The desire to write songs hit me almost as soon I first heard the Beatles –I started swiping their melodies and putting my own words on top. My first work that I remember “ I Hate Her -yeah yeah yeah!” (a response to young love spurned and obviously a lost masterpiece) borrowed heavily from the early work of misters Lennon and McCartney . As bad as it was, I was putting words to music, being careful to make them rhyme and adding a bit of 11 year old sarcasm. The bug had bitten.
And there was a great by product. I had taken piano lessons as a 7-8 year old with limited interest, but to learn the Beatles tunes I got serious . I pecked away by ear and learned quite a few of them . To this day I play the instruments I do primarily to aid in the learning and writing of songs.
I moved to Toronto in the mid 70’s – I met Des McAnuff who needed a piano player for some shows and ended up working with and observing a keen genius and great songwriter. A couple of years later, another stroke of luck gave me the opportunity to become the piano player for John Gray’s “Billy Bishop goes to War” and toured a lot of the world for about 3 years. A groundbreaking show, and more great songs to perform and songwriting brilliance to observe and soak up. And of course, through travelling I experienced much to delight and inspire me.
All that happened because at age 11 I realized I wanted to be a songwriter. It brought out the musician in me.
I’ve written a lot of songs for historical theatre – songs that at their best have revealed aspects of a character and a time period in a way that only a song can. That requires research – and in doing it I often find a turn of phrase or nugget of information that sparked me into the zone where I knew I’m on to something good in a place I’ve never been before. I love that –songs that bring out the detective in me and take me some place new. To serve that purpose I learned bit of mandolin and ukulele and knowing a bit on those instruments has gotten me work as a performer in other shows. Once again, an extra payoff.
I tend to be eclectic. I like the variety of style and substance. Performing solo I like stringing together my straight ahead tunes, humor, character tunes, narratives and things that are just plain silly into an evening that takes people a few places. That’s my thing. And I see people who just rip my heart out or have me helpless with laughter doing theirs. Through other songwriters , I am constantly re-inspired by language , melody and personality.
Songwriting has expanded my horizons in every way. It led me into a career in theatre and music. It has taken me to wonderful parts of the world and introduced me to people of great creativity, heart and soul. I’ve made a bit of a living. I have 3 albums. People around the world have contacted me to tell me my music has really meant something to them. That’s very gratifying
The most recent thing I was reminded of as a songwriter is that you’re never beyond a good tip from someone else. I was asked to share some of what I’ve learned over the years . I confessed to Lily Cheng that I was finding it hard to start the flow of ideas. She offered me some excellent starting points- So thank you Lily-one songwriter to another. Here’s to us all!