Hit songwriters honored and exposed

ASCAP member and panel host speaks to Tricky Stewart, Jason Mraz, Brian Tyler, Phil Vassar and Paul Williams of the "We Create Music" panel that took place April 22. Caitlin McCarrick/Assisant Photo Editor

Life & Style Editor

Beyonce. Kanye. Jamie Foxx and T-Pain. These are just a few of the artists who had hit records over the last year, and yet as their songs were honored, they were nowhere around. Instead, the songwriters and publishers behind these hits were brought into the spotlight at the 27th Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards on April 21 at the Renaissance Hollywood hotel.

ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, kicked off its three-day “I Create Music” Expo by honoring and recognizing some of the biggest hits of the last year at the intimate awards show. Special awards were also given to The Killers, recipient of ASCAP’s Vanguard Award and rock icon Patti Smith.

“It’s so exciting,” said Smith who received the ASCAP Founders Award. “I’m so happy and surprised, but it’s an honor to receive an award like this that acknowledges people like Neil Young and Bob Dylan, so I don’t know how I got here but I’m really happy I am.”

Many of the night’s honorees shared Smith’s sentiment, most acknowleding the fact that ASCAP award winners are chosen by people just like them.

“It’s an honor to get recognized by all of our peers. Just to put the stamp of approval on what we do, to confirm what we do at the highest level,” said Thaddius “Kuk” Harrell who worked on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” as a co-writer, vocal producer and arranger.

The awards show was peppered with performances by The All-American Rejects, Jessi Alexander (writer of “The Climb” made popular by Miley Cyrus), rapper Flo Rida, Jason Mraz and Smith.

“This is an awards show where people get credited for being the power behind the song, the entire thing was started here,” said Rejects lead singer, Tyson Ritter. “So the fact that we’re a band that gets to come to this award show not as a representative of a song but as an actual sort of pen, the people that pen these songs, a lot of bands don’t do it anymore. So it’s cool.”

The award show was attended by over 700 leading songwriters, music industry leaders and recording artists. Throughout the night it became more apparent that the people in attendance and accepting the awards were part of the true backbones of the hit songs that millions listen to daily. Unfortunately, many times these are the people who rarely get recognition by music fans and media. Still, those honored at the Pop Music Awards find the way to continue doing what they love most.

“Work hard, believe in yourself and stay in touch with what motivates you,” Smith advises young people who want to break into the music industry. “If you’re interested in being rich or famous then that’s your motivation, but if you’re interested in magnifying your vision, it might be a bigger struggle but in the end there’s no greater reward.”

ASCAP continued its four-day music extravaganza through panel discussions with some of music’s biggest names. On April 22, ASCAP president and chairman of the board, Paul Williams, acted as moderator for the “We Create Music” panel. The panel included Mraz, C . Tricky Stewart (producer, songwriter), Brian Tyler (film composer) and Phil Vassar (songwriter, performer).

While most other panel discussions revolved around industry concepts and inner-workings, the “We Create Music” panel offered a more relaxed and intimate chat amongst these music makers as well as their personal experiences in songwriting.

“To play at it rather than work at it, if I can get to be silly and stay loose it will just come to me,” said Williams, a songwriter and actor himself. “The thing about writing a hit song is not writing about what is unique to us but what everybody feels.”

Mraz, who won the award for Song of the Year for “I’m Yours” the night before, shared a similar idea that songwriting is more effective when the right words or melody are not sought after, but instead are welcomed.

“My favorite way to write a song is just close my eyes and sing,” Mraz said about writing “I’m Yours.” “I had the guitar in my hand, the tape recorder going and 20 minutes later…no labor involved it was just a matter of me getting out of my own way.”

Conversation between the five men flowed seamlessly as if they were lifelong friends, which anyone could easily mistake them for. For the most part, they all shared the idea that they were each lucky to be doing what they loved, and though times have changed the goal to produce good music is constant.

Perhaps Katy Perry, winner of multiple awards the previous night, said it best while on the red carpet, “Everybody wants to hear your true voice, cause that’s most believable…You can’t live and die by other people’s songs and you can always become a songwriter at the end of it all, like for other people. When your (breasts) sag and your ass gets fat, you can write their hits.”