09/12/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Confessions of a Serial Songwriter: Say Cheese


One day I took a picture of my daughter and her first love. She looked so happy in it, like the sun bursting through the clouds. I gave the photo a name. I called it, "This is how you make me feel."

The following week I was scheduled to work with an artist. I always try to come prepared with "a start." Because many times when an artist is making the rounds, he/she is all out of starts by the time they get to me.

I showed him the photo on my iPhone. I said I thought we could write a song about a picture like that because everybody has one. You know...a picture of us next somebody who makes us glow...somebody who make us that happy. He loved the idea. At least he said he did. We could call it "1000 Words." (As know...a picture paints...) He loved the title. Perfect. We were on our way. (Producer was down with it too.)

As we delved in, artist came up with a hook that (in my opinion) was...well...cheesy. I mean really cheesy. Camembert. Saga Blue. I was actually a little aghast. Can I have my title back? Because I simply cannot merge my precious idea with that Jarlsberg.

Panicked, I headed for the bathroom and in the privacy and liberation that only bathrooms allow, I came up with another option...a melody which went with these words:

This Is How You Make Me Feel
This is how you make me smile
Remember when we said we will
The camera doesn't ever lie

I'm sorry. I loved that. I emerged. I shared. Artist loved it as well. At least he said he did. (Producer was down with it too.)

On my drive home I felt pleased with the session. Excited, even. A day well spent. Sometimes we writers meander until we find something that gets us all buzzed. This was worth the twists and turns. Plus, it was extra nice because the inspiration came from real life. We were to reconvene for vocals the next day.

In bed that night, admittedly, I was getting a little ahead of myself. Not that I had anything to do with the directing of his video but I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like: Artist standing still singing the song and pointing to the photo which he'd be holding in the other hand. "This is how you make me feel/This is you make me smile"...Nothing else going on. No fancy camera work...No hotties of any gender dancing in convertibles. The song was strong enough to withstand the lack of action. I loved the simplicity.

But apparently, while I slept with a smile on my face, artist must have been a little restless. Because when we reconvened the following day and I went on about how delighted I was that we wrote something so special...I noticed it looked like he had a little gas. As it turned out it wasn't gas at all. It was the look you get when you're about to deliver some unpleasant news. He confessed he preferred his original (cheesy) chorus. Bummer. And suggested my chorus could be a bridge. A consolation prize.

Now, if we were writing something to pitch to other recording artists at large I would have stood my ground. I would have made a real pain in the ass of myself. I assure you. But it was his album we were writing for. Respectfully, it mattered more how he felt about what he'd sing. So I bit my tongue. I did. I deferred. But not without this thought:

Is it cool to remove your name from a song? We fight so hard to keep our names ON them ...or for equitable splits. How could I actually be thinking of forgoing credit?

But I was. After all my excitement, my hook was being demoted to a bridge. On the upside, at least it would still be present somewhere in the song. And that would raise the song's GPA. (In my opinion.) Plus, bridges are not chopped liver. They are very important.

But a week later when I received the final mix my beautiful morsel wasn't there. At all. Apparently, somewhere in between the last session and that final mix, artist had asked producer to edit it out--completely! The part of the song that was the inspiration (albeit my inspiration)...the spark that started the whole fire...was, as they say here in Hollyweird, on the cutting room floor. And now, (in my opinion), the song was not merely cheesy, it was a whole pot of fondue.

Sometimes it just goes like that. Sensibilities vary. This artist's and mine were simply different. Very different. Polarized. On different planets. Perhaps confrontation was not his strong suit. He wasn't, however, an ass. He was actually quite a lovely guy...he just had some cheesy sensibilities. (In my opinion.) The song is still fondue. Whatever. Pass me a stick. :(


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