A Muse's Muse Interview with legendary Motown songwriting trio, Edward Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, of Holland Dozier Holland Productions
conducted by: Jodi Krangleand with the cat herding talents of George Hummel :-)
The legendary Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland is known for writing and producing many of the greatest pop and R&B songs of the modern era. The songs they wrote for Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha & The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and other artists have become pop standards. Collectively H-D-H has written over 50 Top-10 Pop/R&B hits, many of which reached #1 on the charts.
After moving from Detroit to Los Angeles, the trio created the Hot Wax and Invictus labels. Freda Payne, the Chairmen of the Board, Laura Lee, 100 Proof (Aged In Soul), and the Honey Cone were among the acts that scored hits in the early 70s. H-D-H also did outside productions for artists such as Dionne Warwick, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and others.
Question: What brought you into music in the first place? How did things get started for you?
[Edward] Wow that's a long story (laugh).... what brought me into music... first of all I've been into music all my life, ever since I was a young kid. Singing in the church choir and from then on. But I started thinking in terms of music professionally when I realized that there were lots of opportunities to make a substantially better living doing music than doing what I had planned on doing, which was being an accountant. When I realized that music would bring me a lot more economical satisfaction, that is when I become interested in doing it professionally.
[Brian] What brought me into music was, I just loved music. As a kid, I grew up in church and I went on and on and on from there.... and how did things get started with me? Through Barry Gordy. I met him when I was about 17 years old through my brother. That's what happened...
Question: What were your earliest musical influences? Which artists most inspired you?
[Edward] The earliest musical influences were, I guess, Nat Cole, Sam Cooke, Clyde McFadder that sang with the Dominos, Fats Domino, Mario Lanza, Jackie Wilson, Johnnie Ray, I liked that because of the soulfulness he had.
[Brian] And I also liked Ella Fitzgerald.. I thought she just had a great voice. And also, what's the other one, what's the other girl...um..
[Edward] Sarah Vaughn?
[Brian] Sarah Vaughn, yeah, it was great singers, great singers, we loved them.
Question: What made you decide to start writing music on your own?
[Brian] I just love writing music and I started early in the church, trying to figure out some chords, to learn how to write music. And then I got with Janie Bradford to learn how to write some melodies to her songs, and it went on from there. I had such a great time doing it, then later on I got with Lamont Dozier and wrote some things with him, and before then I got with my brother and wrote some things, you know.. and so it went on from there, just kept going on and on, mushroomed on and on....
[Edward] Basically, I grew up with the attitude or the intentions of making a living more than anything, and I realized at an early age that, recording; I was not very interesting in, because I really didn't like going on the road. After a few minor hit records I had, I also realized that songwriters and producers were the ones who made the most money at the company, so that piqued my curiosity. At that point, I started to teach myself to write songs.
Question: Do the three of you write together or do you all write separately and bring it to the group ready-made?
[Brian] We do write together sometimes, and we have written separately too. Sometimes we bring it to the group ready made...
Question: Do you think it's harder or easier for musicians/songwriters to get noticed these days?
[Edward]I think it’s both harder and easier for songwriters to get noticed these days. Harder because there is much more competition for young writers to place songs with established artists and these days more artists are writing their own tunes. However, it’s easier because of new media outlets that enable writers to self publish and get their tunes directly to the public with unsigned artists, etc.
Question: How do you feel about the Internet as a promotional vehicle? Does it help or just make things more complicated?
[Edward]I think the Internet is a great promotional vehicle when paired with other media. Where else can you establish a direct link with your audience and get such immediate feedback for such a reasonable financial commitment?
Question: How do you promote yourselves? Do you use the Internet? And if so, how?
[Edward]We partner with our co-publisher, Universal Music Group, in terms of representing our catalog. Recently we have placed selections from our HDH/Gold Forever Music catalog on iTunes, including the best of: Chairmen of the Board, Honey Cone, Freda Payne, Laura Lee, Flaming Ember, 100 Proof [Aged in Soul], 8th Day, Parliament, Holland Dozier Holland and Glass House.
We also are using our www.myspace.com/hollanddozierholland page to promote our catalog and introduce our music to a new audience.
Question: Do you have any advice for songwriters and independent musicians hoping to achieve the success you've seen?
[Edward]Well, the only thing I can suggest is to create a habit of writing something daily; follow-through and finish your songs because people can only use finished material. Also, the industry has changed so much and it seems to be a bit more complicated these days for songwriters to break into the business and get work with, you know, particular artists of their choices, because many artists are now writing their own songs. However, with web sites like taxi.com, etc., songwriters can also showcase a bit more efficiently. I would also like to tell you that BMI, who I’m affiliated with, has a writer’s workshop, and I feel that those workshops are very very strong, along with also being an opening for up and coming songwriters. So BMI would be a good place to look into as far as getting your songs heard. Contact someone at BMI in Artist Relations and you will find out when they have these writer workshops.
Question: What are your hopes for the group in the future?
[Edward]I’m hoping that we would work together more in the future… Everyone has their own projects but it is very fulfilling when we are actually working together. It's very exciting. It's like we never stopped and we sort of reminisce a lot and it’s just a really really good feeling. It amazes me how, when we do get together, it’s like we’ve been doing it every day.. and there’s nothing boring about it. As a matter of fact it’s extremely stimulating and I’m really grateful for that.
Question: What projects are you working on now that you'd like to let people know about?
[Brian] Well, I’d like for people to know that we’re composing a musical for the Broadway play and adaptation for “First Wives Club.” It’s a great thing. I’m very excited; we are very excited about it. I love doing this; I love the fact that we’re together working on this and we’re having a great time together.
[Edward]Also, the “First Wives Club” was at first a book that was later a movie with Bette Midler, etc. etc., so the idea of being able to take this exciting project to Broadway is really once in a lifetime, right now for us, only because it is our first. We’re really looking forward to doing more plays.
Question: Anything else you'd like to talk about while you have the floor? ;)
[Edward]One thing that I’d like to add while I have the floor is that one of the better ways to expand your knowledge of songwriting is to download some of the tunes that are on these websites and listen to as much music as possible. Also, not only listen to what’s going on today listen to what went on twenty, thirty, at least….. twenty-five years ago, because the formats and techniques are not really different, even with rap; it does have a particular kind of format. But it’s really good to be able to expand your musical knowledge or your insight, because it will only help you to become stronger and come up with more quality work, today.
[Brian] That's about it!
For more information on these three talented songwriters, visit their website.