TOP 25 SONGS: VOLUME 4

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com
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Han Solo

Music by: Will Aronson
Lyrics by: Bill Nelson

Tell us about your song. If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

The lyrics for “Han Solo” are based on a dream I had in which I was roommates with Luke Skywalker. His friend Han came over. You can imagine what happened next.

Did you write it for anyone in mind?

Nope.

What are you most proud of with this song?

I’m proud of the build—he wants a shower, then a home, then a family. It grows. And it’s got a big heart.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

This lyric is rare in that it came very easily. The first line led to the next.

What else would you like us to know about this song?

Will Aronson, the composer, had lots of different ideas for directions that the music could go—and they were all great. We sat at a piano together and he tried stuff out on me. We ended up with this enthusiastic version because it was the most fun to sing. A lot of people seem to agree. Will recently ran across a youtube video of a guy in Israel doing a very special version of it. And here it is.

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

What excites me most is that the passion is still there. What a musical can do—when everything is working right—is miraculous. I’m grateful that I get to help create these moments that touch people’s souls.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

Keeping up the drive to keep working on a project when the big payoffs for what you’re working on are far down the road.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new musical with Will Aronson. And I’m developing my musical, Harmony, Kansas, written with composer Anna K. Jacobs. We had our first fantastic production at Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, summer, 2012. I also have a couple of new plays in the works and possibly a little Christmas show.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

My website: www.billnelsonbillnelson.com
Will Aronson’s website: http://www.willaronson.com

A bunch of songs from Harmony, Kansas (written with Anna K. Jacobs) will be performed at Ars Nova August 27th in a concert of her work. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here.

He Knew How to Read Me

Music by: Ben Schaechter
Lyrics by: Dan Kael

We  wrote “He Knew How to Read Me” for a revue that was being put together in the early 90s called “The Sunday Times.” It had one workshop performance, and as far as we know that’s as far as the show went. But the song got us lots of attention.

Ben and I heard that the producer was looking for material. We wanted to come up with an interesting angle for a song, something that would set it apart from dozens of songs featuring people singing about this or that aspect of the paper. So we thought, how about a song for the newspaper itself?

Ben suggested a song about getting picked up on a Saturday night. I loved the idea and came up with the hook. Then I wrote a verse or two. Ben set those to music. Once we had the hook and a couple of sections, the structure just announced itself and the progression fell into place. It would be a torch song about being loved, then ignored, then dumped. Every laugh line would be a double entendre. The big challenge was making sure each double entendre was at least as funny and satisfying as the one that preceded it. I like to think I pulled that off, right up to the last two words.

We didn’t have any particular singer in mind. We just imagined a woman who’d feel at home sprawled on a grand piano. When the song was performed at a BMI Showcase, that’s exactly how it was staged.  Marguerite MacIntyre performed it wonderfully and brought the house down. There was a lot of terrific material in that showcase. Most of it was from book musicals and depended on context, so “He Knew How to Read Me” – because it was written for a revue – had an advantage in that setting. As long as you know it’s a newspaper singing, you can just sit back and enjoy the song.

When I looked at the song recently, I realized that the lyric made no reference to what has become the biggest competition for any print newspaper. These days, if a newspaper is complaining about being ignored, she’d sure as hell make some reference to digital media. I was worried that trying to update the lyric might screw up the song, but I found one line I could easily replace with a digital reference. Our recording (sung by the amazing Michele Pawk) features the original lyric, but the sheet music now offers the alternate lyric for singers who want to feel more up-to-date.

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