The talent and wisdom on display at Thursday's "We Create Music" panel was so massive, we needed two bloggers to convey it all! Read on...
As if the amount of people crowding into the Grand Ballroom wasn't overwhelming enough, today's "We Create Music" panel boasted a roster of heavyweights including Claudia Brant, Mike Elizondo, Fergie, Trevor Rabin and Kevin Rudolf. Moderated by Playback editor-in-chief Erik Philbrook, the panelists discussed everything from what sparked their interest in music to collaboration and finding the magic in their work.
The panelists' experiences ranged from pop/rock songwriting to film scoring and Latin music, but their common thread of doing what they loved despite the odds was clear. Even as a successful songwriter writing hits with Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony and Sergio Vega, Claudia said she still has to keep believing in herself to write hit songs. For Kevin, it was observing his mother, a struggling singer, put together her band to try to achieve her goals that keeps him pushing forward. He said "You go through a lot of different lifetimes to achieve your dreams," adding that it usually happens when you've run out of options. "It's such a moving target," commented Trevor on how the industry has changed. Even in contracts, the language has changed from covering his music throughout the world to having it covered throughout the universe - he's interested in its current use on Mars.
A big part of all the panelists' work is collaboration with other artists, songwriters and film directors, which adds a new and different challenge to the act of songwriting. As with any collaboration in music and life itself, sometimes it just doesn't work if the chemistry isn't there between those involved. "It's like a [bad] date," said Kevin, "and no one is having a good time." What prevents this situation for him is a mutual respect for his counterpart's work, as well as keeping himself open to some "magic." Working within a group, Fergie is well-acquainted with that principle. She shared stories of the Black Eyed Peas' recording process, where they rent out multiple rooms within a studio to work on numerous songs all at once, while she floats between the rooms to add what she can to what's been done. She'll often get behind the mic while something new is playing to do her own thing over it, then they'll listen back and pick out the "magical parts." "When you're in a group you have to respect that you're a group," she said of the songwriting process, explaining why her solo work is much different than her part in the Peas. Trevor experiences yet another dynamic in the film realm, where he strives to communicate someone else's vision through song. "You have a blank page you have to fill everyday."
What stood out most to me in what the panelists discussed was their fearlessness in pursuing what they loved. For someone as passionate about songwriting as Mike Elizondo, there's no such thing as genre barriers - he's written rap songs like "In Da Club" and country songs like "Cowboy Casanova." To Mike, it's not the style itself that presents the challenge. "It's usually trying to figure out how the person I'm working with likes to work. It's trying to read as quickly as possible where they are in that moment." Kevin's parting words reflected the same work ethic. "Do what you can with what you have from where you are," he said. "Get as good as you can."
It's hard not to feel inspired after hearing how these five experts came to where they are today, whether you're a music creator or not. In an age of instant satisfaction from the internet and new technologies, it's difficult to pace yourself on the road to success, but the information and stories shared by the panelists today serves as a reminder that success certainly doesn't come without hard work.
Packed house upstairs for the “We Create Music” Panel! I've got to admit, I was a little star-struck by Miss Fergalicious. She was extremely down to earth & inspiring. Among Fergie's words of advice to aspiring artists & songwriters: "Dig deep. Dare to be personal. Be rigorously honest with yourself." She also talked about her experience climbing to where she is now and how she got her musical education: "It's all about being a sponge. I mean, I got good grades - but mostly that was so I could go to parties on the weekends." Among other things, she described driving to rehearsals for her first band, Wild Orchid, in LA's San Fernando Valley. She would drive her convertible and lean back, trying to get a tan - while vocalizing and challenging herself to alternate between singing the third & fifth harmonies to every song on the radio. Multi-tasker!
A last great line from Kevin Rudolf, "Mutual respect is the foundation of successful collaborating. Sometimes it works, others it can turn into a bad date. No one wants that."