Author of the book Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, Shelly Peiken, spoke with Argonaut Online about her book, the changes that the writing process seems to have taken, and more! Read an excerpt of the interview below and let us know your thoughts on the interview in the comments section below.
“Hit songwriter” sounds oxymoronic, considering the process by which commercial pop songs are frequently constructed. But Shelly Peiken belongs to that echelon of “career songwriters” who’ve made a living crafting songs for other artists.
“I was actively getting up every day and writing and pitching to artists,” she recalls, estimating that she would write or co-write 30 songs a year. The sassy writer’s best-known cuts are “Bitch” (Meredith Brooks), “Who You Are” (Jessie J), “Almost Doesn’t Count” (Brandy), “What a Girl Wants” and “Come on Over” (Christina Aguilera).
A short list of other artists for whom she’s composed includes Aaliyah, Natasha Bedingfield, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Miley Cyrus, Celine Dion, Selena Gomez, Gladys Knight, Lisa Loeb, Reba McEntire, the Pretenders, Britney Spears, Keith Urban, and the cast of “Glee.”
Now, 25 years into her career, Peiken has become choosier in her projects. As she spells out in her witty, compulsively readable book “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter,” she still joyfully sings along at the top of her lungs to songs she hears on her car radio.
But something fundamental has shifted in the way mainstream pop music is created, largely as a consequence of technological changes that continue to rewire the industry.
The thrill of connecting with a song that perfectly encapsulates the listener’s own circumstances — that three-minute rush that addicted Peiken to songs and songwriting in the first place — is rooted in very human experience.
She writes poignantly about how the Beatles and singer-songwriters such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon “were all able to reach a place inside of me with their self-examination, honesty, incongruities, longings and whimsical pleasures.”
But when songs are treated as templates with interchangeable parts, rather than as vehicles for meaningful personal expression, their capacity to connect deeply with listeners is undercut, which in turn shortens their shelf life.
That lack of relationship between co-writers — the trust-building collaboration Peiken dubs “SongSex” — affects the quality of music and disenfranchises songwriters from the process of song creation, she argues.
To read the full interview click HERE.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton”, was asked by by The New York Times about his favorite books, and we at Applause Books are honored that he included Everything Was Possible, by Ted Chapin. Read the article below to learn more!
The star and creator of the musical “Hamilton” says “Things Fall Apart” was his favorite book to teach at Hunter College High School: “The kids walk out of the classroom as different people.”
What books are currently on your night stand?
“The Wayfinders,” by Wade Davis; “Between Riverside and Crazy,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis; and “Unabrow,” by Una LaMarche.
What’s the last great book you read?
The last great book I read was catching up on “Saga,” the graphic novel series. An incredible world in which to get lost.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
Too many to list, really, not that I won’t try: Junot Díaz, Liz Gilbert, Patrick Rothfuss, Wesley Morris, Michael Chabon, Martín Espada, Sarah Kay. . . . I mean, I better quit while I’m ahead.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I’m a biography buff. My favorite book growing up was “Chuck Amuck,” by Chuck Jones. I think I bought it as a kid because of the included flip-book: flip the pages, and Wile E. Coyote chases the Road Runner down the margins of the page. But it’s also one of the most beautiful books about the creative process I’ve ever read. Grabbing Chernow’s Hamilton bio rather famously changed my life, but I’ve also gotten lost in the works of Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Caro. Agassi’s astounding autobiography and David Foster Wallace’s Federer essay turned me into an avid tennis fan. Once I’ve spent some time in someone else’s life, it’s hard to shake.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
I’m most in awe of novelists, who move sets, lights, scenery, and act out all the parts in your mind for you. My kind of writing requires collaboration with others to truly ignite. But I think of Dickens, or Cervantes, or Márquez, or Morrison, and I can describe to you the worlds they paint and inhabit. To engender empathy and create a world using only words is the closest thing we have to magic.
What are the best books ever written about the theater? Do you have a personal favorite?
“Act One,” by Moss Hart. “Everything Was Possible,” by Ted Chapin. The “Rent” book. Patti LuPone’s autobiography — bring popcorn for that last one. Also, the Maya Angelou autobio that chronicles her touring with “Porgy & Bess” — I haven’t read it since high school, but her evocation of that experience has stayed with me.
Read the rest of the article HERE.
Elliott Landy, author of The Band Photographs 1968-1969, was interviewed by the Hudson Valley Magazine! Elliott speaks with writer for the Hudson Valley Magazine, Mary Forsell, about why he decided to put the book together and working with The Band. Read below for an excerpt of the interview, and let us know your thought in the comments below.
Born in 1942, he started off as a complete unknown who published photos of Vietnam War protests in underground newspapers. When his work caught the eye of rock manager Albert Grossman (whose client list included Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Peter, Paul and Mary, among others), photographer Elliott Landy suddenly had access to the biggest names in the rock and roll industry. In the ’60s, he took hundreds of thousands of photographs of rock music icons like Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix; he was also the official photographer for the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Now this legendary lensman has released The Band Photographs: 1968-1969 (Backbeat Books), a new book that is chockablock with some 200 photos, many of which have never been seen before. The book chronicles the intense year and a half that the group spent in the Saugerties-Woodstock area working on its first two albums. We caught up with Landy and asked him to share his thoughts on that incendiary period and its resonance today, as well as his love for his adopted hometown of Woodstock.
How did the photo sessions with the Band come about?
I was living in New York City and becoming a photographer, learning the craft and how to make money from it. I was asked to come [to Woodstock] and photograph the Band for the Music From Big Pink album. Albert Grossman, the Band’s manager, asked me. The album and the group didn’t have a name. First, they wanted to be anonymous. They didn’t want to label themselves with any particular “cutesy name” — they used that term. They wanted to remain free to change the kind of music they were playing. The Band was living in West Saugerties in a house they dubbed Big Pink. [Lead guitarist and songwriter] Robbie Robertson and his wife, Dominique, lived in Woodstock in another house by themselves.
How did the sessions work?
I went to Big Pink on Easter Sunday weekend in 1968. I was a fly on the wall. I don’t work conceptually at all; I try not to think about what I’m doing. I bring my camera and take pictures of whatever the person is offering up. I let the dance happen. There was no schedule, it was very casual.
What’s your favorite photo from the book?
One great photo is of them sitting on a bench in front of a pond [left]. You don’t know who they are. I didn’t set it up.
How did you come up with that iconic sepia image of the Band standing in a field?
After two shoots I’d gotten to know them, and I really liked and respected and admired them; I felt they were wise people. They were very grounded, and, in a way, very old-fashioned, polite. I had a book of Civil War-era photographs by Mathew Brady. I just felt that that style of photography was who they were. Once I established that, I had to analyze the mind space of 1860, what photography was like then. When the photographer came around, the people respected him, and got dressed up and faced the camera and focused on it. I explained it to them, you have to stand straight and pay attention and act like it’s very important and very unusual — like you haven’t seen a camera before.
Read the entire article HERE!
Elliott Landy, author of The Band Photographs 1968-1969, spoke with the Poughkeepsie Journal about his book. Elliott Landy goes into detail about why he decided to release the photos, how long it took to produce, and more! Below is an excerpt of his interview, read what else he had to say and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Beauty, harmony and composition. That is the essence of the work of acclaimed photographer Elliott Landy, known for his iconic images of the underground rock scene in New York City during 1967 and the anti-Vietnam War movement that sparked a schism in the establishment and counterculture movement of that time. And then there was a certain music and arts festival in 1969 called Woodstock that took place in the hills of Sullivan County, where Landy, who was an official photographer for the fest, documented a music scene that defined a generation. A Woodstock resident himself, Landy photographed Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Band, among others during those short two years. The latter is the subject of his latest endeavor, a gallery-quality book of some unpublished and classic photographs of The Band, whose members also called Woodstock home. The photographer recently took the time to talk to the Journal about his new book.
Tell us about the photographs in “The Band Photographs: 1968-1969” and why you decided to release them now?
It’s a collection of the really good photographs that I took back in those years. And by really good, I mean, in my opinion. In those years, there wasn’t so much electronic media as there is now, and in order to publish a picture it had to be accepted by a magazine or published in a book. If I had taken those pictures today, three quarters of them would have been out there on the Internet already. People are hungry for that. If the record album company didn’t use them, they had no use for them. And if there was a magazine article, they would use maybe 20 total for all possible media. Over half of them were never seen before, except by me, as I walked back and forth in my studio, looking at the boxes. I used to look at them every so often and think – these are really nice pictures. Not because they were of The Band; I felt they were good photographs which just happened to be of these guys.
What is the story you want these photographs to tell to readers?
Beauty — I wanted to share the feeling of who The Band was, and the harmony and composition of the images show that. The content is almost secondary, it’s part of the decision to show the picture or not. I’m interested in showing a beautifully composed image and that affects you inside. In today’s world, in my opinion, the idea of harmony in a photo is almost ignored.
How long did it take to produce the new book?
It took about two years for it to come out. I had mentioned it to publishers, and told them the way I wanted to do this book, but there was never any interest. I had 12,000 negatives and slides. I realized that with Kickstarter it would be possible to do it my way. My experience with book publishers is like a see-saw – up and down. I never had a bad experience, but it was never “my book.” I wanted to make an art gallery quality book – what you have in your hands is that. I raised $193,000 from Kickstarter — the highest funded photo book in Kickstarter history. It took that much and more to get this done the way I wanted it.
Were there any revelatory moments putting together the photographs? What stands out most?
The process of doing it and the success I had doing it. In theory, I knew what I wanted to do. One picture to a page – opposing pages – no text or page numbers. What I do is create visual harmony. I wanted people to be able to immerse themselves in the photographs. I didn’t know for certain that I had done it until I saw the printed book and then thought, this is fabulous.
Why did you decide to use a trifold sheet instead of a regular index and captions on the photos?
I decided not to put captions or page numbers on the same page as full-page photos because they would take people away from the power of a pure visual experience. The captions are in the back of the book. I also added a fold-out sheet (trifold sheet) to the Deluxe and Signature editions so that readers would not have to go back and forth to see the caption information while reading the book.
Read the full article HERE.
Author of Business Basics for Musicians, Bobby Borg, has teamed up with Music Insider Magazine as a guest author on their page! You can’t avoid getting older, that’s what author Bobby Borg wants you to know, but there are some ways to deal with the age discrimination that may occur in the music business. Read below to see what more Bobby Borg had to say!
Although age can be a sensitive subject for most musicians, you must accept that there’s a general prejudice against aging in the commercial music industry. Generally speaking, the industry views music as a youth-oriented business. While this might totally infuriate you, be sure that age discrimination can be overcome by reading these five tips.
1. Understand the Rationale: The idea is that a musician’s life expectancy in the pop, rock, R&B, and rap genres parallels that of an athlete’s career span in the sports world. As you approach the age of thirty-five, your chances of succeeding have significantly diminished.
While this is somewhat paradoxical, since musicians’ skills tend only to improve with age and experience, understand that most larger record companies rely heavily on youth, vitality, and sex appeal to sell music. They also prefer signing younger acts that, if successful, can bring them a return on their initial investment for several years to come. Be clear that these companies are businesses just like any other, and bottom line profits comes first and foremost.
Read the entire article HERE.
Andy Babiuk, author of Beatles Gear – The Ultimate Edition, spoke with Music Radar about his book and how he came about certain instruments.
The original Beatles Gear book was published back in 2001 and, over the past decade-and-a-half, it’s become the go-to bible for anyone with an interest in the extensive equipment the Fab Four dabbled with during their incredible albeit brief career.
The new expanded Ultimate Edition, which has recently hit the shops, provides fascinating new interviews, 650 new and previously unpublished photos and a slew of surprising recent gear-related discoveries that author Andy Babiuk has helped uncover.
One astounding addition to Beatles Gear is the inclusion of John Lennon’s original 1962 Gibson J-160E acoustic, which had been lost for over 50 years. This was the guitar that Lennon wrote many of The Beatles’ early hits on before it was stolen in December 1963 at the Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park, London.
“This one happened last summer when a guy contacted me on the phone,” explains Andy, “I get a lot of people calling and emailing with stuff but 99% of the time, it’s nothing or just nonsense.
“Anyway, this guy said, ‘My friend’s got John Lennon’s J-160E’. So I was like, ‘Hey, right, okay… well, send me the picture’ and sure enough, he sends the picture and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to talk to this guy!’
“The grain looked similar. It belonged to some guy in San Diego who bought it for 175 bucks after he got out of Vietnam in ’69 or something. It was just his personal guitar ever since. When I examined it personally, the grain was an exact match: it was John Lennon’s J-160E.
“No-one knows how it made it out of England and made it to Southern California but that’s just one of the wacky stories that are in this book.” [NB. Since we chatted to Andy, the guitar sold for a staggering $2.4 million at auction.]
Read the entire article over Music Radar!