MATT FEDDERMANN

FeddermannHow did your love affair with rock & roll begin? As a kid listening to Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, Jerry Lee and more on 104.3 the oldies station in Chicago. My Dad was/is a big oldies fan and that radio station was all he ever listened to. “Smoke on the Water,” “Wild Thing” or “Iron Man” are the first songs most guitarists learn. Mine was “That’ll Be The Day” and “It’s So Easy”.

What were the first three albums you ever purchased and which of those holds up best today to you? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Run DMC Raising Hell and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood. Thriller holds up best to me, hands down.

When did you start writing songs and how do they ‘come together’ for you most often? 7th/8th grade with my very first band, Vertigo. Songs come in many ways. Sometimes I’ll be driving a melody with pop in my head, or, I’ll hear a phrase that I like and will write a song around it. Sometimes, I’ll be jamming with other musicians and we write the music and then lyrics will follow.

You’ve managed to carve out a nice niche on the north shore by being a respected ‘jack of all trades’, how has your business model evolved over the past few years ?  My business model hasn’t changed all that much. With the internet and all of the social media resources as my disposal, communicating with fans is much easier on one hand and on the other takes three times as long. I literally work all day to book shows, promote shows, create content to increase my brand awareness, etc..

What advice do you give to young bands trying to build a following and, in turn, get better gigs? A few thing. The BIGGEST thing is to be friendly and outgoing. I try to meet as many people at gigs as possible. Anytime someone gives me a tip, a compliment, a thumbs up, a high five, anything, I make sure to introduce myself and ask them their name. A 30 second engagement can mean a new long term fan. Your fans can be and are your biggest promoters. The more people that come to your shows, the better the bigger the gigs will grow, the more opportunities will open up along with making more money.

Do you have to become Facebook (say hey to Matt) exhibitionists to play the game?  If you are not on social media, you are at a severe disadvantage. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. Ever walk into a bar to play a gig and everyone is staring at their phones and not you. Chances are they are on one of the previously mentioned sites. Get your “b(r)and” in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A large number of the population spends hours a day staring at their electronic device.

Years ago it seemed as if the Chicago music media shunned artists / bands that came out of the north shore as if they didn’t deserve the coverage; in fact many bands sought to hide the fact so they weren’t labeled as ‘rich brats: does this hold true at all today? Ya know, the scene is so much different these days. Music oriented local Chicago media has shrunk considerably in the last 10 years. Local Anesthetic on WXRT is only 30 minutes on Sunday nights (does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore?). Illinois Entertainer only seems to cover the south and western suburbs. Cover bands are a PLENTY these days.

In Chicago, much as in NYC, often musicians get put in one category or another: either your a working musician or an artist…. Is one the dream job and the other vehicle? I’ve been struggling with that for YEARS and I think I’ve finally found a balance. I have two very different song writing styles. One of very acoustic based and the other electric guitar/keys/synth based. I market them differently. I do my acoustic singer/songwriter originals and covers thing in the suburbs where you can make money and use some of that money to pay for my “original artist” project called Monsoons. I keep specific email and facebook lists that are geographically based. I rarely send updates regarding my acoustic covers thing to gatekeepers and decision makers in Chicago and abroad, I send them Monsoons updates. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of time, but, it’s doable. My gigs at local restaurants and bars in the burbs has paid for the recording sessions & music video first few Monsoons songs. In fact, producer/mix wizard Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Plain White T’s) is mixing the first single. – Matt Feddermann

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ANNA P.S.

houseshow_jameskornphotographyWhen did you get the music bug ?  I don’t know if it started as a bug.  My parents made my siblings and I all take piano lessons and we had to play a band instrument as well.  I think I started piano when I was around 7 years old, and I started playing flute when I was in 5th grade.  I don’t remember not being able to read sheet music, that’s how ingrained it feels in my life.  I went through certain ages where I was mad at my parents for making me take lessons and making me practice, but I’m grateful that I’ve always had music to fall back on when I’ve had nothing else, or no one else.

When I was in college, I found myself pretty miserable when I didn’t have time for music, so I figured out how to make time for it.  I was probably better at it then than I am now.  I took a few classical guitar lessons when I was in college.  It’s something that I have always wanted to play, but always thought would be too challenging.  It still is challenging, but that’s probably good for me.

Who are your ‘core’ favorite artists ? Maybe it’s just because I feel like I need role models, or I’m trying to emulate them, but I really love women who are singer-songwriters.  Corrine Bailey Rae, Eva Cassidey, Lisa Hannigan, Abigail Washburn, Tracy Chapman.  I also love folk and bluegrass, which I never thought would happen, but when I started to run sound for folk bands, the musicianship blew me away and I was hooked.

These probably don’t influence me as far as writing goes, but I really like Ratatat, Beats Antique, Sufjan Stevens and Noah Gunderson, to name a few. I grew up in a pretty conservative home and we weren’t really allowed to listen to music (kind of ironic, I know).  I grew up listening to the Nutcracker and Psalty the Singing Songbook.  I’m still discovering music that my peers listened to years ago.

What was your first concert and what strikes you about it now?  I’m not sure if you want me to tell you about all of the band concerts my siblings played in.  I was pretty young and I fell asleep a lot, ha.  I often was more interested in playing then I was in listening.  The first show that I went to as an adult was to see the Flaming Lips in the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.  Marnie Stern opened for them, another great role model.  What comes to mind is that it was like magic, and I don’t know how else to describe it.  I think that’s what it is, when it comes down to it.  We go to musical shows because we want to feel the magic that is part of this world; we lose a hold of that sometimes when we’re distracted with living our everyday lives, at least I know that I do.

What was your first public performance and how did it go?  As an adult, my first public performance was as a senior in college.  You could put on an event called an Hour After.  It was a sit down affair; students would dress up, drink coffee and eat dessert.  It was a really amazing experience because I had never collaborated with that many people before, or led something like that.  I think I got together 10-12 people, some of who were good friends, and some of who I barely knew.  I didn’t know anything about putting together a show, orchestrating music, or asking people what to do musically.  It was a blast.  I think people enjoyed it, but I don’t really remember now.  I wish I kept better track of those things, because it feels important now.

Anna 2What perspective does being a pro sound man (woman) and working with so many acts live contribute to your feelings or /philosophy about ‘the stage’ as an artist in your own right?  The biggest impact it’s had on my mentality is to always be kind to your sound people/stage hands.  They are usually trying their hardest; the ones that aren’t won’t be working for long anyway.  I try to be kind to people anyway, but I have run into many musicians who are downright rude, and don’t treat you like a person.  If you treat me like that, I am not going to help you sound good.  That said, the majority of musicians I’ve had the chance to work with have been really gracious and appreciative of the work that happens behind the scenes for their show to go smoothly.  In short, kindness will always get you further than a bad attitude, or bossing people around to try and get their respect. Also, I would much rather be backstage than onstage.

Side note:  I refer to myself as the ‘sound guy’, because that’s who people are always asking for.  I was called ‘the sound lady’, affectionately, while I was running sound for the metal/hardcore scene in Goshen.

How do songs ‘happen’ for you as a songwriter?  The best songwriting has worked for me is when I’m doing it everyday.  I write a lot of crap songs, but I believe that quantity leads to quality.  Always, if inspiration doesn’t find me working, then I’m not going to get a good song out of it.  That said, I should practice what I preach.  The hardest part for me is finishing songs.  I get a lot of ideas and have many more finished songs than I do finished ones.  I used to journal a lot and I’m trying to get back into it.  A lot of the time, I jot down thoughts, or feelings that I’m struggling with, and sometimes they later develop into lives of their own with songs of their own.

What’s up with your band Shiny Shiny Black these days?  I played with Shiny Shiny Black for about three years.  We dubbed it ‘coffeehouse rock and roll’, mostly because we play electric guitars, but quiet enough to play in a coffee shop.  SSB has definitely been a big part of my musical experience.  It got me on the stage, even when I didn’t want to, got me playing my electric guitar, when I wasn’t sure that’s the guitar or kind of music I wanted to play, and gave me an amazing group of people to collaborate and create with.  I didn’t do any writing for SSB, that was all Nate Butler.  I refer to it as ‘Nate’s band’, because it is.  It’s his vision, his dream and his songs.  I feel as though there is little better than helping other actualize their dreams.

I toured with Nate and Amber, and their toddler to Nashville, St. Louis and back again.  They took a break to add another little when, and when they returned, it made sense for them and for me to not continue being part of SSB at this time.  It’s a little sad when I hear songs play on the radio, or that I don’t get to hang out with Nate and Amber every week, but it’s giving me the time to work on my own projects, both musical and visual art, as well as giving more time to developing as an audio engineer.

How is the approach different writing for sway them versus your own ‘voice’?  I’m honestly afraid to collaboratively write.  Maybe it’s just because I haven’t really tried it.  I’m a very private person, which I find slightly ironic.  It’s hard for me to get up on stage and share because it’s not an act for me, it’s just who I am.  Therefore, what I write is really personal.  It’s taken me awhile to become comfortable with sharing my music, but they few people I have shared it with have asked me to, so I’m trying to do that to a wider audience.  I think I’m afraid that someone will hear one of my songs sometime and realize it’s about them.

houseshow_posterpossibilitySo many artists pigeon-hole themselves by clinging to tightly to an indie image / vibe to appear sufficiently counter-culture enough to be have credibility with hipsters but are you comfortable with being a huge, national pop star?  If there was an image I wanted to uphold, it would be authenticity.  For me, playing music isn’t really about how many people come out to hear me play, where I get the opportunity to play, or who I’m getting to play with.  The reason that I started writing music is because I felt alone, and unseen.  That’s not really something I struggle with right now, but there are a lot of very human things I struggle with constantly.  What I want when people listen to my music and hear me play, is I want them to feel that they are seen, that they are not alone in their struggles, that there is hope in this often dark world.  Maybe that sounds idealistic, but I’m pretty sure that’s the point of art.  I never thought about being a huge, national, pop star because I think that people don’t want that much honesty in popular music, in a popular stage presence.  I want to be who I am on stage and I want to invite everyone who listens to be who they are, fully, and accept that.

You are offered one wish from a legit Genie with actual powers but it must involve your music career: You consider carefully and offer her the following humble request:  I want my music to have meaning.  I want it to speak to people.  I want it to invite people to dig a little deeper, to have hope, to pursue dreams.   ~ Anna P.S

BRAD PETERSON

BradPeterson (2)
photo by KIM SOMMERS

How did you come to fix on the Fleur-de-lis as moniker / title for your new release? It seemed to same itself at the last-minute of the last recording, which is atypical from my previous works. Last autumn, I had a couple of songs that I had recently recorded before I came to California for a respite from the Chicago winters: Vale of Tears, and 45.  I played them for an old friend, Peter Bowers, who has been in the music and film world for decades and, in my opinion,  is someone with a unique perspective and proven good taste. After listening to them while we were winding through the serpentine roads near Topanga, he was clearly excited and asked if I had more new songs; I said yes, but they’re in a crude state. He tacitly gave me the go ahead and I proceeded to play for him: Rock Fight, and minor. Being a musician himself, and no stranger to hearing potential in a demo recording, he promptly suggested I finish the work for, at the very least, posterity (and for whatever opportunities that may bring). It was just the encouragement I needed to set up a barebones recording outpost in his garage/office in the beautiful canyons nestled betwixt the Santa Monica mountains, Los Angeles, and the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure at which point the idea developed to add an additional track, but I half-heartedly presented my least favorite and hardly developed of the bunch: Fluer-de-lis, for which the title lyric had yet to be written. I acquiesced in its procession but as the spirit moved me, and I reconnected to the moments of its inception, those words just came through: “Fluer-de-lis” – like they were always supposed to be. Ureka! The song finished itself. The counterpoint in the last verse was the very last thing recorded and almost has a feel of a reprise-medley trope at the end of an epic film from the late sixties. When I listened back to it, I felt that it was divinely gifted; I had just participated in its revelation as the title of this work.

What was the most difficult thing about making Fleur? The most difficult thing in anything, is the discipline or faith to work in the face of doubt and negativity that plague me every day. The ultimate goal is for me to share what I do and connect with other souls. The periods between such moments are long and dark in which I often wonder if what I do is folly and meaningless.
 
Do you see it as a continuation of your other releases, an update, or something unto itself? Depending on context, it could be any of those; it could even be a prequel, chapter, or a supplemental. In literary terms, I think of singles as anecdotes, albums as books, and EPs as short stories. But I think in most cases, to say: “the Fluer-de-lis EP” would refer to something unto itself.
Why did you decide to do a EP this time versus a full album? Albums take a while and I didn’t want to wait. Full disclosure, there’s a part of me that would be happy to just release singles from here out. If I had the resources, I think that’s the direction I’m heading.
fdl-tour (3)How does the song writing process work for you? The evolution of every song is different but the most rewarding songs come in the form of everything-at-once. Melody, lyrics, chords, feel, and arrangement pour over me in a torrent of inspiration. Those are also the songs that tend to get finished.
Describe your head space when playing live in front of an audience?
How the hell am I supposed to pull this off? Because I thrive off of the symbiosis of all who participate in a live performance, it’s quite vitalizing and I experience the joy of communion. However, there is always a delta between what I want it to sound like and what I’m able to produce. I’m figuring out that “not to try” is the trick for all involved.
Did you like to sing as a kid or did you begin playing guitar and start singing later on? I always sang for as long as I can remember; maybe before I could talk.  But, it was when my aspirations for being a drummer were squelched by mom (who didn’t want that sort of racket going on in the house) bought me my first acoustic guitar, that I became the defacto singer/rhythm guitarist at about age fifteen.
Many artists talk about ‘the album’ that changed their life, is there one for you? Yes. From all accounts, in the spring of 1971, my older brother and father were listening to music in the living room of our old farmhouse in Baltimore, Maryland. Mark was around thirteen and my father was a bit of an audiophile with an impressive sound system composed of mammoth Bozak speakers, Scott amplification, and Ampex reel-to-reels. They put on a store-bought reel of the Beatles’ Revolver and it boomed throughout the house. That was the moment I became sentient and aware. To describe the experience using my abilities in the English language that I have since learned, I’d say I was in awe and asked: “what is this wonderful thing?” as I crawled on the carpet. I don’t know what it was or who it was but I’m certain that it was a pivotal moment in my relationship with music and my development as a human being. A few years ago I wrote about this earliest memory of my life called “Crack and Boom”:
What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today?  For my first large rock concert, it was either Billy Joel or Roger Waters with Eric Clapton. Both of them were at the Rosemont Horizon when I was around thirteen years old. My opinion then, is as it is now: that is sounded horrible and I would have maybe preferred to stay home and listen to the recordings. The highlights of each were the improvisational element where I gleaned variations of expression in the arrangements of the musicians. I do enjoy live music but I gravitate to smaller venues or living rooms.
If you could take a time machine to any one moment in history (rock or otherwise) what would it be and what would you do once you got there?  It would probably be to a moment that I’ve already experienced, perhaps one from my childhood when I was near my family who I love very much. And, it would be simply to live it again with greater appreciation and notice every little detail. – BradPeterson.com

Continue reading “BRAD PETERSON”

LISA HELLER

How did you choose “Life On The Run” to be your first iTunes single?  I chose to release “Life on the Run” as my first iTunes single because I think it is a good representation of who I really am as an artist. As the first thing I’m really putting out into the world, “Life on the Run” is kind of saying I’m going to be myself, and march to my “own beat of the drum.”  I think it is an inspiring song to people who want to strive for a dream and don’t know if they can do it.  I think you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough.

You are in a unique position releasing material at such a young age: do you ever worry that you may look back later in your career and go ‘OH NO!!”?  I don’t think that releasing material at such a young age (my 19th birthday to be exact) would make me look back and worry. It’s all a learning process and you have to learn who your audience is and feel for what they like and don’t like and work from there. If I never put my songs out into the world, how would I know if people would fall for them? I also think an audience likes to see an artist evolve over time and I plan to continue to grow.

How do songs take shape for you typically ? For me, my songwriting varies from song to song- sometimes I am driving on the highway and have to pull over because I get this one phrase stuck in my head and I have to scribble it on my coffee cup before it goes away. Other times I sit down and start playing different chord progressions on my piano and guitar with varying rhythm, and once it sounds right to me I start humming along until I find a suiting melody, and the words just kind of flow from there. Each song is such a different experience- with some it takes an hour to write the root of the song while with others I could spend 6 months on it just to find the right words.

What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or playing live?   Wow that’s such a hard choice! Can I say all three? They are all so different it’s difficult to compare. Writing is something that has been a huge part of growing up for me. I write down the experiences that I’ve had or are new to me, then I compare them to ones I haven’t yet had a chance to experience. But recording is also amazing because it’s like I’m taking all of these ideas that are kind of jumbled up in my head, and they’re put into real solid music. I really get in such a deep zone when I’m recording that I can’t explain. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and that other people are there listening while I sing into the mic. And lastly, performing is such an amazing experience. The second I step on stage it’s like I feel this connection with the audience that they understand me. It’s like we’re all one, and as I sing about the adversity I’ve faced, as many others have, I’m singing for them, not me. I want to tell them it will all be ok, empowering my audience as well as myself.

What do you want your audience to see or feel when you are in front of them?  When I’m in front of my audience, I want them to feel welcome. There are so many opportunities for people to feel excluded or doubt themselves. But when I’m in front of people I want them to feel like it’s ok to be themselves, and feel empowered.

If you could open for any artist or band on a spill of east coast dates this summer, who would it be?  There are so many artists that I aspire to open for.  Of course Taylor Swift comes to mind, as such a dynamic player in the music industry.  She flawlessly switched from Country to Pop, a task no artist has surmounted with such supportive fans. I also would love to open for Christina Perri – her song “Jar of Hearts” was one of the first songs that I ever performed live and it really inspired me to write down-to-earth, relatable music. Sara Bareilles is also an amazing headliner – she is an artist I emulate and aspire to be like with her words of empowerment without a hint of cliche. Of course I would also be thrilled to open for bands with whom I am connected, such as Waiting for Henry, a group of great guys who have been supporting my hard work from the beginning.

How did you pick up guitar and what advice do you give to others who want to learn how to play?  I taught myself to play some simple chords on the piano which is how I started songwriting. After a while I really wanted to play guitar too so I started looking up how to play chords on google images! This really jump-started my ability to write songs, before I started taking lessons. My advice for someone learning to play guitar is to look up chords if you don’t want to pay for lessons, and keep repeating them until your fingers bleed. After a week or so you will stop hurting and your fingers will just remember where to be placed. From there, you can start writing songs! And for piano, you just need to learn the basic triad structure and go from there!

What were the first few albums you ever bought and what do you think of them today?  The first few albums I ever bought were from my parents, which definitely had a huge impact on my choice of music. As a young child I would listen to Dave Matthews and Coldplay in the car, so it really made me appreciate the deep music where the words had so much meaning and the instrumentation that was so captivating and complex. The upbeat party music was always fun too but that never really affected me the way that songs like “Yellow” by Coldplay did.  U2’s “Beautiful Day” was a perfect song when I needed to appreciate the little things in life or get motivated.

What’s your favorite song of all-time?  I would probably say “Fix You” by Coldplay – It was the song I resorted to throughout high school and it brought so many different emotions each time I listened to it. “Fix You” has this certain indescribable power to heal and unite people.

If you could have an alter ego performing in an alternate universe, what might she sound and look like?  If I were given the chance to be someone else, I would still choose to be me. There are billions of other people in the world but only one me, so if I’m not me then who am I? ~ LisaHeller.com

NICHOLAS BARRON

media_slider-39730022You started as a youngster busking on the streets of Chicago: is there a telling memory that still informs you today?  I just wrote a song that’s on my new CD called “When The Fat Lady Sings” about following ones heart and dream. There is this line:  “dudes in 3 piece suits telling me they wished they was me cause I was following my heart and living my dream”. That’s a true story. That and playing the mostly southbound Black el stops and having it feel like Baptist church. I learned to sing  Black music from Black Folks singing with me and playing Electric Blues every weekend in the summer with my band on State street in downtown chicago and the huge crowds! That spark and immediacy are rare and profound!!!

What is your favorite new Nicholas Baron song and why? “When the fat lady sings” is my new “I’m not superman” which is the song I’m known for. It’s a true story. I found a way to be honest and poetic at the same time. It’s got a direct feel from Van Morrisons “Domino” and Rickie Lee jones “Chuck E’s in love”. It finally expresses my truth and is like a quick bio. I love language and beat poetry and this has that feel.

How do songs manifest themselves to you? They happen either effortlessly like  they were waiting for me to catch them like butterflies or intellectual endeavors where the words are like math and science. It happens all possible ways. Words or chorus first or music first or just chords.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording?  All my records have been somewhat different.  I like it to be organic and sound and feel live but have a sheen to it as well. I have to have a relaxed and honest environment.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you? I heard Jimmy cliff when I was 10 with my hippie parents at an outdoor concert. I remember the sky and the feel of it being live and soulful and folks dancing up a storm.

What is your approach to playing live and what is your vibe pre-show? It has recently changed and evolved . I am working on total relaxation and letting the audience come to me. I’ve been trying not to be big the whole time or loud. I’m going for a range of emotions and dynamics even in one song. I have the ability to be mellow and soft and then rise up like Otis Redding or James Brown. I warm up a bit vocally but mostly everything’s changed because I’m relaxing my mind and body when I play. It’s magic!

IMG_1424-BW_filtered_FWhat are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks , John Martyn’s Solid Air, Joni Mitchell’s Blue

What’s the best live performance you have seen by a Chicago artist? My dear friend Wes John is insanely great and has great songs and his band destroys!

Out of nowhere the Empress of the Universe beams you on board her ship and demands you write a song for her on the spot — any ideas?  All my songs are about the same things disguised as different characters. Love in all its forms, integration, and working through suffering to find resolution. World peace through the microcosm which is self love. Relax yourself before you tax yourself. – Nicholas Barron

SCOTT MADDEN

Madman MaddenYou have probably played more gigs in the last decade than anyone in Chicago: is that why your known as ‘Madman’?  The nickname Madman comes from my days in the Record Biz when cohorts liked to call me that instead of my last name, Madden. Now I have to live up to it.

You have worn a number of hats in the music business, what’s the state of the union?  I’ve gone back to my roots, playing live music. Folks don’t support recorded music like they used to or should.

If you could reset and meddle with history, what rock era would go by the way-side?  Is there a Rock Era today?

What was the first concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?  Badfinger played @ my high school field house. It was also the first time I saw people smoke the kind bud.

How do you feel deep down about smashing guitars and the like?  I did that twice in school but felt bad because that is somebody’s livelihood and sometimes a piece of art.

IM000324.JPGWhat are you listening to at home circa 2015?  Davie Allen & the Arrows, “Blues Theme”(60’s biker music)

If you could tour with any artist in a time machine who would it be?  Cream: they taught me how to jam and to sound full for a 3 piece.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  More of the Monkees, Sgt. Peppers, Wheels of Fire.

What’s the best live performance you have seen by a Chicago artist or band?  Heavy Manners ….

Jesus appears in front of you and graciously asks for a custom 5 song set, in what do you play him? “Porpoise Song” (The Monkees), “A F Wittek” (Madman), “Talk Talk” (Talk Talk), “Well Allright” (Buddy Holly), “I Need You” (Fab Four).

ADAM MITCHELL

adam_gold_recordsWhat music grabbed you most as a kid?

Well, the first actual “rock” record I ever heard was “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. At age 12, I couldn’t verbalize why it was great. I just knew it made me feel glad to be alive! The next record I heard after that – and I was still living in Scotland at the time – was “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley. Then we moved to Canada and boom, it was rock ‘n roll all the time. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis. My parents, like most parents at the time, didn’t approve – they thought Lawrence Welk was the height of musical sophistication  – but they weren’t too hard ass about it.  But from then on, yeah, it was rock ‘n roll every moment I could get.  Then, of course, Dylan and the Beatles changed not only my world but the world.

What was the first song you ever wrote and what do you think of it today?

Don’t remember the actual very first song I wrote but one of the early ones, right after the Beatles had first come out, was a Christmas parody I wrote called “God Rest Ye Hairy Gentleman”.

Did it ever make the light of day in another for form?

No, no way, but it was pretty funny!

Artists have so many different approaches to writing, what is your general philosophy?

Strive for excellence. That’s it. And do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Trying to do that, even when I didn’t know what I was doing, is the only reason I can think of to explain the career I’ve enjoyed.  Strive for excellence. No one buys average.

Great songs give people a certain feeling: is that one of your barometers in determining whether a track is ready to be recorded or is that reserved for the listener? 

Learning to be a songwriter is learning to be a bridge builder.  A good songwriter builds bridges of understanding between himself or herself and the audience.  it might be emotional understanding, it might be intellectual understanding, but that’s the whole deal.

You have written with a whose who of international talents from Linda Rondstadt to Waylon Jennings to KISS: which collaboration, or collaborations, were the most challenging?

Well, the collaborations that turn out to be most  “challenging” are generally those that, in the end, don’t work – and consequently, are ones that don’t produce work that lasts or you’ve even heard of.  If you’re working with another writer, especially a writer who’s an established artist, every song you come up with has to get a thumbs-up from a lot of people before it makes the record; the artist, the record company, the producer, the promotion department and so on.  Did I mention striving for excellence?

You offer personal song-writing coaching online @ AdamMitchellMusic.com: how does it work and do you end up sharing a writing credit if it’s really good?

Really, the best way to think of this is as one-on-one, song aid.  Personal tuition. And no, since it would be a work for hire, I would not take part of the song. Anyone who’s interested should contact me at info@AdamMitchellmusic.com.

The industry has changed radically in the last two decades: do you think it is harder today for a songwriter to break in with major artists to get
songs out?

I think in some respects it’s much harder to be a songwriter now because, unlike in previous times and even up until very recently, publishing companies very rarely now give a writer, particularly a new writer, a substantial enough draw – that is, advance against future royalties – to live on. In my own particular case, when I moved to Los Angeles, Warner Bros. was paying me to write songs for them and it was a paltry amount but I could get by. But by the end of my first year, so many artists had cut my songs that WB decided to renegotiate my contract and suddenly I was making about ten times what I had previously. I’m not sure you can do that now.

On the other hand, in many respects it’s much easier now. You can do great demo recordings at home, the Internet puts the whole world at your doorstep and I still believe that excellence prevails in spite of all difficulties. Everyone gets a break, sooner or later. The trick – the key thing – is to be ready when it happens. All the breaks in the world won’t help you if you’re not prepared.

a-mitchellWhat advice would you give to aspiring artists in regard to refining their craft or brand of music?

Join me at SongCoachOnline.com. Great songs are at the heart of everything in music and I’ve helped many people improve dramatically in that respect. It’s what I love to do and you’ll get a lot of other information about recording, common career mistakes, great gear and so on. Remember, when you’re trying to get somewhere in music, it’s a competition, like anything else. And the most prepared – and those willing to work hardest – will win. It’s a cruel logic I know, but it’s true.

 Jagger once famously sang “it’s the singer, not the song”, was he being ironic?

With all due respect to the His Majesty, the Prince of Darkness, I say “Bollocks!” The song is the most important thing by far in any performance. Look at it this way…You can have the greatest singer in the world singing a crap song and what do you then have? Zero.  A well polished turd. Here’s an absolute, universal, once – and – forever, truth. If you don’t have a great song at the heart of what you’re doing…a hundred times nothin’ is still nothin’.

In a recent interview you said ACDC’s *Back In Black* would make it to your island playlist: would it have been even better with Bon Scott?

Not in my opinion. I think Brian Johnson is phenomenal. It’s very rare for a singer to do a great job replacing an original guy but I think Brian has done it. He and Bon are both incredibly good.