Q: When did you realize, "hey, I can write songs!"?
A: The first thing I need to point out is that I'm not a stellar pianist. I can write and imagine much more than I can play. But the thing, at age 16,that finally got me to write was girls. I figured this was something I thought I could pull off that a lot of other guys couldn't. I tried it on several other targets in high school, but it never worked. Never.
Later in college, my friend Adam Abraham said, "I've always wanted to write a musical," and I said, "So have I." One night, a really nice melody popped in my head. Later it became the "turning point" number of our first musical and that's when I really knew I could write songs.
Q: What's the first thing you do, when thinking about starting to write a particular song?
A: If it's lyric-first, which is how I usually write, I'll get to know the lyrics, try to come up with a basic rhythm and meter for the words, and then I'll latch on to the hook, or the most important phrase and try to come up with a melody. You can have a beautiful background, great chords, fabulous orchestration, but if the melody is lousy, I'd say the song sucks. After a nuclear war and the human race is back to oral tradition, the melody is all that's going remain.
Q: So what's it like trying to break into writing in NYC?
Pretty intimidating. It's hard to keep your ego up with all these people trying to do the same thing you are, in a field where very few really get anywhere. The trick for me is to believe in my own uniqueness and trust my instincts to write something that people will want to see.
Q: What are you working on currently?
I'm finishing re-writes on my two thesis musicals, and I may be getting a grant to do a professional reading of one of them. I've also been reunited with Chad, and we're working on songs for a new children's television pilot and a rock acapella musical that I'm very excited about.
Q: How closely do you work with Chad and other collaborators?
A: As closely as possible. A close collaboration is everything. And finding those people who you can connect with is one of hardest and most important things a musical theater writer needs to do. I'm not one of those composers that simply contributes music to a project. I need to be in 50/50 on what the piece is about and how the story moves from one beat to another.
Q: Who do you look up to in your profession?
A: Tough question. Right now, actually I like Stephen Schwartz. No one cuts right to the heart of a song like him. "Children Of Eden" is one of the most moving and well-written pieces I've ever seen. I also really want to write stuff that sounds really of the now, like Jonathan Larson's "Rent" which has some of the most emotionally powerful and rockin' songs I've ever heard.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
At the very least, married with kids and living comfortably in the suburbs, with a recording studio in my house. I don't completely care if I get a musical on Broadway - it's a hard road - but I hope that I am making a living from my songwriting. I just want to be productively creative for most of my waking hours and getting paid for it.