Enoch Anderson: Lyricist

ENOCH ANDERSON has been writing songs with composer Barry Manilow since the 1970s.  As he tells us in this interview, for many years he was known as the one who never had a single.  With the release of 15 Minutes, Manilow’s first album of original songs in years, Enoch Anderson began getting a lot of recognition for his ability with words.  Anderson wrote lyrics to almost all of the songs on the album, with the exception of one song written by Adrienne Anderson and a few written by Manilow himself.

Incredibly, Enoch Anderson said this was his first radio interview.  We hope you enjoy what he had to say, whether you listen in or read our transcript.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure, we welcome our special guest, lyricist, Enoch Anderson. Thank you so much for making the time to join us.

Thank you.

My first question, who is Enoch Anderson?

I’m going to have to redefine myself.  It used to be easy.  I was the one who never had a single. Of all the people Barry worked with, I was the one who had never had a song released as a single, and I remember once, a fan actually came up to me, a fan of Barry’s and said “huuuuugh, ‘I know who you are, you’re the one who never had a single,’ so I’m going to have to redefine that because now there’s a single out.

Well that’s right, there’s a new album out full of songs co-written by our special guest Enoch Anderson, it’s Barry Manilow’s album ‘15 Minutes,’ on Barry’s own independent label, Stiletto. So, we’re going to go back a little bit, what was life like growing up for you?

I grew up in a small mining town in Northern Canada no references forother people my age , no Sesame Street, or no Mickey Mouse Club so, little bit different in that way perhaps.

And what kind of music did you hear around the house?

My sister and brother were teenagers, so I was hearing popular music at the time through the radio, I don’t know if there’s anybody out there who knows what 78s were, you know, the old, old, old records, and they were old Vaudeville routines and music, there were some Broadway shows out with hits my brother and sister had, and so it was a real mixture of stuff, it was like a crash course in a century of popular music almost.

Can you remember examples of early writing that you did, not necessarily just lyric writing, but just any kind of creative writing?

Yeah, I used to make up stories and try to get an adult to write them down for me before I understood how to write, and when I could write, I would make little books and assemble them and bind them together with string, I had to write and illustrate them, and they were all about dogs, because I couldn’t draw human ears.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote if you can remember it.

It was when I was at high school, there was a local theatre group that was going to put on a melodrama and I think I tried out for it, they didn’t want me, but I wrote a song for the villain to sing, and I gave it to them and I didn’t get any response, nobody said anything about it and I didn’t hear it again, but when the show went on, I went to see it and they were singing my song. I didn’t get any credit on the program or anything; welcome to show business, but that would be the first time (Enoch laughs).

Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?

I don’t really know, sometimes I can tell you, there used to be a little park near where I lived, and on Sundays it was crowded with divorced fathers and their kids, and it was a convenient place for them to go when they only had one day together, and I wrote a song called ‘Sunday Father,’ so that I can make a direct connection, but a lot of times, I don’t know. I’ve told the story, I was going to bed very tired one night, and suddenly in my imagination there was this young housewife who was very unhappy with her situation and I wrote down a lyric, and I was kind of annoyed because I wanted to go to sleep, but I felt like  I owed it to her, she was very real to me, and that was the song ‘Sandra,’ I called it ‘Sandra’ because I thought I don’t know anybody called Sandra so nobody could say I wrote it about her, but, so many of the married women I knew, thought I had, so(Enoch laughs), I have no idea where that came from, sometimes ideas just float in.

What lyricists or songwriters have influenced you the most?

There are so many I’ve liked and if I try to name them, then I’m going to be upset later  because I will miss some, of course the older ones, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, so many.

Barry Manilow has made a lot of records lately of other artists material, but in his own right, as we know, he’s really an incredible songwriter and I wish he did more original albums, but I was going to talk about the album ‘Here At The Mayflower,’ it’s a great album and it features a number of songs you co-wrote with Mr Manilow, how did your songs come to be found on the album?

He told me about the idea, I remember, this huge apartment building in Brooklyn where a lot of people lived and it was based on where he actually grew up, I wrote a song called ‘Do You Know Who’s Living Next Door.’ As far as I’m concerned a number of lyricists wrote on the album and I don’t know what the others experiences were, but as far as I’m concerned, I think for the other songs of mine he used, there were things he had and he just saw a way for them to fit in, in that case he didn’t say, “I need you to write something for the elevator guy thing” or something like that.

 So what did you think of the album “Here At The Mayflower”?

Oh I like it very much because it showcases his creativity, he would be right along with you; he’d like to do more original material, and it was not a sure fire thing, it was telling stories of human experience, it wasn’t just trying to churn out formula singles, and I like that as a project that meant a lot to him.

 Now, you just mentioned, you said that you think that Barry Manilow would concur and probably would like to do more original stuff, without speaking for Barry Manilow, why do you suppose it is that he’s done less of his original music?

I think everyone is trying to adjust to the changing reality to the music business, in just the last few years, it’s changed so much, people often don’t buy albums any more, they download tracks, I think that he had something that was working very well for him, for several years, releasing these collections of familiar songs.

Do you have a favorite song of yours from that album “Here At The Mayflower”?

I guess I would say the song ‘Border Train,’ because there was something very different for me, usually I write a lyric, send him the finished lyric and he sets it to music, and this time it was the other way round, he sent me a melody and he said, “see if you can write to it” and it was this very evocative, haunting melody and he didn’t tell me anything about what he wanted it to be about, or anything, and so I had to see what it did for me, it made me feel as if I were on a train at night and I didn’t know where I was going and I went with that, and then I forgot about it, over the years, til I was in Vegas, seeing a show, and he did the song, which he had never done in concert before,  he just did it I guess, and I liked it so much and I thought I’d forgotten that, it’s got such a beautiful melody and it’s so haunting in a way, so, that would be my stand out right now.

We’re talking with lyricist Enoch Anderson. Here we are in two thousand and eleven and its ten years after Barry Manilow’s last album of original songs, he has a new album or original songs and today, the day we are recording this interview, ‘15 Minutes’ has been released and you co-wrote the songs on the album, so tell us,  how did the idea for this album, ‘15 Minutes’ come to be?

It was Barry’s idea, the stories all around us, there’s tabloids, TV shows, magazines at the checkout counters, over and over you see somebody becoming a sudden celebrity, and it seems you’re going to be hearing of a relationship falling apart for the person, there’s going to be rumours of substance abuse, there’s going to be professional problems, it’s a road that seems to meet the same terms almost no matter who the person is. The modern media merits all that, and he’d like to do a story album based on it and I was trying to show that I knew what he meant, and I said “I’ve got a title for you, 15 Minutes”, thinking of the Andy Warhol quote, and he liked that, so we were off and that’s how it all started rolling.

Very, very interesting, so, how did you and Barry Manilow begin the undertaking of the writing of these songs?

I started working on a song called ‘15 Minutes’, I sent that to him, which is the first song on the album and from that point on we were on our way. He would tell me the story that he wanted to represent and what would be going on and then I would work on the idea.

What were some of the initial concepts that you had, what were some of the ideas that you had when he told you about the album, other than the title?

Well, I was struck by the fact that it wasn’t going to be making a celebrity who crashed and burned, it wasn’t going to be sensational, going for dirt, it wasn’t going to be superior and wise and giving them advice or something, it was compassionate, it was a take on the human experience from inside the head of somebody going through it and people become spectacles to the public, but they’re people and usually very talented to find themselves hitting these skids that everybody seems to hit. So I thought there was a human angle to it that gave another fact to what we were seeing on the supermarket tabloids every day.

What is it like working with Barry Manilow?

It’s really better than I can tell you (Enoch laughs). It’ll sound as if I’m trying to be very politically correct by saying nice things, but, it’s a treat, we get along, now we work apart, I’m usually in Los Angeles and I write a lyric and I email it to him, and wherever he is, he sets it to music and he emails the melody back to me, so we’re not hunched over a piano in the same room,  we get along, we’re both articulate, so we can express what we mean, it’s just very creative and productive. There’s one funny story I’ll tell you, last year we were in the studio working on the ‘15 Minutes’ album and there was something that needed re-writing, and so I was saying “what do you need, or what has to be shortened, what do we do?” And he was showing me and we had a lead sheet and I was scribbling things on it and he was scribbling things on it, and we went to lunch and by the time we came back from lunch, the re-write was all finished and was fine and I thought “WOW, we can even work together when we ARE together, that almost never happens (Enoch laughs).

So, today the album has been released, ‘15 Minutes’ by Barry Manilow, what do you think about the album?

I think it’s exciting, whether people like it or not, it is a story we wanted to tell, nothing was changed behind our backs, nothing was forced on us, I don’t think he made a mistake in that direction, because he went into heavy rock territory, that would be the story and it would upstage the story he wanted to tell. It’s about a phenomenon that’s going on around us every day, the feeding frenzy over famous people, and this is what we meant. Barry could have gone on recording collections of old favorites forever and made lots of money, but he wanted to take a chance and be creative, and I’m hoping for his sake that it’s well received. Sooner or later you just have to turn it loose and see if it flies, so, I’m hoping people like it.

So you’re saying he was willing to take a chance again. (Paul and Enoch laugh).

Hey that could be a good song.

I had to. So, do you have a favorite song from the ‘15 Minutes album’?

I go back and forth, right now it’s a song that…. I liked it cos I knew it needed to be there, it had to be from when the guy hits rock bottom, he’s lost his fame, he’s lost his success, he feels his made a fool of himself and it’s all gone, and there has to be a turnaround point. The nice thing about hitting rock bottom is finding you’ve got some place to put your feet. I was in the supermarket late at night, coming home from work, all of a sudden this lyric hit me, and I had nothing to write with, and I had to mumble it to myself like a crazy person in the checkout line and get home fast. ‘Trainwreck’ that was the special to me, so I had no idea, so all of a sudden it landed in my lap.

We’re talking with the lyricist Enoch Anderson. When someone listens to a song you wrote, what is it you hope they get out of the experience?

I hope they recognize something that feels authentic to them, as I said, I don’t always know where the songs come from, they are not often from my own experience, I’m not a divorced father, which is the story of ‘Sunday Father’, ‘Sandra’ is about a young married woman, which I certainly am not, so if the divorced Dad or housewife says to me that “yeah, that’s how I felt, yeah, that was it, I identified with that”, then I am pleased.

What is in the future of Enoch Anderson?

Oh I’d like the privilege of going on with more creative work.

I have two final questions, one, somewhat light hearted and a little more of a serious question, the light hearted one first, what is your all time favorite meal?

Well, I love to eat, something I particularly like, Indian food, I love curries and that sort of thing, maybe lamb vindaloo.

Oh man, that sounds fantastic; I am also a curry devotee. So, the last question. Barry Manilow’s fandom is worldwide, thanks to technology, people from everywhere will be able to hear this interview, do you have any parting words of wisdom for our listeners?

Well, I’m not the wisest owl in the forest, I don’t know if I have wisdom, I guess all I would say is, look at an audience having a good time, if you’re at a movie, or if you’re at a concert, it’s when the audience is responding, look around and see how many different types of people there are, look at the diversity, it’s human experience to find us together, and there’s a lot more binding us together than there is sending us apart, that’s the value I think of good entertainment, and I think that’s something you can take away from that experience.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *