Exclusive Artist Diary with ... MIKE 'G' GUERRIERO - June 1, 2009
“In my heart I felt the songs weren’t hits. He was a great engineer and mixer but as a writer I didn’t believe in him. I knew what a hit was and knew I could write one myself.”A number one hit is the dream of any aspiring songwriter, and Mike ‘G’ Guerriero experienced that euphoric moment when his first released song ‘How Can I Be Falling’ climbed to the top of the Billboard Dance Chart. However, fraught with rivalries, setbacks and frustrations at every step, the journey to the summit of the hit parade demands a steely determination and a strong self-belief, as hit songwriter Mike G reveals in his exclusive HitQuarters Artist Diary.
By Mike 'G' Guerriero
Believing in the impossible - that’s how I start each day. What is going to happen today that most people say can’t? What am I going to do that is going to redefine the norm? How am I going to change the universe?
I started out in the music industry in 2000. My father told me if I wanted to get into the industry I should read Billboard Magazine and promptly handed me a copy. Sure enough when I reached the back of the magazine, I found a listing for internships.
When I called the number straight away I found all the positions had been filled. But still I pressed on. I told the lady on the phone I needed this opportunity and would do anything and work in any department for free. With a laugh she relented, and passed me over to the sales department. The next day I was hired as an intern for Billboard Magazine.
When I first started working for Billboard I wanted to be a singer. I only discovered my passion for writing when I was working with a very accredited engineer/producer. We were running a music studio together and he asked me for some lyrics for a new song he was working on. Now, as much as I was able to play the piano and sing, I could never write lyrics. I never knew how. I could hear a hit but writing one seemed impossible for me.
But I said to myself, “Why not?” I have never believed in failure and always say that failure to me is never trying and never knowing. By following that voice, my life changed. I realised that writing was my passion and from there started my true journey.
However, just as I had made this discovery, the universe threw an obstacle in my path. The producer I had been writing with didn’t feel I was good at writing melodies. According to him, “I was good at writing words, but that’s it.” He told me he would write the melodies. I was put out but thought, “Well he has worked with all these big artists so maybe he’s right.”
So we carried on together for the next month with me writing the lyrics and him taking care of the melodies. But in my heart I felt the songs weren’t hits. He was a great engineer and mixer but as a writer I didn’t believe in him. I knew what a hit was and knew I could write one myself.
As writing partners we agreed to share whatever we wrote - so say I wrote with someone else, he would still get 50% of my share. Not a bad deal if you have two writers each creating a ton of material, but he wasn’t pulling his weight - he was just exploiting my talents and determination.
Eventually I opted to work with other writers, and guess what? I was not only writing the words but singing the melodies too.
A management company heard my work and approached me to write dance songs. Being a pop/rock/R&B songwriter I never really got into dance music but decided to give it a shot. I saw it as a good chance to get my name out there.
So I started writing with a bunch of big named DJs, including Mike Rizzo, Jason Nevins and Josh Harris. They would give me the music and I would write the top line, or the words and melodies. One day I wrote a song to a musical track. I spent all night in the studio with my demo singer perfecting the demo. I knew it was a hit.
I remember coming in the next day after finishing the demo to play it for my writing partner, and being so excited. I sat him down and played the song but when it had finished there was a look of distress on his face. “The words are great,” he said. “But the melody - I just don’t think it’s very good.” I was taken aback - for a moment the words of my old producer partner had come back to haunt me, but I remained strong. I looked at him directly in the eye and said, “No, this is a hit.”
The song was ‘How Can I Be Falling’ and my faith in the song’s potential was vindicated. The management company flipped out over it and before I knew it, the song had been cut by the dance artist Jennifer Green and hit the Billboard Dance Charts.
It rose to the top spot of the Billboard Dance Chart in April 2005. It was amazing that the first song I ever had released got to #1. It was a dream come true – only 5 years earlier I was the intern at Billboard just getting my start. I was interviewed by Billboard and several other publications.
Did I change the song when my writing partner told me the melody wasn’t strong? No, I believed in myself. The best part was that he went on to brag to his friends that he had a #1 record when not only didn’t he write it, but he criticised it! Oh, the irony of life. Nevertheless, he’s still entitled to a 50% songwriting credit because he owned half of the studio where I was doing my demos.
This is not to say I don’t listen to other people because I do. However I do say this: before asking someone’s opinion, ask yourself if they have ever done something creatively that you respect.
Through this same management company I wrote another dance song they loved called ‘Kiss The Sky’. I remember finishing the demo and being so excited and sending it to the writer who had given me the track. However, he never even emailed me back.
A year later the song was signed, recorded and released and became a national radio hit and Billboard Dance hit for Danielle Bollinger.
I attended an industry party shortly afterwards and the head of one of the biggest stations in the United States was there. This guy was responsible for putting my song on the radio and I was told he loved it. And standing there with a bunch of people who made this song happen was the guy I co-wrote the song with. All of a sudden he says out loud, “When I heard the demo I hated the song and I didn’t even call Mike back.” He said this to a major radio programmer!
Now, when I didn’t get a response from the writer do you think I stopped? Do you think I said I have to change the song? No, I believed in my heart and I went forward.
When I started out as a writer, I had the chance to speak to famed songwriter Kara DioGuardi. At the time I was so insecure about other people’s opinions and it was Kara who told me to listen to myself, and said that she herself always went with her gut. Ironically, we had both worked for Billboard Magazine and went on to write Billboard Hits.
The journey hasn’t stopped. For several reasons I stopped writing dance music. As nice as it was to reach the apex of that industry I didn’t want to be branded a dance songwriter. I have been influenced by Diane Warren, Mutt Lange, Motown, Kara DioGuardi, Max Martin, Babyface, R.Kelly and others ,and it’s pop, R&B and rock music I love and my goal is to be the hired gun songwriter who writes the major pop hits.
With this change I had to take a step back. I didn’t have as many pop connections and having people look at me that I can write pop music was my next challenge.
From that point I have been pitching and pitching and writing and writing. I have gotten close many times and had many major label artists have my songs on hold. At one point I even had a major music publisher offer me a publishing deal only to retract when a major cut I had was dropped because the artist was dropped.
Still till this day I am going strong and hard. I’ve known the feeling of hearing my songs on the radio or hearing it in the club and it’s great but I yearn for more. I yearn for the pop hit.
To support myself I make music demos for unsigned artists and even started my own company GEMMusic to help unsigned artists. Most recently I have had the opportunity to work with great writers like Chris Rojas who worked with Pink and the Backstreet Boys and Kathy Sommer who has written for Daughtry.
As writers and singers we all have to realise our day will come. The phone call will happen. The placement will stick and our dreams will find us. The only way to do this is to dream the impossible and move forward every day.
Next week: The return of HitQuarters' Professional Demo Review!
Read On ...