Janis Ian has been through many musical incarnations since her 1967 song "Society's Child" made her a star at age 15. She's been a soft-rock balladeer, a disco diva, a polished Nashville tunesmith and a prolific jingle writer. But even those who've come to expect the expected from Ian may be startled by her latest album, the raw, hard-hitting God and the FBI.
Most songwriters learn to accept the disappointment of hearing their songs produced in ways far removed from the composer's original vision. But Daryl Simmons has largely been spared that pain: The mega-Platinum R&B producer (Toni Braxton, TLC, Whitney Houston, Dru Hill, Xscape, Tevin Campbell, Monica, Aretha Franklin, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, and others) has written many of his biggest hits.
Ben Carey says his leap from Australian pub gigs to the sold-out sheds and stadiums he now plays with Savage Garden has taught him at least one thing about guitar tone: "What sounds great in your bedroom or a guitar shop might not work at all in a rehearsal room or an arena. The tone you get with just you in front of your amp is one thing, but I have to find a way to make my sound work with a million tracks of keyboards, drums, percussion and bass, not to mention 20,000 screaming kids."
If you think that running the sound system for a rock concert looks intense, consider the sort of stress some TV mixers face. Mike Ferrara, the P.A. engineer for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, must simultaneously mix the house band, the voices of Rosie and her guests and musical acts ranging from rock groups to Broadway choruses. And it gets worse: Ferrara and his colleagues start work at 6:00 A.M., racing to prepare for a 10:00 A.M. Broadcast.
He chews bubblegum onstage. He sings the theme from "The Flintstones" during his drum solo. A box of crayons inspired the colors of his Yamaha Beech Custom kit. But Slam-G's says that being Britney Spears' touring drummer isn't kid stuff.
According to Nashville tunesmith Beth Nielsen Chapman, one of the best songwriting techniques is to avoid technique.
"I try to stay as much as possible in the unconscious place where real creativity comes from," says Chapman, whose songs have been performed by Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Tanya Tucker, Elton John, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Lorrie Morgan and many others. "I try to remove my intellect from the process and just get into the childlike joy of creating, like stringing beads or making mud pies."
When Van Halen tours the world in 2001, their as-yet-unannounced vocalist won't be the only newcomer onstage: bassist Michael Anthony will be sporting a signature bass inspired by Yamaha's classic BB3000. Anthony is finetuning the specs as the group completes its 12th album, but he gave us a few clues about what to expect.
He's scored blockbusters like Dinosaur, The Fugitive, The Sixth Sense and Pretty Woman, as well as intimate critical favorites such as Mumford, Glengarry Glen Ross and Five Corners. But regardless of the film's scale, a James Newton Howard soundtrack always boasts an unerring dramatic sense, explosive energy and a hip blend of classic soundtrack devices and modern innovations. Howard spoke with us between meetings for his next project, the action thriller The Vertical Limit.
They call him "the groove regulator."
After a decade in Nashville, JD Blair's flawless time and seemingly effortless feel have earned the drummer an eclectic list of credits that includes work with everyone from master tunesmith Lyle Lovett to freeform bass freak Victor Wooten. Now he's holding down his highest profile gig yet as touring drummer for pop-country goddess Shania Twain.
From her GRAMMY-winning records of the '70s and '80s through her more recent work in television, film and musical theater, Melissa Manchester has remained one of our most admired singer/songwriters. Her latest credits include the score for Disney's Lady and the Tramp 2 and a performance at the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C. She is currently writing material for a new album, due next year.