Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I met Billy Kirsch because of muffins. When Skinny Brown Dog came out, Donald Saaf and I decided to send muffins to some of the booksellers who would be carrying the book. Donald had designed a fun label that read, A Gift from Benny and Brownie's Baker. We were looking for a bakery willing to place the labels on top of the boxes before mailing them. My first attempt at contacting a bakery failed. They just didn't understand going the extra-mile to do something special.
Then I called The Wild Muffin. Billy Kirsch answered. As a songwriter who also handles the marketing for his wife Julie Simpson's muffin company, Billy understood going the extra-mile.
During that conversation, Billy told me his family had read When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. And I also learned that he wrote songs. After we hung up, I did a search on the Internet and found out Billy Kirsch was not a struggling artist. He was an award-winning songwriter of many songs that I'd listened to and enjoyed. You never know who will be on the other end of the phone line.
I'm glad Billy agreed to do an At Home profile. Since he is our first songwriter, I thought you might also want to know a little more about him and his process.
Can you pinpoint a moment in your life when you decided to write songs?
I've never thought of it as a conscious decision, but rather a natural way of expressing myself. I remember my first song at age seven, I sang it at my oldest brother's Bar Mitzvah, funny!!!!
What was the breakthrough moment for you? The first time someone decided to record your song?
My breakthrough moment was getting a phone call telling me that Kenny Rogers was headed into the studio to record a song I had pitched to his record company. There's nothing like the excitement of that first official validation.
Where were you when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?
I was in the parking lot of a restaurant, just leaving with take out food for the family. Wynonna's recording of "Is It Over Yet" came on the radio and I got very emotional. I'm playing the piano on that record. After years of being a journeyman pianist, I think hearing my piano playing on the radio was more emotional for me than knowing I had written the song.
Can you walk us through the process of writing one of your songs?
From inspiration to finished draft? My best songs start from a very stream of conscious, or sub-conscious place. If I get a melody and first verse that moves me, I usually hang in for the long haul. For me that means writing and re-writing. I believe the best songs are short stories, but I don't have the luxury of writing even twenty pages to tell a story. So I like to make sure every line of lyric contributes to the story unfolding and the emotional message I want to convey. Most of my best songs have lots of lines I've discarded. When I get a lyric I'm happy with I'll continue to tweak the melody and music to make sure the music mirrors the emotional content of the lyric.
Join us tomorrow when Billy Kirsch gives us a glimpse of his work life at home.
Posted by Kimberly at 7:00 AM