I will remember May 14, 2013. This is the day that my song, “I Will Carry You”, gained new potential and became available to the public in some exciting new ways.
When I wrote “IWCY”, I had a specific artist in mind. My “song plugger” at the time — that’s what they’re called in Nashville — told me about a Country singer whose grandchild had a sad and crippling disease. He was interested in a song that captured his caring about the child.
That’s what inspired my concept and words … but it turns out that a song about unswerving love and loyalty applies to anyone lucky enough to love and be loved. It’s being pitched in Nashville right now by a much better “plugger” than the one I had back then (Dec., 2007 — so the song is six years old, but hopefully its message is timeless!)
It is currently being KEPT — that’s the official “plugger’s” term — by a TV show. I’ve been right here before, with this song and others: some famous artists have seriously considered it (and some still might) but as yet, it hasn’t been “cut” by a Country artist.
Meanwhile, Shara Strand loved the song and chose it, along with D1 Music, for her first EP, “Born Tonight.” Now it’s being introduced as Shara’s second single … with three exciting new elements —
#1 – For $7.00 on iTunes today, one can buy the complete album,
with the original version, plus 16 DJ remixes, in both Club and Radio versions. For me as a songwriter, it’s a kick to hear how DJs with different sensibilities re-invent the song for different types of Dance Clubs and radio stations around the country. It seems to me almost anyone would find at least one version of the song they like … if not to dance to, at least to wiggle or tap to!
#2 – I’ve been fortunate to develop a partnership for Shara and the song with the American Humane Association — http://www.americanhumane.org — and proceeds from the song’s sales will benefit the wonderful work they do “to ensure the welfare, wellness and well-being of children and animals.”
#3 – a Facebook contest is happening right now. All people have to do is to send in a photo of themselves and their pets … any photo that expresses the loving relationship between them. Cash prizes will go to the winners, and contributions to AHA will be made in their names. If you love a special animal and would like to participate: http://www.sharastrand.com/contest.
So … a milestone day and new versions of a song I’m proud of, now available for people to dance to. I hope they do!
Today was about writing speeches, letters or videos for successful, high-powered corporate executives … and accepting assignments for non-corporate “regular” people — a University’s commencement address by the successful entrepreneur being honored … a father’s baptism speech for his 4-month old … and a speech for an Arizona lawyer, about my age, who just lost his dad and wants to celebrate him and his life at a memorial service.
It was an intense day. But I received thanks along the way from people who were really, really happy with my work. Which felt great.
They all understand — these people who find me … I make them understand … that I am a “limited trick pony.” (Fortunately, I’ve grown enough and become confident enough not to confine myself to just one trick. That, alone, was worth the years of psychotherapy.)
Then tonight … tonight … I took off and went downtown to Joe’s Pub for a performance by four songwriters in a CMA (“Country Music Association”) evening there. The focus was country music … famous, successful songs, performed by the people who actually wrote ’em. (Oh, how dangerous I would be, if I could compose, play, and perform!)
I wrote down at least a half-dozen song ideas among the various notes I made while basking not only in the songs, but also in the inspirations that led to them, as told by the folks who actually wrote them.
During the day, today — I forgot to mention — I also worked to support “I Will Carry You”, the song I wrote with Paul Guzzone — to prepare for its launch as Shara Strand’s next single. It’s been remixed by a colorful swathe of DJs … transforming the initial work into different beats and interpretations for a range of Dance Club vibes.
Tonight though, a different genre for me: Country. And here was Shane McAnally — whose name I’d never heard before. Suddenly he was playing one of my favorite Country songs — “Come Over” by Kenny Chesney … a huge hit, and a song I love for the way it captures, seductively, the loneliness and need of someone in need of a visit … and more. Shane told us how the song developed. I sang and rocked along with the audience, while admiring his work.
A great speech captures a truth of the speaker in a way that makes people get it. A great song creates a feeling — based on truth. I felt that as Shane sang the song so poignantly, while melodically. The audience — yearning into the mood of desire within the song — rocked along together like a hundred paid performers.
I realized so clearly again tonight … I was meant to be a Writer. Aside from my irreplaceable and beloved partner, that, in fact, is my joy: writing. How lucky am I … to have found what I was meant for, and to love it as I live it.
I’m grateful that I can share these words. And be so happy.
I learned this morning that a choral song I wrote with composer Jim Papoulis, We Can Plant a Forest, has just been named a Finalist in an interesting songwriting competition. It’s called the “Eco Arts Awards” — http://www.ecoartsawards.com. They’re a group of volunteer collaborators, dedicated to raising global awareness of everyone’s responsibility — and opportunities — for the ecology of our planet.
I grew up on an island off the coast South Carolina, a speck on Atlantic ocean. Beautiful beaches were part of everyday life, and a “forest” (as I thought of it — today I’d call it a “woods”) was right behind our house.
As much as I love such essential modernities as air conditioning and high-speed Internet, I will always remember finding “sand dollars” on the beaches and loving the fragrance of fresh pine cone branches I could sniff in my own backyard.
After learning about the Eco-Arts competition, I entered “Forest” immediately. Jim and I have been sharing our royalties with Trees for the Future (http://www.treesforthefuture.org) and have thus far caused some 30,000 new trees to be planted on earth — a tiny fraction of the need.
When I spoke with the group’s Founder and Managing Director, Kathryn Edwards … I was immediately impressed with the sincerity of her commitment, and the way that she’s applying her professional experience in advertising, publishing and community arts to make a difference to public consciousness of, and support for, the ecology of earth.
Of course, I hope we win the prize in the Songwriting category. But as they say at the “Oscars” — and as SOME of the quoted actors and actresses surely must actually mean it — from an organization like this one, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”
And frankly, as a writer, it feels great to know that a few of my words are now publicly part of a much larger effort to do something good for the health of our planet.
In one seed
You’ll find tomorrow
Is a tree of life
In each tree
There is a forest
That is waiting to be grown
By 1984, I was one year out of corporate life … doing marketing consulting for a client who promised to make me a multi-millionaire (but lied his way into owing me $80,000 forever, which taught me some valuable lessons.)
As an early “interactive journalist” — along with my reports of the national political conventions, Oscars, and computer shows that I shared online — I posted interviews, from San Francisco to Paris, of what would eventually become my book, CHRONICLE: The Human Side of AIDS.
Also in 1984, I saw Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical, “Sunday in the Park with George”. The quality and message of that innovative work of theatrical and staging art moved me tremendously… inspired me to persevere on my own creative path, despite the strains and obstacles I was experiencing.
I remember coming home from the show … sharing in an online article the new motivation it had given me … and receiving back encouragement from far-flung readers whom I would never have met in person. That kind of feedback was the miracle of the “interactive” communications that so many of us were exploring and developing back then.
And now … in January, 2013 … I just saw a landmark production from another genius of the theater: Edward Albee. I attended the show’s original production FIFTY years ago (it opened in October, 1962, and I was still a newly arrived New Yorker.) It was a major sensation back then, but the current production — with Amy Morton and Tracy Letts — is astonishing, as well.
The message of the play, and the thoughts it gave me (once again) about living life authentically and finding happiness in who we are — well, they’re as powerful as ever.
But the show — the ferocious talent I’ve just experienced, very much including Albee’s writing — made me grateful to have realized that I had not been destined at all to be a playwright. That ability is simply not my gift.
Instead, I’m lucky to have discovered what has felt for many years is what I was meant for … i.e., speech and presentation writing (and coaching executives on how to present themselves with maximum impact on-stage) as a highly satisfying “Day job” … and writing song lyrics, expressing myself in the context of music, as my creative passion.
It turns out, that is who I am. What a stroke of good fortune to have found my real self. And what exciting hopes I have … believing, even at this stage in my life, that the best is yet to come.
May it be so.
In my final years at Avon Products Inc — when I had the greatest power, influence and karma I’d ever had as their youngest VP (before I started working for an insufferable jerk and did the bravest thing I’d ever done in my life and quit) … … I talked them into creating marketing partnerships with two movies.
For Annie we created the special Annie Locket (an identical copy of the one worn by the adorable moppet orphan in the Columbia pictures movie.)
And for ET we designed the amazing “ET Pot Pal” — might it help your plants grow with the same magical powers that ET used in the Spielberg film?
I went out to Hollywood to make the deal between Avon and Universal Studios. This was quite outlandish territory for Avon of that time. But those experiences helped me to experience, and believe in, the potential synergies among very different organizations, who find positive common ground.
(screen wipe to indicate the passage of 30 years)
Today I no longer hassle with the bureaucracy of a big, sluggish corporation as my employer and “approver.”
As I tell clients when they bring me on-board to perform multiple roles, when you hire Mike Greenly, you don’t have to wonder if your Writer, Speech Coach and Creative Director will get along. They’ll always share an identical point of view … mine!
And out here in the big wide world, I feel in many ways that, despite the man I see in the mirror, I have only just begun.
One example of what invigorates me is the partnership I’ve just established with the American Humane Association. I’m proud to know that this wonderful organization will benefit from my song, I Will Carry You… written with composer Paul Guzzone … performed by the beautifully talented Shara Strand … and to be released this spring by D1 Music as her second single with a new Dance Club remix. (Currently available on iTunes in both Pop and “Live Acappella” versions.)
I’ll say more about all that in the weeks and months ahead. But for now let me acknowledge that the folks at AHA are tremendous … wonderfully caring, hard-working people who help children and animals in, often, desperate need.
And let me add, in case you couldn’t tell … I’m happy.
This is about a song I’m proud of … a composer-partner I’m proud of … and a cause that I consider valuable and worthy.
Jim Papoulis is one of the most talented people I know. He is a world-class (and in his field, world-famous) choral music composer, but he is not the slightest bit vain about it. I met Jim in July of 2000, when a production company hired us to create a song for a Campbell’s Soup sales meeting. One month later, I sent him a letter with a follow-up on my suggestion that he and I consider writing songs together … for the public. After writing songs about computers, pharmaceuticals, soup and even ham (yes) what I discovered was … I love writing songs!
Jim’s wife, Stephanie was an exceptionally brilliant person. You didn’t have to be in her presence long to feel that. I was a bit intimidated by her, actually. She was so attractive, so charismatic, so confident and sure and … especially … so very smart.
And she believed in Jim and me. (Stephanie called him “Jimmy”.) She had such confidence in us and in what we could achieve, I couldn’t help but be motivated. She made me believe, even more, in myself. Many people I’ve heard from have expressed the same sentiment: she was an inherently inspiring leader with an impact on countless lives.
Stephanie was 45 when she died in 2007 of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD.) This terrible degenerative neurological disorder (brain disease) is incurable and invariably fatal. The CJD Foundation is widely honored and appreciated for the support, information and guidance it offers to those dealing with CJD. I know that they were helpful to Jim and his family.
Well, now … it’s been five years since the loss of Stephanie. Jim and I have written a new choral song together — “I Know”. Its words, for me, are true. It doesn’t guarantee “sunshine” at the end of any story. But the spirit of possibility through pain … of hope through whatever sorrow … is how I want to face sadness. As best I can. At this moment, Sandy Hook Elementary School is on my mind. My words feel puny, but I believe in them still.
The song is performed by the Young People’s Chorus of NYC — an extraordinary group of multicultural young singers whose lives are positively transformed by being a part of it … even as they earn awards for artistry around the world.
When Jim told the young choristers at The Young People’s Chorus of NYC the story of how he lost Stephanie, and of how this song would now benefit The CJD Foundation … the children were clearly touched … and, as Jim described it, “they sang their hearts out.”
Jim decided to make the song even more personal. His own three children — each genuinely extraordinary — now sing the opening lines. Caryl (“Piper”), age 19; Claire, age 17, and Demitri, age 12 … all are accomplished singers and musicians in their own right.
“I Know” is now available on iTunes, and will be published as sheet music in the spring. It’s a song that gives me a poignant kind of joy. I am honored to be Jim’s partner … and we are both honored, in turn, to partner with The CJD Foundation.
Click here to learn more about this very important musical project.
Recently I was quoted for my work as a speechwriter on politicalfiber.com, a website launched by the University of Kansas with two specific goals:
- To teach and inspire journalism students to do serious public affairs coverage
- To help build the demand for it, especially in young adults.
You can read the article at your leisure, but I wanted to share just a brief observation about one aspect of speechwriting and coaching, since I do both.
Most of my clients are corporate and I always encourage them to be real. As real as they can be … and as personal as they can be … in what they say and how they say it.
Of course, there are “real world” limits to what can be said “publicly” in any organization. And every organization — virtually every person — wants to impart as positive a spin as possible on whatever they wish to communicate.
The paradox of delivering an effective speech is that one must be as authentic as possible, on the one hand. Audience members don’t ponder their own mindsets as I do, but I happen to know that they want to feel a genuine connection to what’s happening and being said. No one wants to sit through words that feel empty of meaning, as though the presenter were merely a “reader” with no connection to the idea behind the words being delivered.
(It’s the same with singing. An artist who truly connects with the meaning of the lyrics and the soul of a song, will be vastly more effective in “selling” it to an audience.)
On the other hand —
Giving a speech is simultaneously “performing” … so you need to be real while being “bigger than life.” That is the paradox.
Now — having been quoted as a speechwriter in an online political forum, brings to my mind that, as a voter, I would like to feel as though the person seeking my vote will be real enough to allow me to feel it, to sense that she/he actually means what is being said. Reality, after all, is the only basis on which I would ideally like to base my vote.
Well guess what? As a corporate employee, I also would want my executive leader to be genuine in her/his remarks to us at an employee meeting. Certainly, I want and need to feel as though I can trust what’s being said.
And as I’ve seen over and over — after working with dozens of corporate cultures — the executive who gains people’s trust …
- which, by definition, you cannot bestow unless you think you authentically know the recipient of your trust
- that executive, in general, will be far more successful. And by the way, in my observation, generally happier, too.
Speeches … presentations … these are highly visible and influential ways in which an executive’s personal “brand” is shaped.
Some presenters — whether in business or in politics — are more able than others to show their real selves. More able than others to connect with us, even on the back row.
There is definitely some “risk” involved in being real. But, as I’ve seen many times, there can also be great power in letting one’s true colors shine through in all one says — even on-stage.
So, what do YOU think?
As many clients have heard me say, “I can barely change a light bulb, but words are my gift.” I’m fortunate not only to love them, but to be able to make a living from them.
When I’m able to, I like USING my gift for causes can make a positive difference somehow. Recently I wrote a speech for someone — I will also coach her on delivery — who could never afford my normal corporate rates … a very deserving young entrepreneur named Holly Daniels Christensen.
She founded Dune Jewelry with designs built around grains of sand — now from over 900 beaches — sent to her from people around the world who want to PRESERVE the beaches of the planet from erosion. ( dunejewelrydesign.com ) She contributes to organizations like The Surf-Rider Foundation, which champions beach preservation.
HOLLY likes to give back, too, and what inspired me to accept the assignment for her was the purpose of her speech — to help the villagers of Ariang in the war-torn South Sudan with the school they’ve been building by hand, forming their own bricks from the land for that purpose.
Each piece from this special Ariang Collection will incorporate bits of the schoolhouse bricks that have been sent to Holly by the villagers. They believe (rightly!) in the power of EDUCATION to help their children have better lives than the adults have had, with all their suffering. (HOPEforAriang.org.) Holly has been very appreciative and it makes ME feel good to know that my words, in this case, will be put to such valuable use.
She will soon be giving the speech I wrote at a benefit which will use her jewelry sales to raise funds for the village of Ariang. And so … I wanted to give Holly’s story this tiny spotlight of my own, with people I know and am connected with. Cheers!
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. I was a shy, geeky boy on a small SC island … a scared but ambitious newcomer on the island of Manhattan, NY … a driven junior executive … a wunderkind VP — developing 300 new products a year, publishing sales communications to consumers, and leading the development of training and motivating events for a vast sales force.
I gave speeches in French, led communications workshops in Tokyo with a Japanese interpreter, and learned to comfortably address an audience of 5,000 with gusto and impact.
After leaving corporate life, I became a marketing consultant — helping to develop an award-winning campaign for a high-tech software client … becoming (without fully realizing it) an online pioneer, and winning awards and media coverage as “Planet Earth’s First Interactive Electronic Journalist” (the first to cover key events via computer to global online readers.)
I authored a book written online … gained training and experience as a gestalt psychotherapist … and ultimately became a freelance speech writer, speech coach, focus group moderator, and creative director for business meetings … in addition, now, to being a published, BILLBOARD-charting lyricist of songs that range from Choral to Country, from R&B to Dance to Pop.
I’m on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, but what I like about this space — like the “Mike Magazine” that I created and published decades ago — is that it’s totally my own. From time to time, I intend to share observations, experiences and interactions that I hope are of interest to readers … and which definitely are of interest to me.
Public and private comments are welcome … as long as they are respectful, not just of me but of any other readers. You can subscribe, if you like, and receive notification of my postings here … which will be sporadic, varied and always honest.
What is to come is unpredictable.
I know only that I was meant to write ….
I was an early online journalist … dispatching reports (that readers could respond to) from computer shows, the launch of Macintosh, the Oscars, the Republican and Democratic Conventions, writing that book of interviews about AIDS.
It wasn’t called a “blog” back then … we didn’t have the word yet … but that’s what it was.
So here I am again, decades later. I have a feeling I’ll have some exciting (or at least interesting) things to write about in times ahead.
There may be some significant “news”, for example, about some of my forthcoming songs. Or maybe I’ll share thoughts about some of the clients I’m inspired by (without violating their confidentiality, of course) or my experiences in corporate life, past or present. Or whatever other observations.
At any rate, this is my first post in the modern era that has not been squeezed into 140 characters for Twitter, or condensed to fit into the Facebook mindset. If you happen to follow me on Twitter or have “friended” me on FaceBook, then you’ll be notified by me there about additional posts I add here. Anyway, this is my first one on my own site — just to get things started.
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