Tag: Songwriting

Interview: Legendary Songwriter Holly Knight Discusses Her Upcoming Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp Master Class, Career

Holly Knight

Songwriter Holly Knight has been the vital force behind the sound of some of rock’s most powerful artists. Her resume includes monster hits by Tina Turner (“Better Be Good To Me,” “The Best”), Pat Benatar (“Love Is A Battlefield”), Patty Smyth (“The Warrior”), John Waite (“Change”), Aerosmith (“Rag Doll”), Heart (“Never”) and Rod Stewart (“Love Touch”).

Knight is one of only a handful of women to be inducted into the coveted Songwriters Hall of Fame, and her songwriting has earned numerous awards, including three Grammys and thirteen ASCAP Awards. The songs she’s written and co-written have appeared on records that total more than 300 million in sales.

Now this legendary artist is sharing her secrets in a special two-part, virtual Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp Master Class. In these exclusive sessions, you’ll have the chance to learn and interact with Knight as she shares her experiences writing for some of the biggest names in music. You’ll learn the secrets behind her craft as well as engage in songwriting exercises and learn the skills to creating a demo. Because the class is limited to twenty students, the experience will be even more intimate.

Holly Knight’s Live, Interactive Two-Part Songwriting Masterclass:

Part One will be Saturday, July 11 at 8 p.m. ET
Part Two will be Sunday, July 12 at 4 p.m. ET

Attendees will receive a Zoom link to the online sessions two days before class.

I recently spoke with Holly Knight about her upcoming two-part Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp Master Class and more in this new interview.

What can fans expect from your Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp Master Class?

Holly Knight: This is a two-part masterclass. The first session will cover my career, working with different artists like Pat Benatar and Tina Turner as well as the inspiration behind writing songs and lyrics. The second session will be an interactive songwriting workshop that will cover songwriting exercises and a basic overview of how to create a demo.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to an aspiring songwriter?

HK: Write and keep on writing, and write because you have to. Take your time and don’t put anything out that you’ll go back later and feel embarrassed about. Have a strong constitution and expect to hear a lot of no’s before you hear a lot of yes. Always remember that it’s just their opinion. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. Believe in yourself because when it comes to art there’s no right or wrong.

Was a career in music something you always envisioned for yourself?

HK: Oh yeah. I started playing piano on a serious level when I was four and studied classical for ten years. My mother was grooming me to be a concert pianist but I was more interested in taking my skills and being in a rock band. Growing up it was always my dream to have the privilege of being in a band and making your own music and records. I didn’t want to be rich and famous. I just wanted to be in that private club of having respect among your peers and interacting and playing with them. I never knew I would do that through songwriting.  

What was the catalyst that made you want to focus more on songwriting?

HK: I had always dabbled in songwriting, but it wasn’t until my first band, Spider, had signed a record deal with Mike Chapman that I started taking it more seriously. The songs I wrote for the band during that time were turned in to the label along with everyone else’s, but we made sure to not tell them who wrote which song. That way there would be no bias. What happened was they would always pick my songs as the singles, which created a lot of tension within the band. I eventually decided to leave, but I still wanted to continue working with Mike. He and I had already written our first song together for the second Spider record, but months later the song wound up on Tina Turner’s album, Private Dancer [“Better Be Good To Me”]. That kicked things off. I moved to California to do more songwriting with him and other writers. There was something magical with the way it all lined up.

How does your writing process usually begin?

HK: Titles. For me, a really good title is the roadmap. Once I have the title I’ll pick up an instrument and start playing. If it’s a guitar it might be something like “Better Be Good To Me,” or “Obsession.” If it’s piano it might be something like “The Best.” Piano allows you to concentrate more on the melodies and chords.

Of all the highlights of your career what stands out to you as most memorable.

HKI’ve worked with so many amazing people so there are so many moments. The evening of my induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame was certainly one of them. That year was rocking because you had Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Lou Gramm and Mick Jones. Elton John and Bernie Taupin were also there and I was the only woman. That was memorable for sure. I also remember when I met Tina [Turner] while working with her for the second Mad Max movie. I flew to Europe to meet with her and afterwards she invited to go on tour with her. Getting to sit on a road case on the side of the stage watching her do my song was definitely a highlight.

For more information on Holly Knight’s Two-Part Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp Songwriting Master Class Click Here.

Searching For Inspiration

meandlesIf there’s one thing I’ve learned about from being a songwriter it’s this:

Inspiration can be found almost anywhere.

But sometimes though, we as writers tend to get complacent or hit road blocks. Situations where we just can’t seem to find anything to write about or get tired of using the same, dull songwriting formula we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s times like these when the search for inspiration can become almost fruitless.

So what are some of the things you can do to break out of your “comfort zone” and find that inspiration? I’m glad you asked. Using my love of 80’s music (and metal, of course) along with several of my past interviews, I’ve compiled a list of four things to help inspire that creative spark.

So the next time you’re about to hit the wall with songwriting, pick up your guitar (or whatever other instrument you have lying around) and give one of these a try:

Eye Of The Tiger (1982)
Eye Of The Tiger (1982)

1. Watch a movie, read a book or attend a sporting event for inspiration.

Stuck in a rut? Try one of the above mentioned suggestions for instant inspiration. Visual stimulation can sometimes work wonders for a songwriter. You never know when a scene in a movie, a passage from a book or a touchdown toss might awaken something inside you.

Back in 1982, songwriters Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik of the band Survivor were given a rough cut of a movie to watch as inspiration for a song. After watching a few minutes of the raw footage, the duo became inspired to write  a song that would not only would go to #1, but would also earn them a Grammy award in the process. The movie was Rocky III and the song? “Eye of The Tiger.”

Frankie Sullivan: “You know, that song was the easiest of them all. I think Jim [Peterik] and I wrote the music for it in about half an hour and it took us three days to write the lyrics, only because we couldn’t come up with the punch line. But we kind of had the whole thing down in half an hour.”

John Parr - Man in Motion (1985)
John Parr – Man in Motion (1985)

2. Give yourself a deadline.

There are times when a deadline can actually be your own best friend. Try giving yourself a time frame to write a song from start to finish and see what happens. You’d be surprised what you might come up with when the pressure is on. Take John Parr’s #1 hit from 1985: St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion):

John Parr: “David Foster and I were working on songs for the soundtrack and were given a day to write it and a day to record it. David wasn’t feeling in the mood to write at the time, but I persuaded him and over the course of an hour we wrote three songs; one of them being “St. Elmo’s Fire.”

White Lion - Pride (1987)
White Lion – Pride (1987)

3. It’s OK to be cliché’.

A lot of music publishers will tell you that when it comes to songwriting, never, EVER write cliché’ lyrics (unless of course you’re Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or any new Bon Jovi song).

But despite the need to avoid the simple and mundane, there’s something to be said for just playing your guitar and writing down whatever comes to mind while you’re in the moment. The worst that could happen is that what you write never goes anywhere beyond the written page. But sometimes, it can lead to things you never would have expected. As was the case with Mike Tramp of White Lion when he co-wrote the band’s hugely popular song, “Wait”.

Mike Tramp: “There’s almost no origin to that song. The story goes, Vito [Bratta, guitarist] started playing the riff and the very first word out of my mouth once I heard it was “Wait.” It’s one of the simplest lyrics I’ve ever written, but it’s also the perfect American FM song.

Lita Ford - Close My Eyes Forever (1988)
Lita Ford – Close My Eyes Forever (1988)

4. Let Life Happen.

Sometimes we just need to put down our guitars for a little bit and let life happen. Conversation and recreational activities can play an important role in subconsciously finding inspiration. Good things can happen when you least expect it.

When Lita Ford was finishing up her hugely successful album “Lita” in 1987, she had also just finished moving into a new home. One night, she received a visit from Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne who brought her a house-warming present. After opening a bottle of wine and playing a few games of billiards, Lita and Ozzy went into a side room where a guitar and amp had been set up.

Lita Ford:  “We just started playing and singing and wound up writing “Close My Eyes Forever”. The song was kind of an accident really.”

You’ll notice that in each of the song examples I’ve mentioned, there was more than one songwriter involved in the process. If you don’t already have a writing partner, consider getting one. Two heads are always better than one as Lennon/McCartney or Elton John/Bernie Taupin would tell you.

Remember, inspiration is everywhere. So give yourself deadlines, be cliché’, experience new things and compose riffs and lyrics you know no one else will ever hear. Life is the open road. So get on it and see where it goes.