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Today's artists are co-writers Jim Counter and J.M. Kearns of new song titled "Lock the Door". Counter who has been a songwriter for much of his life currently resides in Virginia, but his career has helped the musician achieve well over 70 original songs, four CDs and 16 1/2 years songwriting in Nashville. With a blend of country, rock and folk, Counter's music gives fans a wonderful music experience.
His co-writer, J.M. Kearns, is an author of four books including Ex-Cottagers in Love and Why Mr. Right Can't Find You. He is a music producer and journalist. From the songwriting side, Kearns music is intelligent, sometimes bluesy and always honest about life. His career has brought him from Canada to California to Nashville and currently, New Jersey.
J: Where did the original idea of the song come from? Any specific inspiration?
Jim C: I’d been wanting to write a song about assignation, so the title that came to mind was "Lock the Doors". My co-writer JM Kearns suggested we change it from plural to singular, and it ended up being another of the many brilliant moves he's made on the dozen or so songs we've written. With a very strong background in English and philosophy, JM is a very logical thinker, and it’s just one of the many attributes he brings to the table as a songwriter. I’m sure that anybody who’s ever heard one of his songs or read one of his novels, such as Excottagers In Love, would understand exactly what I’m talking about.
J: When co-writing a song together, what's the process entail? I would imagine it depends on the particular song and the life of the song plays a huge role in how people co-write together.
J.M.: Jim and I have had two basic approaches to songs:
On some of them (such as “Lock the door”) he presents a complete draft of the song and then I do a revision of the lyric, to “punch it up”. Sometimes during this process the title changes, or even the central idea. Then we hammer it out together, refining it until it’s finished. On “Lock the door,” I suggested changing the title from the original “Lock the doors” to “Lock the door”, because it’s simpler. But all the music and much of the lyric was his idea, and I consider myself lucky to have gotten to work on it.
The first song we ever wrote together, in 2002, was called “Be My friend” when Jim brought it to me. I noticed the phrase “beauty from within” in the bridge and I thought that should be the title, so I did a thorough rewrite and revised the verses so each one ended with that phrase. On some other songs it worked a different way: I would bring Jim a complete lyric and he would come back a couple weeks later with music for it – and sometimes that led to some lyric revisions when we closed in on the final version together. I’ve really enjoyed working on these type of songs, because I never know what Jim is going to come up with, he is so creative musically – but it’s always right on target. I consider Jim to be one of the finest melody-and-chord writers I’ve ever encountered.
Jim: Well, one of the really cool things I enjoy about co-writing is you never know what to expect and you can approach it in so many different ways. For JM and me, it seems to be different with each new song we write. Sometimes JM will send me a finished lyric and it might take me only a day or sometimes as long as two months before a melody will surface. After, the very fun part is trying to create an interesting chord progression that will help support the melody and words.Then JM and I will normally bounce it back and forth until we feel like we’ve gotten it just right.
At other times, I’ve sent Mike a fleshed out melody with a rough lyric and he took it from there performing his inimitable magic. One of the best things about it all is that I’ve been able to develop a lasting friendship with a person of high character and morals. In a nutshell, JM cares 110% about the art and craft of songwriting. His work certainly reflects that.
J: With technology as advanced as it is, was this creation done in a studio together or did you create it across the miles?
J.M.: We used to both be in Nashville and work together in my studio, but nowadays we live in separate states. So email is key and sometimes the phone. On “Lock the door”, Jim emailed me an MP3 of his first draft of the song; just a guitar-vocal he sang into his computer. I loved it right away and agreed to see what I could contribute regarding the lyric. I worked on it for several days and tried to tighten it up, clarify the story a little, and add a few new lines to it. Really the revisions I proposed were not extensive – it was already a good lyric before I got to it. Still, Jim seemed to like my ideas and we ran with it. He would send me a new MP3 of it and we’d kick it around (sometimes by phone) and decide what we liked. Now Jim and some studio cats are creating a full-blown demo of it, and we’re crossing our fingers and hoping that we’ve gotten the lyric just right.
Jim: I don’t think today’s technology could ever take the place of writing with someone face to face, but when that isn’t possible we rely on the phone, Skype, emails and mp3’s. JM lives in New Jersey and I’m in Virginia, so we wrote "Lock the Door" across the miles.
As far as the recording goes, all of this new technology is very invaluable. For instance, we can email audio and data files, which makes it much more efficient. Also, I think the digital recording age has made me a better player because I can now record a section multiple times until I think it’s pretty good. "Lock the Door" was recently recorded in Florida by master musician Kevin Wicker and the tracks were sent to us via email.
Although their latest collaboration "Lock the Door" is yet to be released, both Counter and Kearns have links to their previous music created both together and individually. To listen to releases from Jim Counter please visit him at www.reverbnation.com/jimcounter. To find JM Kearns music as well as books, please visit his website at www.jmkearns.com
Art is not created in a vacuum; to place it inside legalistic parameters hinders the process. Likewise, when musicians put their creative process under strict parameters, it becomes stagnant. The 21st century has allowed songwriting to move beyond traditional means of creation and the co-writing duo of Counter and Kearns are leading the way.
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