“I sometimes feel like a hungry rat on a sinking ship, who’s climbed to the top of the mast and is standing there on its toes.”
It’s usually never a good sign when one of the more commercially successful songwriters of the past three decades describes his place in the music industry thus, but a brace of reality is exactly what Desmond Child hopes to impart in his three masterclasses at the ASCAP Expo, following years of participation on its panels and Anatomy of a Hit discussions. Restricted to just 20 people per class, Child’s sessions follow the example of last year’s instructor Linda Perry, and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Child, whose resume contains substantial cleffer work for the likes of Aerosmith, Kiss, Cher and Shakira — as well as such jukebox staples as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” and more recent No. 1’s like Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas” and Martin’s “The Best Thing About Me Is You” — hopes by subjecting the process to close scrutiny, he can help take much of the intimidating mystique out of songwriting,
“When you break down a song and show, ‘Here’s where we started, here’s the bass drum …,” and then you keep adding pieces and out comes this massive hit, it suddenly seems doable. You see how things are built and why we make the choices we make.”
But just as important as the mechanics of creation is the business element of a songwriting career, which Child plans to make an equal focus of the sessions. (“If you have no way of getting yourself out there, your music’s not going to be heard, so what’s the point?”) Child is also quick to point to the impact his own mentors had on him during his formative years as a writer, and hopes to pass on a number of those lessons.
“Sometimes when I’ll co-write with young writers, and they’ll come to me and say that they’re completely happy with a song. I’ll say, ‘Are you kidding me? This needs so much more work.’
“A lot of people want to do it the easy way,” he says. “Especially if they’re cute. It’s the homely studio rats that get ahead.”