummer. If you find a box of them, please contact me—I’ll gladly take them off your hands.

Which leads us back to Fahey. In his aforementioned essay, he notes that early 20th century folk music was primarily dance music: syncopated and LOUD. Even the cheapest guitars back then were solid-wood instruments. The music was played in juke joints or barn dances, as part of orchestras—so people could dance. Every grain in a solid wood instrument is like a reed—these “reeds” bend easier the longer and louder you play them. That’s why a Roy Smeck model dreadnaught from the 1930s will stun you with its tone and volume. Jackson Browne plays one of these, as does my friend, occasional sideman and composer John O’ Kennedy.

Plywood guitars came about when Japan got into the game. The only way guitars could survive the journey across the ocean in the damp, cold hold of a ship was if they were laminated. But laminated guitars don’t improve with age and have mediocre tone. Not all Japanese guitars are plywood, however, some are quite fine. My pal, Rick Wild, of the Wild Mountain Mystics, has been known to play an ancient, dried-out Yamaha 6-string that sounds very nice. And I’ve seen Dewey Bunnell one of my childhood heroes in the group America playing “Horse With No Name” on TV with a Yamaha. Which was shocking to see, since the acoustic guitar work on all their early albums was so gorgeous. (Interesting to note Gerry Beckley playing a heavenly Martin 12-string in that same video alongside Dewey’s Yamaha.) So even though I own and play a Martin and other handmade guitars, I’m not a gear snob. It all comes down to tone. I’m with Leo on that.

In early 2014, I was rear-ended by a commercial vehicle on Kanan Road. I was stopped in traffic and this truck skidded through a red light and hit me hard. I have other songwriter friends struggling with similar challenges, including James HurleyMark Humphreys and Tom Kell. I send them all healing thoughts and magical energy on a daily basis.

Three spinal surgeries later, I’m once again able to play guitar. My gratitude for this is unbounded. Post-surgery meds helped me get through the pain—at least until I could transition back to my lifelong secret narcotic, the guitar.

Thank you for reading!
I want to thank all the writers and photographers who share their time and talent as well as all you readers of the Songwriter’s Square Newsletter.We are all doing our best and hope you continue to enjoy the monthly musings.

Now get out there and see some live local music!

Much love,