It's Only The Beginning

Danielle Lowe

The real work began for the songwriters yesterday, the first full day of GRAMMY Camp LA. The songwriters were divided up into groups of three and were then given the challenge to write a song in response to a famous song in one of the following four categories: country, pop, smooth jazz and blues. The covers were sung by the vocalists, followed by the songwriters playing their response song, using techniques found in the cover song. It was definitely a challenge because the songwriters just met each other and come from different musical backgrounds. Did I mention these songs had to be written in about six hours?

The first cover was the punchy country tune, "Better Dig Two" by The Band Perry. Being the first group up to bat is intimidating, but Zach Gospe, Camille Thornton and Colby Benson showed no fear in their response song, "A Girl Named Gravity." Chris Sampson, head of the Songwriting track, introduced the song by explaining the track was written in dorian mode, a mode used most in gregorian chant to create a stately and symmetric feel. The main vocalist, Colby, showed growing power, volume and emotion with Zach and Camille backing them up on vocals and guitar. After their performance, GRAMMY Camp instructors were allowed to offer their compliments and constructive criticism. A recurring comment made during the night was "black is beautiful," meaning the vocalist should not be holding the microphone at the top because it muffles the sound, but holding it in the middle of the black handle. The only other comment made referred to a suggestion of possible key change, but it was clear the audience was impressed. 

The next song was written in response to one of 2013's biggest pop songs, "I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift. The songwriters of "Lights Don't Grow" were Devon Lawrence on piano, Sabrina Elam on guitar and Rachel Brothers on vocals. Chris Sampson told the audience that Devon, Sabrina and Rachel had analyzed the intensity between the alternating major and relative minor key on graph paper.  "Lights Don't Glow" included both the necessary intensity and hook, as well as great harmonies. Jason Goldman, instrumental performance instructor, spoke about how difficult it is to create a song with new people, under pressure and with a time constraint. He loved their song and was confident if they had had more rehearsal time that the song would have been even better. 

Next up was "Day by Day" by Haleigh Bowers, Liliana Villines and Chloe Tang, written in response to crossover pop jazz hit, "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones. The key elements of this beautiful song are its extended harmony and AABA form. Each of the songwriters wrote their own verse that they sang with bursting emotion and included close to perfect harmonies on the chorus. They definitely captured the smooth feeling of the Norah Jones song and left everyone in awe. All instructors who spoke to them after their song praised them profusely. Jason Goldman even said that this was his "favorite song of the night." 

The last song of the night was an answer to the 60's classic, "I Feel Good" by James Brown. "Dirty Money,"  a funky crime song, was written by Anh Le on piano, Kennedi Lykken on vocals and Jason Saiita. The two girls used the call and response element of "I Feel Good" by answering to Jason on the bridge. The most memorable part of their performance was their overlapping parts towards the end of the song. Jason Goldman loved the feel of the song, but reminded them to be mindful of timing and groove. 

The mini concert was just a preview of what's to come this week, and I can't wait to see what the songwriters will come up with next.

In the Spotlight

Hayley Corbett

GRAMMY Camp LA 2012 and 2014


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