LET´S ROLE-PLAY + bits and pieces


suggests Norman Warwick

There was certainly no one like Judy Stakee (left) on our radar in those sing-for-your-supper folk club days in the UK during the seventies and eighties.. In fact it is only in the last seven daus that I have learned of this lady, who is herself a somewhat more than a merely aspirant songwriter.

She is a musician and writer of music who is also an member of and occasional contributor to American Songwriter, and her most recent article is the prime source for this article.

photo book As the author of The Songwriter´s Survival Guide she brings a fresh and pro-active attitude to the selling and marketing and protecting of the songs we write.

In her acclaimed book Judy shares her most precious trade-secrets to help aspiring song-writers achieve their dreams. From lessons she has gathered during her thirty year and more ionvolvement in the music industry you can learn how to become more marketable to a music publisher,  and enabling to handle with greater confidence those tricky negotiations with publishing executives.

This will help you achieve a a creatively and financially reward co-write agreement, and perhaps to become the CEO of your own company!

Nevertheless Sidetracks And Detours would add a slight caveat to remind you that all the good advice Judy offers will not alter the fact that even before we approach a publisher we must, as Hugh Moffatt once told me (perhaps in the apocryphal, ´prepare what we write for light years of travel.´ Even when having done so we might still find ourselves in an empty karaoke bar somewhere, in an impersonation Melanie singing her hit, Look What They´ve Done To My Song.

None of that, however, dilutes the cocktail of advice Judy offers to the post- song written songwriter.

She began this most recent offering advice by reminding us that ´a great songwriter is a great storyteller. Using words as building blocks and setting them against a brilliant melody, writers employ literary devices like rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, and repetition to captivate us. Over the course of a few minutes, writers tell us the truths of life in song. 

Sharpening this craft demands we have a fine-tuned relationship with language. Increasing vocabulary will give us more words from which to choose. Analyzing the use of literary devices in songs will help us when we turn toward our own writing. We need to amass knowledge of words and language in order to employ them in a novel way

Of course, storytelling is as much about how we use our words as it is about which words we use. Do our songs have a beginning, middle, and end? Are we commuting coherently? Is there space in the right moments so that the audience can reflect on what we just said? Are there repetitive statements that cut to the emotional core? Thinking about these questions can help us decide if our storytelling is effective through song. If it’s not, then we aren’t doing our jobs properly. 

One should consider that our storytelling powers need to extend beyond the song. Artists, in particular, need to think about the ways they tell their stories onstage. Banter before or after the performance of a song should enhance an audience’s understanding of the art. This banter can hook new fans and make old fans feel like they are getting a heightened experience. This is why I often advise artists to write a loose script to follow throughout their set. Practice this script in the mirror. A bit of preparation will, ironically, make you seem like a great off-the-cuff storyteller off the cuff. 

So far so good, sound advice. Whilst not much of that was available to Lendanear in those open mic nights that Colin is now creating in a radio series of that name. In fact in pre-broadcast pilot episode I have recently heard, and commented on, Colin does a brilliant job of the daft, the delusional and the downright demented people who chase dreams in that wishing-well world. We were so detrmined to sound more wordly than our mates that we very nearly called ourselves the Symbolics. Colin was going to be Sim, of course, and I was going to be,…well, you know the rest.

We know now, but didn´t then, that being a song-writer called for multi-tasking. SDo, now being at age number 70 in the medical charts our biggest hit is likely to be (Going Up To See) The Spirit In The Sky,….no, no,…that was Norman Greenbaum not Norman Warwick.

Continuing this article that I should have called Things We Wish We´d Known Then it is good to hear else Judy reminds us of.

For writers taking meetings with managers, publishers, and other music industry folks, it is essential that you be able to navigate the meeting effectively. Most introductory meetings will elicit the same few questions: What’s your story? Who do you like to write with? When did you start writing? The questions are fairly rudimentary, however, the answers reveal a lot. The content of the answers and the ways in which you tell your story have the power to garner an executive’s attention or turn them away. That’s why you should rehearse your music industry story in advance of any major meeting. 

With clients with whom I have a one-on-one relationship, we roleplay these business meetings. I act as the executive and they act as the creative. I ask questions that they need to answer, and through this process, we refine and nitpick at their responses. Sometimes I throw them curveball questions because it’s best to be prepared for everything. Good things happen when talent and preparation meet an opportunity head-on.

Keeping all this in mind—storytelling through song, storytelling through stage banter, and storytelling in a business meeting—we can understand that storytelling is THE essential skill that artists and songwriters need to develop. From sunup to sundown, that is your job. Getting a greater understanding of language, writing out banter, and rehearsing for meetings will keep your storytelling skills sharp. 

It just might help you get that deal you’ve been after too.

For information and to sign up for Judy’s TN

click HERE.


Whether you are already an established musician and song-writer or  are  at the moment a song-writer with high aspirations, (and its possible to belong to both of those categories of course), the American Songwriter magazine offers sage advice and a wide range of essential services for all songwriters, and could well be a very worthwhile subscription to take out. 

Speculate to accumulate, of course, and follow advice of people like Judy to ensure you receive your due financial rewards, but let us never forget we write songs: we want to earn  a living, that´s true but it seems to mer that lergacy is a major motiovation for many songwriters.

Literally as I type this here on Lanzarote I am listening to Boom Radio from the UK, and they have just played Morningtown Ride by The Seekers to mark the passing of their singer Judith Durham who has died this week at the age of seventy nine. That song was a  when I was a child in the sixties, still being played when Lendanear were on the folk circuit in the seventies and eighties and has been on my electronic playlists for more than twenty years now.

All Bound For Morningtown as it was more properly know was written by Malvina Reynolds and with that song alone, and help from The Seekers, she left a legacy. having played violin in a dance band in her twenties, Reynolds began her song-writing career late in life. She was in her late forties when she met Earl RobinsonPete Seeger, and other folk singers and songwriters. She returned to school at UC Berkeley, where she studied music theory. Reynolds went on to write several popular songs, including “Little Boxes” (1962), recorded by Seeger, Chilean singer Víctor Jara, and others, “What Have They Done to the Rain” (1962), recorded by The SearchersThe SeekersMarianne FaithfullMelanie Safka and Joan Baez (about nuclear fallout), “It Isn’t Nice” (1964) (a civil rights anthem), “Turn Around” (1959) (about children growing up, later sung by Harry Belafonte), and “There’s a Bottom Below” (about depression). Reynolds was also a noted composer of children’s songs, including “Love Is Something (Magic Penny)” and “Morningtown Ride” (1957), a top-5 UK single (December 1966) recorded by The Seekers. Malvina lived on Parker Street in Berkeley.

Four collections of Reynolds’ music are available on compact disc. The Smithsonian Folkways label released Another County Heard From (Folkways 02524) and Ear to the Ground (Smithsonian Folkways 40124), and the Omni Recording Corporation in Australia issued Malvina Reynolds (Omni 112) and Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth (Omni 114).

Reynolds’ most famous song, “Little Boxes” (made famous by Seeger), has enjoyed renewed popularity by being featured in Showtime‘s TV series Weeds. “Little Boxes” was inspired visually by the houses of Daly City, California. Nancy Reynolds Schimmel, Reynolds’ daughter, explained:

My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation. When Time Magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn’t find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered.

Malvina certainly created a legacy for herself when she prepared all those songs for their light years of travel !In her later years, Reynolds contributed songs and material to PBS’ Sesame Street, on which she made occasional appearances as a character named Kate.[

I loved The Seekers as a kid, even though they seemed a little out of date among the rest of my pop music listening. That didn´t detract one bit from their musical and production values that made all of their singles a bundle of joy.

The prime source for this article was a piece by Juidy Sakee in American Songwriter. Check out the magazine on line for scores of similar thought-provoking work.

In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but that we are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with new genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.

This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.

As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.

The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about just drop a Word document attachment to me at normanwarwick55@gmail.com with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Being a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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