When I arrived at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood at 11am, I had already been traveling for over ten hours, having begun my journey at 3:45 am that morning. Two trains, a five plus hour plane ride, and a drive in the super shuttle got me to my destination. As one of the passengers of the super shuttle exited at a nearby hotel to attend the Film Festival, I saw Eli Wallach whom I recognized as one of the leads in the movie “Holiday”, standing outside the hotel. True to my spirit, I spontaneously leaped out of the shuttle and introduced myself. I felt as though I had walked right into the movie as we conversed for a few minutes. (His character off screen was not too different from on his on the screen persona). I jumped back into the shuttle just in time.
After a rather long wait on the registration line for the annual music conference, I received my badge and ran over to the room where Ariel Hyatt, my new publicist, was moderating a panel about digital tools for musicians. Mark Wood, Imogen Heap’s manager whom I had met briefly at the recent Grammy awards, was also on the panel. I had been very determined to be there and concerned that Mark would not be able to be there due to the volcanic ash in the UK. Everyone who was scheduled to be there was there, Ariel did a fantastic job moderating, and I got the opportunity to talk to Mark briefly afterwards. It was very reassuring that he had received the e mail that I had sent him and remembered the business card, which I had given Imogen, at the Grammy after party. He told me to keep him abreast of my plans to be in London in June.
I had planned to eat lunch at this point, but when I got to the Green Earth Café and saw that the only plates that they used were Styrofoam, I left. It was Earth Day after all, and I wanted to do any small part that I could do to help our earth. Why would an establishment called the “Green Earth” use Styrofoam? I didn’t want to miss the next panel trying to figure this out.
Paul Williams, the president of ASCAP (the Association of Composers, Songwriter, and Authors) and Jason Mraz were among the songwriters sharing their stories and craft. (Paul wrote many well-known songs including the Rainbow Connection, which was sung by one of my heroes, Kermit the Frog). After another panel, a quick bite to eat, and an interview of John Mayer, I registered in my hotel down the road and came back to hear the concert, which was taking place at the Highlands, a bar known for its music, located in the hub of Hollywood. I ran into some friends of mine and we were lucky enough to get seats near the front. Athena introduced me to Jill, and when I proceeded to tell her about my work with Azalea Blossom Incorporated, she decided that there was someone I needed to meet and was all ready to set us up. When I realized that she was talking about my good friend and board member, Mike Skinner, I dropped my pen and laughed. (We are getting very good at networking!!). Meanwhile, the concert was awesome. Natasha Bedingfield gave an amazing inspiring performance of some of her songs, Phil Vassar was completely wailing on the piano, and John Forte (formerly from the Fugees) moved us all practically to tears.
At the end of the concert, the performers left the stage looking humbled and grateful. The reached out their hands to many of us, looked us sincerely in the eye, and John penned an autograph for my son, Julian.
I had been up for almost twenty-four hours by the time that I went to sleep. What an amazing day!
I woke up bright and early ready to conquer the day in LA. However, first, I needed to check in with what had been happening back home and in the office since I had been gone. The report included the escape (and re-capture) of one of our horses, our dog breaking into the food that our cat knocked down from the refrigerator, and a panic preparing for the Arts in Ed fair in Ulster County, where two of my interns were headed today. I straightened out what I could and proceeded to start my day, trusting that everything would work out perfectly. It was a short brisk walk from my motel to the conference. I stopped to admire the colorful flowering Bogevilia vines along the way. I headed straight to the buffet breakfast at the Rennsaiasnce hotel’s Twist restaurant. I met up with a woman, Jen, who I had met the day before. While devouring delectable berries of every kind and a spinach omelet, I listened to Jen’s Advice on internet sales and social media while I gave feedback on “Traditional networking” (as she called it), promoting some of my favorite music business coaches (Rick Goetz, Ariel Hyatt, and John Battaglia) and organizations (West Coast Songwriters). I then made a quick visit to Starbucks to check my e-mails before heading to the seminars.
Another informative panel on digital music was followed by a wild song critique session by Linda Perry. I sat back and absorbed the songs and her feedback. She started out by singing her own song, “Beautiful”, which was recorded by Christina Aguilera. A few of the songs, which were sung by members of the audience, were so breathlessly moving. Members of the audience also gave feedback to the songs, and before long, the session felt more like a group relationship therapy session with songwriters volunteering their opinions on what made a song sound romantic or “Sexy” (and what did not). “Sex is in the mystery,” volunteered one man as he soulfully began to sing one of his creations. This remarked moved me as I was beginning to be tired (and revolted) by vulgar and implicit lyrics in some of the songs that were played and was wondering if I was the only one who felt that way. At the end of the almost two-hour panel, some people got out of hand, insisting that they sing for Linda. I sat back the whole time, feeling grateful that I had learned some music business etiquette along the way. Also, I was encouraged Linda telling us all that she believed that “Positive” was what was going to be fashionable now.
One of the highlights of the day was unmistakably hearing Ludacris interview Quincy Jones. This great man has left his songwriting and production mark on music of many genres for six decades. It was so inspiring to hear him talk. I had had no idea how much the role of classical music (especially that of Debussy and Ravel, two of my favorites) had played into his life. Also, I realized by hearing him talk, how spiritual he really is. He referred a lot to love- not romantic love, but the universal Love that lives inside each of us.
I briefly connected with Loretta Munoz, the ASCAP representative who signed me up as a writer and publisher member eighteen years. It is because of Loretta that Growing Azalea Music exists. I just can’t believe it has been that long!
After a refreshing swim in the Hotel pool, I was ready to begin the day. I had already accomplished a lot-meeting business representatives who I had out to meet (including the CEO’s and founders of Tune Core and Pandora radio) and learning up to date information about the music industry. Comparing myself to a runner in a marathon, it was now time to gather up my strength for the final lap.
Informative seminars today included panels on copy write laws, licensing, and direct to fan marketing. However, much of what I accomplished today took place outside the “classroom”. I jammed out in the ASCAP room where I learned, after a little bit of investigation, that I had one of my compositions placed in a cable TV show (the Chelsea Lately Show) in Canada in November. A very helpful ASCAP rep named Lance helped me to find this out. I also learned that I had money coming to me for my performances on recordings through Sound Exchange. I also visited the Sennheiser microphone display as a follow up to yesterday’s informative seminar on sound for the stage and recording studio.
I took a brief brake for delicious sushi in the middle of the day. The sun was shining and the temperature was beginning to feel a little more like California again. I ended up sitting next to Lilly, a film-casting director from Australia, who was out enjoying the sunshine, too.
The Grand Ballroom was packed for the discussion between Justin Timberlake and Bill Withers, the songwriter known for his classics; “There ain’t no sunshine”, “Lean on me”, and other well-known songs. Both of these esteemed songwriters talked about their lives and inspiration.
The conference concluded with “A songwriters in the round” concert, which included Larry John Mc Nally, a songwriter whom I had met twenty years ago, when I first began songwriting. I waited to hear him sing his song, “Nobody’s Girl”, which was recorded by Bonnie Rait.
Although I left Hollywood at 6:25 PM, I did not arrive at my friend Dave Kinnoin’s house in South Pasadena until after 7:30 PM due to the volume of Saturday night traffic on the freeway. As I got out of the cab, I could hear strands of music playing from the back of their house. I greeted Dave’s wife, Mary, and dog, Lulu, and sat down to an evening of delightful song under the moonlight. Although I was some distance from the EXPO, it felt like an extension of the conference, especially since Dave is a friend whom I had met through the ASCAP EXPO conference the previous year.
Three esteemed songwriters-David Morgan, Alan O’Day, and Randy Sharp played some of their original songs as a benefit for “One Small House”, a not for profit organization dedicated to building up homes in Third World countries. It was a lovely evening. However, there was not much time to linger as I had a shuttle waiting to take me to the airport.
The red eye flight from LAX brought me safely into rainy New York City just past 8 in the morning. Three train rides and one ride in the car brought me home.