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Songwriting Like a Pro! Ridgefield Playhouse Chats with Samantha and A.J. About Upcoming Workshop!

In addition to keeping the performing arts available to the community through film and socially distanced, limited capacity concerts, The Ridgefield Playhouse has also made their most popular classes available via Zoom!

Now, even if you don’t live locally, you can learn from award winning instructors in the comfort of your own home! Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to be mentored by two accomplished industry professionals – International Recording Artist and Celebrity Voice Coach Samantha Cole and 13-time Emmy Award Winning songwriter, producer, music supervisor, One-Stop Music Shop owner A.J. Gundell! Songwriting Like a Pro - via Zoom takes place on Wednesdays, March 10 - April 7 from 7 – 9pm.

We recently caught up with Samantha and A.J. to talk with them about songwriting and their upcoming workshop.

Do you have a set process when it comes to writing songs?
AJG - It's not a set process, because it can and does vary every time.  But one of the consistent things I'm always looking for is a hook that says to me, "That's a cool idea for a song."  It can be a lyric, melody, chord changes, groove, whatever... but I have to feel like I'm onto something special that's worth writing.  And ideally, the best hooks contain the main idea, the title, occur/repeat in the chorus—and tell an original story.  So that's also how I like to get students started on their own songs.
SC - I love to take an idea or melody and run with it! Next, I find musicians and producers to help me put together “the skeleton” of the song. It’s all about experience and feeling in songs. Putting it on paper telling a story then actually delivering it on a record. It’s my favorite process!

Talking of your approach, how do you generally tackle the writing process? Do you tend to throw yourself at the piano/guitar and let things emerge, or do you prefer to start with the pen and paper and craft a lyric first?
AJG - Yes :-).  Per above, it's not a consistent thing, it can be either one.  But if it starts with one, and I think it's cool, I'll want to hop over pretty quickly to the other--to tie up the lyric with a melody and chords that I think is memorable, or find a melody for a lyric, song title, or main idea and story that I like.
SC - Ideas or Influences first. Sometimes lyrics come first but without a melody and then I find the music that moves me and gels with my emotion and feeling of the song.

What part of songwriting do you find most fulfilling?
AJG - Well, the first thing I thought of to say was "finishing" :-). But when I thought about it some more, I also love the process when it flows... and don't even want that to stop.  I love collaborating, when I do, with co-writers, artists, producers.  And for sure, one of the most fulfilling parts of songwriting is finding out that something you wrote is successful:  people like to sing it, share it with friends; artists want to record it; clients want to cover or license it.
SC - The incredible feeling of hearing the end result. Starting from a simple idea and turning it into a finished song - that’s a part of your soul.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about songwriting?
AJG - I had a teacher in college, John Hersey--he was a renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Professor Hersey liked to say "write a little every day, and always leave it hot."  By hot, he meant something that's happening for you, that you feel is unique and strong.  I've been able to use this in songwriting.  It seems strange to suggest "leaving" hot... like, why not keep going?  And it turns out, it's because 1) if you leave it hot, you're likely to come back to it because you think it’s good and 2) when you're away from it, you'll probably get some more cool ideas!  Our unconscious mind, where a lot of creative stuff comes from, works on its own.  And sometimes our conscious minds work against us, because we're consciously trying too hard--which is partly where writer's block comes from.
SC - The best advice that I have been given is to relax and write down the ideas. Let it flow - start with a topic, experience or feeling and run with it. Understand the meaning of it… what are you trying to say, what’s the story? Paint a picture.

Lastly, what excites you the most about working with students and helping them craft a song?
AJG - Without a doubt, it's seeing the students find their way to becoming successful themselves as songwriters, and knowing that even in some small way, I've been able to help them make a difference in their lives with their music.
SC - Agree! I get so much joy in watching them shed their doubts and insecurities and watch them grow into artists. It’s very rewarding to hear the final product!

What are you waiting for? Get ready for Spring and overcome pandemic fatigue with a fresh burst of online creativity!  If you are a songwriter, musician, or producer interested in learning the fundamentals of songwriting and applying them to achieving success in the music business licensing–this class is custom-made for you. 

Learn these things and more from seasoned professionals Samantha and A.J. and their combined years of music industry experience and success.  This professional five-week workshop takes place in five weekly sessions each two hours long.  Each session is devoted to learning both the craft of songwriting and the skills required to get your finished songs into the market for recording and licensing.

Very special guest speakers Jimmy Greco, Grammy-nominated producer (Carlos Santana, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez), and others along with ex-Senior VP of A&R (RCA, Sony, Universal) Dave Novik will join Cole and Gundell at the last session–to provide insightful marketing and promotion advice secrets while also helping address the ins and outs of licensing and recording. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to be mentored while learning the art of songwriting and the secrets to music business success  from accomplished industry professionals.

To register go online at ridgefieldplayhouse.org or call the box office at 203.438.5795. Scholarships are available through the generosity of the Beth and Bruce Becker Scholarship Fund.

This event is part of our Classes @ The Playhouse Series and Adam Broderick Salon & Spa Whole New You Series, with support from Reliance Merchant Services.

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