Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom Offer Online Songwriting Course

Iconic songwriting Duo McBroom N Brourman take on a new generation of mentees. Alone, Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman are two of the most respected songwriters in the business, women with throngs of fans, many of them artists who sing the songs they write. Together, these two longtime collaborators and […]

Iconic songwriting Duo McBroom N Brourman take on a new generation of mentees.

BWW Interview: Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom Offer Online Songwriting Course

Alone, Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman are two of the most respected songwriters in the business, women with throngs of fans, many of them artists who sing the songs they write. Together, these two longtime collaborators and besties are one of the most unstoppable songwriting teams working today – and they have been for more years than can be counted. The demand for their work in the field of animated feature film theme songs has provided opportunities for ongoing creation, not only with each other but with the pop stars who record those songs for the movie studios; away from the movie business, singers working in many different genres of musical entertainment lavish them with ardor and devotion. Their own work as performers has led to recordings people can’t wait to buy, and club dates they are anxious to attend.

These days, though, the dates the fans are getting into their calendars are the dates of online classes. You see, Michele and Amanda recently announced the creation of a four-week songwriting course that they are offering to online students, and as the word got out, enrollment went up – and why not? Wouldn’t you want to learn your craft from the best in the business?

Anxious to hear more about the craft of songwriting, the longevity of their collaboration, and their new online venture, I got Amanda and Michele to chat with me about the past, the present, and the future of songwriting.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.

Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom, welcome to Broadway World! If we get real specific, Michele welcome BACK to Broadway World, because you and I have chatted a few times – but Amanda, this is our first interview, though we’ve met a few times in person over the years. How are you both on this fine day?

MB: Good morning, Stephen!! The sun has broken through here in Venice, CA – and hopefully, Biden has broken through as well, though it hasn’t yet been officially called. I’m almost breathing easier now!

AMcB: Hello Stephen! Whew! This has been such a whirlwind of a week I am still wearing my shoulders for earrings! But it is a gorgeous autumn day here in So Cal, and I am grateful for the blue, smoke-free sky.

I’m very excited to talk to two of the industry’s most prolific and respected songwriters because I think the songwriting industry is one with a lot of mystery for the public. Is it as difficult a business to break into and succeed at as I imagine?

BWW Interview: Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom Offer Online Songwriting CourseMB: I would say it’s extremely difficult. The songwriters I know who’ve done well in this business have worked incredibly hard. I know some extraordinarily gifted writers who’ve never had any real success. Amanda and I have been incredibly lucky. Not that we haven’t worked hard at our craft – we have. But speaking just for myself, I’ve never been the kind of artist who could hang out at all the meetings, the shows, the parties. I don’t “Do the Schmooze” very well, and that’s such a huge part of being successful in this world of music.

AMcB: You are too kind. The songwriting industry is a mystery to EVERYONE, outside OR inside of it. It is incredibly difficult to break into…the music changes from moment to moment…what’s in…what’s out…CD’s go, streaming comes, live performing is in the weeds for now. Yes indeedy…it is HARD!!!!!! One must have determination, talent, luck, and ignorance.

How did each of you discover that you had a talent for songwriting, and what was your start like?

MB: I started playing the piano and singing at the age of three. My sisters and I performed together as tiny little girls, and became the core of a group of nine girls, mostly teens, called “The Troupe.” I was the MD and wrote original songs for the group with Iris Ratner (she became Iris Rainer Dart, the author of “Beaches” and the musical “The People in the Picture.”) And we got paid! Ten dollars per show apiece! So I was already a “Pro” by the age of 13. Iris went on to Carnegie (she was 3 years older than me) where she wrote their famous varsity show, “Scotch and Soda”, with a 16-year-old freshman named Stephen Schwartz. And their very first show included one of the songs that Iris and I had written together. It was called “A Smile is Just a Frown Turned Upside Down”, and had been The Troupe’s closing number.

BWW Interview: Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom Offer Online Songwriting CourseAMcB: I had no idea. I didn’t start writing songs till I was in my late twenties, and only as a hobby. Acting was my art and craft. I was touring in a production of Jacques Brel and on my off nights I would pick up my guitar (yes, I was a folkie in High School…hello, Joan Baez!) and mess around. One day a song came out. I kept it a big old secret till I met Michele and she encouraged me to get on stage and start singing my own material. It is all her fault!

In today’s world, thanks to Master Classes and, now, online classes, songwriters have the opportunity to be mentored in their work and the business. Were either or both of you mentored by someone, or did you fly solo while coming up through the ranks?

MB: I wish I had been mentored! I could have so used some wisdom from a knowledgeable songwriter in those years IF I could have listened! I remember Marvin Hamlisch (he was my summer romance when I was 19) saying to me “Michele, your songs are beautiful, but if you want a hit song, you gotta learn the Formula!” My response? “Why would I want to do that?!”

AMcB: I have been hugely fortunate to have a couple of wondrous people encourage me to continue…Margaret Whiting and Portia Nelson and Julie Wilson were my guiding angels. They would NOT let me stop writing,.

Speaking of coming up through the ranks, you are both woman songwriters whose careers started during an era when women didn’t have the hard-fought power that they have today, power that continues to grow with the passing days. Was the songwriting industry as male-dominated at that time as I imagine, and how did you deal with that?

MB: I graduated from Northwestern University – the only female composition major in the music department. I remember my first-year composition teacher walking me out of his class after I’d presented one of my pieces. He draped an arm across my shoulder, leaned down, and said “My dear, this is the 20th Century. We don’t write Melodies anymore!” Had I been a guy, would he have been so dismissive? The worst part was that I believed him, and believed that the music I had inside me was dated, poor, unacceptable. I came out of NU really discouraged.

When I moved to NY a few years later and started writing songs with Karen, we had a marvelous mentor – a beloved FM DJ named John Zacherle, who listened to our first demo ( it was called “Jewish American Princess” ) and started taking us to meetings with his A&R friends at all the major labels. They were, for the most part, wonderfully receptive to our demos. But in a number of instances, we heard these words:

“This is wonderful! But we already have a white chick on the label.”

How did I deal with that? I was heartbroken. And convinced once again that I just wasn’t good enough. After all, as one A&R person had assured us, “The cream always rises to the top.” I simply assumed that I was NOT the cream.

AMcB: My songwriting CAREER has always been eccentric. SOMEHOW my songs get to people who want to sing them. Publishers have never been interested. And yes, make domination was and still is the head of the music business. BUT we are shattering that ceiling more and more. I was one of the first women I know to form my own record label, Gecko Records, way back in 1980.

On the topic of online classes, you are joining forces in an online four-week course in songwriting that begins November 11th. What was the impetus for this venture?

MB: Amanda and I taught classes in vocal performance together, and really loved the experience. So when Michael Mele from Il Chiostro invited us to teach a songwriting class, we jumped at the opportunity. We’ve both been writing songs for close to five decades. It feels like we’ve learned a lot that we can give to younger writers.

AMcB: We have been threatening to do this together for a very long time, and when this opportunity arose, we thought “If not now, when?” I had taught vocal performance workshops for IlChiostro in Tuscany a few times, and it was a terrific experience.

Put a picture in my head of what your course will be like for your students.

MB: We’ve asked each student to send us a couple of their songs so that we have a sense of who they are, what their strengths are. We’ll start by talking about what they’re already doing well and offer some ideas on what might make the work even stronger.

AMcB: We are asking each student to START by sending us a couple of songs ahead of time, so we can get to know them a wee bit, lyrics and mp3s. When we are zooming together, we will make suggestions as to ways to tighten, enhance, and make more personal their musical stories. And then we will probably ask them to write some new ones for us so we can help them through the process from start to finish.

This is a songwriting course with one of the industry’s great songwriting teams – what if you have a student who is a songwriter without collaborator? Is the process of songwriting very different when you are a solo artist, as opposed to being a team?

MB: Both Amanda and I have written a lot of songs on our own as well as working a lot in collaboration with each other and with other writers. With a collaborator, you can bounce your thoughts back and forth, experience a kind of creative fusion, play “what if”, especially in writing theatre songs. But there’s a purity of expression with our solo songs. Remember, Amanda wrote “The Rose” totally on her own.

AMcB: We are game to work with one person who writes both, or someone who only writes one or the other.

You are both songwriters with a long resume of songs, but each of you has achieved enormous acclaim for one song in particular – Amanda with THE ROSE and Michele with MY FAVORITE YEAR. We hear stories of artists’ different relationships with their most famous works, some who tire of them and others who revere them. What is the relationship each of you has with that song for which you are most well known?

MB: I still love “MY FAVORITE YEAR.” Whenever I sing it – or hear some marvelous artist sing it – I’m filled with the song and the emotion it carries. Karen Gottlieb and I wrote that song on spec for the movie in 90 minutes, cause that’s all the time we had. When the movie didn’t use it, I figured that was the end of that song, nobody would ever sing it. Life can hold wonderful surprises!!

AMcB: I love THE ROSE. I consider it a miracle in my life. I am ALWAYS happy to sing it.

If we took those two songs out of consideration, is there a song that each of you has written, either together or apart, that you are always happy to learn a singer has taken a shot at?

MB: Honestly, Stephen, I’m happy whenever a singer chooses to sing ANY of my songs! I’ve started a series of song-blogs called “Eine Kleine Trunk Musik.” (Stole that title from Rupert Holmes’ book for “Curtains.”) I’m releasing one “orphan” song every other week and making the sheet music available on my website. I hope some of the wonderful singers in our community will sing them.

AMcB: Oooh…that’s a hard one. I think one of my favorite Mc/Brourman songs, called BEST FRIEND, is a great one to hear in someone else’s mouth. You always learn something new when you hear someone else interpret your material. And I am never too proud not to steal a good idea when I hear it.

(Editor’s note: Best Friend is my favorite McBrourman song, absolutely.)

Amanda, pretend Michele is never going to hear what you are about to say and tell me what makes her such a good collaborator.

AMcB: She and I have been on the same page since the day we met and the very first song we wrote together. We breathe together. Her musicality is so glorious and beautiful and unique. She writes from a place of theater, as in the importance of the story of a song…and so do I. I trust her taste, for lyric and music, implicitly. We seem to be able to say NO to each other when necessary…it always comes out NO I HAVE SOMETHING BETTER.

Michele, make believe Amanda isn’t going to read this interview and tell me what has made this working friendship last as long as it has.

MB: Let’s start with the fact that I simply love this woman! She’s an amazing friend and a gorgeous spirit as well as a stunning artist. She’s a brilliant lyricist – puts words together in striking and compelling ways. We’ve written songs that are deeply mature, some disturbing, some really funny, some romantically lovely. We can go in many directions, including writing songs for animated creatures – dinosaurs, mice, psychotic poodles, and curious monkeys. And she’s a poet! Lyrics like “London in the Rain”, “Mary Said No”, “Old Love” – they tell beautiful stories, have great imagery, and sometimes very startling twists. Plus she has a great sense of humor – can totally tickle me, both in her writing and in our daily conversations. And this may sound like a small thing, but it’s huge: when we take on a writing assignment, with the crazy rewrites that sometimes come with the territory, she comes through with grace and inventiveness every single time.

Before we say goodbye, I’d love to hear from each of you why now, especially now, is the right time for songwriters to begin a mentorship relationship with you, through your online class.

MB: We’re all on a kind of forced hiatus right now. Until COVID lets us start traveling and performing live again, we have the luxury of time. So it’s a good time to learn, to sharpen our tools, to dive and delve deeper into our creativity and see what comes up. And you know that wonderful Hammerstein lyric: “When you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.”

AMcB: The world aches for music. You can’t go anywhere without hearing it. Songs are our aural as well as oral history, and this is a hugely historical time. We all need to express how we feel in these strange days, and songs are feeling made universally accessible.

Ladies, I am not lying one little bit when I tell you that this is one of my favorite interviews ever. I imagine I could keep going for another ten questions, but we should leave something to talk about next time. Thank you so much for visiting with me today and good luck with the classes!

MB: Thank you, Stephen! It’s a joy!!

AMcB: Thank you, Stephen. I am honored to have been asked! Stay well. Stay happy!

For information and registration for the Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman songwriting course click HERE

From This Author
Stephen Mosher

Source Article

Next Post

UAE says it will relax Islamic personal laws on drinking, cohabitation

Sat Nov 7 , 2020
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced changes to its Islamic personal laws, now allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and imposing harsher punishments for “honor killings.” The Associated Press and Reuters reported on the changes Saturday, with the UAE state-run news agency WAM saying that the updates are […]