The best songs," says songwriter Paul Williams, "are usually the ones I'm not even sure I should put my name on. I mean the ones that just seem to flow out of my unconscious."
Before he was producing and writing with some of the biggest names in gospel, pop, and R&B, Marc Harris was a church organist in his native Indiana. And he still makes music with the heartfelt directness of a sermon.
"That's my advice for any songwriter/producer," he says. "Whenever you're given the opportunity to express and exploit your talents, make it count. Remember, in that opportunity lays the chance to change hearts, minds, and lives through the gift of music."
Drummer Peter Erskine started young and never stopped. He played with legendary jazz bandleader/composer Stan Kenton while still a teen, and then went on to collaborate with such greats as Steely Dan, Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Kate Bush, Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson, the Yellowjackets, conductor Simon Rattle, and almost countless others. But despite a discography that reads like a history of modern music, Erskine is a modest soul who stresses the simple things in drumming: Listening. Relaxing. Being human. We recently chatted with Peter about the things that inspire him as a musician.
"We have a saying in my band whenever I put on a CD by someone like Leon Russell or the Miracles," chuckles Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers. "Someone will always say, 'Rami, is this one pre- or post-Civil War?"
It takes guts to walk away from a successful project and attempt something new. But Tim Rushlow, former lead singer of the mega-Platinum pop-country act Little Texas, braves two challenges: his self-titled Atlantic Records solo debut proving himself as a "new" act, and establishing his own songwriting voice.
It's a good thing that Phil Vassar was an ace college athlete-the workout he undergoes at a typical gig falls just a few calories short of a decathlon. "I don't just sit behind the piano," says the Nashville-based singer/songwriter. "I get up. I run around. I spend a lot of time on top of the piano, actually."
Composer/keyboardist Linda Martinez has been part of the Yamaha family for over two decades - not a rare distinction, save for the fact that Martinez is only 25 years old.
Terri Lyne Carrington has a unique perspective on jazz history, having played with such bebop and modern jazz giants as Rashaan Roland Kirk, Max Roach, Illinois Jacquet, and Clark Terry-and that was only before she could legally drive.
Elliot Scheiner has mixed some of the greatest albums of the last quarter century, including discs by Steely Dan, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Sting, John Fogerty, Van Morrison, and Bruce Hornsby. And now he's mixing some of them all over again.
George Pajon, Jr., of the Black Eyed Peas, is that rarest of hip-hop birds: a realtime, flesh-and-fingers guitar player. His creative fretwork and strong stage presence have helped cement the Peas' reputation as one of the genre's most exciting live acts. While many hip-hop groups get their groove exclusively from programmed beats, a Black Eyed Peas gig features generous doses of live instrumental improvisation. "The Peas like to have a lot of freestyling onstage," says Pajon, "so between every song we make up grooves on the spot."