(left to right) SHOF 's April Anderson, Barry Eastmond, Siedah Garrett, SHOF New York Education Committee Chair Karen Sherry and NYU's Phil Galdston
By April Anderson
Seasoned songwriters Siedah Garrett (“Man In The Mirror,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson) and Barry Eastmond (“You Are My Lady” – Freddy Jackson, “When the Going Gets Tough” – Billy Ocean) lit up the room at the NYU Production Lab on November 29 for the latest in an invitation-only episode of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions @ NYU series. Moderated by NYU Faculty Songwriter-in-Residence and Director of Songwriting Phil Galdston, the audience was primarily comprised of students of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions of the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Eastmond, who has been churning out hit songs over decades with major artists including Britney Spears, Brandy, Faith Evans, Michael Bolton, Vanessa Williams, Freddie Jackson, Billy Ocean, Kenny Lattimore, Regina Belle, Yolanda Adams, and Tamia, among others, talked about how his father and mother had imparted their love of music to him as a toddler, his mother giving him piano lessons at the age of four. Her philosophies were responsible for his beginning to play complex pieces that led to his acceptance into Juilliard at the prodigious age of 7.
Garrett, whose songs have been recorded by the likes of Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Earth Wind & Fire, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, will.i.am, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Toto, Sheena Easton, Natalie Cole, Barry White, Pointer Sisters, Donna Summer, Dionne Warwick, Patti Austin, Roberta Flack, and Al Jarreau, also spoke of her mother who, while hanging wallpaper at the home of songwriter and record producer D.J. Rogers, convinced him to listen to her “talented 15-year-old daughter who could sing,” The moment Rogers heard her voice, he put her in the studio and the thing she remembers the most about that time was her introduction to lush harmonies.
Eastmond said “collaboration is a fluid process,” in speaking about his experiences writing songs for Billy Ocean, including being tapped to write the theme for the movie Jewel of the Nile with a 48-hour deadline, and then finding the inspiration that ultimately resulted in Ocean’s mega-hit “When the Going Gets Tough.” He talked about cowriting the song with Mutt Lange and how the process worked primarily because “Mutt didn’t tell you what to do, he guided you.” He also worked with Freddie Jackson, penning six of eight songs on the soul vocalist’s best-selling debut LP, Rock Me Tonight including “You Are My Lady” – written as a tribute to his wife. During the course of the evening, Eastmond gave brilliant performances of both songs for the captivated audience.
Garrett went on to tell of her audition and subsequent hiring by mentor Quincy Jones after she had successfully auditioned for a spot in Deco, a band being formed for Jones’ Qwest Records label. Jones was ultimately responsible for Garrett’s first publishing contract and for setting her up to work with Michael Jackson, cowriting the ballad “I Just Can`t Stop Loving You,” followed by ''Man in the Mirror'' (with Glen Ballard). She said it was an “insane experience, working with musical greats.” She made a point to the student audience that “demos matter,” and in order to present song ideas, they need to be as fully fleshed out in the demos as possible.
Both Garrett and Eastmond agreed that it was always important to try to “write up,” meaning collaborating with people who have more experience than you in order to learn from them.
The evening finished with Garrett’s blistering rendition of “Man In The Mirror,” which brought everyone to their feet.
In attendance that night were New York Education Committee Chair and SHOF Board member Karen Sherry and SHOF Marketing & Communications Director April Anderson.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions program at NYU is a major component of the SHOF educational outreach. Stay tuned to songhall.org for news of the next Master Sessions coming soon!