Songwriter's Square

Songwriter’s Square Newsletter – July 2016

four-photo collage poster for Bill Berry's Songwriter's Square July 17, 2016

The Force of July

In this issue: Brian Woodbury, LA Music Lab, Video Tips, Carly Simon, Brandy Clark, Gig Guide and more!

July 17th Songwriter’s Square features three incredible Los Angeles songwriters as they about their music and perform their songs in an intimate “in-the-square” setting.
Third great year!

SHELLY PEIKEN – multi-platinum Grammy nominated songwriter who is best known for her #1 hits “What a Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby”. Grammy nomination for the song “Bitch” recorded by Meredith Brooks. She’s had hundreds of songs placed on albums, and in TV and film. Her new book, “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter” is out now!

MICHELLE LEWIS – Peabody award-winning songwriter. She’s had numerous cuts from her first radio hit, Cher’s A Different Kind of Love Song in 2002, to last years worldwide number 1 single Wings by the British girl group, Little Mix. Songs by Katherine McPhee, Shawn Colvin, classical trio Il Voloand many more!

CHE ZURO – Former LA rocker now performing in her home state of Utah, Che is in town for a limited engagement. From Kim Fowley’s post Runawaysall-girl band, The Orchids (Mercury Records) to stints with Phil Seymour, Josie Cotton, Berlin, Charlie Sexton, Population 5 and more, she has great songs and great stories!

With your host, Bill Berry!

Songs, stories and surprises with three terrific songwriters
and one mediocre host!
Don’t wait! Order your tickets online NOW! CLICK HERE
You get 20% off your online purchase with the discount code ‘song’
Songwriter’s Square
Sunday, July 17th
Seating at 6:30PM – Show starts at 7:00PM (sharp!)
Always at the Lyric-Hyperion Theatre and Cafe 
in Silverlake, 2106 Hyperion, LA, CA 90027
But wait! There’s more!

montage of musician photos and Bill Berry Awkward Stage album cover

What’s Happening…
by Bill Berry
Send some love to the Tall Men Group’s Jimmy Yessian. He’s on the mend… We had a great response to our Benefit for Bob Stane and the Coffee Gallery Backstage. Many came to see Bill Burnett, Richard Byford and Bill Berry and his Band with all proceeds going to Bob and CGB. Loads of folks also donated money to the Paypal webpage as well, which is HERE if you’re so inclined.  James Lee Stanley is hosting another benefit show for the venue on Saturday, July 9th, at the Coffee Gallery. Featuring Paul Barrere, Stephen Bishop, Lauren Adams, Kiki Ebsen, and Lori Lieberman, the show will surely be an incredible event, and at only $20 a great way to be part of the solution. It’s a matinee, from 2 – 5PM, so no reason not to go! RSVP at (626) 798-6236 and pay (cash or checks only) at the door… Shannon Hurley just finished her new video for Heartbeat on the Radio. The launch will be July 15th. More info HERE… John M. has a regular Thursday night gig at theHayaty Cafe in North Hollywood. Well done John!… 
The Sound of Silence?
by Craig LincolnIn 1951, avant-garde musician John Cage wanted to hear total silence.  He arranged to be placed in the Boston University anechoic chamber – a totally soundproofed room with specially designed acoustic baffles to completely absorb all sound.Cage found he could not hear silence — two tones became clearly audible.  The engineers explained that the low tone was the sound of the blood coursing through his veins; the high tone was the sound of his own nervous system in operation.Cage was deeply influenced by Zen teaching which often makes use ofkoans, so here’s a riff on Zen’s most well-known example:  “What is thegroove of one hand clapping?”  
Or as my seventh-grade band director, Mr. Moe, told us: “Play the rests!”  Even though there is apparently no such thing as silence, it doesn’t mean those spaces between the notes aren’t important.We’re all pretty good about picking the strings in rhythm, but what about stopping them?  Wouldn’t the rhythmic feel be enhanced if successive sounds not only landed in time, but the spaces between them started and ended rhythmically as well?

Set your metronome to 72 bpm.  Rest your playing hand on the guitar one finger on each of strings 1-4, thumb on string 5, and finger an open ‘C’ chord.  Play those five notes as block chord quarter notes by plucking all strings simultaneously, on the beat, four chords to a measure.  Now shift your listening to the spaces between the chords.  Notice how the “silence” begins with the percussive placement of the fingers for the next chord and ends with the fingers releasing the strings?  Can you feel how the “silences” — kept evenly in rhythm — add to the pulse?

Play through several chord changes in time like this, keeping the rhythm steady, and I believe you’ll find some new rhythmic ideas emerging.

Music, Lyrics and Pictures by…
by Diana WeynandDo you think about creating a music video? Great idea! Just do it, your Nike brain yells! But what type of music video should you create and why? Here are three easy targets.If you want more gigs, you’ll need to upload videos of you playing your music in real time for real people to show how you connect with an audience. A Bill Berry blogger, Todd Lincoln Richards, shot lots of performances and, over time, built a pretty impressive library on YouTube. If you’re drawn to being an auteur (director), you might create a high-budget narrative video, complete with actors acting out the storyline of your song (“I Drive Your Truck).”Another (much cheaper) option is to edit still images to your song. This can be done at home on your computer. No actors need apply. Recently, I created this type of video as a tribute to the Emanuel Nine who were killed in Charleston a year ago. In my song, “I Will Rise”, I named the individuals who died. But with video, I could show pictures of them as well. And seeing them next to those who mourned their loss is pretty intense. In truth, images help people remember much more than the song itself because pictures add another layer of meaning that you can’t always express in words. So take a look and see how powerful this kind of video can be. Then make one yourself!
Recording at Edward’s
by Tracy NewmanEdward Auslender has a studio in Culver City called LA Music Lab. It’s a separate little bungalow at his residence. I’ve been recording children’s  songs there for about 5 years. My first CD, 18 songs all recorded at Edward’s, is “I Can Swing Forever,” and now we’re finishing up my second one, “Shoebox Town.” Pictured here are the brilliant singer/songwriters, Eric Schwartz and Anna Montgomery, creating unpredictable, stunning back-up vocals for me, with Edward at the helm.I first met Edward in Harriet Schock’s songwriting class and decided to give his studio a try. I’ve been working there ever since. At first I was drawn to the fact that Edward was not only talented, but he’s French, which I felt might lend a cool, foreign flavor to my music. As it turned out, I got that and way more. Edward is fun to work with, flexible, fast, full of ideas, and devoted to my projects. He makes me sound good. He’s a true collaborator, much more so than I am. And he’s so very easy going. A quality you don’t always find in record producers. Also, he’s available. By that I mean — he manages his time well, and I can always reach him. Edward Auslender makes recording an enjoyable process.LA Music Lab is located in Culver City just off the 10 Fwy. Contact Edward at (310) 736-5483 for a tour and more information. – BB
New Releases
Brandy Clark
Big Day In A Small Town
by Steve WagnerIf you were lucky enough to discover 12 Stories, Brandy Clark’s 2014 debut, you likely wondered why the hell she wasn’t a star, with stunning songs like “Pray to Jesus” and “Stripes” in heavy rotation on country radio. (Songwriter’s Square host Bill Berry hipped me to it.)The songs on 12 Stories are proverbial three-minute movies but not just some direct-to-DVD flicks; each one is like an Oscar winner for Best Picture. 12 Stories is so lyrically vivid, character-rich and breathtakingly well-constructed that if it were a person, I’d buy him/her a sandwich (at least).If you’re not familiar, Clark actually isa star in the songwriting world, having co-written big country hits like “Mama’s Broken Heart” for mega-star Miranda Lambert and “Better Dig Two” for The Band Perry. Her Wikipedia page says that her songs are about “the seedy underbelly” of country people but that’s an oversimplification. While she does lean on country stereotypes at times, she and her co-writers are truly artists, rendering their characters and stories from the inside, with empathy and insight, rather than merely hacking for a punch line.The result is three-dimensional portraits that even people who “don’t like country music” will be able to feel: the hopeless housewife who smokes dope to cope in “Get High” or the lonely barfly wresting with memories in “In Some Corner.” She skewers prescription drug abuse in “Take Another Pill” and explains where “Illegitimate Children” come from in the song of the same name.

If 12 Stories doesn’t kill you, buddy…you might already be dead. The good news is that her follow-up, Big Day in a Small Town, will kill you all over again.

Where 12 Stories was written and performed largely in the style of classic country (which might explain why none of its singles charted), several of Big Day’s songs are updated with a tasteful modern country feel that supports rather than detracts from the songs.

It has plenty of the aforementioned “seedy underbelly”-type of songs that have been her Music Row calling card but the stand-out tunes—“You Can Come Over,” “Love Can Go to Hell,” and Since You’ve Gone to Heaven”—are slow or mid-tempo love songs.

I don’t want to spoil your experience of Big Day in a Small Town, so I am not going to quote any of its lyrics but I will say that lyrically, when Clark’s other boot drops, you’re going to respond—with a smile, a “wow,” or a tear. She is so effin’ good, someone should name a bridge after her.

If you like country music, Big Day in a Small Town might be one of the best collections you hear this year.
Listen/Buy HERE.

Gig Guide
July 2016
7/1 – Severin Browne, Lois Blaisch
7/1 – Mason’s Noise Parlour
7/6 –Shane Alexander, GospelbeacH, Dead Rock West, Mapache
7/7 – Rave-Ups, Kimm Rogers, Ted Russel Kamp 
7/8 – Deb Ryder Band
7/9 – Coffee Gallery Benefit w/ James Stanley and more
7/9 – Musical Acting Class – FREE
7/9 – Merrily Weeber, Shanna O’Brien, Severin Browne, Trevor McShane, Blue Dolphins
7/9 – Ed Tree, Cynthia Brando, Tony Gilkyson
7/9 – Fools Logic (Supertramp tribute) 
7/10 – Jaime Michaels
7/14 – Heartbeat Brazil
7/15 – Kerry Patrick Clark and Family
7/15 – Molly Hanmer & The Midnight Tokers, Birdie Jones, King Bee Boys
7/15 – Severin Browne
7/16 – Gary Stockdale
7/16 – Lori Lieberman (SOLD OUT)
7/16 – Suzy Williams
7/19 – Kerry Patrick Clark
7/20 – Escaping Pavement, Kerry Patrick Clark

7/21 – Cherry Bluestorms
7/21 – Gary Kaplan 
7/22 – Bill Berry Record Release Show w/The Records feat. John Wicks, Carla Olson & Todd Wolfe
7/23 – Spork & Foon Review 
7/23 – Live The Dream Fundraiser 
7/24 – Lauri Reimer’s Songwriter Showcase
7/28 – Kevin Fisher, Kat Hopkins, Rob Lindstrom, Dylan BrodyOther Venues
Pasadena Folk Music Society
Coffee Gallery Backstage
Kulak’s Woodshed

photo of Chad Watson, Pam Loe, Mason Summit Donna Lynn Caskey with Bill Berry

Songwriter’s Square – June 19th
by Bill BerrySpecial thank yous go to all who attended last month’s show, featuring (l to r) Chad Watson & Pam Loe, Mason Summit, Donna Lynn Caskey and your fateful host. And what a show!Great discussions about gospel music, appalachian music and the writing process kept the audience enthralled, as did the terrific background vocals and Chad’s soaring guitar and mandolin solos throughout the show. Good friends in the audience included songwriters Cynthia Brando and Phil Ward, producer Hillary Rollins with her daughter Eloise, and lyricist Chana Wise!Check out more pics HERE! The show podcast will be up soon as well for those who missed this one!

Confessions of a Serial Songwriter
#Carly Simon
by Shelly PeikenGiving thanx to those without whom we wouldn’t be who we are today…whether we follow in their footsteps or simply live a life that’s been touched by their contribution.

Read full story HERE.

See Shelly Peiken perform from her amazing song catalog at Songwriter’s Square this month! – BB

Live Review
Brian Woodbury and His Popular Music Group 
by Bill BerryLast month I went to see Brian Woodbury and his Popular Music Group perform at TAIX Restaurant in Silverlake. I spied a number of music lovers from the songwriter scene who were there to support our pal. Cynthia Carle and Christopher Reed, Matthew Levine, Phil Ward (I keep running into him), Suzy WilliamsBradley Bobbs, were all there, to name a few.Brian and his band, Sam Woodburyon lead guitar, Edwin Livingston on bass, Andy Sanesi on drums, and Tulasi Rain singing backing vocals, caromed from one smartly written pop song to the next, with most of the material coming from Brian’s latest, Pay Attention CD. Especially fine were nephew Sam’s guitar playing and the excellent rhythm section.Also a writer of musical theatre, Brian’s lyrics are densely packed with sharp barbs pointed at the things that irk him: the gulf between the classes (Diamond Ring, Diplomatic Plates), the stupidity of the masses (The Real World), and something that affects us music makers, “If I Had A Nickle”, hilariously skewers the hypocrisy of the YouTubes and Pandoras offering what amounts to stolen art for sale. The album is great. The brand new live band is on it’s way.

Opening the show were the wonderful instrumental quartet, Double Naught Spy Car. A hybrid of Zappa/Beefheart, surf music and Saturday Morning Cartoons. Worth looking out for.

And kudos to TAIX for offering free earplugs. For those of us who value our hearing the show was just as great (even better, actually) with a few dB’s off the top.

I’m Not Hearing A Single
How I Write a Song
by Robert Morgan FisherI’m going to steer clear of the anecdotal approach (somewhat) and talk about craft.
How do we write songs? Everyone has a different technique. For the record, the best book on songwriters is my pal Paul Zollo’s Songwriters on Songwriting. There’s a new expanded edition. Nobody does a better interview with famous songwriters than Zollo—who’s a damn good songwriter himself. We have both co-written songs with Darryl Purpose, but in recent years, Darryl has chosen to work exclusively with Paul. The method I’m about to describe was pretty much how Darryl and I worked together. I don’t know what approach Paul and Darryl use. It’s a mystery—much like Darryl himself, who is a world-ranked blackjack player and keeps his cards close to his chest. He’s a conundrum, wrapped in a mystery, lashed together by an enigma.
My songs with Darryl and my songs in general tend to be narrative. I like story songs. I’m a short story writer. That’s my brand. Darryl and I shared a deep abiding love for Harry Chapin. In fact, our first successful co-writes emulated Chapin classics such as Mr. Tanner and Taxi. We wrote a song based on an encounter Darryl had with an aging bicycle repairman. It’s called Mr. Schwinn. We wrote many narratives in this manner.
My method is simple:
  1. First, I put away my guitar. Then I write down the words. Like a prose poem. I polish and revise the words, try to avoid predictable rhymes. My songs are seldom contemplative, navel-gazing or declarative; I like to tell a story. But not always—Anatomy 101, for example, and Follow a Hunch, the title song from my first album, are definitely declarative. A Life In Music and Greenhousefrom my second album are typical RMF story songs. I read the poem out loud, see how it scans. Once I lock the words then…
  2. I still don’t pick up a guitar. I memorize the poem. Go for long walks and recite the prose poem out loud over and over and over. Gradually an appropriate melody begins to suggest itself. Eventually, I’m reciting the entire prose poem as a song: words + melody. I sing it in the shower, while I nap, in my car—until it’s created into certainty, unsullied and unconstrained by the musical masturbation that often occurs when we pick up an instrument. It’s our natural instinct to want to reward the hands and fingers with displays of proficiency. Those “go-to” or “comfort” chords are not the songwriter’s friend.
  3. NOW I grab my guitar. I pick out the melody I created in my head. Then figure out the chords that go with it and the proper key for my voice. I sing it about a hundred times until it feels right. Polish, adjust everything. Needless to say, you have to be a good guitar player or musician to pull this part off.
Why, you may ask, do I not pick up the guitar sooner? Because I want the melody to service the words and the true emotion of the story. If I compose with a guitar in my hand I gravitate towards familiar chords and soon all my songs start sounding the same. To me, the guitar is the final reluctant step in the process; a tool to help me color the melody I created in a pure, organic fashion in my head. It’s the difference between singing to the mic and singing to the audience. The guitar, in the end, gives the composition definition. The best melodies and chords complement lyrics, bring to life the word pictures in my head.
I’ve seen pictures of Dylan writing lyrics on a typewriter. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the words come first for him too.
Then there’s these two guys. Bernie wrote the lyrics, handed them off to Sir Elton.

This is not to say one’s instrument is unimportant. A song written guitar is distinct from a song written on piano in subtle ways. A catchy instrumental riff often anchors a song and is something that can occur to me while I’m doing the initial poem memorization. Recent examples of this in my own work are KissingerAngel Within and Jester King. All three of these songs from my 2012 album, Notes for a Novel, started out as prose poems and during the memorization process, as melody began to crystallize, the guitar riffs and turnarounds suggested themselves as strongly as words themselves.

I’ve got about 40 songs across three albums. I like them all. Still play them in concert and they still get airplay, generating meager royalties (Thanks for nothing, Spotify). That’s three albums over 18 years, about one every six years. Flannery O’Connor’s total short story output was surprisingly small, despite the fact she died young. We now know she took about 6-8 months to write a single short story. Perhaps this was due to her health limitations—but I don’t think so. I think she knew perfection and demanded it. By the time I recorded all my songs I’d sometimes spent several years polishing them. They have not changed since I recorded them, which is significant. What I play in public is what you’ll hear on the record, minus the guest stars like Albert Lee, Dean Parks, Janis Ianand Rosemary Butler.

In the end, each songwriter does what feels right. The most important thing, I think, is to write the kind of song you like. Fill a perceived need in your soul. Write your favorite song of all time, one you’ll never get sick of playing.

The trick is to write a song that, while listening to a recording of it, you forget for a second you wrote it—then suddenly realize: this is mycreation. My child, in whom I am well-pleased.

Thank you for reading.
I sincerely hope you can join me for my record release show on July 22nd, or Songwriter’s Square on July 19th. I’ll also be at Vicki Abelson‘s WomenWhoWrite on Tuesday, July 26th!And if not one of my shows, then someone on the Gig Guide or anywhere else you may find a voice with a song.Wishing you a happy and safe Independence Day and all of July.
Much love,

Copyright © 2016 Bill Berry Music, All rights reserved.