November 6 2015

StrongWriter On the Radio: (Episode 57) “Shelly Peiken – What a Girl Writes”

“I wanna thank you, Shelly Peiken, for giving me some great insight on songwriting.”  This is what I said to my very special guest after shaking off the nervousness of interviewing a truly creative professional songwriter.  As you will sense from the conversation, Shelly has a warm and calm demeanor, and definitely has a passion for creating songs, often with a partner (“I like the company.”)  She had some helpful things to say about getting writer’s block out of your system, and advice on how to help creative ideas flow more freely.  She and I briefly reviewed her four biggest songs, as I am sure she’s done so many times.  But it was fun to hear about how, in the 1980’s, she went about submitting her material to a major recording artist, and how one of those songs got onto a debut album, which soared to triple platinum status.  Please enjoy the program, and don’t miss the conclusion in the following episode!  ~ Dean

Featured Guest:   Shelly Peiken

Shelly Peiken is a multi-platinum Grammy nominated songwriter who is best known for her #1 hits “What a Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby”. She earned a Grammy nomination for the song “Bitch” recorded by Meredith Brooks. She’s had hundreds of songs placed on albums, and in TV and film.

Her Serial Songwriter Facebook page has become a forum for all things songwriting and ideas about navigating a changing music business as a creative person and parent.

In June of 2014 Shelly was invited to blog for The Huffington Post. She is well known in the music industry as mentor, panelist, consultant and guest speaker.

Shelly is a New Yorker at heart who enjoys her life in Los Angeles with her husband, composer Adam Gorgoni and their daughter, Layla.

I’ve always been inspired by the place within that’s in a continual state of pursuit; a search for something different, something better, or what might have been …while still feeling that if given the choice, I wouldn’t trade my world for any other. Life isn’t perfect. But some days it’s filled with so much joy it seems as perfect as perfect can be. Still, that state comes and goes. It’s from that divine discontent songs can’t help but emerge.

Visit Shelly Peiken’s website:

Special thanks to Shelly Peiken for the use of her images and music.
© 2015 Shelly Peiken – All Rights Reserved

Shelly Peiken’s book
Confessions Of a Serial Songwriter
is available for pre-order now at her website!!

Shelly Peiken 008 Pre Order book

SHELLY PEIKEN: Confessions Of a Serial Songwriter

October 16 2015

StrongWriter On the Radio: (Episode 54) “Laura Pursell – Father Daughter Day In the Last Dance Hall Left In L.A.”

“Laura Pursell – Father Daughter Day In the Last Dance Hall Left In L.A.”
featuring the song “The Very Last Dance Hall Left In L.A.”

Personally, I never had the experience of a “take your daughter to work day,” but my featured guest appreciates that pleasure quite periodically.  Singer Laura Pursell recently took her famous musician dad Bill Pursell to work with her, and together they created an elegant musical project, an album called The Very Last Dance Hall Left In L.A.  And it’s not the first time; the two have worked on four previous albums over the past decade or so! I had such an enjoyable time getting to know these two wonderful people, and I invite you to savor the back-and-forth dialogue between this father/daughter team.  It is really quite special.  Stories, advice, music.  It’s all here times two, so enjoy the show!  ~ Dean

Featured Guest:   Laura Pursell

(with special guest Bill Pursell)

Laura Pursell is at home singing with a solo guitar or a 32-piece orchestra. What started out as coffee house gig with a jazz duo on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1997 rapidly progressed into a series of concerts, benefits and appearances culminating in a show at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville with her father, pianist Bill Pursell. In 2001, she had the honor of singing for Betty and President Gerald Ford in Palm Springs.

After studying songwriting with Harriet Shock and Jai Josefs, she began working with British songwriter/composer Chris Cutler, shaping demos for other songwriters. Realizing they had hit upon a unique writing and production style, a blend of British rock and jazz, they wrote and produced their own song, “Found.” Over the years, Laura has recorded and performed with some of the greatest and accomplished jazz musicians on the West Coast, including Earl Palmer, Ron Anthony, Barry Zweig, Ron Eschete, Doug MacDonald and countless others.

Bill Pursell wrote 8 out of 10 arrangements of their new album The Very Last Dance Hall Left In L.A. and played piano on all 10 tracks. The rich orchestration, recorded by Nashville’s A-team players. Mr. Pursell is perhaps best known for his hit record “Our Winter Love,” but also played piano on many of Johnny Cash’s albums in the 1960s, and worked as a session musician and arranger for Patsy Cline, Johnny Paycheck, Hoover, Joan Baez, Eric Andersen, Scotty Moore, J.J. Cale, Willie Nelson, Dan Fogelberg, and others. In 1985, Pursell was named Composer of the Year by the Tennessee Music Teachers Association.

Visit Laura Pursell’s website:

Special thanks to Laura Pursell for the use of her images and music.
© 2015 Laura Pursell – All Rights Reserved

Laura Pursell’s album
The Very Last Dance Hall Left in L.A.
is now available on iTunes!

Laura Pursell 001 Very Last Dance Hall cover

I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)

September 11 2015

StrongWriter On the Radio: (Episode 49) “Brian Hutson – Betting On a Dream and Letting It Ride”

“Brian Hutson – Betting On a Dream and Letting It Ride”
featuring the songs “Let It Ride” and “She’s My Woman”

Here’s a story that sounds like a dream come true if that dream includes New York City stardom.  Well, perhaps it’s too soon at the moment, but I believe my featured guest Brian Hutson is getting there, steadily and surely.   Sit back as we get acquainted, and you will learn just how this young man was noticed by a notable music producer and began a dual life, adding singer to his already filled resume (he’s an investment banker in the city.)  And there are two songs that you can listen to, as well as Brian’s advice for singers and songwriters.  He’s a class act, and I know you’re going to enjoy the ride!!

Featured Guest:   Brian Hutson

New York City’s Brian Hutson is a classically-trained singer with a rich and powerful voice.  He splits his time as a nine-to-five investment banker on Wall Street, and at night, he transforms into a smooth crooner. His broad range of vocal repertoires includes jazz, pop, easy listening, Broadway, opera, and classical music.

After graduation, Brian began working on Wall Street, balancing the demands of his job with time for his creative outlet – singing and songwriting.

While singing Michael Bublé’s Everything at his office holiday party, Brian was discovered by AP Music Group President Joe Vulpis. Vulpis immediately took Brian into the studio and recorded their first two singles, Let It Ride and She’s My Woman. Released to radio in June 2015, Let It Ride is now #10 on the AC Top 200 chart. Both songs are available worldwide for download.

New singles, Let It Ride and She’s My Woman, now available worldwide for download on Amazon Music, Google Play, Spotify, and more.

BRIAN HUTSON - Let It Ride (Live at Radio Launch Party)

Visit Brian Hutson’s website:

Special thanks to Brian Hutson for the use of his images and music.
© 2015 Brian Hutson

August 21 2015

StrongWriter On the Radio: (Episode 46) “Bunny DeBarge – I Want To Say I Knew You”

“Bunny DeBarge – I Want To Say I Knew You”

featuring the song “Say I Knew You”

I hope you heard the previous episode, in which I featured beautiful music and conversation with Bunny DeBarge.  (If you missed it, go back and hear it here.)  In today’s episode, we talk about Bunny’s gift of songwriting and how she communicated with her younger brothers to either co-write or bring her song visions to life.  I send love to Bunny regarding her voice and her music, both past and present.  Previously, I featured her amazing single “God Is Good,” but she gave me the honor of debuting a new song, “Say I Knew You!”  Maybe I’m not the first to play the single, but if I haven’t heard it, then it hasn’t debuted yet (haha!)   We also rub our foreheads in dismay at how today’s popular music has taken a strange turn from the old-school  hits we loved in the seventies and eighties.   All in all, it’s great fun, and you’re all invited to listen in!!

Featured Guest:   Bunny DeBarge

Bunny DeBarge is best known as the lone sister in the legendary Motown R&B family group DeBarge.  The eldest of the ten DeBarge children, Bunny’s unique high soprano vocal style and love of writing began at a tender young age.  She was the lead vocalist behind the classic R&B ballad, “A Dream,” from the group’s In a Special Way album and is also the co-writer of the group’s 1982 breakthrough hit, “I Like It,” and the number one hit, “Time Will Reveal.”  Her song “A Dream” was sampled and covered by the likes of Tupac Shakur and Blackstreet.

Bunny’s book “The Kept Ones, Vol. 1” tells the definitive story of her family and the world that made them.  She pours her life into the pages, sharing the trials and tribulations of her journey with sensitivity and insight.

In the words of Bunny:

God has been faithful and so very good to me through it all. Many of you have followed me faithfully from my days touring with my brothers as “DeBarge.” Those were good times, and lots of wonderful music and memories came out of that era. Behind the scenes , there was personal pain that most knew little about. I speak very candidly about the inner turmoil that I hid behind a smile in my book ,”The Kept Ones!” I’m facing my demons one by one, and determination is taking over where fear and doubt would have stopped me in my tracks. I’m getting “high on life” now and it is such a wonderful thing.

Bunny DeBarge - The Kept Ones

Please visit Bunny DeBarge’s website:

Order Bunny’s book “The Kept Ones, Vol. 1” and her wonderful CD “God Is Good” from her website!


A huge thank you to Bunny for allowing me to use her music and pictures on this site and on my program! 

November 11 2013

Lyrics to heal: Veterans struggle with PTSD, find comfort in songwriting

PTSD Veterans Music

When Army and National Guard veteran Todd Foster talks about his songwriting therapy sessions at the Alvin C. York VA, his eyes light up and his hands become steady. Once a week on Friday, Foster goes to the VA and meets with seven or eight other veterans, a songwriter and a music

Click to read the whole story!

Written by Amanda Haggard – The Daily News Journal
May 16 2013

Songwriting Dream for The Voice’s Elise Evans

A talented teen still hopes to pursue her dream of making it big in the music industry.
Elise Evans from Glynneath, who had a taster of stardom on BBC’s The Voice, has big plans to get her own music heard and hopes to become a professional songwriter.

The Voice’s Elise Evans
“I would love to continue to write music,” said the 18-year-old. “I love to write. I have been writing since I have been singing, and that has been since I was really little.
“I would love to produce my songs. I am going to continue to write at home and hopefully once I can afford to get it recorded, I can get my songs out there.”

Elise Evans
On Sunday the teen was knocked out at the battle stages on the BBC talent show.
She sang It’s all About Tonight by Pixie Lott, but lost out when she was pitted against her […..]

READ THE WHOLE STORY  By Gill Roberts >>>


April 30 2013

SONGWRITING TIPS: Try David Bowie’s ‘cut-up’ method of writing …


David Bowie’s typically enigmatic decision not to do any interviews about his new album,The Next Day, means people have been left to put their own interpretations on the album’s unusual lyrics and surreal imagery.

Author Ricky Moody – who writes for the literary magazine The Rumpus – recently asked Bowie to explain his thinking behind the new songs. “I wanted to understand the lexicon of The Next Day,” said Moody, “and so I simply asked if he would provide a list of words about his album, assuming, like everyone else waving madly trying to get his attention, that there was not a chance in hell that I would get the list.”

Bowie!To Moody’s surprise, Bowie responded by sending him a list of 42 words which supposedly provided the framework for the critically-acclaimed album. Here they are:


Still confused?

Maybe the answer can be found in a 2008 interview with Bowie. In it he described how he often comes up with interesting lyric lines by employing the ‘cut-up’ writing technique used by postmodernist author William S. Burroughs in his controversial novel Naked Lunch.

Originally developed in the early 1950s by painter, writer and sound poet Brion Gysin, the technique involves slicing up phrases and words to create new sentences.

Bowie explained: “You write down a paragraph or two describing several different subjects, creating a kind of ‘story ingredients’ list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections; mix ‘em up and reconnect them.

“You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations like this,” he said. “You can use them as is or, if you have a craven need to not lose control, bounce off these ideas and write whole new sections.”

This technique is also said to have influenced Kurt Cobain’s songwriting. And Thom Yorke applied a similar method on Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A. Yorke reportedly wrote single lines, put them into a hat, and drew them out at random while the band rehearsed the songs.

So there you have it … If you want to get all Bowie-esque and create some unusual and intriguing lyrics, simply reach for your lyric notebook and a pair of scissors – and start cutting and pasting!