×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Meghan Trainor Wisecracks, Dan Wilson Imitates Adele at ASCAP Expo

ASCAP’s 13th annual “I Create Music” Expo at Loews Hollywood Hotel concluded after Wednesday’s events, which included a slate of panels designed to offer practical advice to the estimated 3,000 aspiring songwriters, producers and artists who attended. The final sessions featuring hit songwriter Dan Wilson, Meghan Trainor and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Below are five observations from the 2018 Expo and its final day. (See our recaps of Days One and Two.)

1) The death of the music business has been greatly exaggerated. There was no lack of young hopefuls, guitars and demos in hand, participating in largely nuts-and-bolts panels about how to succeed – from the right kind of microphone to the best agency to collect all your global streaming and synch royalties. In his annual Membership Meeting address to a packed house, ASCAP President Paul Williams – the diminutive singer, songwriter and actor who has brought an undeniable zeal to the post – said that revenues collected by the rights org were up 8% to $1.14 billion, joking, “Growth has never been my strong point.”  There was also considerable optimism that the Music Modernization Act – subject of much politicking – would find its way through the Senate and onto Donald Trump’s desk.

2) Music Publishing is now a glamor business: Traditionally, music publishers were the poorer cousins of their record label counterparts, but what was once derided as a “nickel-and-dime” business has no become prescient in precisely the piecework streaming economy. A jovial Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier celebrated his company’s being named Publisher of the Year at the BMI Awards with a rollicking party high above Sunset, where he marveled at how “music is a growth business again, like it was when I first started.” There’s also seemingly a more inclusive policy for songwriters and producers, a point that came up several times during the three days, with gender, race or even politics irrelevant if a creator has talent.

3) Dan Wilson offers a master class in songwriting: On the final day, songwriter Dan Wilson (who has written hits for Dixie Chicks and his own band Semisonic as well as co-writing Adele’s “Someone Like You”) offered a series of creative tips on topics ranging from “What would Tom Petty do?” and “theft/appropriation” to “tell a story and take your ego out of it” and “be constantly on the hunt, believing something great will happen.” To illustrate, the self-effacing tunesmith related an anecdote about writing “Someone Like You” with Adele at a studio in Hollywood after she insisted they binge on YouTube videos of rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson. “She told me this sad story, and I incorporated those feelings into the song,” says Wilson before picking up a battered acoustic and performing the song. “She played it for some people and I asked what they thought. ‘My manager loved it and me mum cried,’” he recalled, doing a very credible Adele impersonation. Talking about “One of Those L.A. Nights When the Stars Come Out,” his collaboration with Chris Stapleton (who came up with the title), he recalled explaining that the Los Angeles smog blots out the stars. “It’s a metaphor, Dan,” Stapleton replied.

4) A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and composer/producer Adrian Younge discussed the soundtrack for the Emmy-winning Netflix series “Luke Cage.” The duo, who previously collaborated as producers on Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled Unmastered” album, discussed the challenges and opportunities that the medium of film/TV scoring presents.

5) Meghan Trainor has a second career as a stand-up: In one of the Expo’s final panels, “What Them Do: A Conversation with Meghan Trainor and J. Kash,” the songwriter-turned-performer marked a return to the same event and venue that she first attended as an unsigned artist back in 2008 — Justin Timberlake and Quincy Jones were featured panelists — offering real-world success to the hopeful. Pointing out where she sat, the self-effacing Trainor greeted her family in the audience (“My father once told me, ‘You may not have the look, but you got the sound’”). Downright giddy, she agreed to a spontaneous selfie with a young family band enthralled to meet her and praised a questioner who noted the soca/calypso influences in “All About That Bass,” punctuating her one-liners with a Bronx cheer.

J Kash is an affable Virginia Beach self-described stoner who moved to L.A. 10 years ago, writing hits for Cobra Starship (“Good Girls Go Bad”), Kesha (“We R Who We R”), Maroon 5 (“Cold”) and Charlie Puth (“We Don’t Talk Anymore”), making him one of the most in-demand songwriter/producers of the moment.  Trainor and J Kash previously worked together on “No,” “Me Too” and the most recent single, “No Excuses.” Two more new tracks from her upcoming album, the disco-inflected “Let You Be Right” and “Can’t Dance,” are hitting streaming services today.

Trainor marveled at how her partner could be such a successful writer while being tone-deaf. “He can’t sing a note, but his rhyming and rapping, his use of words and conversational lyrics are what make him special.” The deadpan Kash was the perfect straight man/foil for Trainor, who recalled one A&R guy who, after hearing “Bass,” greeted her with, “So you’re the one who’s chubby and thinks it’s cute.”

The last word for the three-day conference – which one impressed attendee dubbed “SxSW without the performances” – went to the plainspoken Kash, who admitted he made “bad music” for years without success, but stuck to his belief in himself, another recurrent theme of these sessions. “Anything not to have to work a real job,” he cracked to a round of applause.

There were at least 3,000 other attendees at ASCAP Expo who would surely agree.

More Music

  • Boomtown Rats Feature Doc Launches From

    Boomtown Rats Feature Doc Launches From New Music Banner BeyondTNC (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bob Geldof and the re-formed Boomtown Rats will talk about their legendary punk band in a new feature doc, “Boomtown.” It is one of the first two films from a new music producer-distributor that has been formed by Beyond Entertainment and TNC Media – BeyondTNC. BeyondTNC will be launching “Boomtown” to international buyers in Cannes, [...]

  • Zedd

    DJ Zedd Banned From China After Liking 'South Park' Tweet

    Zedd has been “permanently banned” from China after the German DJ liked a tweet from the “South Park” Twitter account. Zedd, whose real name is Anton Zaslavski, announced the news via his own Twitter account: “I just got permanently banned from China because I liked a @SouthPark tweet,” he wrote. I just got permanently banned [...]

  • Kim Gordon album art

    Album Review: Kim Gordon's 'No Home Record'

    The line between art and artifice is one that Kim Gordon has explored throughout her four-decade career, first as cofounder of Sonic Youth and more recently as a visual artist, memoirist, fashion designer, actress, and one-half of the experimental duo Body/Head. When we’re perusing a corporately designed bauble or experience, are we genuinely imagining the [...]

  • Dana Walden Awkwafina Chaka Khan Mariah

    Variety's Power of Women Celebrates Honorees' Voices and Activism

    When Jennifer Aniston was 11, she was casually dismissed from the dinner table by a parental figure “because I ‘didn’t have anything interesting to add to the conversation.’” That belittlement has stayed with the “Friends” and “The Morning Show” star through to adulthood, prompting her to muse at Variety‘s Power of Women luncheon on the messages [...]

  • Neil Young

    Film News Roundup: Neil Young Documentary 'Mountaintop' Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Neil Young’s “Mountaintop” is coming, AMC replaces its CFO, Bob Weinstein is starting anew, and Ed Begley, Jr. and David Koechner join “Reboot Camp.” MUSIC DOCUMENTARY Abramorama is partnering with Shakey Pictures and Reprise / Warner Records to release the Neil Young documentary “Mountaintop.” The movie, which chronicles the making [...]

  • Pusha T and Nicholas Britell Create

    Pusha T Joins Line of 'Succession' by Adding Rap to Nicholas Britell's TV Theme

    After being inundated with requests from fans, composer Nicholas Britell decided to remix the the original main title theme for “Succession.” Hip-hop star Pusha T has added rap vocals to the show’s instrumental theme, creating a new track titled “Puppets (Succession Remix),” released two days before the “Succession” season 2 finale air date Oct. 13. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    ASCAP/Virgil Thomson Awards for Music Writing Honor Top Critics, Authors

    ASCAP and the Virgil Thomson Foundation have issues their annual awards in the fields of music writing, with the honors going to such works as a prominent Rolling Stone critic’s liner notes for a boxed set by the Band, a biography of Dexter Gordon by the jazz great’s widow, and a Wall Street Journal critics’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content