The annual ASCAP I create music expo returned to Hollywood this year at the Hollywood Loews Hotel. This year the conference had panelists from all across the music industry and everyone from producers to songwriters and even musicians in the film industry came out to speak on the panels slated for this weekend. The first day drew a large crowd of aspiring musicians and songwriters with panels covering every genre including country, rap, hip hop, and pop. The morning started off with a great panel titled “We Create Music” moderated by Billboard Editor in Chief Melinda Newman. Panelists were, A Star Is Born songwriter Anthony Rossomando, Grammy/CMA/ACM winner Lee Ann Womack, Pinar Toprak, the first woman to score a big-budget Marvel superhero film (Captain Marvel) and Ninteen85 hit producer for Drake. This group of talented individual from across every genre drew a large crowd of ASCAP attendees who packed the ballroom to hear career advice, failures, and inspiration from these artists.
Country artist LeeAnn Womack shared some of her career advice saying, “Write everything down. I still have cocktail napkins, and little notepads whatever I could find, filled with song ideas that I jotted down and I still pull from those today. “
Anthony Rossamundo agreed saying, “Nowadays we always have our phones and I probably have 700 notes because I always make a note when something inspires me. Sometimes I just get out my phone and male a recording of myself humming when something comes to me. You never know when inspiration will strike.”
Womack, who’s 2000 single, “I Hope You Dance” was a national hit is still writing today and she has also raised two daughter to be musicians as well. One of her daughters, Aubrey Sellars gave a performance at ASCAP later that night and she told the audience, “I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud of both of them.”
She talked about the start of her career saying, “I always knew I wanted to work in music. My daddy worked in radio and so I knew that I wanted to be in this industry from when I was 2 or 3 years old.” Womack told the audience that she went to Nashville because her small Texas town just felt too small and she began her songwriting career as a way to get out and see the world. Then she started performing later on and had several hits of her own.
The rest of the panelists all agreed that they had known they wanted to work in music from a young age. Ninteen85 told the audience that in middle school he had started a punk band and arranged all the sets for each of the players including drums, guitar, and vocals. That was how he got his start in producing. For Pinar, she began studying music at the conservatory as a teenager and eventually came to America to pursue a career in the film industry. She told the audience that as a young girl the Superhero soundtrack had inspired her to want to make music for the movies. Anthony began studying music in college but realized that he didn’t just want to study it, he wanted to create it and dropped out after freshman year to pursue music full time.
All of the panelists agreed that they had experienced many failures before finding success and they told the audience to never give up on their dreams. Rossamundo said, “You’ve just got to keep going. I think the thing that helps too when you’re a musician is all the shitty jobs you have along the way that inspire you to keep chasing your dream.” Everyone in the audience laughed at that and each of the panelists agreed that they had been there. Melinda asked them each what their worst job had been. Ninteen85 remembered getting up early to deliver newspapers in his neighborhood. Anthony said he’d had too many to count but that one of the worst was, “Serving sausages to idiots in Boston in -22 degree weather in the middle of January.” This comment got a laugh from everyone in the room.
Rossamundo went on to talk about his first major success with writing “Shallow” for the movie A Star is Born. He said that the song had just come about really easily once he got in the room with the other writers because he had worked with them for a long time. He also added that since it was going to be on the movie soundtrack and not an album for Lady Gaga it took the pressure off so that the music could just be whatever it needed to instead of fitting into a specific sound.
If you’re a fan of the movie you’ll know how important this song is to the film and Anthony shared some interesting insight from the creative process. He told the audience, “Bradley Cooper’s character was going to drown at the end of the film originally, so we used the shallow metaphor for the chorus to go with that. The whole song is just a conversation and it all happened in about 12 minutes once we started writing it.”
Pinar, who has worked on projects such as composing music for Fortnight the video game and most recently Marvel’s Captain Marvel movie talked about her creative process as well. She shared that for those who wanted to go into composing, it’s a very different field than other types of music because it is very lonely working on a project. She often can’t share details about the project or her work with anyone outside of a small team and she does most of her writing on her own. She talked about working on Captain Marvel saying, “I was freaking out because the deadline was coming up and I wasn’t coming up with any ideas. But then I decided to get out of the studio to clear my head and I went for a walk and it just hit me so I had to rush back and start working on it right away. You have to have faith that the right idea will come to you.”
At the end of the panel each of the speakers shared the one piece of advice they’d received that they felt really helped them in their career. LeeAnn Womack had a simple yet powerful message. She said, “Write your truth because the emotion will come through and that’s what people relate to.” The other panelists agreed with this advice sharing similar stories and saying that early in their careers they had often written things they felt were too personal and that no one would understand. But some of those songs ended up inspiring their most popular work because people could identify with the emotion behind the experience.
It was a very inspiring panel and each speaker was a testament to the fact that never giving up on your dream really does pay off.