"One of the "Top 50 Innovators, Groundbreakers, and Guiding Lights of the Music
Industry" -- Music Connection Magazine
ABOUT BILL PERE
Originally from New York City, Bill Pere is one of today's most sought-after songwriting mentors, workshop presenters, and song critiquers. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting" He travels coast to coast and is committed to helping artists create the best possible songs and achieve their goals. Bill is also in the forefront of social activism, as the Founder of LUNCH, using the power of popular music to produce positive social action, carrying on the legacy of Harry Chapin. Bill sometimes also acts as an official judge and critiquer for national and international songwriting and performance competitions, and is the Founder of the Voices For Hope vocal competition. In addition to his distinctive 12-string guitar style, Bill is also an innovative producer and an expert Midi composer, with classical training in arranging for orchestra and theater. He founded and runs the Connecticut Songwriting Academy. In 2008, Music Connection Magazine named Bill as one of the "Top 50 Innovators, Groundbreakers, and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry". Bill was also featured on a special-edition Cheerios Box as a hunger-fighting hero. He is one of the songwriters on a 2012 Grammy winning multi-artist CD.
PRESS ARTICLES (hundreds more from pre-2004 in the hardcopy print archives)
for 2011 Interview with Indie Connect Magazine
for 2007 CD Release Article for "Dare to Dream"
Bill Pere is an award-winning singer-songwriter and producer widely known for his story-telling lyrics and songs with emotional and social impact. Bill came to Connecticut in 1979, after growing up in and around New York City. He became a founding member and President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association, and was appointed an Official Connecticut State Troubadour in 1995 by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. He was named Independent Artist of the Year at the 2003 Independent Music Conference in Philadelphia. In addition to his 16 CD's , 420 songs, and 20 original stage plays, Bill has written more than 100 articles on the craft of songwriting, which have appeared in many music business publications, including the international "Songwriters Market", "Indie Bible", "Song Connection", "Songwriter Magazine", and many more. He is the author the widely-used songwriting guide "Songcrafters' Coloring Book".
Bill is also the Founder and Executive Director of LUNCH (Local United Network to Combat Hunger) which uses the power of popular music to produce positive social action. Bill writes and produces original concert and theater event, involving professional artists and kids in shows to raise money for agencies that aid the hungry and the homeless.
ENZM caught up with Bill and had the opportunity to ask some questions:
ENZM: Have you always loved music and wanted to be involved in music?
BILL: As a young child, there was always music in the house, as my father loved stereo equipment and always had records or jazz radio stations playing. Listening to all those jazz rhythms gave me a good rhythm sense which made me sensitive to the natural rhythm of words. I believe that maintaining a natural language cadence in a lyric is a key to good musical storytelling. I'd usually run around the house singing words that I made up, so I guess I was a natural songwriter from the outset. I had my own sound-on-sound tape recorder at the age of 7, which was new technology at the tine, so I've always felt at home with recording and studio production.
ENZM: How did you get started in music?
BILL: Every Christmas brought some new toy instrument under the tree, so I tried most everything, at least for a little while. In 4th grade I took up clarinet, but found that reading music and playing stuff other than what I wrote myself was not as creatively rewarding. And besides, the wooden reed tasted awful and I couldn't sing with an instrument stuck in my mouth. I didn't seriously take up another instrument until I was 13, and that was because when a 13 year old boy sees a bunch of 13 year old girls screaming at any guy with a guitar, that provided incentive to get serious. We cobbled together a group of the neighborhood kids, using oatmeal boxes as a drum set, my $13 Sears guitar with 5-strings, and charged a nickel for a our first concert (and that was definitely overcharging…).
We learned very quickly that it was not as easy as we thought to play other people's songs, so we made up our own. My friend and I were the primary songwriters, and we wrote about 25 songs, which I still have on tape to this day – and which are all incredibly bad. This is how I learned to tell aspiring writers what NOT to do when I teach songwriting workshops. But the die was cast, and from the time I first picked up a guitar, I was a songwriter.
BILL: My songwriting is clearly divided into seven phases, where I can see changes in style and level of sophistication. The early songs were simplistic, but not bad by 13 year-old standards or for 1960's garage band music. The next phase was the sappy teenage love song era, but the songs seemed to go over really well with my fellow teenagers, so that was encouraging and I continued writing. Later, in college, I moved into more sophisticated chord progressions, and started writing storytelling lyrics. It was during those years as well, following the release of the Who's "Tommy", that I began writing for the stage. My first stage play was a complete rock opera. Although I've produced 23 original stage plays, that first one was the most elaborate, and I've actually never fully staged it, but I hope to at some point.
After college, I made some inroads in the New York area
with publishers, but it was slow going. Upon moving to Connecticut in 1979, I happened to find a notice in the newspaper saying that a new songwriters association was forming. I got in on the ground floor of the
Connecticut Songwriters Association (CSA) and I have to say that working within the organization has opened so many doors for me, in ways that I never would have thought of if I had tried to continue on my own.
In terms of other artists I like to listen to, I'd have to say The Association, Billy Joel, John McCutcheon, Moody Blues, Guess Who, the Who, and Three Dog Night. Also, there is a great deal of current independent music out there which is excellent. A lot of it is in right there in CSA. I have to say I don't find much of the current pop mainstream to be lyrically interesting, although there is always an abundance of very well-written country songs , and of course great Broadway lyrics like "Wicked" or "1776". The focus of much of the current pop and mainstream stuff seems to be on production and mass marketing rather than on the craft of songwriting.
I've done 12 CD's since my first recording in 1981 (the first two were vinyl, and since re-done on CD). Having written more than 400 songs, and more always coming, I have far more material than I'll ever be able to record, but I try to get a CD out at least every 18 months. I'm usually working on 3 or 4 simultaneously, because all my CD's are themed – that is, the songs all share at least one common thread. In 2002, I finished "High School My School", which I had been working on for 3 years, and I released "Christmas Eve on the Poor Side of Town" as well. This is the second time I've had two releases in the same year. "High School My School" I feel is one of the best works to date, as the songs all look at different aspects of that experience we call High School – the highs and lows, the pain, joys, and sorrows. High School is something that all teenagers through adults have experienced, and many adults have children in high school dealing with issues, so the songs can touch a wide audience. The desire to do this album came after the Colombine shootings, and I felt I needed to articulate many of the pressures and stress that today's teenagers deal with. I had two children in High School while I was writing these songs, and I work with hundreds of kids in my school programs. I felt that these things had to be highlighted. The music on this CD has a bit more edge and less orchestration than on some of my others, to go with the subject matter. I'm pleased that the title track has been in the top 10 on several internet radio charts for more than 3 years, and the CD was recognized as a valuable suicide prevention resource.
"Christmas Eve on the Poor Side of Town" contains three of the best story songs I've ever written, and I think "The Crib in the Creche" is generally considered one of my top two or three songs of all. This CD was also a chance to feature some of the kids I work with, and I was pleased to be able to record a song that was written by a fellow CSA member, Joe Manning.
ENZM: What productions have been your favorites and are you working on one now?
BILL: Of all the plays I've written, two are serious, and all the others are light-hearted parodies of pieces of pop culture. This is to give it family appeal, and to balance the sometimes heavy message in our songs.
We've spoofed things like the X-files, the Wizard of Oz, Gilligan's Island, the Three Stooges, Camelot, Star Trek and Star Wars, Superman and Batman, Reality TV,
Harry Potter, and more. It's all designed to be family fun and to allow participation at all age groups. I'm always working a year ahead, and we try to do 1-2 stage shows every year, in addition to concerts.
LUNCH is open to all who have a song in their heart and a desire to help others. Anyone who might like to be involved can contact me through the website. We have some kids who drive from 1-2 hours away several times a week for rehearsals. We are happy to do a benefit show anywhere we are invited to go.
BILL: Although I am a self-contained writer, I do like to collaborate with others on various projects, and I do highly recommend collaboration for any artist. My co-writing with fellow CSA member Les Julian yielded the song "Donkey In a Ditch", called by Parents Choice Magazine "the best children's song about a moral dilemma ever written". Developing a wide people-network is a powerful key to success. I work regularly with people from the Songwriters Association, and I would recommend that any aspiring songwriter or performer become involved with their nearest regional songwriters group, especially one that offers constructive, objective critique. An artist who avoids objective feedback cannot improve. A good songwriters association can help direct you to other professionals that could best help you achieve your individual goals. I've been a Director of CSA since 1980, and it has been the single biggest factor in helping me achieve my goals. I regularly teach collaboration workshops coast to coast, and have seen some amazing songs created by folks who had never met before.
ENZM: What's next for you?
BILL: I am currently working on several collections of new songs -- "College Collage", "Rural Mural", and "Let Me Count the Ways". Also, I work with other writers and artists to produce their projects for them, and to develop new young artists. Then there is the continual preparation for the annual Holiday Show, which is a stage play, speaking engagements, summer camp, and assorted concerts and school programs. Occasionally, I try to sleep.
Connecticut Songwriting Academy