How I nearly... wrote new songs for a West end musical
Let’s wind back to Feb 2019. It’s amazing how a simple act of my name being tagged against a Facebook post (thanks Becky Lawrence), led to almost getting myself commissioned onto the songwriting team for a new London Musical.
Over the past year people have been meeting north of London and writing a new musical. I know this because I was nearly on that team. It’s based in Southern America in the 1980’s, I know very little more about it - I didn’t get far enough to sign an NDA, and be in a position to know but not be able to tell!
Although I have loved musical theatre productions, I had never ever tried to write a musical theatre song. The Facebook advert was looking for songwriters for a new musical, and to be honest I thought it was a long shot. I sent an email, I attached a link to some songs I had been pitching to other artists and A&R people, and to my surprise I got shortlisted to meet the Musical Director in London to discuss further.
I did a lot of research about the Musical Theatre company (always do this!). The meeting was incredibly short - about 30 minutes - enough time for them to say they had liked one of the tracks I had shared (it sounded a bit 1980’s), explain almost nothing about the story, but very roughly how it would start, and the reference musicals they wanted it to sound like. They asked if I could score an orchestra - I didn’t lie - I said ‘no’. They asked if I could produce a minute's worth of music to fit this brief they had just described. At that point I actually thought they might want me to create it there and then - fortunately not!
No deadline was given, so I set myself a week to complete it. By the time I had reached home on the coach, I had written an outline idea for the song, a working title, some rough lyrics starting to form, and contacted my country music singer (again thanks Becky Lawrence) on board with the project.
The next few days I experienced the worst and best times of my creative life!
First task was to listen to a whole bunch of musicals that were referenced, some of which I had never even heard of. There wasn’t time to listen to all the songs for each one, so I was skim listening, trying to glean from each one what the main features were. Vocal melodies, types of sounds, rhythms etc etc.
My head was spinning.
I had worked out the chords which gave the song a good lift from the single verse to the single chorus (just 1 minute needed remember), but the melody I first created was terrible, and I mean bad. There were other moments over a long weekend where I wondered what I had got myself into, if I could even do it, wanting to give up, and probably some tears! Bear in mind I was having to create the whole production, add drums, keyboards, guitar, bass, and guide vocal to leave enough time for my singer to learn the song, sing and record it, so I could mix it all back in and hit this seven day deadline.
To this day I still have the opinion, that if you don’t know all the rules for music, you are more likely to do something not expected, try something you ‘shouldn’t do’. Sometimes that creates something great, something fresh. I also call it ‘crimes against MIDI’ because I can’t play the piano, but I can edit MIDI to within an inch of its life! This song had all that and more!
I submitted the track:
I waited, I probably almost forgot I was waiting, then the email came - you have been shortlisted to the next stage; a day with the other potential writers to see if you can collaborate and get on creatively. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I rang them up to double check - no mistakes, I was through to the next stage.
I waited again for the details of the day, waited, and waited. Another email came - I started reading it, thinking ‘this feels like it’s about to tell me bad news’. Well it was. Because of other submissions that were stronger than mine, I fell off the short list. I was out.
It was a failure, BUT it was also a massive success. Getting that far with a musical genre I had never written in before - I was proud of that.
I’ve not given up that musical theatre avenue, and I’ve even been toying with a musical theatre plot of my own since. I am also currently waiting to organise a meet up with a Musical Director in a local theatre to discuss potential songwriting opportunities. So watch this space!
Take every opportunity, because although they don’t always work out, maybe one day they will. Stay positive.