Tom “Bones” Malone: Multi-instrumentalist

Tom “Bones” Malone specializes in the trombone, but also plays trumpet, tuba, tenor sax, baritone sax, flutes, piccolo and other instruments. He has been a member of the CBS Orchestra on The Late Show with David Letterman since 1993. As a recording artist he has released two solo albums Standards of Living and Soulbones. Tom “Bones” Malone is a member of the Blues Brothers Band and has played with the likes of Billy Joel, Gloria Estefan, Frank Zappa, Bette Midler, Ringo Starr, Paul Simon, Tony Bennett and too many bands and artists to name!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to welcome the legendary, the one and only Tom “Bones” Malone. Thanks so much for joining us.
My pleasure, Paul

Who is the real Tom Malone?
Uh, a redneck kid from Mississippi, just started wearing shoes a couple of years ago.

(Laughs) Born in Mississippi. So what was life like growing up?
Well, I started driving a tractor when I was 11 years old. I had my own rifle when I was 11 years old. I milked cows every morning and every night and, uh, hauled hay, picked corn, worked hard in the fields. Uh, it was, uh – we grew everything that we ate except for coffee and rice.

And what kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Well, I started, uh, listening to the radio and it was mostly, uh, blues – rhythm and blues – and New Orleans rock and roll.

And what was your first musical influence that inspired you to want to pick up the horn?
When I was, uh, about 13, I went to the record store, having very little money – I had saved up enough money to buy one record – and this is, believe it or not, uh, this was about 1960, in Hattiesburg, MS there was a record store where you could listen to the vinyl record before you bought it. A vinyl record, uh, is a kind of a flat piece of, um, black vinyl about 12 inches in diameter. You put it on a turntable and it played music, similar to a CD. And, uh, so I listened to this record by a trombone player named Urbie Green and it totally flipped me out. So I bought this record, took it home and I literally learned how to play the trombone from listening to Urbie Green, playing this record and I would just play along with him. So he was my teacher, whether he knew it or not. And I played along with that record for about two years. So I have to credit Urbie Green as being my trombone teacher.

So what was it about the horn? What made you gravitate to it? What was it you liked about it?
I’m not sure, um, what it was. I, uh, I was in the sixth grade and I used to listen to the marching band rehearse on the football field outside my classroom window and I thought it would be cool to play in that band. So I went to – one day they made an announcement on the radio that anybody who’s interested in playing in the band should come to the band hall on Thursday night. So I showed up at the band hall with my brother and my mother and father. And the guy from the local instrument store had a display of instruments – nice new shiny brass instruments and woodwinds and stuff. So somehow I was strangely drawn to the trombone. I picked it up and I could already play a few notes on it. Uh, my father asked how much it was. They guy told him and my father said ‘Can’t afford it.’ and we started walking out the door. The band director grabbed me and said ‘The school owns a tuba. Would you like to play that?’ and I said yes. So I started playing the tuba. Then the following year we got a new band director who was a trombone player. He knew I was interested in playing the trombone so he loaned me his own horn one day. He says ‘Take this home and learn how to play it.’ He showed me where the positions were. So I did. I took it home and learned how to play it.

Well, tell us about your early days of playing with Brenda Lee.
Well I, I uh, I also started playing trumpet and saxophone, and I got a call one day when I was in college in Hattiesburg to play lead trumpet with Brenda Lee. I guess they didn’t have anybody in Jackson that could hit the, the high D. So, I hitch-hiked up every night and it paid $16.00 a night. I never got a ride back until the sun came up so I spent a lot of time thinking about the music business and a music career between 2 A.M. and 6 A.M. every morning that week. It was a great experience though. The music was great. Brenda Lee had, uh, her hit, I’m Sorry was out and her Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, uh, was a big hit at the time and – it was in December – so, uh, I thought I was in top of the world. And I didn’t mind all the hardship. I didn’t sleep much that week but, uh, I had a great time and, uh, just got more into being a musician.

You’ve played so many styles of music. Could you ever pick a favorite genre?
I just like music. To me it’s all sort of the same, whether it’s jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, Latin, Jewish music, whatever it is – symphonic music, it’s all sort of the same to me. And there’s certain rhythmic differences and certain interpretation differences, as far as from the viewpoint of an instrumentalist but, uh, I like it all. And it doesn’t matter what instrument I play, I just like to play.

Well, speaking of liking it all, you’ve toured with acts as varied as Woody Herman, Doc Severinsen, and Frank Zappa. Which tour have you been on that was a favorite?
Uh, Blood, Sweat & Tears tour of Europe in 1973 was a big favorite of mine. And the five-week tour with the Blues Brothers in the United States, with John and Danny, in uh, around uh, in the vicinity of May and June 1980 was, uh, a special tour as well. Also playing with Billy Cobham’s band. We did a European tour and we did a West Coast tour where it was Billy Cobham and Weather Report. So those were, uh, those were memorable tours. And The Band from Woodstock – do you remember them, Paul?

Yeah, I’ve heard their recordings.
I, uh, played with them in the summer of ’76. And in the fall of ’76 we did the movie, The Last Waltz.

Amazing stuff. What was it like working with Frank Zappa?
Frank Zappa was an amazing guy and I really miss him. He died very young but – he died at 52 – and during his, uh, career he put out 60 albums. Uh, he was a crazy guy when he hit the stage but when he was off-stage he was like an organized businessman. He ran a very strict rehearsal, no fooling around. So, uh, he was kind of like two different personalities. But he was also a very nice guy off-stage, too. Like, if you went over his house to hang out he was very cordial and had a great sense of humor. And he was pretty much self-taught in his music.

I wanted to talk a little bit about Gil Evans. What was he like and how did he mold your life?
Gil Evans became my musical father. Um, I was in New York, I had this cheap apartment where I was crashing and, uh, a friend of mine from NorthTexasState, named Hannibal Marvin Peterson, came up to town. He was playing with Rahsaan Roland Kirk and he also started playing with Gil Evans. One night he had – he was crashing on my floor at my apartment on Broadway – uh, one night he had two gigs. The one with Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a paying gig and the other job, with Gil Evans, didn’t pay anything so he sent me in to play trumpet with Gil Evans. Uh, that night was Gil Evans’ 60th birthday. I met, uh, his son, Miles Evans, who was eight years old at the time. I also met several musicians who changed the rest of my life – a trombone player named Dave Bargeron, a trumpet player named Lew Soloff, um, David Sanborn, Howard Johnson, Herb Bushler, uh, Bruce Ditmas, Billy Harper – these are all people that opened doors for me for the rest of my life.

Now, you just listed several artists – and this is probably going to be a tough question – when I looked over at your bio and your resume, I couldn’t even list all the artists you’ve recorded and performed with. Is there any that have been especially thrilling?
Well, I was especially thrilled to play live and record with James Brown. He was always a hero of mine.Also, Little Stevie Wonder when he was 16. He was, uh, a big impression on me. He could play a bunch of different instruments so I figured “Well, why can’t I?’ Also, Ray Charles was a big inspiration to me. There’s lots of other people, too. It just goes on and on. Uh, I can’t really single anybody out as being the number one but I’m also very fortunate to have played with, uh, these music visionaries.

And you’ve also made recordings of your own songs, like the album Standards of Living. How did you pick out the songs for that?
Well, that was shortly after Gil Evans died. I played with Gil Evans from – uh, for the last 15 years of his life. He passed away at 75 and it was somewhat unexpected. Uh, I had many conversations with Gil about arranging and I actually arranged the songs that were on his albums, where he got the arranging credit and that, to me, was the ultimate compliment – to say that my arrangements were done by Gil Evans. Anyway, I, uh, wanted to play some jazz standards with musicians who had played with Gil Evans, who were in his regular band, and I wanted to replicate something of his voicing system. I came up with a, a Gil Evans voicing system and I put that into use on the album, Standards of Living.

Who is your favorite trombone player?
Wow, that is a tough question. I would have to start with Urbie Green, who taught me how to play. I’m also very impressed by the late J.J. Johnson. Bill Watrous, Conrad Herwig, uh, a 28 year old guy named Michael Dease up in New York. This guy is just amazing. Uh, and uh – wow – and uh, Bill Reichenbach in Los Angeles. Uh, there’s Jim Pugh. There’s an amazing number of great jazz trombone players up here. Robin Eubanks. Uh, wow – the list goes on and on.

You mentioned earlier about the Blues Brothers. What was your experience like with the Blues Brothers?
Uh, I started out with them from very, very first meeting about the Blues Brothers. I was the arranger for the Saturday Night Live band in 1978. I was called into a meeting with Danny and John. They came up with this concept of two guys who were orphans, that played blues and lived in Chicago, and they were sort of, uh, ne’er-do-wells. They wore the same size suit which was too big for one guy and too small for the other. They were just developing the characters at the time of this meeting. So, they wanted an arrangement of a song by James Cotton called Rocket 88. So I wrote out the arrangement and we rehearsed the band and we, we did the song for Lorne Michaels with the hopes of getting on Saturday Night Live that week. Well, we were not successful. We did not get on the show. The next week John and Danny and I met again and they were still hot on this idea of these two characters. So we – I wrote another arrangement of Hey Bartender. We did it for Lorne. Lorne said ‘Frankly, I don’t see anything funny about the Blues Brothers.’ So the following week we did not make the show. The third week, after read-through, Lorne said ‘The show is three minutes short. What are we going to do?’ He’s tearing his hair out. John and Danny jumped on him and said ‘Lorne – the Blues Brothers!’ So we got on the show. The response from the audience was amazing. We got letters and cards and phone calls which led to another performance of the Blues Brothers. Pretty soon, we had a record deal with Atlantic Records. We formed a band that was separate from the Saturday Night Live band, and went out to Los Angeles and did a live recording. The recording sold three million copies. And we got – then Danny started writing a movie script and the next thing you know, we’re doing a movie. And this was all from an idea that almost didn’t get on the air in the first place, almost never got off the ground. So – and also, I have to say that Danny and John were very nice to keep all the musicians in the movie. In most Hollywood productions of this sort, uh, they would get the band to do the sound track and then get some actors pretend to be the musicians. But Danny and John said ‘No. We’re not doing this unless the band comes with us.’ So I have, uh, Danny and John to thank for being in that movie, The Blues Brothers. John told me one day that he was going to make me the most famous trombone player since Jimmy Dorsey. And uh, as most of you know, Jimmy Dorsey was a saxophone player. (Laughs) So I never had, never had the heart to tell John that part of it because I knew what he meant. (Laughs) He was really, uh, a big-hearted guy and if he decided you were his friend, you were his friend for life, and he was a faithful friend and, uh, I really miss the guy.

What do you think about the album Briefcase Full of Blues?
Uh, it’s a, it’s a live album. It was recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. At the time, the Universal Amphitheater was an outdoor venue and uh, there were, there was a lot of edits in that album. There were nine nights of performance and the producer, Bob Tischler, uh, incorporated at least three nights’ performance into each song. He would find the best verse and the best chorus and the best instrumental, the best intro, and he, uh, after listening to all these things carefully So there was a lot of post-production as far as the editing of this album was concerned. But I have to say that it is one of my favorite albums and there are a lot of hard-core Blues Brothers fans out there that agree with me.

How did you get hooked up with Paul Shaffer?
Well, Paul Shaffer and I met, uh, at Saturday Night Live when the show started in 1975. I was a member of the Saturday Night Live band from, uh, the very beginning for the first 10 years, and I was also the musical director, from ’81 to ’85, for the last four years of that 10 years. Uh, so Paul was the piano player on the original show and we met and we’ve been good friends ever since. Paul also – Paul and I also became the arranging team. If there was any comedy team that needed some music, Paul and I would rehearse with the actors and actresses and, uh, make a tape and then I would write an arrangement based on the format that we did in the rehearsal. So we’ve been, actually, an arranging team for quite a few years. Um, so Paul, um – later, later when I was a music director I got a call from a lady named Liz Anderson, who was my unit manager at NBC – she filled out the union contracts – she says ‘I have a new job.’ I said ‘Congratulations. What is that?’ and she says ‘I’m the associate producer of the David Letterman Show.’ And I said ‘What is that?’ She said ‘You’ve never seen it. It comes on real early in the morning, like seven in the morning. But we’re going to move the show to late-late night and I understand that – I know that you already have a job, Tom – but can you recommend somebody to lead a four-piece band and be a personality?’ Paul Shaffer had just returned from Los Angeles – he was in a sitcom called A Year at the Top with Greg Evigan. So Paul was sort of – after that show got cancelled, he was sort of just right back in town with not much going on, so I gave her Paul Shaffer’s phone number. Uh, two or three weeks later, I just happened to see them on the network feed rehearsing downstairs for this new David Letterman show, with a great band – with Hiram Bullock, Will Lee and Steve Jordan. Will Lee, as you may know, is still with the Letterman show, and Steve Jordan was the original drummer with the Blues Brothers. So, uh, Paul and I go way, way, way back. Uh, it was coincidental that Paul called me to join his band at CBS in 1993, when the show moved from NBC to CBS. And I never told Paul that story until after I was working here at CBS.

Is there someone in the CBS orchestra you feel a closer friendship with?
Well, uh, of course Paul ‘cause we go way, way back. And, uh, Will Lee, uh, and I were neighbors down in Greenwich Village for 20 years and, um, I have to say that, uh, he and I are very close friends. We’re also playing in a band called that Fab Faux for about 13 years now. It’s a Beatles cover band, based out of New York but we’ve been playing all over the United States. It’s, uh, five guys including Will Lee and Jimmy Vivino that, uh, sing and play the rhythm instruments. We also have, uh, a four-piece horn section and a violin and a viola – excuse me, a violin and a cello – that play with us and supplement the string synthesizer. So, it’s the only Beatles cover band that I know of that does the huge George Martin production songs like Penny Lane, Got to Get You into My Life, uh, Yesterday – all the real, uh, super duper, uh, arranged songs. The Beatles never performed those songs live because they could not – they didn’t have the extra instruments.

I keep waiting for you guys to come to Atlanta (laughs).
It’s just a matter of time. Do you know any promoters?

Uh, (pauses) I might. Let me do some thinking on that.
Let’s hook it up.

Who has been your favorite guest musician to play with on the Letterman show?
Wow! Well, there have been so many over the years but I guess it comes back to, again, to Ray Charles and James Brown. But I also, uh, enjoyed playing a song with Blues Traveler and um, um, Aerosmith – oh my god, now the list goes on and on and on. It’s really hard to, uh, nail me down on some of these questions, Paul, but they are very intelligent questions and I wish I had a really, really exact one-word answer.

If you could put it into words, what is it you like about music?
Wow. Everything. Uh, I like the rhythms and the harmony and I like playing and I like listening to it, uh, and uh, I just like everything about music.

I have two final questions for our special guest, Tom “Bones” Malone. What is your all-time favorite meal?
My all-time favorite meal?

Yes, sir.
Catfish.

‘Cause you’re a Mississippi guy?
I think, yes, my redneck is showing (laughs).

My last question for Mr. Tom “Bones” Malone: what would you like to say to all of our listeners?
Uh, to all your listeners I’d like to say keep listening to good music.

Well spoken. Well, Mr. Malone it’s been great to connect with you.
It’s totally my pleasure, Paul. We’ve been trying to schedule this for quite a while and, uh, it’s really a pleasure to talk with you.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Anton Fig: Instrumentalist

ANTON FIG has been the drummer for the CBS Orchestra on The Late Show with David Letterman since the band’s inception and before that the drummer on Late Night with David Letterman’s World Most Dangerous Band.  In 2002, Anton Fig released his debut album “Figments.”  He was kind enough to give us this great interview.

A big thank and welcome to Mr. Anton Fig for being our special guest today.

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Mr. Fig, one of the things that someone would first notice when they listen to your album, Figments, is just the variety of the music – so many different styles on one album – and I was wondering especially about the world music influence. I know you grew up in South Africa and I was wondering if your growing up there had an influence on your songwriting?

Yeah, well for sure. When I was growing up in South Africa, I mean it was quite a while ago, and our link to the outside world was via shortwave radio. We used to tune into Lourenço Marques, which is Mozambique now, and we would hear stuff that was coming from overseas – from Europe basically – via that radio. And that’s where I kind of got my rock education but there was also the African music that was, you know, indigenous to South Africa. That music is much like what you hear on the Graceland record, by Paul Simon, if you take away the vocals and just listen to the instrumentals. So I heard a lot of that kind of music growing up. And then my mom played classical piano and my dad was, like, really into jazz, so I got, like, a pretty wide variety of influences. You know, growing up for a bit in South Africa, you know, you’ve got a completely different flavor to, say, growing up, you know, somewhere in America, music-wise and culturally.

One of the songs I really, really liked and I was wondering about the influence behind it, was 3:4 Folk.

It’s sort of inspired by, like a, like a kind of West African style rhythms where the song – it’s like, it was like a folk song but the song could be heard in, like, either in 3:4 time or 4:4time. And a lot of that music, you know, you have instruments playing in the two different times at the same time. And just depending on how you listen to it, you can hear it both ways. So I was trying to kind of create that aspect. And also, when I came to America I was very into Weather Report, and one of the ways that they used to write songs was, it wasn’t necessarily like ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus’ like a typical pop song. They would write songs in a linear fashion so there may be like an A section, you know, a B section, and then it would go on to a C section. And it would, kind of, the form wouldn’t really repeat, it would just move in, in sort of one direction. And so that song kind of does that as well. It just kind of, I think I do repeat the verse and the chorus but after that it just kind of moves into new sections. So, the form of the song was inspired by that but the rhythms definitely came from sort of an African style or device of hearing 3 and 4 at the same time.

The album has a lot of great musicians on it – some of them from The Late Night Show – but also people like Brian Wilson, Ivan Neville, Ace Frehley. I was wondering if you thought if anyone in particular really shines on the album?

Well, I think they all do. I’ve been lucky enough in that I’ve played with lots of different people and in lots of different circumstances so I mostly called on my friends and people that I’ve played with to kind of help me out on the record. And I try to sort of place combinations of people. It wasn’t just, like, let’s see who we can get. I try to kind of get the right combinations for the right band. So, for example, the song with Ace I got Richie Scarlet – we used to play in Frehley’s Comet together – and Sebastian Bach from Skid Row. I thought, like, that would be a good combination for that particular song. Now, the Brian Wilson song that Brian’s on, I have Blondie Chaplin singing vocals. And Blondie’s an old friend of mine from South Africa and I’ve played with him a lot. And he’s currently singing with the Stones – he’s been with the Stones for the last 10 years. But he sang Sail On Sailor with the Beach Boys – he used to be in the Beach Boys. So I had Blondie singing and Brian doing the background vocal, so it kind of made sense from that point of view. Actually, you know there’s a really great moment if you go past all the songs and let the record just play a little bit, the CD, there’s a little hidden track, and I took Brian’s vocal harmonies and took the music away so you just hear the vocals by themselves. That’s an incredible moment.

A lot of people on the album are from the CBS Late Night orchestra and I was just wondering, how you started with the show?

Well, you know, there’s not a lot, there’s some. I mean, there are about 40 people on the record and, you know, the Letterman – I maybe used four people from the band or five, you know. But, uh, what happened was I was playing around New York City and, uh, I had done a record – I had played with Will and Paul and Hiram on a few different projects – and towards, in the mid ‘80s I actually did a record of Paul Butterfield’s, a blues player from Chicago, and Paul was on the record. Steve Jordan was the regular drummer on the show and, you know, when he couldn’t make it they would have various substitute drummers and one day they called me. I mean, it took a while but I guess everyone was out of town and eventually they called me and I substituted for a few weeks. Then Steve came back and then he had to leave again. You know, about a month later Paul called me up and said ‘It looks like Steve is leaving the show.’ And, you know, I don’t know what happened there – there was whatever mutual reasons – and, um, he said, uh, ‘We liked the way you substituted and you can have the gig if you want it.’ I thought about it for about a split second (laughs) and, uh, I said ‘fine.’

I saw the episode where there was a performance from Figment. I thought it was interesting. Do you think, overall, that Dave Letterman is supportive of, like the Will Lee solo effort, various solo projects from the members of the orchestra?

Yeah, well he likes the band, he likes the music, very supportive of the music. You know, he’s always commenting on how great the band sounds. And I gave him a copy of the record and, you know, one night they called and said ‘Dave really loves this. You know, he’d like to book you on the show, which I thought was really very, very supportive of him and really, really great. You know just, basically, we picked a song and it was Ivan Neville on Inside Out. I got Blondie to sing background on it and Randy Brecker, the jazz trumpet player, you know, plays a solo on the record so I got him to play the solo. It was very generous of Dave and it was a fantastic experience to play the song on the show.

Is there anyone in the, uh, orchestra that you feel exceptionally close to? I know you probably get along with everyone, of course.

Yeah, well you know I feel very close to everyone there because, I mean I’m, like, I’m very thankful to Paul for hiring me. You know, he’s the leader. Will is a fantastic musician, Felicia, Sid and – they all are fantastic musicians. I mean I see the guys every day and I feel close to all of them. I can’t single anyone out, it’s just great to be with that whole combination.

Do you envision a second Anton Fig album?

Yeah, I’d like to do that. And at the moment I’ve been, uh, doing some film music and I’ve been playing on records, and also have been doing, like, recording drum files and sending it to people across the country. And I do foresee another record but I don’t know when that’ll be because I’ve sort of – it’s a lot of work. It took me a long time to do. When you do a project yourself, you know, if you don’t feel like working that day the whole project stops. It’s a lot to take on. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right material in place. And then, you know, once you’ve done the record – which is the really fun part – you’ve got to try and get it out there which is, you know, the difficulty. The way the business is now, even thought there’s the internet – and that helps a lot – it’s prohibitive to get it into the advertising and on the radio. It’s so expensive. So, you know, those are all things to consider before embarking on a huge project but I definitely will be doing something, you know? Whether it’s a second record or maybe a smaller thing, an EP of some kind, or – there definitely will be more stuff coming from me.

I saw, uh, Jordan Zevon a couple of weeks ago on The Late Show. I know Warren Zevon had such a relationship with the show. I was looking at one of my absolute favorite Warren Zevon songs and I noticed that you played on Genius. I was wondering what it was like working with Warren Zevon.

Well, it was great. You know, I worked with him a lot on the show because when Paul couldn’t make the show, they got Warren as the keyboard player and then they made me the band leader. So I was sort of behind conducting the band and kind of doing the cues for the day, and figuring out what to play, and then we did, you know, Warren’s songs, obviously. I conducted the band and then Warren, you know, played keyboards and spoke to Dave now and then. And, you know, he’s very funny and an incredible songwriter. It was fantastic, like, learning all his material. And then he called me up and said ‘You know, would you like to play? I’m doing an album. My ride’s here, would you like to play on the record?’ So of course, I jumped at the chance. And we went into a little studio – he flew to New York – and basically, it was just me and him in the studio. He had some stuff already down on, on pro, on tape – you know, ProTools – and so I, just over the course of a weekend or two, just put all my drum tracks down and percussion overdubs. It was a great experience and, basically, it was just me and him and an engineer in the studio. And then he went back to L.A. and he just, I think he put a little bass on them and just finished it.

What was it like working with Ace Frehley?

Yeah, well you know I worked with Ace since he did the, um, solo record – his solo record which had New York Groove and Rip It Out on it – and some of the records that he did with his band. When he came and played on my record he was actually in the middle of a tour. He just ran up to my apartment, put a few solos on and then we just kind of, you know, edited it around. If you’re interested in checking out the record you can get it on Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes, and AntonFig.com. You know, he’s always been a good friend. He’s a great player. We’ve always had a good vibe and a good friendship and it’s really fun to work with him. He’s great, you know, what can I say? He means a lot to a lot of people and he means a lot to me, too.

Was there anything on the album that you found, in particular, was a favorite of yours?

Not really. I mean, I, you know, I listen to the songs and, you know, certain things sort of resonate more with me at a certain time than others but I really kind of, you know, like the whole record. There was one thing, if I had a regret – at the end of January / February / March I had a drum solo which I decided to leave off the final version of the song on the record and, you know, I was maybe sorry that I did that. Beyond that, I mean I like all of it. They’re all very different songs. They sort of keep your interest going. I tried to make it so that if you decided to follow any instrument right through the song it would, like, kind of be interesting and take your ear, or you could just listen to the song as a whole. So, I really kind of worked hard to make each song like a little journey that you could kind of work your way through. Even though it was completed a year or two ago, it still sounds pretty current to me. It’s not – I didn’t use any, like, fancy tricks or fads or anything like that, so it feels like a good, solid record that should hold up for a while.

I was wondering, in your course of time with The Late Show you certainly played with, uh, just a lot of amazing artists and I know it would be hard to pinpoint just a couple. Were there any in particular that were – it was especially memorable for you?

You know, playing with Miles Davis was really memorable because I’ve been a huge Miles Davis fan and to get a chance to play under him was great. You know, to play with James Brown was unbelievable. Springsteen was unbelievable. Stevie Winwood, Willie Nelson. I think, you know, just to have the chance to play with my favorites was pretty profound for me. And we actually got to play with James Brown a few times. You know, when you play with a really, really great guy, you know, you’re sort of playing away there and you’re thinking ‘Man, these guys sound exactly like the real guys.’ And, youknow, and of course it is them. You’re not playing in, like, a cover band, you’re playing with the actual guys themselves. That really raises the energy level up. It makes you really concentrate and play harder and I’m very thankful for having the opportunity to have the experience.

When someone listens to your music, is there anything in particular that you hope they got out of it?

I hope that it takes them somewhere, takes them on some kind of a journey. Maybe some of the words resonate with them but it’s, you know, the music kind of takes them to a place. I’ve gotten a lot of people that have written back to me and told me that they’ve really gotten a lot out of my CD. I didn’t try and do anything. I just sort of did it the way that I heard it and when I’d kind of heard everything, the music was done kind of thing. Like, for some of us it’s hard to know just when to stop but it’s, like – I don’t know how to describe it. I just did it to the best of my ability. I don’t know, you know, how that’ll hit people but I hope that it hits them, you know, in a positive and fulfilling way.

My last question. Given that this program goes out all over the world, I was wondering what Anton Fig would like to say to the world.

We could always use a bit of peace. I don’t understand why there’s all this fighting going on. I know humans have been fighting ever since we’ve been on the world, in the world. You know, I know there’s lots of differences between people. Everyone’s entitled to their differences but it’s not worth killing someone over. Hopefully, we can all get along a little better.

Well Mr. Fig, I do thank you for your time.

Well, thank you for having me and I really enjoyed talking to you.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Alan Chez: Instrumentalist

This is an interview with trumpet and flugelhorn player Alan Chez. He was a member of Paul Shaffer’s CBS Orchestra starting in 1997. Recently he has started his own band: Al Chez and the Brothers of Funk Big Band. He has also toured with Bon Jovi, Robert Cray, Tower of Power, Young Rascals, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Maynard Ferguson, Eric Clapton, Dave Edmunds Band, Ben E. King, Sam & Dave as well as other artists and bands.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure we welcome Mr. Alan Chez, trumpet and flugelhorn player with the CBS Orchestra for The Late Show with David Letterman. He also has his own project: Al Chez and The Brothers of Funk Big Band. How are you doing Mr. Chez?

I’m hanging in there. How are you this evening?

It’s great to do this and I’m having a good evening. So, my first question: who is Alan Chez?

Alan Chez – who am I? I’m my mother’s son. Trumpet player, New York City, born and raised in New Jersey, son of Peter Chez who was a country and western singer – called himself Chet Peters. My father was always going around the house playing the guitar and, you know, and singing and doing gigs, uh, with my mom, you know, being a background singer in New Jersey – in Jersey City and Newark area way back when. And then, uh, they started – when I was like nine years old, they had started a, uh, drum and bugle corps in our area. And my two older brothers got involved in that and, of course, when I grew up I wanted to be just like my older brothers which, when I turned nine, got involved and uh, basically got most of, I’d say my chops and musicianship and, from that activity.

Can you remember your earliest musical loves, your favorite musicians?

I’m a Louis Armstrong fan, OK? Only because the one thing about Louis that was so cool – there’s nobody has ever sounded like him since, you know what I mean? Who did Louis Armstrong sound like? Louis Armstrong sounded just like Louis Armstrong. He didn’t copy anybody and there’s nobody, really, who has gotten that individualistic sound down. And that’s what I think is very important in music. We have so many clones today, you know? The kids that are going to college for music and learning X’s and O’s. You know, there is no X’s and O’s, there is no right or wrong, there’s only good and bad, you know, in my book. I have students and kids that come up to me and, you know, ‘Mr. Chez what kind of horn do you use?’ ‘What kind of mouthpiece do you use?’ It really doesn’t matter. There’s no right and wrong, there’s no X’s and O’s, it’s just good and bad. And Louis was great – he wasn’t even ‘good’ but his individualism of approaching music is something that I try to take with my playing whenever I play. I don’t want to sound like anybody except for myself.

Very interesting. Well, with what you said about Louis Armstrong, I have to ask what do you think about Chuck Mangione?

I love Chuck Mangione. I’m a huge Chuck Mangione fan (laughs). I’ve seen him play a couple of times and I have all of his music on, uh, on albums – I’m dating myself here – I have albums and eight-tracks and cassettes and the whole thing. I don’t think he got the props. He’s a great player, a great soloist. And, you know, guys listen to him, yeah ‘Does Chuck Mangione have the hard chops of Maynard Ferguson and, you know, some of these other, you know, guys?’ No, but who cares? There’s so much more to playing a horn than playing high notes, you know what I mean? He had so – he could so – and some of the most beautiful music to come out of a horn that I’ve ever heard.

Definitely a great writer of music as well.

Oh, you know Bellavia and Chase the Clouds Away – oh my goodness! (Laughs) You know? I listen to him and the beauty of his tunes – and the beauty of any great tune – you could be in your car and you put on that CD or that song comes on the radio, and then it just, it takes you back to a time – it takes you back to a smell, to a, to a memory, to a, you know, a period of your life. And just in, in eight bars you’re back there, you know what I mean? Chuck does that to me all the time. I’ll be driving and all of a sudden I’ll hear the beginning of Children of Sanchez (makes rhythmic sounds) and I’ll sound like ‘Oh my god, it’s 1979 again. Here we go.’ You know? And I’m, I’m remembering the people I hung out with, and the smells – that’s what it’s about for me.

When somebody listens to your music, what do you hope that the people that are listening – whether it’s on a recording or whether you’re with the CBS Orchestra or with your own project – what do you want the listener to get out of the experience of listening?

I want them to have fun. You know, music basically came from celebration. My life, I’m walking around – I’ve got my family crazy – I’m whistling and, you know, I’m a whistler so I’m always going around, you know, whistling around my house. I’ll go to the supermarket and my daughter will be “Dad – stop.’ You know? ‘Stop whistling.’ you know? (Laughs) And I’m basically a pretty upbeat, happy person and when I have somebody hear me play I want them to feel the celebratory part of me. I want them to feel good about themselves. I want my music to go through their body and hit their soul and make their soul shine.

What a great answer. Now, I understand you were born in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Yes, sir.

And you continue to live in New Jersey.

I’ve always played in New York City and I’ve always lived in Jersey so, to me, I always have to come into the city. I always have to commute in, do my gigs and then, at the end of the night, drive home. I’ve done it since I was, you know, since I was 16 years old. Actually, when I was 15 years old I went the other way. I lived in central Jersey. I started a band with Jon Bon Jovi when I was 15 years old called the Atlantic City Expressway. And we, we had become the house band down at the Stone Pony and the Fast Lane in Asbury Park. And whenever Edgar Winter would come out or Rick Derringer or the Southside Johnny or Bruce Springsteen – we were the warm-up band for them but we were only 15 or 16 year-old kids. But we would get rides down there from somebody’s mom and dad, ‘cause we weren’t old enough to drive, never mind, you know, being in the club playing, but we always had to commute.

Now tell us a little bit about your project, Al Chez and the Brothers of Funk Big Band.

I don’t want this to come off the wrong way, OK? Because, you know, when you get to a certain – I’m not going to say ‘level’ because I don’t like to use levels, and I don’t like to use ‘different players’, ‘this player is better than this one’ but when, when you do certain gigs, when you do a lot of gigs and you meet a lot of different musicians – let’s put it that way – everybody’s good. Everybody can play. The guys I like to play with, I don’t care how good they are, I want guys that can hang. I want guys that I’m gonna laugh with. I want guys that I’m gonna have fun with, that I’m gonna sit next to ‘em and I’m gonna look across the stage and I’m gonna say ‘Man, this guy is having a great time’ and, because he’s having a great time, he’s making me have a great time. Well, that’s what the Brothers of Funk are. They are a bunch of my buddies from Syracuse, New York. We go out and do these big band gigs and play Maynard Ferguson and Stan Kenton charts. We have a blast. I get to sing a couple of songs in it, too, which is nice. I get to express myself, vocally which, uh, is a lot of fun. You know, playing out there with your friends and trying to get people’s souls to shine – for me, you can’t buy anything better.

Just hearing you talk, it’s very obvious you’re very passionate about music.

Well, how can you not be? You know, anything that could, that could change your emotions in eight bars, of hearing something for eight bars – you could be in a terrible mood and listen to a piece of music for 15 minutes, not even 15, 15 seconds and it could change your whole day. That’s powerful. To me, that’s more powerful than any drug or alcoholic product that I’ve ever heard about.

Well, with that said, if you could put it into words, what is it you like about music?

First of all, I don’t like music – I love music. I love music, and it’s not the notes and the rhythms and how hard a lick is or how high the note is or the level of the player – it’s a feeling. It’s just a powerful change of emotion. One of the only things in this world that I believe that can really reach in and touch your soul – that’s what music is to me.

Wow. Well, you know, I was reading about one of the gigs that you had in 1999, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. And that just seems like a mind-blowing kind of event: Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

That was a good one.

(Laughs) Yeah! So, I mean, you can’t get much better than that. I hope you can at least tell us a few of your recollections about that event.

We’ve done the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with, uh, Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra for – boy, we must have done the last 24 or 25 of them. We do them every year. That one was a really good one because, being a Jersey boy – come on. Bruce Springsteen. Playing in New York. Billy Joel. They’re all my guys. They’re all the guys, when I went to high school that’s what I was listening to. And to say that Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel are influences of mine, which they are, is kind of strange because I’m a trumpet player. And you don’t – you wouldn’t really think of Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel as an influence to a trumpet player but they’re in there. They both created music that has touched me in ways that when I create music and when I play music, I come back to that. You know, that gig was really good. Bruce Springsteen played a couple of songs. I don’t know what song it was we played – it was 1999. We played one song with them and then we weren’t playing anymore with them. And he played a couple of songs with just his band, and all of a sudden he went into Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. And the horns looked at each other, we’re like you know, come on. We played this song a thousand times in cover bands growing up. Let’s go. And we just played it with Springsteen, and he turned around when the horns came in with a look of ‘I love you guys.’ (Laughs) You know? So that was – it was great. It was great.

It sounds it. Take all the listeners back to the time that you met Paul Shaffer and Will Lee. That was 1986. What was your impression of these gentlemen when you met them?

Well, those are the guys – those are the cats. You know, Paul Shaffer – Paul Shaffer is a genius. He has an encyclopedia in his head of music that is second to none. And Will, Will is just a bass machine. Just knowing them from and seeing them on TV and knowing their reputation – I, I really didn’t know them, either of them, personally – me and Bruce Kapler, the saxophone player on The Letterman Show – we were playing in a club and Will and Paul were going to the club. They had heard about us from another friend of theirs and they were going out – when the Letterman show does reruns, which is about 10 weeks a year, they do reruns – the band was going to do gigs, like jazz festivals, and they wanted to hire a horn section. I think they wanted to hire the Tower of Power horns and then they heard me and Bruce play and they said that us two, the two of us, are – I’m trying not to compare us to the Tower of Power horns ‘cause I did that gig too and that was a heck of a lot of fun – but the two of us sounded like five horn players and that’s why they hired us to get involved with that.

Now, just being in this band, the CBS Orchestra, you guys get to play with some of the best musicians in the world, and there has to be so many surreal experiences there, but if you had to name one – if it’s possible to name one – tell us about the one artist you played with where you had to pinch yourself and say ‘Tell me this is real.’ (Laughs)

I have two and being a trumpet player, the first one – Maynard Ferguson. I was out on the road doing the Bon Jovi/Aerosmith rock and roll tour. I was 23 years old. I had a pair of tight leather pants. I had a big long perm (laughs) and I’m going into my car and I’m listening to Maynard Ferguson records (laughs), CDs. And to get to play with Maynard after all that time was, you know, for a trumpet player, come on. That was great. Another trumpet player, Arturo Sandoval, who came on the show – you know, Arturo, he’s the man – to me, that’s the greatest trumpet player, uh, living today. You know, he’s, that guy can do it all. And he’s coming on the show. We’re playing Night in Tunisia and we’re, you know, Sandunga, and all these different tunes of his. And I go home and I know that, a couple of days before, I know he’s going to be on the show, and I find out what tunes he’s going to play and I get the CDs and I get the chart and, you know, and I go in my studio and I practice and I practice, and I get it down. And, of course, I’m learning the second trumpet part because it’s Arturo Sandoval. Well, I get to the Letterman show and I get my charts and I put them up there, and I get them on my stand and he walks up there, as nice as can be, and he says ‘How are you doing? How are you?’ And he looks at my charts and he goes, uh ‘You have second trumpet part there.’ I say “Yes, yes, yes. You know, I’ve gone over them, you know. I’ve practiced, you know, and I hope I’m going to do you justice.’ He goes ‘Oh no. Oh no.’ He goes ‘You young man, me old man. You play first trumpet part.’ (Laughs)

Oh, wow.

And I did. I was, like, oh boy, here we go! (Laughs) And absolutely had a blast with him. What a nice man, what a great gentleman, and what an ambassador to music he is.

I’ve had the chance to interview a couple of your fellow band-mates on the show – Anton Fig, Bruce Kapler, and uh, there’s a couple more that have expressed interest. So I’d like to know, is there someone in the band that you feel closer to?

Probably Bruce Kapler. Me and Bruce have played together – oh boy, we started in a band, La Bamba and the Hubcaps – I think it was 1982? So I’ve been playing in different projects with Bruce. My first Letterman show in 1986, backing up Toni Childs was me and Bruce Kapler. The Jon Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet tour was, you know, it was four horns. Bruce was on that with me. Uh, we’ve just done a lot of stuff together. He’s like my older brother. I love him.

Here’s the mushy part of the show. When we asked Bruce that question, he said ‘Alan Chez.’

(Laughs) Wait ‘til I see him.

Well, you know, there’s an album project that you have planned for the summer of 2010 and so, tell all the listeners out there about the album project. And also, there’s a fan page where they can keep up with you – I just joined the fan page on Facebook page – so tell everyone about that, how they can, uh, find out more about the world of Alan Chez.

We’re starting to go in the studio with the Al Chez and Brothers of Funk Big Band, trying to get material together, you know, some cover tunes, some original material, trying to put something together and just get it out there. There’s different kinds of big bands, you know, there’s the high-powered big bands, there’s the swing big bands, there’s the Michael Bublé big bands. I want a big band like I’ve been saying, you know – that reaches into your heart, touches your soul, massages it and then lets you on your way. And that, through my music and the music that we create with the Brothers of Funk, makes you feel like you’re a better person. That’s my goal. Now, how do we do that? We’re working on it (laughs) but that’s my goal. That’s my goal. It’s not to just to have somebody say ‘Hey, I like that tune.’ I want it to affect you. You know the tune, you know. You hear (sings) ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone …’ You listen to a certain song like that, if you don’t feel great when that song is over, you’ve got to listen harder (laughs), if that’s the case. I want to create that type of music. Like I said, it’s not a million notes, it’s not the hardest, it’s just a feeling. You know what I’m talking about?

Yeah, absolutely.

That’s what we’re going for with the Brothers of Funk. On Facebook, there’s a Brothers of Funk fan page. Come on on, you know, get on there. Come and say hello, drop me a note. Some people made us these really, really great T-shirts that we have for sale on that site also. They’re black T-shirts. On the front is says ‘Al Chez and the Brothers of funk Big Band’ and on the back it just simply says ‘We want to’ and then in big letters it says ‘FUNK YOU’ (laughs). I know you want one. I’ll send you one (laughs).

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah I do. You’re a mind-reader. (Laughs) I have two final questions before we go. What is your all-time favorite meal?

I’ve got to go with a big bucket of crawfish. That would be me. A big Cajun meal. Crawfish etouffee or live crawfish and some red beans and rice and some bread on the side. Right there, that’s my guy.

I’m going down to New Orleans in a couple of weeks so you’re getting me psyched for it.

(Laughs) Go to Mother’s right there on Bourbon Street and just go nuts – go nuts for me.

All right (laughs). Well, my last question: this broadcast goes out all over the world. What would you like to say to all the people that are listening in?

I would like to say life is an easy thing if you let it. Just relax and let life come to you, you know? There’s a lot of uptight peoplein this world and one of these things we do as musicians, which I think we should do as musicians – kind of living for the sake of living. It’s a beautiful world out there, man, and most days are really beautiful if you let them. There’s a thing called a ‘10/90’ program, OK? It’s not a program, it’s just a belief, and it is that 10% of the things that happen to you, there’s nothing that you can do about those 10% of things. They’re going to happen to you. You’re going to hit a red light. You’re going to run into somebody you really don’t care for, you know? But the 90%, it’s what you do with that 10% that’s been given to you, you know, that you can’t change. Yeah, you hit a red light. So put on the radio and groove, you know what I mean? You see somebody that you don’t like? Well, drop it, you know? And go up to them and say ‘Hey, what’s happening?’ You know what I mean? I’m all for the positive of everything. Have a great day. Have the most awesome day that you could possibly have. You know why? Because tomorrow, that day is gone. You only get one day at a time. You only get one day a day. And everybody should try their best to make that the best day that they can.

That’s very well put. Well, Mr. Chez, thank you so much for this interview. On behalf of all of our listeners, it’s been great.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Paula Cole: Singer-Songwriter

PAULA COLE was the first artist, or person for that matter, interviewed on-camera for Paul Leslie Presents.  The resulting interview resulted in us receiving a lot of correspondence from her fans.

We thank Paula Cole very much for taking a chance with us and being the very first.  Listen to her newer work, like Ithaca for an appreciation for her newer work.  She meets the definition of true artist.  She has not stopped creating, and for that, we are thankful.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Paul Leslie. Today we’re going to meet an artist who’s had a career that’s spanned almost two decades. Her name is Paula Cole. No doubt you’ve heard her songs Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? and I Don’t Want to Wait. She’s a Grammy winner and seven-time Grammy nominee. She’s released six solo albums including her most recent album, Ithaca and has sold three million copies. She’s worked with artists as diverse as Peter Gabriel and Dolly Parton. We’re at the Variety Playhouse where we’re going to meet the woman behind the songs.


It’s a great pleasure to welcome Paula Cole. Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you, Paul.

 Who is Paula Cole?

There’s the intimidating question that you ask. Paula Cole is intense, is an environmentalist, is intelligent, has always been a singer and had this burdensome musical proclivity. I’m a mom to a very brilliant 10½ year-old daughter. I’m loyal, uh, and that’s about as best as I can do aside from being a woman in mid-life trying to keep things in balance.

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?

I grew up in a very musical home and now that I’ve gotten my rebellion out of my system, by my twenties, and now that I’m a mother I look back on how I was raised and I’m very grateful for my family. They are very involved now in my life with my daughter so I can come and work. So, life at the Cole family household was one where I would come home from school and I would play music and my dad played a whole bunch of instruments, and we would sing and make music as a source of fun. It was to be self-made. That being said, my dad was a professor of biology and ecology, a perfectionistic ‘Type A’ intelligent man and  I quested to do well. I was a straight A student. I was class president (laughs) and that’s partly because I was raised in such a place. But, a lot of pressure but no complaints. Really a great upbringing.

You studied at the Berkley College of Music. What was the most important thing you learned from that experience?

The most important thing I learned at Berkley was something I arrived at myself by being in that environment – and that environment is an oasis in the world for modern music – and that was, uh, to be myself. Because when I was at Berkley I was kind of woodshedding the masters – and that’s jazz language for just listening, drinking in, being influenced by musical greats. At the time I was going to be a jazz singer, I thought, so I was listening to Chet Baker. I wanted to be a female Chet Baker when I grew up. I was listening to Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday, and I worshiped at the alter of Miles Davis and I thought of my voice as an instrument, as a horn. And uh, but then I started needing to outlet my emotions because I struggle with kind of trying to figure out what I’m feeling? So songs to me are this life line and they just started coming up. And that’s when I realized I need to do this. I need to be myself. (Performance clip plays)

I read that you turned down a record deal from a jazz label. That’s so interesting. Was it from you following your heart? Was it gut instinct? What made you decide, when so many people are scrambling to get records deals?

Then (laughs), you know then – back in (laughs), back in the day a record deal was paramount. Now you can do it without it. Now you can be more self-made and that’s the road that I wish to go on now. I want to be more entrepreneurial and self-directed, but at the time? Yes, a record deal was an amazing thing. And it was an amazing thing, Paul, for my self-confidence. So, it wasn’t the right fit and I thought ‘Gee, this came really easily. It shouldn’t be that easy.’ And if it comes that easy then I want it to be right, and it wasn’t quite the right label and the right time. And I’m glad I said no. I wanted to be on a label that was broader with its genres of music.

Tell us about Peter Gabriel. What was he like to work with and be around?

Peter Gabriel is like his name. I think he’s kind of an angel among us. I had the wonderful fortune of joining his Secret World Live Tour, which was just rereleased, a newly mastered version this July, this month. And, uh, that was my first tour ever which is bizarre, to be flown to Europe and stay in five-star hotels and tour the world as your first tour but – it was all downhill from there, I guess (laughs) – but that was my beginning. And I joined these musical masters. Truly my influences were comprised of the band. And I was a true fan of Peter’s work. He was highly influential to me, musically. So there I am working with my little personal demigod (laughs), and then that filters through and you see him as a man and then you see him as a friend. And he’s a wonderful man and a wonderful friend. I feel very fortunate to have had that experience. And I would be on those large stages thinking to myself ‘What can learn from this? What can I take from this and bring it home?’

Well, on that note, what did you take away from Peter Gabriel? What did he teach you?

Hmmm, one of the greatest things he taught me was that the – to share the spotlight. That the strength of the band, um, blossoms when you share the spotlight, and you don’t hog it like some narcissistic diva. You, you celebrate the guitar solo. You give everybody time and lots of kudos. And I saw him be very paternal to his working family, the band, and I saw how magnificent that was, so that changed me. And I wanted to be that inclusive and loving to my band.

Your songs – there’s a couple that everybody knows. Everybody knows I Don’t Want to Wait. Everybody knows Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? and that’s something that some songwriters never get to experience, you know, for their message to be carried like that. But the thing about a lot of your lyrics is there’s a bit of mystery to them. Like, they could be interpreted a couple of different ways if you look at some of the lyrics. Is that intentional?

A lot of people know my songs, whether they want to or not (laughs) and I am, I’m really grateful for that. Uh, it’s funny. My career didn’t exactly turn out how I thought it would be. I thought it would be a much slower, longer build and it all happened very quickly, based on a couple of hits, uh, which is still very bizarre to me in a way. And I remember hearing like somebody singing my song with their Walkman on. I’m walking down the streets of  NYC and somebody’s singing along with Cowboys. And then I’m in another city and hear someone in a convertible with the radio on and there, my song is coming out of the radio. It’s fantastic. It hits you like a lightening bolt to the chest. It’s just unbelievable. And even today, if I’m in the grocery store or wherever I am and I hear myself, I stop and I feel really great and I thank oh sweet mystery of life, I thank you universe for that. That is one of the – I guess the great success I feel, is that I have intellectual property that continues to live and that’s quite a blessing.

Where’s the most bizarre place that you heard one of your songs being played?

Well, I haven’t heard – well, there’s some karaoke versions out there (laughs) and it’s on karaoke, and that’s a little funny but um – I don’t know. I’d need a minute to think about that one.

Tell us a little bit about – I wanted to show the new album Ithaca. What was the inspiration behind the title, Ithaca?

Thanks. Ithaca is my last album. That one’s on a major label, Decca. Ithaca comes from the Odyssey, Homer’s Odyssey, because Odysseus has just made this really painful long journey into the world. Something we can all relate to, right? Like, just moving through life. Fighting demons. Working in the world. Being a parent. For me, like going through my divorce, relocating, being a single mom and making the decision to come home to my Ithaca. And that was a hard decision to make. I was letting go of all my dreams of my twenties to live in the hip environment NYC – which I love and I miss – and to come back to suburban America and live near my parents so that I would have help raising my daughter. That’s a hard thing to go through but I knew it was my truth and I knew it was what I needed to do. So I kind of felt very much akin to Odysseus’s full spiritual circle of life and coming home to Ithaca. And I went home to my Ithaca. And I thought it was the right metaphor for that body of work.

What do you find is the greatest well of inspiration for your songwriting?

There seems to be an ever-present well. I don’t understand it but I have this well of  sadness and angst and intensity, and it doesn’t necessarily make for a happy life (laughs) but I feel like I’m an empath. I’m a sponge. I feel people’s feelings. I see what’s going on in the world. I want to know what’s going on in the world. I read the Financial Times every day. I want to, I want to know what’s happening. But it’s all of that. It’s feeling and seeing the world. It’s experiencing my life as deeply as I do and needing an outlet for it, or else I’d go insane.

As far as the songwriters that have influenced you the most, who would you say are the lyricists and composers that are the most in your work?

I love singer-songwriters because they are truth-seekers. And I should probably add that to the list of ‘Who is Paula Cole?’ – truth-seeker. And I think singer-songwriters who really arrive at their own voice are truth-seekers. So, John Lennon and Joni Mitchell and Dolly Parton and Bill Withers and Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye and Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Singer-songwriters. And it doesn’t matter what style it is. That encompasses a lot of styles but that doesn’t matter to me. They all arrived at – oh, Neil Young – really unique, they are uniquely themselves. They’re intelligent. They’re questing for their truth and they’re putting their pain out so magnificently, their joy. And, uh, so that’s really my favorite music.

There have been some great artists that have recorded songs that you wrote. What is the best rendition that you’ve heard – if you dare answer (laughs).

(Laughs) Oh, I know it, hands down. My favorite cover of my song – and I, and I, I still can’t believe it – but Annie Lennox and Herbie Hancock, they covered a song of mine called Hush, Hush, Hush which I’ll perform tonight. This was a song that I wrote because a friend of mine died of AIDS too young and I didn’t know what to do with those feelings. I was overwhelming by my feelings so I put them in  a song. And Herbie Hancock plays the piano and Annie Lennox sings. And it’s on Herbie’s Possibilities album and it’s on her Greatest Hits album. And they both did such an amazing job and I’m touched and like humbled that they did it. It’s incredible.

What’s the best thing about being Paula Cole?

OK, uh, (laughs) the best thing – you know, the best thing about being me is that I have this 10½ year-old daughter that is completely captivating to me. She’s so smart – she’s smarter than me – so I’m finding it a very fascinating ride to discover who this person is and that’s definitely the best part about being me.

Well, my last question is totally open-ended.

OK.

You can say anything you like. What would you like to say to the people who are watching?

Oh, uh, um … I would like to say that I ask you not to compartmentalize me, somewhere back on that shelf from the ‘90s. I am so much more than that. I had to take a hiatus because of my daughter and her health problems but I just ask that you keep an open mind and you check out my newer work too.

Miss Paula Cole, thank you very much for this interview.

Thank you.

It’s been a pleasure.

Likewise.

 (Video closing) Paula Cole is a true artist. She lives and breathes her work. We want to thank her very much for joining us on Paul Leslie Presents. Be sure and follow us on Twitter at thepaulleslie and visit us online at thepaulleslie.com. We’ll keep bringing you conversations with the great artists of our times. I’m Paul Leslie. Thank you so much for watching.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Tora: Singer-Songwriter

 New York based Singer-songwriter Tora joins us for an in-depth conversation about her debut album “Spilling Over.”
Tora was born and raised in New York City. Her mother and father were producing Broadway shows when she was just a toddler. It is why her mother jokes, “Tora could sing before she could talk; and she danced before she could walk.” As the years passed she spent her evenings at all the Broadway rehearsals, often learning entire shows and all its parts. When she wasn’t at rehearsal, she was t aking piano, singing and dance lessons and was also an accomplished high-level gymnast and captain to her team. She was accepted to and attended the summer program at the renowned Interlochen Academy for the Arts for three summers, each time a different major. Later in life while attending Columbia University and being back in her native New York City, her pull towards the music profession was unavoidable. Columbia granted her leave to pursue her dreams. “I wasn’t happy unless I was writing music, performing it or thinking about it.,” she confesses. “You only live once — I know the value of how little time we have here on earth and how it always gets shorter. Sometimes you have to just take a leap and go for your wildest dreams!” It was another two years of hard work and struggles to establish herself as an “artist” before Tora signed with Hawker Management and began work on her debut Album. She draws influence from Freddie Mercury, The Beatles, and Elton John and blends them with similar flares as Joan Jett, Heart and Blondie. Her stage presence reflects all her theatrical and dance background and her voice is a powerhouse to be reckoned with. “I just want to entertain and give you a great show! But I also have real things to say and music is how I’m going to say it.”

Jack Feldman: Lyricist

JACK FELDMAN is a lyricist.  Along with composer Alan Menken, he wrote the songs for the musical “NEWSIES,” with book by Harvey Fierstein.  Jack Feldman has also written many lyrics for songs appearing in Disney animated films.  Along with fellow lyricist Bruce Sussman, Jack Feldman wrote many songs with recording artist Barry Manilow.

***

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome our special guest.  He’s a very talented lyricist, Mr. Jack Feldman.  Along with Alan Menken and Harvey Fierstein he is the creator of the new musical, ‘Newsies.’  Thanks so much for joining us.
My pleasure Paul.


Who is Jack Feldman?

(Laughs)  Well, I’m a guy who grew up in the New York area on Long Island and I got to see a lot theater while I was growing up cause my parents would go and I remember going also with my grandmother when I was just a little kid and I always loved it.  It was at the center of my life since I can remember in terms of what I enjoyed to do and what I enjoy doing and working in the theater was always what I aspired to do.


What would you say it is about theater that captures you so much?
I think originally it was musical theater and the way that songs were used to tell the story of whatever piece it was.  Whatever show it was.  And I remember that also from animated movies like the classic Disney animated movies which at that time, and even up until not that long ago, were done very much the way songs in a show function, that is to illuminate character, tell part of the story, advance a relationship, tell you what the character might be thinking, in what in a straight play might be a soliloquy  or a monologue and that suspension of disbelief that seem to come so easily on stage where a character or characters could be talking and then singing and you would buy it and so even though in a real life situation it sounds like it would be silly on stage, it was perfectly natural and I think part of the reason why movie musicals don’t work on screen as much is because screen is so much, uh, the movies are so much more literal and the artificiality of breaking into song is that much more noticeable and hard to accomplish.


Can you remember specific songs or recordings that you especially liked growing up?
Well I listened to a lot of stuff that all kids listen to, or that most kids listen to in terms of stuff that was on the radio and pop music of the time.  I was always interested in that and I always was familiar with it but what I was really drawn to in a much more profound way were original cast albums from shows.  At first, the ones that happened to be in the house because my parents had bought them after seeing a show and later, those that I would go out and buy myself or ask my mom to get for me and I use to literally memorize, not on purpose, but I’d listen to them so much that I ended up memorizing virtually whole original cast albums of shows, a lot of which I could still sing from memory or write down from memory if I want to.  For some reason, it just always, they always stuck in my mind.


Were you always a writer?
I wasn’t always a writer in, in a discipline sense.  I think I always wanted to be.  I remember telling a neighbor of mine when I was about five or six years old…we were both about five or six…that I wanted to be ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein.’  I don’t recall that much of the conversation but for some reason I recall saying that.  I even remember exactly where we were out in my backyard when I said it.  But I really didn’t start to write in any kind of a disciplined way till high school and the first thing I wrote of that nature was when I was a senior in school.  Every year the seniors would put on an original show basically lampooning school life and when I was a senior I wrote a good deal of that show, the script and lyrics and music and along with some other people but it was definitely, I took the lead, in that and that was the first project that resembled even in its, you know, most amateur form the structure of a show and songs that fit characters and story.


You’ve written a lot of songs with Bruce Sussman.
Yes.


How did you meet him?
We met in songwriting workshop that was called the ‘BMI Workshop’ that was started by a very successful, and at the time, well-known Broadway conductor by the name of Lehman Engel.  When I got out of college I went into the workshop…you had to audition for it…and that’s where Bruce and I met.  We weren’t working together at the time.  I was writing my own lyrics and music and Bruce, as a lyricist, was working with another composer.  But at some point, a couple of years after we met we started to work together as well, doing the lyrics together and my writing the music.  We worked on one project actually with a playwright by the name of Wendy Wasserman who achieved considerable fame.  Won the Pulitzer Prize , matter of fact, and died tragically young about, oh goodness, I don’t know, eight years ago now, maybe more and that got done at a not-for-profit theater here in New York and that was the one full-length show that we worked on together, Bruce and I.


What was he like to work with?
Bruce was great to work with.  We had a very similar sensibility, very similar sense of humor, we both tended to admire the same writers and, and shows and we just got along really, really well and it was a very smooth collaboration.   It always was.

You wrote the lyrics along with him, Bruce Sussman, to one of Barry Manilow’s most well-known songs and that song is ‘Copacabana.’
Right


Tell us a little bit about writing that song.
What happened was Barry had been to Rio de Janeiro and in Rio there’s a beach called the Copacabana Beach and he had remembered a line from a movie that he saw, that he had seen on TV many, many times , an old movie where they used, where they were talking about that beach and the line was something like “Copacabana, there’s music in that name” and when he came back from Brazil he said it would be great to write a song called ‘Copacabana’ and he didn’t really give us any direction in terms of what it should be about and I remember the hardest part of the song for us was deciding on what the approach to it would be.  What we started out with the beach and after a little while thought well there’s no reason why we can’t do it about the club which was legendary at that point.  It had passed its heyday but it was really still very well-known and at that point it was a dance club and we thought if we set it back in the 40’s and did it like it was an old movie and had sort of a melodrama plot, kind of tongue-in-cheek and that sort of gave us a handle on how to, on how to write the song and once we had fashioned a little story, and a few characters, the rest of it was fun.  Once we, once we cracked it and decided how we were going to approach it.  It only, I think we, we did it basically in two nights’ working, two evenings and then gave it to Barry.  I think we even called him and we sort of dictated it to him over the phone and he wrote the music very quickly and that’s how the song was written.

It certainly has endured.  Still a very well-known and well-loved song.
Yeah, I mean it was never meant to be anything but a, an album cut to sort of change of pace on one of Barry’s albums because so much of what he had hits with were ballads, love songs, and so he thought if we could, if he could mix it up and put a song that had a real dance beat to it and a little bit of humor it would make for a better variety on the album and, but basically listeners called into radio stations asking for it to played and that’s how it sort of broke out but it was never meant to be a single.  It was always meant to just sit on the album but it was kind of forced out which was great.  It was a surprise and it was terrific to have that reaction to it.

A personal favorite is ‘Why Don’t We Try a Slow Dance,’ which you co-wrote.
Yes
What was the inspiration?
We wrote that for a, a TV special that Barry was doing.  He did a bunch of them and I honestly don’t remember what the impetus was for that in particular.  I can’t remember whether it was something that was mapped out in the script of the show and they envisioned it.  We wrote it to be sung, you know, for him to sing on the show so there would be, he would be seen singing it. It wouldn’t … it wouldn’t just be on a record but he eventually put it on a record.  I always thought that was a neat song too.  It was kind of a throw-back type song.


Do you have a favorite Manilow song that you had a hand in writing?
Well, I guess despite virtue of the fact that it was the first song for Barry that we all wrote together, I would have to say ‘Copacabana.’  It did achieve a popularity and it was literally a pop, the first pop song that I ever wrote.  Bruce had written with Barry for a year or two before I joined the collaboration so he had already gotten his feet wet but I never had.  It was quite special to sit down and the first one we did together ended up being successful.  That’s not necessarily my favorite Manilow song but my favorite one that I had a hand in doing.

The ‘Newsies’ musical has
Yes.

Has a new cast recording out.
Yeah.

And I wanted you to tell us how did you first come to hear of the ‘Newsies’ project?
I heard of the ‘Newsies’ project through Alan Menken who I also met in the BMI song writing workshop where I met Bruce.  Alan was a year ahead of me but we became friends and eventually he started to work, of course, with Howard Ashman and they were a brilliant, brilliant team.  They did ‘The Little Mermaid’ together and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and part of the ‘Aladdin’ movie and Howard was ill and he was originally slated to do ‘Newsies’ but he was really too ill to do it and so Alan called me and asked if I’d be interested in, you know, meeting about it and see if was something I’d like to do and that’s how I got involved. 


What is it Alan Menken like to work with?
Alan is incredible to work with.  He is…he is so gifted and it all sort of comes from his gut as he’s fond of saying.  He gets an instinct for the way something should sound and once he does he writes pretty quickly and it’s pretty amazing to be in the room with him when he’s working on music because as a composer I know that I don’t, I never work with that kind of sort of, I don’t know if you’d call it inspiration or just instinct.  He just…it just sort of pours out of him and that’s not to say that he’s not flexible or won’t make changes.  He’s very collaborative.  He’s an inspiration to work with cause of how gifted he is and I think when you work with somebody that good it tends to make you better.

How did the process of writing songs with him work?
It varies.  Well, usually we would…we would come up with what the purpose of the song was going to be.  If a scene had already been written we knew we wanted to put a song in we would start from that which is always a little easier.  It’s always easier to write when there are limits and you know whose singing it, what they’re feeling, what you want to say.  And I guess once we had all that settled and we had talked about all that and talked about it with Harvey, obviously, who wrote the script I think if he’d had his druthers, Alan likes to write the music first or at least some of the music first just to get a feel for it and we often did that.  He would rough out a melody or a chorus and then we would find a title and then I would go home and work on a lyric draft and then we would get together again and refine it.  But there were also times when he was doing something else or he needed to be somewhere else and I knew that we had a song that we wanted to do so I would sketch out a lyric and bring that to him and he would set music to that.  There was no…there’s no strict way that we go about doing it.  It’s really sort of as it comes which is great because I enjoy writing to music and he has no problem setting the lyric if it’s put in front of him.  I mean it’s not to say that we didn’t have a lot of false starts and stuff like that.  You always do.  But we never had a problem with the process in terms of it needed to be a certain way or in a certain order which is great  Very freeing.

You mentioned Harvey a second ago.  What is Harvey Fierstein like to work with?
I had never met Harvey.  I was only a fan, a huge fan, of both his writing and his acting and I was a little intimidated at first because, because he is Harvey Fierstein and I guess I would have felt the same way about Alan if I hadn’t known him but because I had known him for so many years it wasn’t like that but Harvey completely puts you at your ease.  He is also unbelievable collaborative.  If he fashions a scene and we have an idea for a song and they may not absolutely mesh, he would always say “You guys write the song and I will adjust the scene to make sure that the song and the scene fit together.”  He was always…and it’s very hard when you’re the difference between being a playwright and being a book writer for a musical.  As a playwright you’re in charge of everything that’s said and done on the stage.  As a book writer, a lot of times you have to give up your “best moments” to the songs.  He instinctively knows the difference so well that when he’s working on a musical he’s fully prepared to let the song drive the show.  But it’s deceptive because it’s his dialogue, it’s his characters.  In this case some of the characters were from the source material which was the movie of ‘Newsies’ but without all that foundation there, there’s really nothing to write about and no characters to write for.  It’s an extremely underrated skill, writing the book to a musical and I think often a writer gets blamed unfairly, um, and a lot of terrific playwright are not necessarily good musical book writers because it’s a very different process, that kind of collaboration, and Harvey is just expert at it.  He also wrote the book to ‘La Cage aux Folles and ‘Catered Affair’ so he’s an experience book writer and it’s easy to see why he’s successful having worked with him because he’s a perfect collaborator and hilarious…hilarious!  We had all…the three of us had an incredible amount of fun working on the show.  We really did.

Prior to doing this interview we’re doing I got to correspond with him and he asked that I would please send you his love.
Oh!  Well that’s nice.  Thank you very much!  I just spoke to him this morning as a matter of fact.  We’ve become really good friends in the couple of years we’ve been working together on it and we speak all the time and he’s, I consider myself very lucky to have him as such a good friend.  He really makes me laugh and he’s also a very caring, thoughtful, thoughtful guy.  He really is.

Is there a lyric from ‘Newsies’ that you’re the most proud of?
I think my favorite lyric or my favorite song, I should say, in the show is the song that opens the second act, ‘King of New York,’ which was a version of which was in the movie, but I rewrote a lot of the lyrics for the show.  Part of it is because I think the music is incredibly infectious and just great and part of it is because the images that I got to use and having the kids describe what their fantasy of being rich and famous would be was really fun.  There was a lot to choose from and it was fun to work on and I’m happy with the way the whole thing came out. 

As a result of working on ‘Newsies’ what has been your favorite memory?
I have to say that I think my favorite memory was when, as a surprise, found out that we were going to Broadway which was never the intention for the show and the first time we had an audience and a lot of the actors who played ‘Newsies’ are very young and for twelve of them it was their Broadway debut and the first time that a number and the first time that a number in, after the first audience, the first time one of the numbers got a huge hand and they had to freeze and sort of hold for the applause before they could go on which had never happened in rehearsal cause you never had an audience.  And I think my favorite memory is watching the faces of those kids.  I mean, I call them kids.  They’re not all children, but they’re all very young.  It was just so joyous to see, even though they were trying to freeze and stay in character you could just see that they were like ready to jump out of their skin from excitement because of the way the audience was responding to what they had just done, part of which was an unbelievable amount of dance which is brilliantly choreographed by Christopher Gattelli and incredibly executed by these kids who play the Newsies.  They are phenomenally talented and this was the first time that I think they got that affirmation from the audience and it was, it was really thrilling to, you know, look at their faces while they were waiting there.


Some of the best songs out there are songs you used in Disney cartoons.  Why do you think that is?
I think it’s a combination of the fact that they at Disney worked with excellent, excellent song writers in the heyday of the animated cartoons including the Sherman brothers, who did so much, so many songs for their films and certainly Alan Menken and Howard Ashman who continued that tradition.  I think also the storied themselves were classic, interesting stories that always, that, you know, people always wanted to see and with characters and conflict and everything that makes something dramatic or funny built in, though when you have great characters, really interesting situations and great writers you’re going to be more likely to end up with great songs.  So I think, I think it was a combination. I think if any of those elements are missing it’s not going to be as successful as so much of the songs in their movies are. 

You’ve written songs that have appeared in Disney movies like ‘Perfect isn’t Easy’ which was sung by Bette Midler.
Right

What is it that you like about writing songs for Disney?
I think what I like the best is that their songs traditionally, songs for Disney movies, are very close to the sensibility of songs on stage.  Or at least they use to be, right up through Howard and Alan’s movies, the movies that Alan did with Tim Rice or with David Zippel or Glenn Slater.  They’re songs which either help tell the story or give you insight into the character or the relationship between the characters which is exactly what so many songs in live theater shows do.  So it’s really sort of like the same process, or very close that you use when you’re writing a show and since that was always what I loved to do, working for Disney was a first cousin of that.  I respond to it very much.

Who has influenced your lyric writing the most?
Lyric writing?  I would say most definitely Stephen Sondheim whose work as a composer and a lyricist I think is unsurpassed in musical theater.  Other favorites of mine:  Sheldon Harnick, who I think is just a brilliant, brilliant lyric writer.  Frank Loesser also just had an ability that was sort of one in a million.  Right off the bat, I would say those three, you know, Fred Ebb, brilliant lyric writer.  I would say in terms of the early days of, you know,  the 20’s and 30’s and 40’s before I was around I guess you know Cole Porter was the quintessential  Broadway sophisticated songwriter and his stuff is, for the most part, brilliant…absolutely brilliant. 


You mentioned Sondheim just a second ago and I was reading in Sondheim’s second volume of his two books, he mentions your name.
Yeah.  Yeah he does in the acknowledgements of both books. Yeah.

What was that about?  That’s interesting.
I, I knew him for a long time but not very well at all and we happened to be having a drink one night and I had remembered that he had started or was planning to start to work on these books years before and I just asked him whatever happened with that and he said “strange you should ask because I just have started to actually work on it.”  At that point it was only going to be one book and he said he’d only shown them to a couple of close friends.  He’s written a couple of chapters to the first book and asked me if I would be interested in reading the chapters that he had written, which,  (laughs), I almost, you know, passed out when he asked me because feeling about his work the way I do , I knew that, you know, this was going to be unbelievable and he sent them to me and it just gradually evolved into a back-and-forth where, at first, there were a couple of facts that might have been off or something like that and so I would say “Hey, I believe that, I don’t know, this song was written in such-and-such and not in the date that is, you know, in the manuscript  and a couple of times I actually corrected some of his own lyrics because I know them so well and they were either typos or misprints or he had forgotten that he changed the lyric in the movie version of, let’s say, let’s say ‘West Side Story’ from what it was in the stage version and he kept sending me the chapters and I kept, I kept reading them closely, over and over again and I would say that that and ‘Newsies’ which, coincidentally were both sort of happening at the same time were the two most thrilling professional experiences of my life.  The chance to get to not really “work” with him but to observe his process and read every draft of every chapter and see what he changed and what he took out and what he added…it was an education the likes of which I could never have imagined and , you know, it was…it was literally a dream come true as was ‘Newsies.’  They were both, I mean, so completely different in terms of what the projects were but so thrilling and having anything to do with his books and having a chance to look at them in early stages and stuff, that was just …for me it was…it was unbelievable.  Unbelievable.  I’m so grateful that he trusted me enough to allow me to read the stuff and even make a comment on it and, I mean, who am I to comment to him? But he’s so open to anything that’s going to make anything better.  There’s no sense of “Well I’m Stephen Sondheim and you’re not.”  (laughs)
(laughs)
 He always treated me so much like a colleague and that was, you know, invaluable…invaluable to me.  He is just wonderful to meet.

Great!  Just an amazing story there.
Yeah.

In addition to all the Broadway artists, recording artists as diverse as Wayne Newton, Lily Tomlin, Dionne Warwick and Barry Manilow have recorded your songs.  Is there a favorite song of yours?   That’s probably a really tough question.
You mean of all the pop songs?

Of just all the songs you’ve written, is there one that you could pick that is a favorite of yours?
Not really.  It’s usually if I have one in mind it’s usually one that is from something that I’m working on currently just because it’s, it’s in the forefront of my mind and so I’m thinking about it.  It’s so common..I used to think that it’s just me sort of being, you know, bad to myself but I realized that most writers go through it.  When you write something and you hear it again or your read it again or whatever it is all you see are the things you wish were different and the things you wish you had changed and, that’s not to say that I don’t like anything I’ve done but when enough time passes you start to get a little more objective about it and have more perspective on it.  So that’s why the stuff that I’m working on more currently is easier to like (laughs) because I’m in the middle of it so I haven’t yet developed that kind of perspective.

When someone hears a song you wrote, what do you hope the listener gets out of the experience?Well there are all sorts of different, you know, reasons for songs to be.  So I guess I hope that they will get out of it what the intention is when you write it.  That it’s clear.  That it’s enlightening in some way or illuminating in terms of who the character is that’s singing it, if they’re maybe a little surprised by it but as Sondheim explains so brilliantly in his books, lyrics, unlike poetry, are sung in time and they only go by you once and it’s very important that you write so that the listener can understand what it is you’re saying and that it’s clear and concise enough so that they can get it on a first hearing.  That’s not to say that with more hearings you don’t find more in the song but it’s getting, it’s being able to write so that a listener can hear and understand what the content of the song is, what the emotion of the song is even while everything else is going on.  It has music.  There are sets.  There are costumes.  There’s lighting.  There’s all sorts of what could be distractions in terms of actually listening although, of course, they add immeasurably to the whole show.  So, in spite of all things coming at the audience or the listener, you want…you hope that what you’re saying is clear enough that it will penetrate the consciousness of the listener. 

What is the best thing about being Jack Feldman?
The best thing?  I guess the best thing is the fact that I always have had incredible support from my family, from my friends, in terms of doing the thing that I always wanted to do and that I’ve gotten the opportunity to do it…not always successfully and not always exactly the way I wanted it to come out…but I was always able to make a living at it.  I have had some success, which is largely due to the people I worked with and I guess just the fact that I’ve been able to do what I always wanted to do and can get up in the morning and go to work and say “I get to do this today, not I have to do this today but I’ve been given permission to do this today and maybe I’ll even get paid for it,” and that’s pretty great.

My last question: Our interviews with songwriters have been heard by people all around the globe so, totally open-ended:  What would you like to say to our listeners?

I guess I’d like to thank them on behalf of myself and I would think every songwriter that you’ve probably ever interviewed, from legendary ones to guys like me, you know, making a living at it.  Without the audience, there would be no reason…it’s not that there would be no reason to write but you wouldn’t get any kind of feedback from anything that you wrote and for those who are interested enough to listen shows like yours, take an interest in what it is that guys like me do is a huge gift and so I guess I’d just like to say “Thank you,” and the more you can support the arts the more likely it is more and more talented people will keep coming up and being able to do the thing that they love cause it’s the audience that makes that possible

Jack, thank you so much for this interview.  You’ve been very gracious and I appreciated all the thought you put into all these answers.
My pleasure Paul.  Thank you so much.  I appreciate your reaching out to talk.  It’s been a lot of fun.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Marty Panzer: Lyricist

Marty Panzer is a great lyricist who has songs known all over the world. He began writing songs with his friend Barry Manilow when they started working in the CBS-TV mailroom. They wanted a career in music so they began writing commercial jingles. From there, you could say Marty Panzer’s songs have more than taken off–he wrote songs for Barry Manilow like “It’s a Miracle,” “This One’s for You,” “All the Time,” and “Even Now.” Not only has Marty Panzer written songs for Barry Manilow, but he wrote the Kenny Rogers classic “Through the Years.” His songs have been recorded by the likes of Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli, Gladys Knight, Julio Iglesias, Dusty Springfield, and others. Marty Panzer has 35 gold and platinum records, four BMI million play awards, a 3 million play award, and record sales in excess of 70 million units.

“An Evening with Marty Panzer,” featuring songs, stories and performances by many guest composers and artists (including Diane Schuur and a special guest performance by Barry Manilow), had it’s world premier at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles, benefitting the Academy For New Musical Theatre.

For 17 years Marty Panzer has taught a workshop on songwriting at UCLA. His songs are loved by many, and the host of this show is no exception. It is our pleasure to welcome a great and passionate lyricist, a man who says he is about “things that last.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to welcome our special guest, Mr. Marty Panzer.  Thanks so much for making the time to do this interview.

Happy to be here, and it is a great pleasure for me as well.

Who is “Marty Panzer”?

“Marty Panzer” is a very lucky guy, who works very hard to stay that way.  My mom was the center of my universe, and then CBS, and then Barry.  And now, songwriting.

A songwriter.  Would you say you focus more on the lyrics, or the melodies?

Ninety percent, lyrics.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve actually begun writing some melodies to lyrics I’m writing, but that’s a very new thing.  Primarily, it’s been lyrics.

So, take us back a while, and tell us what was life like growing up?

It was very isolated.  It was just my mom and I in a small one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.  We didn’t have very much money.  My mom always made sure that I was happy.  I never knew the difference.  We were the same as everyone else who lived in the area.  There was always a lot of music.  A lot of music playing, all the time.  And maybe that’s why we were so happy!

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

Mice fencing.  We had a lot of mice.  And you would hear them fighting with each other all night long.  But, I don’t know if you could consider that music, but after we got past the mice fencing, we found, well, you know, in order really, for years, I was obsessed with Jackie Wilson.  I just loved the performance quality, I loved the orchestra quality.  When Jackie Wilson passed, I found Andy Williams.  Andy sang all the popular songs of the time, but when he sang them, I could finally understand the words.  And the words were always the most important thing to me.

Now, why do you think that is?  That the words are the most important thing to you?

Because they move me!  Because words in a book, words in a letter, words in a note- words move me in a way that visual art doesn’t.  I’ve gone to all the great art institutes, and, you know, walked around for five hours, and never seen anything that looked more inspiring than, ‘Oh, that’s nice yellow’.  ‘Oh, that’s great blue.’  And, I come out of there, and other people are crying, and heaving sighs, and, and, I don’t even understand it.  But, on a word, you can get me.  On a word, you can get me, and, and it, and it fills my head with emotion, and, and words have always been able to do that to me.

I remember when I was a really young kid, I would take the subway to CBS, and I read the first Rod McKuen book, which I think was “Listen To The Warm”, and I had experienced none of these emotions, none of these feelings, none of these heartbreaks, none of these joys, none of, none of any of the things he was speaking about.  And yet, I cried like a baby, on the subway.  It was all so real and so moving, and I wondered, God!  Will I ever have as rich a life?  Will anybody ever love me as much?  Will I ever love anybody as much?  Will I lose?  Will I win?  Will I live without?  Will I live with?  The power of words reached me when I was very young.

Can you remember early things you wrote, whether a poem or a story, not necessarily lyrics?

I only remember this because my mom would remind me.  I wrote an article for public school about the two dogs that were sent into space- Litvak and Latka, or Latka and -somebody else?  Two, a black and a white dog that were sent up in Sputnik and it was a big deal!  I made the front page of my fourth grade newspaper, and I was quite the celebrity at that time!  We’re planning to turn that into a Broadway musical with PETA’s approval– not really!  It’s just the first thing you asked, the first thing I ever wrote- that actually really is the first thing I ever wrote!

That really hits home for me!  I’ll tell you about that in an email.  What about the first lyrics you ever wrote?

Well, you know, Barry and I were always at the piano- at CBS, after CBS, between mail runs, in between all the things that were happening- we were always at the piano.  I can’t ever tell you the first we ever wrote, but one we wrote at the very beginning was,

(Recites)

The first lady I know
She is sweeter than an apple pie
The Sunday school kind of Golden Rule kinda girl mom wants you to try
And yet I met her at a noisy bar
Where all the noisy boys congregate
She understood
Wouldn’t do any good
But she was just too lonely to wait

That song had a beginning, a middle, an end, and we were so proud we had finally written a complete song!  So, that’s one of the earliest- I mean that’s not the entire song- but that’s the beginning of one of the earlier songs.

It almost worked like a spoken-word piece.

Well, it had music- it had fabulous music!  Barry wrote fantastic music.

(Sings)
The first lady I know
She is far more sweeter…

I mean he wrote beautiful music to it.  It was before we really started recording or anything, but it had beautiful music to it.  Who knows?  With Barry, you never know.  He could be singing it now.  He never forgets anything.  He could be singing it now in Uruguay at the Festival of the Arts.  Who knows?

So, where do you get the inspiration to write something?

“This One’s For You”, and “Even Now”, and “It’s A Miracle”, all happened to me.  So, sometimes real events precipitated the songs, and it was just what was coming out of me through every pore, and meant so much to me, that I was fortunate to have an output to be able to express it.  So, lots of it-  Marilyn and Alan Bergman, two of the most famous songwriters of all time, she was the president of ASCAP- Marilyn and Alan once told me,  “A songwriter, or maybe, especially a lyricist, is always going within himself to bring up new ideas.  Therefore, you have to replenish the well inside you by reading, by listening, by learning, by communicating, by being aware of the universe.”  And I think I am.  I think I am.  I mean, if there’s an award for watching “Hardball” seven times a day, I’d probably get it.  And, so, my inspiration comes from what I see every day, and also, sadly or happily, from the things that really happen to me.

So, take us back to this CBS mailroom.  What was that job like, and I’m wondering, did your mind wander a lot when you thought of stuff you could write?


You know, the mailroom was piles and piles and piles of paper.  But, it was all show biz.  It was the exciting new world I had always dreamed of finding.  When I was alone in that one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with my mom, I said, ‘There must be more to this!  There must be a world out there with bright people, handsome people!  People that were learning and living and doing more than I was doing!’  And CBS was the place.  So, I really loved every moment of it, from the mailroom, till I became the manager of On-Air Operations.  If my mind ever wandered, it was to those beautiful and handsome people that were everywhere in the company!  I hadn’t seen those kind of people in Brooklyn, not a one!

He’s been your friend for a long time, and he’s also been a songwriting partner.  What is he like to work with, creatively?


He’s mean!  He’s vicious!  He’s insensitive!  He- no.  No, no, no, really!  He’s a fountain of creative ideas.  Barry has more ideas in a minute, than the United Nations has in forty years.  He’s also a perfectionist.  That’s a very good trait, and that’s part of the reason he’s been successful so long.  And, he’s also the most appreciative person I’ve ever met.  He is so happy when we write something- especially regarding the writing- when we write something, it means so much to him that we’ve done this together, we have a special joy that comes from being best buddies, from appreciating, from hearing in our head, the same ideal.  And so, when we accomplish that, he’s very appreciative, and so am I.  It’s nothing but a joyful relationship.

What was it like the first time you ever heard something you wrote performed on the radio, or on a record?

Well, I grabbed my pants, I said good-bye to whoever I was with, and I ran to call Barry!  What else could I do?

I said, ‘Barry, put the radio on!  You can’t believe it!  It’s actually our song in the radio!’
And he said, “WHAAAT!” (Laughs)

It was great!  It was great!  It was just- it was, it was a little unreal, you know?  I think at that time we were so young, we didn’t realize how difficult it was, and how extraordinary it was, we know that as years have gone on.  You can’t get on the radio.  But, for us, it was just, smooth as silk.  We wrote the songs, we released the songs, everyone loved the songs, our record company supported the songs, and they were on the radio, and they sold a million copies before the end of the week.  So, we were very fortunate.  We were very fortunate then, and appreciate it now, probably even more than we did then.

 We’re talking with lyricist Marty Panzer.  You’re songs have been covered by a lot of influential people.  What is it like today- you said you’re even, almost more appreciative- but what is it like now, when you hear someone, you’re flipping through the radio, and -BAM! -there’s your song?

Well, you know, Daft Punk was a revelation!  We never heard “Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed” exactly covered like Daft Punk actually covered it.  But, we were very happy with it.

You know, the ones that stand out are- Teddy Pendergrass did a magnificent version of “This One’s For You”, and it was after his accident, and the cover of the album had Teddy standing up.  And it was his way of saying, “I’m okay.  I can stand up.”  And he did this beautiful version of “This One’s For You”.  I always loved it.

Diane Schuur- when Barry produced the Diane Schuur album- she sang as brilliantly, and as emotionally as I could ever dream.  I mean, that was perfection.  When Diane Schuur sang “Life Is Good”, I would sit on the piano bench next to her, holding her hand, and we would both cry.  It took a hundred and fifty takes, because we kept crying, and they had to start over again, but it was just absolutely heart-wrenching.  She’s so good!

Well, we recently had the opportunity to interview Diane Schuur, and the album you’re talking about, “Midnight,” you talked a moment there about what a pleasure it was. But, what was it like working with her?

I’ll tell you, if you have the time, I’ll tell you a wonderful story, what impressed me the first time I ever saw her.

I went down to San Juan Capistrano where she was playing at a club, and she looked great and she sounded great, and there wasn’t anything remarkable about that, I knew she sounded great, she was a multi Grammy-winning artist.  But then, in the middle of the show, she said to the audience- she said to the audience,

“You know this year, I had an operation that could have lost my voice forever.  But it didn’t.” She said, “This year, I’ve lost forty pounds!”  She said, “This year, I’m loved by a man more than I’ve ever been loved by anyone in my life.”  And, “This year, I am eleven years sober.”

Well.  I just fell back in the chair.  I was so impressed with her honesty and with the fact that she was smart enough to realize that her life was so wonderful at this time.  Smart enough to realize that.  Not everyone is!

I ran outside, called Barry, and told Barry the story, and he said, “That’s the song!”

And we wrote the song, because I had never heard of a song that said, “Life Is Good!”  I never heard of a song that talked about, “I know life is good!  I’m happy, and I’m grateful, and I’m thankful, and I’m appreciative.”  It’s one of my favorite songs ever!  She did a brilliant job of it, and I just love the lady.

Well, speaking of legends, it had to have been thrilling to have Frankie Valli record a song of yours.  Tell us about the song he did, and what did you think of his rendition?

He recorded a song that was my second record ever with Richard Kerr.  Richard Kerr had written the music to “Mandy” and “Looks Like We Made It” and “I’ll Never Love This Way Again”, and Richard was one of the great ones.  The great writer of the Seventies and Eighties, the great melodist of the Seventies and Eighties.  And this was one the new songs we had written, and listening to the legendary Frankie Valli’s voice on top of a song written with Richard Kerr was stupefying.

But strangely, or just by coincidence, I met Frankie Valli about two, three months ago, at a party for Neil Sedaka.  And, I walked over to Frankie, and I shook his hand, and I said, “You know, I wrote a song that you once sang.”

And, he said,

(Sings)
Where did we go wrong?
Didn’t we belong together?

 He knew the song right off the top of his head, and sang it to me at the party!  It was really a thrill.  I mean, this is one of the great voices of our time!  One of the most distinctive voices of our time.

 Tell us about your song, “It’s A Miracle”, that appeared on the album, “Barry Manilow II”.

Well, “It’s A Miracle” has a funny story.

You know, one day, Barry called from, I don’t know where, somewhere in Europe, and he said to me,  “I have good news and I have bad news.”  And I said, “Yeah?”

And he said, “Every time I hang up on you, and I tell you some wonderful thing that’s happened- ‘We just played for the Queen of England’ -meaning he and Bette- ‘We had just played for the Queen of England’, or ‘We just sold a sixty-thousand seat arena out’, or ‘We just did the Burt Bacharach Special’, any wonderful thing, you always say the same thing about these great events!  And, when I hang up the phone, it’s running in my head for the next week.  So, the bad news is, I stole something that you say to me every day.  The good news is, I left all the rest of the words blank!  ‘IT’S A MIRACLE!’ ’’

‘Ohhh, right!  I say that, don’t I?’

And, he said, “You say that don’t ya?  And you always do, and I wrote a song called, “It’s A Miracle”, it’s fantastic, now all I need is the rest of the words!”

And, when he came back to New York City, I wrote the rest of the words.  You know, it’s been his opening number for thirty-two years?  For as long as he’s been on the road, it’s been his opening number.  He’s tried a hundred other numbers as the opening number, but the one number that gets the audience excited in a familiar, friendly, comfortable, approachable way is “It’s A Miracle”, and it was our first hit single, too.

Absolutely.  I remember seeing him in concert the last time he was in Atlanta, which sadly, he hasn’t been back since then, and he, of course, opened with, “It’s A Miracle”.  And, the mentioning of the cities, it makes you think about a lot of different things.  But, I have to agree, a perfect opening number.

You know, what I wanted to do was, not make it a travelogue.  In the second verse,

(Recites)
I never knew you looked so good
I never knew anyone could
I must have been crazy
To ever have gone away

 I almost forgot what it’s like
Holding you near me at night
 But now that I’m home again
You know that I’m home to stay

 I warmed it up!  I took it from a traveling city song to a more emotional song of reunion, and I think that made the difference, and everybody was surprised, nobody expected it to go in that direction, least of all me, and I think that was my first breakthrough in terms of, my first understanding of what my contribution could be to a song that would be on the radio.

What lyricists out there have been the biggest influence for you?

Number One would have to be the English translations of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”.  Eric Blau and Mort Shuman are some of the greatest lyrics ever written, and he wrote all these translations.  “No, Love, You’re Not Alone”, and,

(Recites)
Momma, do you see what I see?
On your knees and pray for me!
Mathilde’s come back to me!
Go ask the maid if she heard what I said and tell her to put the best sheets on the bed!
Mathilde’s come back to me!

 And when I heard that, I jumped right through the table.  I thought I’d never heard something so exciting, and so, I wondered, Gosh!  Will I ever feel that joy?  Will anybody love me that much?  Will I ever love anybody as much?  Will they come back?  It was a revelation.  And, Johnny Mercer, of course, wrote every song that matters, for the last hundred years.  It’s as simple as that.  Johnny Mercer wrote every song that will outlive all of us by a thousand years.  In the, really, pop world, Cynthia Weil is above and beyond, great.  I mean, Cynthia Weil is just a goddess of contemporary music.  She’s being installed in a couple of days in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  They just gotta get the hot water pipe up her leg, and she’ll be thereforever.  And, lastly, I would have to say, Rod McKuen.  Rod McKuen wrote, “If you go away on a summer day, then you might as well take the sun away.”  Just beautiful!  And, I’ve been lucky enough to have Rod and Cynthia Weil as guests at my UCLA class that I teach January, February, and March, “Writing Lyrics That Succeed and Endure”.  I’ve been doing that, believe it or not, I just finished my seventeenth year!  Which meant that I started at five!  So, I must have been really hot stuff to be able to teach a class at a university at five years old!  Anyway, those are my idols.

Tell us about the song that you wrote, “This One’s For You”.

“This One’s For You” is an interesting song.  The person I wrote it for, and I, weren’t really speaking anymore.  And, it was my way of reaching out to try to make touch, and to talk to someone that I wished that I could talk to, but I had to do it over the radio.

 I’ll tell you a little funny story.

At the end of the year of Barry’s touring, he would meet me at a little restaurant, and he would say, “Okay, let me hear your Fall Collection.” 

And, he sat down opposite me at a table, and I started,

(Recites)
This one’ll never sell.
They’ll never understand.
I don’t even sing it well.
I try, but I just can’t!

 And, he pushed his hand up in front of me, and he said, “STOP!  Ihave to have a Number One song that says, ‘This one’ll never sell’, and I can’t even sing it!”  (Laughter) He says, “Forget about the rest of it, I love it already!” And, well, I read him the rest of the song.  You know, it’s really come back into prominence in the last couple of years.  I think there was a long period of time where “Even Now” was the keynote song.  But, in the latest production at the Paris Hotel of his show, “This One’s For You” has certainly been highlighted and gotten more acclaim than it ever has before.

 Well, you just mentioned “Even Now”.  Tell us about the song, “Even Now.”

Ah, gosh!  “Even Now”.  You know, in the wee small hours of the morning, everyone misses someone.  When you’re lonely, when you’re heart-broken, when you’re down and out, of course you miss someone. You miss everyone! Well, there were a thousand songs that said that.  But, I missed someone, even at the best time, at the best moment of my life, when I was flying high, when I had had the greatest success I ever imagined, or couldn’t even imagine!  I missed someone because they were just worth missing.  And, because I wanted them to be there to share it with me.  And, I couldn’t think of a song that said, ‘Even now, when I have come so far, I wonder where you are, I wonder why it’s still so hard without you.’  I couldn’t think of a song that said, ‘I’m okay, but where the hell are you, still!’  And, so I wrote “Even Now”.

Tell us about the song that you wrote, that was covered by Kenny Rogers, “Through The Years.”

Well, you know, “Through The Years” was again, a sentiment that I had not heard another song say.  My relationships, the key relationships in my life, have been- my mom, Barry, my brother, my partner for over thirty years- there was no song that said how much those relationships, or a relationship, contributes to your overall well-being and joy and comfort and growth, over a long period of time.  And, I, that’s all I knew about!  I wasn’t interested in people that I’d be friendly with for two days, or two weeks.  I wanted ‘forever’, and I was lucky to have a ‘forever’ in many different ways.  And so, I wrote the song, “Through The Years”.

The wonderful thing is that, because it is such a testimonial to a long-standing relationship, it’s been used as the hundredth-birthday song for George Burns; it’s been sung at the re-lighting of the Statue of Liberty; it’s become the Number One wedding song.  You know, it’s about things that last, and I’m about things that last, you know?  And, my relationships are about that.  And, once again, the commonality in all my lyrics is, if there’s another song that says that, I don’t know it.

Is there a song of yours that you could possibly pick as a favorite?

As a favorite song?  Well, probably.  There’s a song that no one knows, but it’s called, “I’ll Love You Back To Life.”  “I’ll Love You Back To Life,” there’s only one recorded version of it by Davis Gaines.   Davis Gaines is a Broadway artist who played “The Phantom of the Opera” three thousand eight hundred seventy-something times.  He recorded on “Against The Tide” on, one of his CD’s, both “All The Time” and “I’ll Love You Back To Life”.  And, there’s no question that “I’ll Love You Back To Life” is my favorite, my dearest lyric, and I always say if you put me into a Cuisinart, and you turned it on, what would come out would be “I’ll Love You Back to Life”.

Our special guest is Marty Panzer.  How did the idea for “An Evening with Marty Panzer” come to be?

Well, you know, it’s a very, that’s a very concurrent question, a very contemporary question.  A couple of years ago, I did a benefit for the Academy for New Musical Theatre, and they just added me on the bill of four or five other composers including Rod McKuen, and David Shire, and I don’t remember who else.  And, I was supposed to do fifteen minutes, I didn’t know of what.  But, I told a story, and then someone came out, and the story had led into this song that they sang, and then, I told another story, and somebody else came out and sang that song.

When I came off the stage after twenty minutes, the audience was just on fire!  Everyone loved it!  The head of the organization said, “You know, the next time we do a benefit, we don’t need the other five guys!”

And, I said, “Really?  Thank you!”

Well, about a month later, he called me and said, “If we give you a theatre and an audience, would you do an entire evening for us as a benefit?”

And, I said, “Sure!”

And, he got me the Coronet Theatre, and on one night, about three or four years ago, I did “An Evening with Marty Panzer” with many people singing.  With Diane Schuur, and with Eric McCormack, and with Monica Mancini, and with Barry Manilow, and with David Burnham, and Brian Green, all kinds of wonderful, magnificent, talented people, and it went over spectacularly well.

I wondered whether it was going over so well because so many of the people in the audience knew me, and loved me, and would have laughed (unintelligible) anyway.

I got a call a couple of months later from a guy in Walnut Creek, who asked me to do that same show for him in northern California, near San Jose.  And, I did.

Well, these people didn’t know the United States of America, much less “An Evening with Marty Panzer”. They reacted just as enthusiastically as the people in L.A.  So, I said, ‘You know, maybe there is something to this!’  Because it has a broader market than I thought.

Forty-eight hours ago, I did an event for the Society of Sheet Music, for the New York Sheet Music Society in New York City, to another hundred and fifty people that I had never met or seen, and didn’t even know what the organization was.  And, my inbox is flooded with congratulations and thank yous and appreciations and, “We must do this”, “We must make this an off-Broadway show”, “We must put you on tour”, “We must do-“, all of that stuff.  So, maybe the next phase of what Marty Panzer does is, “Evenings with Marty Panzer,” in one form or another.

I loved doing it!  I mean, you know, when I watch Barry on the stage in Vegas, you think, there just is no greater thrill than being on that stage!  It doesn’t matter what you do behind the scenes.  When you see Barry glowing on stage, you think, that is the highest calling!  So, even if I write Anna Karenina, and make it a number one single, it’s not the same as winking your eye, and singing, “Even Now,”  So, maybe an “An Evening with Marty Panzer” in some form or another will actually come to something.  There are also some producers putting together an original show based around songs in my catalog.  I’m more enthusiastic about that now, than I’ve ever been before.  As I said, especially after seeing Barry having such a fabulous time these past six years in Las Vegas.  So, we’ll see.  I’m going to do a week at the University of Miami in October, and there’s a possibility of two other events in New York City, and also a possibility of something at a college in Nashville.  So, we’ll see!  I’m just, you know, you have to move with the times, and maybe this is the time, while I’m still as positive and optimistic as I am, and have enough energy to cross the country, maybe that’s what I should be doing now.  So, I’m hoping to do that next.

With your songs having been recorded by people like Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton, Julio Iglesias, and of course, Barry Manilow, you’ve certainly achieved the kind of success that songwriters are striving for.  There have been songwriters who’ve told me they always dreamed of a certain musician or band covering their work.  Do you have any that you’ve been interested in presenting your work to that have not yet?

You mean that are alive? (Laughter)

Yeah!

I’ve got some hot dead ones that I’d love to get to!  But in terms of the live ones, you know, when you become successful in a certain area, whatever that area is, you receive opportunities in the same field.  So, I’ve gotten requests from Michael Crawford, and Julio Iglesias, and Kenny Rogers, and Barry Manilow- all for similar type songs, male ballads, and things like that.  I would love to write songs for Maroon 5, or for the Rolling Stones!  But, they wouldn’t think to call me because my reputation is not in that area.  Not that I couldn’t do it, or wouldn’t want to do it, but that no one thinks of me for that when that situation comes up.  What I have done in the last, I guess, ten years, is I’ve written over a hundred songs for the Walt Disney Company.  So, I’ve written the newest songs in a generation for Cinderella, Belle, Mulan, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Jasmine, Pocahontas- that was an enormous thrill, and it allowed me to speak in a different language than I had ever spoken in, or written in before, because they were women, and because Pocahontas had different things to say than Michael Crawford, and it’s been an absolute thrill.  My collaborator for all of that has been Larry Grossman for Pocahontas Two, my beloved friend, Don Grady, for all the other Disney songs.  And, I’ve had a wonderful time doing that, and it’s broadened my ability, I’m better at what I do now because of those opportunities, and I wish I would get other opportunities in different fields, than the automatic expected ones, that’s all I can say.  I’m grateful for the ones that I get, but, you know, it’s more interesting to write the song for the octopus villain in a Disney movie, than it is for another male vocalist love song.

So, when someone listens to a song you wrote, what is it you hope the listener gets from the experience of listening?

You know, I think today, so much is about the track.  So much is about the musical track, that people ignore the lyrics to an enormous degree.  They just don’t even hear the lyrics as they’re playing.  I sit in rooms with people who come to play me songs, and while their own lyrics are playing, they’re not even focused on them!  And, I think what I want people to get is the importance of the lyric, the value of a lyric, what a lyric can give to song, and how much it means.

You know, Barry said a quote that is really apt, and I told it to someone a couple of weeks ago, and they just jumped up for joy, they thought it was so appropriate.

Barry said, “A song is something you can sing in the shower.  Whereas, if you need twenty tracks to put together this cut, what you have is a production.  You have a record– but you don’t have a song.”

And, I think he’s right!  I think a song is music and a lyric, and when people listen to a song, I want them to hear the value, the importance of a lyric, and that’s what I teach at UCLA, and that’s what means the most to me.

Do we have time for me tell you my favorite lyric of all time?

We absolutely do.

Okay, well, I’ll just- there’s never been a class in seventeen years that I have not recited this lyric, because it informed me and educated me more than anything else.

(Recites)
Our little dream castle with every dream gone
Is lonely and silent,
The shades are all drawn
And my heart is aching
 As I gaze upon
A Cottage for Sale

The lawn we were proud of is waving in hay
 Our beautiful garden has withered away
Where we planted roses
The weeds seem to say
A Cottage for Sale

Through every broken window I see your face
But when I reach the window,
There’s only empty space
The key’s in the mailbox, the same as before
But no one is waiting for me anymore
The end of my story is there
On the door!
A Cottage for Sale

 What can I tell ya?  That is beyond brilliant.  I mean, that is a four-hour movie in a three-minute song.  It’s the most beautiful lyric I ever heard, and it is so compact, every word has significance, and is appropriate, it’s conversational, it’s descriptive, it paints a picture.

That’s what I want people to listen to in songs!  Songs were written that way until the producers took over, and it wasn’t about the song anymore, it was about the producer putting a hundred tracks behind somebody who had no real great song, but who could fake having a real song, if there were a twenty tracks playing at the same time.  So, I’m trying to get people to go back to writing the great songs, the songs that The Eagles wrote, the songs that Barry wrote, the songs that Johnny Mercer wrote, the songs that Cynthia Weil wrote.  The great songs, and to understand a great part of them, are the lyrics.  I’ve been doing it for seventeen years, and I hope, hope I’ve accomplished something!  We’ll hear as time goes on, whether the people in my class have come up with these kind of lyrics for the world.

You’ve been working on a book.  What has the experience of writing a book been like for you?

Well, you know, originally when I started thinking of this, of whatever the right form for presentation of “An Evening with Marty Panzer” would be, putting down the reminiscences, and leading into songs, and other songs, my first thought, and the first suggestions given me were, that I should put it in book form.  And, I started- I had a really terrific guy working for me, who helped me with the computer, and all kinds of stuff, and, and I just enjoyed telling him the stories.  And, I was telling him the stories, he was entering them into the computer.  When he left to go on to a job on Broadway, I stopped doing the book, because I didn’t have the same zest for telling these stories to somebody else.  But, I think now, I’m gonna go back to it.  Because I realized, that the response has been so consistent over all these years, if I can make the book as entertaining as the show is, well, it should be put down on paper, so that if I get hit by a truck tomorrow, these stories don’t die with me.

So, I’m gonna back to the book, which I have sort of left there, in behalf of the new work that came along.  It would seem to be more important to write a hundred songs for Disney, than to continue writing my life story.  I was living my life story.  But, right now, I think I need to go back, and while it’s still fresh in my mind, continue that book, and flesh out these stories on paper.  So, that’s on my agenda as well.

What is the best thing about being “Marty Panzer”?

You know, the best thing about being “Marty Panzer” is that I am Molly Panzer’s son, and Barry Manilow’s friend, and Gregg Rader’s partner, and Bernie Panzer’s brother.  That’s the best thing about being “Marty Panzer,” that I have roots and connections to wonderful, supportive, loving people for forty years, and I love every day, because I have the love of these people, and I’ve been very lucky to not be alone, and to not be doing this on my own, and to have the support of these people, so that’s what makes me happiest.

That’s a beautiful answer.  And now, for the final question.  We have listeners from all over the world…

How much is this question worth?  Is there a dollar value?

This is-

No?  (Laughs)

I don’t know how much this is worth.

Okay!  (Laughs)

Do you have any parting words of wisdom for our listeners?

The most important thing, I think, in whatever you do, is to live a good life, and to be out there in the world, and to listen to other people, and to hold on to those that love you, and give back as much as you can, and appreciate, as Diane Schuur did, how good life really is, and I think that the other things that seem like miracles, really come as an out-growth of your own good nature, your own talent, your own observation.  I think, just get up in the morning, and live your life to the fullest, and write it down!  And, believe in it!  And you will be surprised how many people out there feel the same way, and would love to communicate with you, and would love your communicating to them, your ideas.

Mr. Panzer, it has been fabulous to do this interview with you, but, you know, I was just thinking during this interview, a lot of people might think this is the first time we’ve ever talked, in this interview, but I realized when I was thinking about all these songs, that this isn’t the first time we’ve talked, because I’ve been listening to you tell me these stories and these messages, through these songs, that I’ve heard since I was six, seven years old, with my mother playing these records growing up.  So –

Really?

Yes, I’ve heard these songs my whole life, and so, I’d like to say, first of all, thank you for the great interview.  Thank you also, for these songs that have touched me for a very long time.

You are more than welcome, and I’ll tell you, that’s the best compliment you could ever give me.  To touch someone.  To make someone feel happy or sad.  I read on the bus one day, when I was ten years old, “To change the complexion of the day, that is the ultimate art.”  If you can make someone feel happier, or feel some emotion that they weren’t feeling before, you interacted with them, you’ve accomplished what God put you on the Earth for.  So, I thank you very much, and I accept that compliment with enormous humility, and enormous pride.

Well, again, thanks so much for the interview.  Let me know if you’re ever in Atlanta!

I will!  And, maybe this- I think maybe one of these early shows here of “An Evening with- “, maybe the first one is in Tallahassee, I dunno.  I don’t know the distance between Atlanta and Tallahassee, but, it’s in the same quadrant of the world, so, we’ll find each other, I promise.

TRANSCRIBED BY ANGELA L. WASHINGTON

Adrienne Anderson: Lyricist

ADRIENNE ANDERSON is the very talented lyricist who was introduced to us by lyricist Marty Panzer.  She is most known for the songs she co-wrote with composer Barry Manilow.  Some of the most beloved songs recorded and performed by Barry Manilow feature the lyrics of Adrienne Anderson, including Daybreak and Could It Be Magic.

Songs Adrienne Anderson wrote have been recorded by many great artists including Melissa Manchester, Bette Midler, Donna Summer and Isaac Hayes.  The late great Frank Sinatra sang a televised performance of the song “See the Show Again” on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Fans of Dionne Warwick may know Anderson’s work from the song “Deja Vu” which she co-wrote with Isaac Hayes.  With Peter Allen, Adrienne Anderson co-wrote “I Go to Rio” which became a signature song for Allen.  The song was later covered by the band Pablo Cruise as well as the late Peggy Lee.

Who is Adrienne Anderson?

Wow, well combination of things of course and evolving. I am uh much more of a family person now than I was when I started my career. I’ve got a daughter who is 25 years old and has a huge future of her own, a husband who I’m devoted to that I’ve been married to for almost 30 years. As far as my definition of myself as a careerist; that’s never really got away. I love the creative process. I’ve always loved the creative process and while my projects vary I hope to be involved one way or another in something having to do with music for the rest of my life.

 So speaking of life, let’s go back to the beginning.  What was life like growing up and where are you from?

I grew up in Manhattan and it was fantastic. I was very, very lucky. Child of privilege, I got exposed to the golden age of Broadway. When I was just old enough to have any idea of what I was watching. And I mean the Golden Age I mean South Pacific, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, etc. all the original stage productions. When I was in the eighth grade West Side Story opened, changed my life. I went to see it four times. Studied theatre, studied dance, studied boys and was just very, very blessed to be in the cultural center of the western world and it had a life altering effect on me and I; I just loved growing up there.

Can you remember perhaps specific records or specific songs you heard around the house or on the radio?

When I was the youngest it was the Broadway stuff that had the most immediate impact on me because it was the height of Rodgers and Hammerstein and I was; just as I say; barely old enough to understand how great that stuff was. Also seeing it all on the stage, in real time, had a tremendous impact on me that I think lasted me all the way through. I mean to this day it’s scary how I can recall all those lyrics. I also had a Father who was very sophisticated musically who exposed me to jazz very early in life. So that I was very aware of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Bix Beiderbecke and Art Tatum and people like that so that I was not your typical kid growing up where when I was in college and everyone was listening to those early Beatles records. I was a Charlie Mingus fan a Miles Davis fan, a Horace Silver fan. I owe a lot of that early exposure and sophistication to my father.

Did you always write?

No, no, not at all. Originally I wanted to be on the stage. I did summer stock, I had some potential I went to Carnegie Mellon which is a very renowned theatre department and then I studied in New York, and was quite serious about all that but then it was the sixties you know and theatre got really boring and the real theatrics and entertainment had switched over to music and I had great taste; I didn’t have a great voice but I had great taste so I put together a little act and that’s actually how I met Barry. It’s a cute story I actually hired him as my accompanist to help me put an act together for ten dollars an hour and that’s how we met.

What was your first impression of Barry Manilow when you met him?

Well he was just the sweetest, geekiest guy that I had ever met, ya know, with a great, great ability to play piano and accompany. Everybody used him. He and I found each other to be kindred spirits almost immediately because he had this passion towards jazz and so did I. And he thought I was the cat’s meow and for some reason he loved my voice and I loved his playing and we just hit it off from the first time that we did a song together; it was instantaneous. So what we did was we spent about eight or nine months putting this act that was so unique that the people who were managing me; when we presented the act to them; said they couldn’t book me because nobody would understand or recognize any of the songs that I was attempting to sing. So they fired Barry and put me with somebody else. But Barry and I continued on and he was just starting to write a little bit and he said well since I’m trying to write songs why don’t we write songs together. I said sure ok so we started writing songs together and it was the tail end of the brill era I mean really the tail end of the brill era. But we would write a batch of songs and I wrote the lyrics because I wasn’t going to play like him; I couldn’t play like him. But we did a lot of duets too, two part harmonies and just thought it was great, great and we would just go from floor to floor and knock on publishers doors and Barry would play and I would sing and we would play songs for a hundred dollars and that’s how it got started. And eventually I lost more interest in the performing end of it and gained more interest in the writing of it and that was pretty much because of what he and I were doing together.

 Can you remember the first song that you and Barry Manilow wrote that you’d say “this one’s a keeper”?

“Our Love Will Still Be There” was the name of the song. It was good; we wrote a lot of good stuff. I mean I don’t think anybody actually published that one but I think that was the first song. He was always a great keyboard player and he always had even from back in those days the same kind of charm and personality that he’s got now. Of course his ambition in those days was to be the next Nelson Riddle. He wanted to be an arranger. He never ever thought of himself as a vocalist but the fact is he had the same voice then that he has now. Who knew?

 I remember hearing him one time in concert, he was at Philips Arena in Atlanta and he was telling a little story on stage and he started out and he said “I have never been much of a singer,” and I thought “yeah right.”  But, I have heard that story from a couple people that they never thought of him as a singer, it was more like what Bette Midler said to him, “But, Barry, you don’t sing.”

Well the thing about Barry which I guess you could say similar was that and one of the reasons that I stopped pursuing that was because the key I think to being a success as a vocalist is getting that personality across. He was always, always able to do that and that’s why I don’t think he thought of himself seriously as a singer because he didn’t necessarily have the technique or the pipes but what he did have right from the beginning was his personality; which was his own that came through and had a charm and a warmth, and a humor that never really changed and a tremendous (technicality)

What was the first song that he recorded of yours that was a co-write?

That he recorded of ours?

 Yeah.

Well there’s actually an interesting story to this one because what happened was I was in New York. I was moving to the West Coast because I was marrying somebody who wanted to move to the West Coast and I sorta figured oh well, let’s give it a go but I was very apprehensive about breaking up the relationship with Barry and being on my own because I thought well if I don’t have him writing and playing what am I going to do; just gonna be on my own; so I determined to try to figure out how to do it by myself I rented this rehearsal space on 57th street for whatever twelve dollars an hour and this was in the midst of the Paul McCartney Era. I came up with this little tune called “Amy” that for what it was; was actually quite good and quite charming and my soon to be husband in those days was a big shot music publisher at CBS and he had a production company and everyone agreed that this thing should be recorded. So full production, so we went into the studio to record this song and of course Barry was around, at the last minute they said we need a scratch vocal Barry would you mind. So he went in and he did the vocal on it and that record Amy is what landed him his first record deal at Bell records. So it’s ironic because he didn’t even write that song. I wrote that song.

Interesting.

Yeah, a little bit of trivia there.

 You worked with so many people.  I don’t know if this is true, but I read something about you working with Frank Sinatra.

Oh I never worked with Frank Sinatra, but Barry and I have a song called “Why Don’t You See the Show Again” which he actually performed on the tonight show when Johnny Carson was the host and nobody knew he was gonna do it and I was on the West Coast and Barry was in New York and he called me screaming hysterical and said “You’re not gonna believe this” and it’s a three hour delay so I had to wait three hours to see it but sure enough he sang the song and he sang it really, really well. And it was definitely a high light of my career without a doubt.

Incredible.

Yeah.

 Well tell us about the song “Could It Be Magic” that Barry Manilow recorded.

Well I was already on the west Coast when he came up with the idea based on the Chopin prelude and he had come up with the chorus and was terribly excited played what he had over the phone to me and I became terribly excited because it was obvious that there was something really special that was starting to happen. I think I was staying at a hotel down in LA when I wrote the lyric to the verses. I still have the copy on Hotel stationery of what I wrote. It was one of those things that I just nailed it right from the get go. Needless to say it was time well spent.

 Is it possible to pick a favorite song of yours?

You mean with Barry?

 Just in general, any song.

Ah geez, not really, I mean I have maybe my half dozen favorites. I’ve just written so many songs, most of which have not been top ten hits. You know that’s the way it goes sometimes is that some of your favorites tend to be more obscure but certainly “Could It Be Magic” is right up there and with Barry we had a great time on the 2am Paradise Café project  which was a highlight for all of us. A great experience ya know Marty and I were present during the recording of that record and I don’t know if you’ve heard the story but that was a one take and wrote. I don’t know if you know the musicians who were playing on that record?

Yeah.  Fantastic record!

They were well rehearsed and Barry had written beautiful arrangements to link all of the songs, you’ve listened to it I guess so.

Certainly.

It’s all just continuous and that’s Barry’s music. They just did the whole thing without any interruption when they were over, finished everybody kinda looked at each other and said “is this possible” but it was. Ya know it’s very unusual.

What about “Daybreak.”  What inspired the lyrics for that song?

Uh it’s kind of a funny story because when I wrote that lyric I really wasn’t thinking about Barry at all I didn’t think; I was thinking more in terms of a gospel R&B group I didn’t even show him the lyrics he was at my house and it was just sitting on a pile and he said what’s this; I said oh it’s just a lyric ya know and he said give me a couple minutes with this. I swear I remember I went down downstairs and made us lunch and by the time I had finished making us lunch he had come up with the music and ya know little could I have imagined that that little lyric was going to get the kind of mileage that it did but again it was one of the. A lot of lyrics that I wrote for Barry over the years were custom customized for him and that’s a great luxury when you can write for an artist. Especially when you can write for an artist that you know as well as I know him because I could kind of get under his skin and really, really personalize. Whereas if your just writing a lyric just to music that’s going out there to try to find and artist its very different but with “Daybreak” I certainly, I certainly didn’t have him in mind for that one at all.

 It’s a fantastic song.  I don’t think anybody could ever listen to that song, the words and the music and be in a bad mood.

(Adrienne laughing)
I can’t imagine that.

Well ya know, its, it’s great, ya know, it’s given us both a great deal of pleasure. Ya know I try to make my lyrics as personal as I can in terms of my own point of view. Uh, I am by nature an optimistic so I guess that definitely came across in that lyric.

What is it like to have someone like Dionne Warwick record one of your songs, that song “Déjà vu,” it has to be incredible.  She’s such a legend.

We were pinching ourselves. Barry produced that record and that was surreal because I was, uh we both were huge Dionne Warwick fans and that whole Bacharach/David catalog was just up there with the best of the ya know what was written in pop music in the mid-20th century and such a unique and perfect talent. I remember going into the studio while she was recording “Déjà Vu” her nonchalance was just astonishing ya know she was painting her nails while she was recording and puffing on cigarettes and then she would ya know just sing and she was just perfect and I remember Barry and I looking at each other in the control room and saying is this actually happening (laughing) we were both stunned and fans ya know like we were of a ya know younger generation growing up listening to all of the body of her work we were just in such awe.

What about your work with Peter Allen? Tell us about how that came to be.

Well Peter had a publisher in LA that I had a, a nice relationship with and so we were actually put together. We knew each other very casually just from knowing people in common and so it wasn’t we had never met but we weren’t friends we just kind of knew each other. So it was set up for us to write together. I had come up with some ideas, let’s see I don’t remember exactly it was some idea that was rejected immediately and the next think I know he’s saying well why don’t we write this and he started to launch into this music for “Rio” and the story as it goes is that we were just in an office publishers everyone had gone to lunch it was just him and me and the piano and we wrote the entire song in one hour with not a word ever changed and not a note ever changed and um when everybody returned from lunch we were terribly excited and we sat everybody down and said woah listen to this. Peter played and I don’t know if we both sang or just Peter sang but we just kind of knew we had nailed it. I don’t think anybody knew that that copyright was going to end up having the ledge that it’s had. This has just been astonishing ya know on a worldwide level. It’s been an amazingly successful copyright. But you can it’s just a crazy business because ya know you can write great stuff that never sees the light of day or you can write great stuff that takes you an hour like “Daybreak” took me twenty minutes to write. Then you feel almost guilty like this isn’t right. Ya know how can I be making this kind of money on something that took twenty minutes to write. I guess a lot of it is just circumstantial and I was very lucky I was very, very lucky. If you look at I don’t know what it is the percentage of people even in those days who earned a living writing lyrics I’m sure it was miniscule then and probably non-existent now.

You also have worked with someone who is an upcoming guest of ours: Melissa Manchester.  What is your impression of her?

I adored her and we wrote a lot together and in those days in those days it was kind of different there were no restrictions her producer at the time just loved everything that we did and there was never anything held back in terms of we would just write stuff and it would just go right into the recording studio but Melissa and I were very, very close and we were very, very young. She was younger than I was and still is but there was a creativity and a free spiritedness to our work that was just; just delicious we didn’t feel any kind of commercial restrictions and I think there was an innocence in terms of being creative in a way that once you become more seasoned you tend not to be quite as because you tend to play it more safe and be a little bit more structured. But we had wonderful; wonderful times sharing the creative process together.

 Kind of working our way to the present, not too long ago you worked on “City Kid,” the musical and you’re working on something now.  I was wondering if you could tell us about these projects you’ve been working on lately.

Well you know instead of taking a day, a week or a month these projects take years. City Kid was kinda my brain child and I recruited two great, great guys to collaborate with me Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff who are the producers and quite successful. And I came up with this concept to turn what I thought initially was going to be a concept album into a stage production. I sort of undertook this myself in terms of developing the story and urging them along because they thought I was crazy and uh it wasn’t there thing at all. They had never thought in terms of wanting to do Theatre. I actually found a great group outside of Seattle who fell in love with wanting to help develop the project and so they did and we had a workshop and a full stage production up there some of the best experiences of my life. You can’t compare being involved with a group of theater kids with making a record because theater is such a community experience, a collaborative experience so ya know where as if you’re writing a song for a record you write it with somebody or alone, then you’re in a recording studio, ya know, it’s pretty quiet there’s not that many people there. Whereas here it was all about people and so my endeavor was to try and contemporize Broadway what has proven to be a very, very difficult thing to do. Even if you saw the Tony’s this year you could see that some of the stuff that was written a year ago sounds like It could have been written forty years ago so it’s very, very tough. Broadway is very, very tough. We ended up finally after having a substantial run up in Seattle uh coming down to LA and having an eight week run down here which actually proved quite successful. However we were in a 99 seat equity waver with a cast of 17 and six band members all union so the costs were unrealistic and we were forced to shut down before we found what we needed to move on so as of now “City Kid” is in limbo. It’s been very hard for me but in the meantime I’m pursuing this Pawnbroker project which is really, really a horse of a different color and isn’t pop at all, is very serious. I’m collaborating with a fellow by the name of Eduardo Del Barrio who is a very serious composer. I’ve adapted the book which you know I think I’ve gotten pretty good at. It’s a wonderful story there was a film that was made of the novel in the mid-sixties that Sid Lumet directed that starred Rod Steiger that won an Oscar, Quincy Jones did a superb score. It was a very much heralded property in its day and there’s still a generation or two that certainly know “The Pawn Broker” Your probably just too young oh but these are very, very long range projects ya know so that kinda suits me in this stage of my life.

What is the best thing about being Adrienne Anderson?

The best thing about being Adrienne Anderson?

Yes ma’am.

Oh, well I guess the best thing about being Adrienne Anderson is that I’m a person who’s always been pretty comfortable in her own skin. I believe what I believe and I feel what I feel and I don’t tend to hide those feelings. I’ve been a very good Mother and a Very good Wife and a very good friend. People love me, I love them. There’s just not too much of a gap between my inner life and my outer life and I think that’s probably the best part of being me and the fact that I’ve been able to live out a lot of my fantasies. I’ve been Very, very, very lucky to have had the opportunity to do that.

 I have two final questions.  One is kind of light-hearted and then the other is a little more serious.  The light hearted one first: Your all time favorite meal.

(Adrienne laughs) Oh…. a good steak and a piece of Chocolate cake

Oh yeah?  How do you have the steak?

Medium rare.

Likewise.
(laughter)

My last question: what would you like to say to all the people listening?

Oh, I would say find you passion and live it and be good to each other along the way.

 Thank you so much for this interview.  It’s been a great pleasure.

Well thank You I’ve enjoyed it.

TRANSCRIBED BY LISA MARIE BOHLAND-LUNDGREN

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