A Muse's Muse Interview with songwriter Alan Roy Scott, founder of "Music Bridges" & co-founder of UNISONG
conducted by: Jodi Krangle
Ever wanted to know what went on in the head of a successful songwriter? Alan Roy Scott is a wonderful case in point. From the collaborative process to writing for film and tv to views on the international song market as it stands today, he has revealed a little bit of his tricks of the trade and much of the wisdom he's gained over his many years in the business of songwriting. I don't have to tell you about his credentials. His bio over at UNISONG can do that. What I can tell you is that if you don't read this delightful interview, you'll truly be missing out on something. I ask the questions, but he gives the answers. I'll let Alan tell you in his own words...
Question: What's your first "musical memory" and how do you think it's influenced you in later life?
I was very fortunate to grow up on the South Side of Chicago at a very special time musically and society wise, the early 60's. My father who was a car dealer by day (The 2nd largest Pontiac dealership in the US at the time... in a black neighborhood, all the employees were African/American)and white, was also a civil rights leader and music afficianado. Our closest family friends at the time were the Chess family of Chess Records fame (B.B. KING, etc.) who always had us around the recording studio or at gigs. My father who as a white man was President of the local Urban League and NAACP chapters at that time was also very involved in the Gospel scene in the neighborhood. To that end he hosted a weekly Gospel Radio show and later TV show called "Jubilee Showcase" from his automobile showroom featuring many local greats like the Heavenly Sunbeams (later The Emotions), a child Chaka Khan, The Norfleet Brothers, Edwin Hawkins Singers and many others. I being a little carrot top (I wish I still had that thick, bright orange hair and freckles now!!) 7 or 8 eight year old completely immersed in this black gospel world, was always watching from the side soaking it up. In fact for a while until I realized how these things work, I always assumed I was black or should be or something was wrong. Something like Opie from The Andy Griffith Show transplanted to The Jeffersons. Anyway, my earliest childhood and musical impressions and memories all revolve around these times and some of those amazing gospel singing groups, choirs, and soloists I was regularly exposed to. After regular doses of this kind of soul, like chicken soup to me, I have always been drawn to any music with that kind of soul, thunder, and gospel in it. More the feel of the music and the spirit in the room then any lyrical thing. I can't pinpoint any one musical moment as standing out as there were so many of them that I took that kind of thing as the norm. It's more a collage of musical moments in my mind all from that time. Certainly, although later we moved to the suburbs and I discovered my latent whiteness for a while moving into a musical theatre phase acting and singing in shows like 'Brigadoon" and "Fiddler On The Roof" segueing through Gilbert & Sullivan and into a very white singer/songwriter phase absorbing and loving early Elton John, Billy Joel, the de riguer love of The Beatles, etc. , later on when I became serious about my songwriting and that life as a profession, I returned to my real childhood roots. Therefore, I've always had some of that childhood musical vibe in my work. My good friend and sometimes collaborator in Memphis Mary Unobsky who comes from a similar background calls us "pigmentally challenged" (PC). In fact to best illustrate this point , a few weeks ago Mary and I, two white PC writers, co-wrote the theme song for Martin Luther King's 30th Anniversary Celebration in Memphis. How's that for ironic? The song was performed just like my childhood with a 70 member Gospel Children's choir and soloists, backed up by musicians like George Duke, Kirk Whalun, Larry Carlton, and Michael McDonald. Now THAT was a moment for little South Side Opie. Most of the best cuts in my career have been by old school R & B singers (Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, Evelyn "Champagne" King" , CeCe Winans,etc.). My first professional writing gig in the business was being part of the stable at an R&B Production house in New York called Love/Zager in the late 70's with writers in cubicles competing for slots on records by The Spinners, Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom....little Nappy aged 10 or 11 sang on all our demos), Deneice Williams, etc. Around me was other great writers who went on to success as well but started there (Allan Rich "I Don't Have The Heart", "Run To You" etc., Doug James "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You"). Later I was signed to Jobete Music (Motown at the time) for 5 years. So you can see my childhood musical influences have never been too far away from my adult career.
Question: When did you start writing songs and what was it that got you started? Do you recall what your first song was about and why you wrote it?
I started writing songs like many people when I was very young aorund 7 or 8. I was a very shy and fairly unhappy kid who didn't really fit in too well to normal childhood pursuits like sports, etc. So when I was about 6 my parents bought a piano and gave me lessons with some old lady that I really hated. I don't know if it was her or the lessons and practicing I hated more, but in either case after 6 months I just refused to continue. Even though I'd had the intense musical bombardment I mentioned earlier from my earliest childhood, I went through a period of musical avoidance, save for my continuing passion for singing along to 45's in my bedroom. I seem to remember Elvis Presley's "Bossa Nova" and "Witchcraft" and "Wild Thing" by the Troggs as my personal favorites during this mimicry period.The piano sat gathering moss for a year or two.
Then I rediscovered it and starting noodling and just having fun as an escape and release from my parents divorce and other personal problems I was going through.. Then I started loving it, experimenting, and shortly therafter writing my own little nonsense songs. So although I was actually starting to write, I wouldn't call it writing at that point. A few years of this kind of casual experimenting set the stage for later. I reached high school and a few key events occured musically.
One, I fell in love with The Beatles, early Elton John, early Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and GILBERT & SULLIVAN !!! ( I became a star briefly appearing in "The Gondoliers", and "Pirates of Penzance" during my summers at Interlochen Arts Camp in Northern Michigan. All the girls there were arts lovers so I became very popular which helped fuel my permanent awareness that being in the arts was a viable way to live your life, creatively and socially.)
I remember these aforementioned artists vivdly because I lived and breathed these artists like air from Freshman year into sophomore. Then I met my best friend Larry Kramer around this time, who was equally socially inept and musically passionate about the same things. So writing with him was my first real writing collaboration and we started writing songs together and making little demos almost everyday for a while, sure we could be the next Simon & Garfunkel or some other famous Duet.
The actual songs are a bit of a blur as there were many during that creative burst period but I do remember one called "Indian Sunset" (Ughhh!!!) and I think we called our first compilation album of hits "The Best of the Worst"...(mostly of the worst certainly). I find it very interesting in remembering this and telling you this because although later on my early childhood musical memories would play such a big role in the writer I became and the songs I wrote, at this juncture I was a million miles away from my background being as lilywhite in my songwriting and everything as I could be. I remember at this point going to concerts like The Cowsills (Oh, my god!!!), and Paul Revere & The Raiders, etc. And I loved them.
One of my first professional songwriting jobs, and I'll mention this anecdote as a close to my answer of this question, was that in Junior year in an attempt to fit in to the mainstream of high school , painful though it was, I joined the Junior Varsity soccer team. Although I was doing quite nicely socially being in choir and plays and musicals over in the Music and Drama building (hell, I even had a girlfriend and got lead parts in musicals and solos during choir recitals), joining the soccer team was a leap into the dark abyss.
As I quickly realized my athletic abilities were never going to take me far in this world, I realized my only hope was to utilize other skills I did have, like people skills and being a good listener. I managed to befriend the star player of the team because one day in the locker room I overheard him mention to his friend offhandedly how he had this girl he wanted bad, but couldn't get to first base with because she didn't care about jocks, she was more a creative type. Shades of Cyrano De Bergerac. Enter me with the answer. Larry and I took it upon ourselves to help this guy out through music by composing and demoing the most heartfelt song we had ever written up to that point. Almost like we were part of it. The girl's name was Karen so the song became you guessed it......."OH, KAREN". I even told him to tell her he wote it. It must have worked out needless to say because they were inseparable after that and we had other requests from various members of different sports teams at school, football, basketball, etc. a little professional jingle house for the inept high school jock. We even got stuck, ran out of ideas, and recycled a song once with a different girl's name. Hope the 2 jocks weren't on the same team or were after the same girl. Well, the happy ending is that even though I was still a lousy athlete, the star player made it clear to everyone I was cool, and took me in as one of the guys.
I'm sure that made a lasting impression on me as far as the rewards of songwriting as a profession even though I took a left turn through college and a stint for some years as a professional working actor before returning to songwriting as my real road later on.
Question: You mention collaboration as an early experiment. How do you feel about collaboration now and how do you think your early experiments led up to what you're doing at the moment? Would you recommend collaboration to others?
Collaboration for me is more than something I have done or experimented with, it is a way of life. Not only in my songwriting but with all my international projects. Everything I do in my career is about collaboration. Whether it is writing a song or bringing people from Cuba and the US into the same room to work together. I have written plenty of songs by myself and it is necessary occasionally to say things in a fully personal way but as in nature where humans are social animals, I feel that the best of people comes out when they share their musical gifts and emotions with each other. For instance, one of the interesting creative particulars of my recent "Celtic Harmony" Irish project was the fact that traditionally Irish writers never collaborate, but keep their brilliance to themselves like diamonds to be protected. American writers for the most part are from the beginning raised on the idea of writing with others. It was so amazing to watch these Irish writers afraid and fighting the idea only to go through it like anything you are afraid of in life and come through it so inspired by sharing their writing process that now I've created these Irish writing monsters who collaborate all the time with each other and internationally. I'm really quite proud of this development I had a hand in nurturing.
As far as the nuts and bolts of my own collaboration experiences I can say that after 20 years I have been involved in almost everything from writing with artists who contribute the word "baby" (I won't mention names) and ask for 50%, to writing with 3 people , 4 people, 2 elephants and a seal, and occasionally even ending up with someone who is so wonderful and perfectly suited to working with me together that writing a great song is effortless, fun, and as easy as breathing. These are the magic times you live for. If you're really lucky you find someone that you can create this special magic with regularly and then you have a team. All the great teams have that special chemistry that makes what they do together come out sounding like it was written by one person. Seamless writing!!
Another benefit of so many years of working with others is that I can go on a writing trip (like I'm doing to Germany next week), and write with a different collaborative situation every day for 5 days and always have a good time and be in the moment of it without being worried it won't happen. It's kind of an inner knowing and comfort that your craft and ability to give and take creatively in the moment will see you through.
Besides all the more philosophical and cosmic things I've said, let me say the following nuts and bolts things:
I always believe a successful collaboration starts before you walk in the room. If you are collaborating with someone who has material available to listen to before you meet, it is always a good idea. But when you try to write don't just copy a new version of what they've already done as they're probably coming to you to find the "next step" in their writing or artist development. You should try more to get an essence of their abilities so that you come to the meeting already with some ideas started, little musical phrases or at least a bunch of titles or both. It always gets things off to the right start if you have some musical or lyrical place to start from. Maybe you won't end up working on any of the ideas you have to start with, but it's still bound to lead you in the right direction. Or if you're most comfortable winging it and if you're dealing with a stranger or someone you don't know well, the best writing strategy is not writing at all. First just talk. Get to know the person and a little bit of where they're coming from. You'll be surprised how you're bound to get inspired from just communicating as people first. Too many people think collaborating is some kind of almost macho show-off thing like "I can write a hit song with you in 10 minutes or less and then go to lunch".
If you are collaborating on a deadline or a specific project with someone that you've kind of been thrown with politically, i.e. you're writing a song with an actor who's in the film you're writing for, or you're collaborating with a film score person who's great at scoring but has little experience in the 3 minute commercial song arena, or there's several writers involved, one a non writing producer, boyfriend, gardener, etc. who you know is getting some of the credit or money for being in the room, the best advice sometimes is to pull out an old song you'd already finished that you know is solid and works ( don't tell them it's a finished song, present it as a rough idea with lyric sketches or just a title, etc.)and then let it go off in new directions. It'll end up being a brand new song that started from a firm foundation. Another important piece of advice in any collaboration, especially if you're used to writing alone or being the one to carry things through, is when you start trying to write and that little voice in your head starts telling you immediately that all the ideas the other people in the room are suggesting are shit, intentionally try exactly what they're suggesting. Either you will be pleasantly surprised to find that someone else actually does have a good idea too occasionally, or you will be so convinced that you were right about that idea not working that they'll probably go in your direction when you tell them a different idea.
Question: You've had a lot of experience with markets outside of North America and I was wondering how the musical tastes differ? Do you think there's a difference between the musical "expectations" of the listening audience in the States and say, the listening audience in Germany? What about other places?
As I do most of my writing outside the US on foreign writing trips, I'm a firm believer, personally and in my projects, in this kind of thing. One of my most enjoyable and successful regular collaborations now is with someone from Belgium. We get together 2 or 3 times a year and in a few days of concentrated writing and we get more done than in weeks in LA. Some years back the rest of the world market music wise and taste wise was almost a global receptacle for whatever was happening on the charts in the US or to a lesser degree the UK. You could count on the fact that whatever the Top 10 hits in the US were, a few weeks later you'd find the same songs topping the charts in Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia for the most part. BUT NOT ANY MORE!!! Now it is very rare and very difficult to get a truly global hit. Usually now it's only the big ballad from a big film that's a hit everywhere i.e the Titanic song, etc. In fact, it seems like a few people like Diane Warren and others have that corner of the market sewn up.
Now what you'll find more likely is the Top 10 in any country is made up of 80% local artists and a few international hits or maybe songs that are a hit regionally say in Northern Europe or by language, say in all French speaking countries, geographic breakdowns like that. So now I get a lot of songs recorded in say Belgium that you'll never hear probably, that are sung in French or Flemish. But I say activity is activity and royalties are royalties no matter how you slice it. Although the listening expectations are still the same everywhere, people like to be moved by a simple universal lyric they can relate to in their own lives, or a simple groove or hooky phrase they can catch after one listening and enjoy hearing everytime the song comes on the radio or the dancefloor, the tastes are now different everywhere and unique to many different countries and cultures. For instance, in Germany they still relate to European Techno or Old German Schlager songs best (for the old folks). Our kind of R & B, Rap, or Alternative Rock artists don't do well there.
While on the other hand, that's exactly the kind of US or Canadian music that does work in say the UK. Or in Italy everything is big, romantic and dramatic, a little like Italians. For 3 of their biggest stars Eros Ramozatti, Laura Pausini, and Zucchero, their biggest market outside Italy is the Latin market because Spanish and Italian are different languages but the cultures share the same musical taste. In Scandanavia it's usually pure pop. Look at their successful exports over the last few years and think of this. Ace of Base, Aqua, Roxette, The Cardigans. If you want to get involved in the Latin world it's usually big old fashioned ballads as well. They love most our artists like Whitney Houston, Michael Bolton, etc. because even though they are renowned for their rhythms and music like Samba, Salsa, etc. that is what they dance to when they go out or play themselves . But when you cruise around those countries (I've been to many of these countries) what you hear on the radio is big ballads by our balladeers or their own (Julio Iglesias, Luis Miguel, Ricky Martin,etc.). In Asia, it's even more old fashioned and ballad like. Jazz fusion artists like Dave Koz or Michael Bolton again are huge stars in places like Malaysai or Hong Kong even though they're not so poular here anymore. They also have their own soppy stars that are gods there. In Hong Kong they're even called the "4 heavenly kings of Cantopop". Sounds like a Karate "B" movie, yes? But very real. And Japan is the most perplexing of all. You look on their charts and unlike any other country in the world , on their singles charts you will see usually 90%-100% local Japanese artists only. Albums are a little more liberal, maybe 70% local, 30% international artists. Translation, no one makes it in Japan without catering to their tastes, culture, and language. Sometimes it seems like you've stepped back in time there as the songs and Record Productions always sounds like what we were doing 20 years ago, but with their own unique cultural twist that is hard to understand and even harder to copy. Then just when you think you got it figured out, you'll discover underground clubs and dance labels like Avex that are doing the most bizarre, cutting edge music you've ever heard. The LAST thing you'd ever expect to find in Japan, based on what the mainstream music and society is like. Truly a country of contrasts and confusion to outsiders. The major vehicle in Japan for any outsider to have success there has been to sing in a commercial or the theme to one of their TV soap operas which are tremendously viewed. This is how Celine Dion had a major # 1 in Japan a few years back.
And then on the total other extreme you'll have unpredictable markets like the UK where the music and artists are mostly built on image over substance and the turnover makes the disposable US market look ancient. You can have a song be number #1 in the UK one week, and have it drop off completely the next. (I know cause this happened to me.) They are very fickle, always looking for the next thing constantly.
Question: You've done quite a lot of music composition for movies. Are there lots of opportunities for that? How does one get involved and what are the royalties like in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.? Are there opportunities for this internationally?
There are smatterings of film and TV Production all over the world obviously and every country has it's own local scene, some countries like India are even renowned for their own scene affectionately called "Bollywood" because they make as many films as Hollywood in Hindu, with the difference being the budget for most films are like 100 million rupiah (probably like million US) instead of 0 million dollar Hollywood budgets.
But in the end, even though earthquakes, floods, pollution, and the world's mockery have tried to stamp it out, Los Angeles/Hollywood is still the center of the Global film industry and where you have to be if you seriously want to have any chance of being in the world film industry. It's a simple fact. Although there are always exceptions to every rule, a very high percentage of film scorers live and work here, because that's where the work and opportunities to break in are. If networking is a key component of the music industry at large, it is the major component of breaking in to this world as a composer or songwriter. You have to be here. As simple as that. As the joke here is true that every waiter is an actor, every student filmaker is the next Spielberg, and every valet parking attendant swears he has a 5 picture development deal with Paramount on the side, then it stands to reason if you have talent, try every door, and go to every party, industry function, golf tornament you can etc. Eventually you're going to meet the right people and get your chance. One personal insiders example of this from my own life is that my kids go to an expensive private school here where we pay through the nose for a decent education (you have to, the public schools are impossible). Networking occurs organically because the kids of the entertainment industry mover and shakers all have to go to school somewhere, so my 10 year old son's best friend's father for example is a major Movie Producer ("Jack", 'The Mask of Zorro", Mrs. Doubtfire, etc.). And he is one of many guys like that whose kids attend the same school. So that's called networking by child education. The point is that if you're here, you never know who, how, or where you'll meet the kind of people you need to know. But they're all around here everyday. Even in 7-11's late at night (I saw a very drunk Kevin Costner buying Coffee). As far as the nitty gritty of writing songs for film, I can tell you I have a shelf full of songs written specifically for a film after seeing a screening, that never made the film. (These screenings can be like cattle calls with every major writer in town showing up and then writing songs for those few slots. In the end, every song I've had in a major film "Top Gun", "First Wives Club", "Coming To America", etc. was always a finished song that got picked without me having to do anything. It's always very political because the stakes are so high. But usually again you can't even get in the game to get rejected when you're in Seattle, Vancouver, Timbuktu or anywhere but here in Hollywierd.
As far as the payment situation you alluded to, it is a sad but true reality. In the US, other than a sync fee upfront, you get NOTHING for your song everytime it plays in a movie theatre (due to a lovely courtcase against ASCAP by the film industry which they won in the 40's and has never been overturned), NOTHING everytime a video of a movie is purchased or rented with your song in it, and pennies everytime that movie is shown on Cable TV or Satelite. In conclusion, you work your butt off to even get an opportunity to get in a major film like that, and then you get paid chump change for it domestically. This is exactly what happened to me with all my major movie usages. Your only saving hope in the US is that the song might go on to be a hit single and be on the radio, sell singles, and albums as a result of it's promotion in the film. Then you make your money there.
This is why all US writers and composers sing the Gospel internationally when it comes to their songs in films. I don't remember the laws exactly in Canada, but in most other countries of the world, you get paid handsomely for your song everytime the movie is shown in a movie theatre, on TV or Cable, or other broadcasts. Regardless of whether the song is ever released as a single you make decent money, unlike here where you need a hit single out of it to really see any money of note. That sadly is the enigma of the story. All the Production and opportunities are based here, and all the places for decent payment are everywhere BUT here. How's that for an out of tune picture?
Question: How did you get involved in Music Bridge and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
First of all I'm actually changing the name to "Music Bridges ATW (Around The World)" as it turns out some guy has been using the same name for a while without a trademark in a small, local way but it quickly became clear it was better to change my name slightly than get into another useless legal thing that only benefits lawyers. So you're the first to know on this.
There is a story and history to tell as with everything that leads up to how it all came to be. It starts here.
....... I was probably destined for the international life anyway because as a child growing up in Chicago I already had a fascination for commercial airplanes (knew all the different kind of planes) and knew the names of capitals around the world on the globe when most kids in my class and others I knew growing up in the midwest didn't even know what STATE Chicago was in. That thirst combined with the world of my father and music that I talked about in an earlier answer, really set the stage for what I'm doing now. The actual connection point was International Music Festivals (i.e. competitions that no longer exist for the most part) which I'll explain about. I left the US for the first time in 1984. Up till then I had moved around the US pursuing the songwriter muse raised in Chicago, College in Boston, Living in New York for 7 years until moving to LA, etc. Around this time, 1984 I discovered that there were these international music Festivals (competitions) around the world in all these exotic locales (usually old Communist countries like Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia etc. where the government supported it as a gesture to the world about nurturing the arts).
These Festivals became my passport to the world because besides the fact that I got an all expenses paid trip to participate in these events in forbidden corners of the world, I usually won a cash prize as well and had the pleasure of representing the USA as composer or artist in head to head competition against other countries. It was literally "Star Search" except that each competitor was from another country. But the most amazing and spiritual part of these events and this period which was the inspiration later for "Music Bridges" was that at each of these Festivals it was like the world in miniature except where music was the common language and bond. I always ended up at each Festival making friends with the artists and composers and their entourage from the countries we were most supposed to be enemies with. So I would be in Poland say, and end up hanging out all week with the Russian guys, Polish people, Cubans, etc. this still at the height of the Cold War where these people had never dealt with Americans except for the negative things they were told on TV or the press and vice versa. There was inevitably amazing jam sessions, drinking , philosophizing, international romantic liasons (I saw Cubans amd Americans getting it on a long time ago, embargo or no embargo if you know what I mean), and just a feeling that we were creating a little international family without boundaries and problems for those few days.It was a beautiful happening each time and a real eye opener to realize that not only is every one really the same, but that propaganda and the media is a two-way street as far as misinformation and manipulation of the masses goes. I have always believed that the only way to really understand another culture is to meet and live with them. In fact I'm sure that all the world's problems would quickly end if there were huge planes that could take millions of people to other countries and show everybody we really do all share this little planet together, minor cultural, ethnic, and language differences aside in the big picture.
From these events I also gained the most unusual network of friends and business contacts around the world you can possibly imagine. I also had direct career benefits of the strangest kind such as doing a whole album and tour throughout Czechoslovakia, Producing top Russian Rock band "Autograf" (right after their appearance at "Live-Aid") , being a roving musician with a group of artists from around the world on a peace walk through Northern India for a month and so on.
In fact going back to 1984, my very first trip abroad ever was to The Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo (like most of those events, it no longer exists), where I met my wife who was assigned to me as my guide. So you can see the direct impact these travels had in every facet of my life. From there I went to Ireland where I first met my Irish colleagues who 13 years and many Guinesses later would help me organize my "Celtic Harmony" project. The major thought in my mind that came from all this was that as great as they were, these Festivals were all done in a well intentioned and organized but very naive and amateurish way featuring mostly unknown artists outside their own country. I knew from a professional life in music in the US ,the power of the press and celebrities for getting your message across. So the idea started percolating on how I could bridge the feelings and experiences I had during those Festivals with a more realistic and unique but promotable structure based on my experience in the songwriting community and knowing that writing a song together was the closest communication vehicle I could think of among musical people. Competing and performing for each other like at these Festivals or other such concerts was great, but it's just not the same as really sharing your lives, experiences, and thoughts through being thrown into a room with other strangers and being asked to write a song. As always in life, when you are ready fate brings the teacher or next step in the journey to you. In my case the actual meeting that started the whole ball rolling was in 1987 over a few beers when I met a guy from Finland named Ande Paivalainen who was here in LA at a FIDOF meeting (Festivals organization) . He has turned out to be my first and foremost international brother from which all other such international friendships and alliances have sprung.
Over those few beers it quickly became clear that here was someone who thought I wasn't crazy or unrealistic and got what I wanted to do right away. As Russia (The USSR at the time) was still timely and forbidden, that was where we decided to go. Finns had to keep a friendly and good relationship with the USSR through the whole Cold War by virtue of a 3,000 mile mutual border, and Ande being a working drummer and Festival organizer himself, it turned out he'd also been dreaming of doing something through music to bridge cultures and in this specific case to bring the Cold War closer to the end . And lo and behold he also had the realistic connections in all the right high places to actually take me to Moscow, introduce me around, and be my partner there to make sure it happened. Many other people at that time were talking of other similar big projects, but no one else but me had a friend like Ande with the real connections necessary to pull it off. I of course through sheer will and passion for what we were embarking on got the money I needed raised from BMI, ASCAP, and other sources to get everyone there ,and also got great people like Cyndi Lauper, Michael Bolton, Diane Warren, Barry Mann, Mike Stoller, Brenda Russell, Albert Hammond, Desmond Child, Holly Knight, and Franne Golde to go. It was quite an illustrious songwriting group and I really don't think anybody really believed this little songwriter guy like me could pull it off. But they didn't know that it was many years of one of a kind experiences that had led me to the place where I had the necessary resources and connections to pull it off. I really earned it the old fashioned way. Since then of course over the intervening years I have pulled off similar events in Romania, Indonesia (before the current troubles, in fact I was financed for that project by the same rich people they're now trying to remove), Ireland, and now Cuba.
In each case, I throw people into writing situations by putting their names in 2 hats and drawing collaborations randomly, no egos, no friends, etc. It always works beautifully and the more people think they'll hate it, the more they end up loving it. After all these brand new songs are written and demoed, I throw them into doing a concert together of brand new songs with usually only 10 hours of rehearsal or so by drawing a house band from within the group and going for it.
I always love the fear in people's faces about going against all the polished ways they run their career and back into the unknown and raw energy of how it was before they were famous or established. This is part of the fun for me. Also, for the participants from the other side, these events always lead their careers in new and exciting directions by virtue of the people they get to meet and work with and all the new friendships and future opportunities that come of it. As I don't do this for money, or publishing rights like Miles Copeland does at the infamous castle (in fact I'm the "anti-Miles. I was there and it's a whole other animal, very exploitative in nature under the guise of a writing retreat in France), my joy is in carrying on my father's work through the gifts and resources I've been given.
Another exciting side benefit that has come out of these projects has been the changes that happen in the country we were in after we go. Usually a new understanding about the creative process, writers, and the way to better nurture culture in a country. In Romania for instance this led directly to passage of long stalled copyright legislation shortly after my project there. Or in Indonesia where they were trying to keep international music companies from doing business in Indonesia out of fear and therefore limiting the possibilities for their artists and writers, my project there led to a direct easing of tensions that resulted in the opening of Indonesia to world music companies within months after the project. In Ireland it was more a creative thing where they traditionally are very closed and not at all used to collaborating with other writers. Now after my project there they are even organizing local writers gatherings to collaborate with each other. Their whole mindset about this has changed a bit. The possibilities for what will come of Cuba are so exciting I don't know where to begin. As you can imagine it is a very difficult thing to pull off, but since I started with something as difficult as the USSR, I'm not really worried.
Question: What's next for you, Alan? What do you have planned for the future?
Now that these projects have really begun to take hold and I have a major reputation and expertise unlike many others in this area, I can tell you truthfully without trying to sound arrogant, that my next 3 major projects are already confirmed. I'm doing a "Music Bridges" project in Australia in 1999 in conjunction with the Olympics where some of the songs written during the retreat will be featured in a "Music Bridges" segment the following summer during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. Also in December,1999 is a big project for UNICEF with my aforementioned spiritual brother Ande entitled "Tomorrow's Child" taking place from Helsinki, and in September 2000, I'll be doing a "Music Bridge" retreat during the Expo 2000 World Exposition in Hannover, Germany. After this it's "Music Bridges" in Israel, India, South Africa, and China with more ideas after that. Add to this the annual madness that is the "Unisong" International Song Contest in conjunction with "Music Bridges" (as you know the Grand Prize winner in Unisong each year participates in the year's retreat), a full schedule of personal writing trips (I'm off to Nashville and Germany on Tuesday) and projects around all this and finding time to be Dad, husband, help with homework, and have my weekends free to coach soccer, baseball, and other sports with my kids, and I think you get a better sense of why I say I never sleep. But don't get me wrong, it is not only a labor of love, it is a life of love. I have been given this passport to a musical planet and I intend to get every stamp in there I can.
Alan Roy Scott's official bio can be found HERE.