ASCAP songwriters and composers shared the secrets to their success Thursday at the 5th annual “I Create Music” Expo at the Hollywood and Highland complex in Los Angeles.
The “We Create Music” panel was led by ASCAP president and chairman of the board Paul Williams, who delved into the creative process with Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, Jason Mraz, composer Brian Tyler and Phil Vassar.
A barefoot Mraz said he tries to research a topic fully before he chooses it as a theme for a song – and he isn’t above surfing around on Wikipedia to learn about it. When collaborating, he “just invites someone over for tea and see if we can make the conversation musical.”
“I do a lot of drugs,” songwriter Paul Vassar laughed. “I’m kidding, mom.” In all seriousness, Vassar, who has written songs recorded by Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw, said resilience is key: his demo tape had six songs on it, and it was resoundingly dismissed by the labels. All six of those songs went on to later be No. 1 on various charts, he said.
Tyler said he started as a songwriter before becoming a composer, and got his entry by writing the end title credit songs. He now finds visual inspiration a necessity to his work. “The movie is kind of my co-writer, in a way,” said Tyler, whose credits include music for the films “Eagle Eye” and “Constantine.”
Stewart said that when working with a recording artist, pre-conceived notions can be the death of creativity. When writing “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” he was inspired by the relationship between Jay-Z and Beyonce before they were married. “I mean, it’s Beyonce,” he laughed. “Put a ring on it.”
Williams feared that giving advice made him sound “like a weird combination of Jiminy Cricket and Gandhi,” but offered that authenticity is the key to connecting with listeners. “I wanted to be David Bowie,” he says, but instead he wound up writing “co-dependent anthems.”
The ASCAP Expo continues through Saturday.