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Stevie Wonder Presented With First-Ever ‘Key of Life Award’ at The ASCAP EXPO Closing Event in Hollywood

By JOHN DALY

Stevie Wonder was presented with ASCAP’s inaugural “Key of Life Award” Saturday, at the marquee closing event of ASCAP’s 12th annual “I Create Music” EXPO in Los Angeles.

“The Key of Life” award, presented to Wonder by ASCAP President Paul Williams and Janelle Monae, was created in recognition of Wonder’s contributions to the world through his music, dedication, and giving heart.

The award ceremony was followed by a conversation between Wonder and Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and actress Janelle Monae about Wonder’s approach to songwriting and his successful career. Wonder gave advice to a room packed with professional and aspiring songwriters, discussed the state of the world and spoke about his creative and professional experiences.

The “Key of Life” Award, which was created for Wonder in Braille, reads: “Presented to Stevie Wonder, Who inspires and elevates the world through his songs, his spirit and his boundless heart.”

In the future, the honor will be presented to music creators who best exemplify Wonder’s legacy through their commitment to the art form.

The ASCAP Expo 2017: ‘Livelihood’ and ‘Advocacy’ are The Important Words for Songwriters Today

By DONNA BALANCIA

Musicians need to present one singular message to change laws and be paid what they’re worth, ASCAP representatives said at the 2017 ASCAP EXPO Kickoff Thursday.

Paul Williams, president and chairman of the board of ASCAP, Beth Matthews, CEO, and membership EVP John Titta kicked off the 2017 ASCAP EXPO with a serious but hopeful message to attendees.

Tom Higgenson with John Titta - Photo 2017 Donna Balancia

Tom Higgenson with John Titta – Photo 2017 Donna Balancia

“You want to have a livelihood, keep writing,” Williams said. “You are a songwriter, you don’t want to be flipping burgers.”

William said he is hoarse from yelling at the television screen for the last three months, but that the new administration presents new opportunities.

“We are songwriters we don’t build walls,” he said “We even put bridges in the middle of our songs.”

He said music touches people in a way that forms cannot.

“When they walk up to you and say ‘My girl is playing one of your songs,’ That’s when I’m proud to be an American songwriter.”

Beth Matthews says ASCAP continues to grow through membership and partnerships - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Beth Matthews says ASCAP continues to grow through membership and partnerships – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Williams went on to say the consent decrees are outdated that songwriters’ music is underrated and over-regulated.

“We live in a world where we stream music, and that crap has got to change,” he said.

He said a free market system like in other industries is needed.

“If millions of people around the world want to stream your music, you need to be paid for it.”

Williams said that reforming licensing was a priority with ASCAP and that the big words are “advocacy” and “livelihood.”

Beth Matthews, CEO, said there was some good news for songwriters.

Beth Matthews says music business growth is solid but slow - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Beth Matthews says music business growth is solid but slow – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The music industry is rebounding now but still has a ways to go, she said.

Revenue is growing but not at a good enough rate, she said.

Matthews said ASCAP’s growth last year was more than $1 billion in revenue with a $45 million increase over the prior year.

The music has incredible value and the customers don’t know and most of our politicians don’t know, she said.

Tom Higgenson with John Titta - Photo 2017 Donna Balancia

Tom Higgenson with John Titta – Photo 2017 Donna Balancia

Music licensees don’t want to pay the fees and they have to understand why they should be paying, she said.

There is a need for copyright law reform and ASCAP has resorted to litigation in at least 39 cases, Matthews said. She added that there’s a need to involve the department of justice.

Matthews said there is an overwhelming need to get along with other aspects of the industry so that musicians can approach and change laws in the united fashion.

Ashley Gorley has written songs for Carrie Underwood and many more - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Ashley Gorley has written songs for Carrie Underwood and many more – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

“We believe one of the reasons the Department of Justice didn’t help us is because they are confused and we didn’t have a singular message.”

ASCAP is working on a range of projects to enhance community and advocacy, Matthews said. Are our new ideas being floated out there involving digital assets and also improving the website.

Various musicians performed during the kick off including Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s, Ashley Gorely and Brett McLaughlin.

For a powerful finale, Michael McDonald, played some Doobie Brothers tunes with the house band.

Michael McDonald launches ASCAP EXPO with Doobie Brothers tunes - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Michael McDonald launches ASCAP EXPO with Doobie Brothers tunes – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill To Release New Album, ‘The Adventurist,’ Truly a Transcendent Labor of Love

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at a recent fundraiser for La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

Cindy Lee Berryhill is a “Lover of Love” and that comes through loud and clear on her new album, The Adventurist.

Cindy Lee, a fixture in the LA music scene who now lives in Encinitas, gave CaliforniaRocker.com a sneak listen to the album, which will be released on March 10 on Omnivore Records.

Pre-order Available Now

Pre-Order The Adventurist on Amazon and on iTunes now.

Cindy Lee will perform at McCabe’s on April 2.

“We all have our drugs of choice mine is love,” Cindy Lee said. “I made a decision to write an album in honor of the love I shared with my husband. I’m very excited, it’s my first very focused work since the ’90s.”

The Adventurist is Cindy Lee’s first album since all of her years of caregiving her ailing husband, rock writer Paul Williams.  Paul passed away in March of 2013 from complications of a brain injury.

The songs on the album are songs of love, attraction and desire. One simple and succinct song we like on the album is “American Cinematography.”

“It’s the same thing behind the album that’s behind the song,” she said. “Each song is a tone poem to love and desire and the chemical soup of feelings you have when you fall in love. ‘American Cinematography,’ for me, is when you’re in love with somebody and you look at your beloved, it’s like you’re shooting a film. It’s beautiful and it’s love.”

The Love Affair With Cindy Lee Berryhill

Cindy Lee’s unique sound has earned her a spot in music lovers’ hearts. She put out her first album Who’s Gonna Save The World? in 1987 and it was followed up in 1989 with Naked Movie Star.

Cindy Lee Berryhill - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

In 1999, she published the book, Memoirs of A Female Messiah, which was released along with a live album called Living Room 16.

She has chronicled her experiences in her blog, Beloved Stranger.

Cindy Lee is happy to be back in the recording studio and performing while raising her son, Alexander.

But despite dealing with serious issues life has dealt, Cindy Lee has kept an upbeat attitude. It’s her positive vibe that keeps her a fan favorite.

And now that she’s back into music full time, would she consider moving back to LA any time in the near future?

“I do have commitment to my son,” she said. “I have a commitment to have him continue high school here. That’s partly because I grew up where every three years we moved, so I’ve grown to love consistency. ”

“Encinitas is 100 miles from LA and I live two blocks from the beach, how can you get better than that?”

Overcoming Rough Patches

The road has not always been smooth for Cindy Lee. Coping with her husband’s afflictions and trying to keep her family and career in tact was a challenge.  And during this time in the 1990s, there wasn’t so much information in the news about head trauma.

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“My husband had a brain injury,” she said. “It was very difficult towards the end, especially. Seven years after the injury, things started to go south.”

She observed that all these years the news related to football injuries leading to dementia has put her fight by her husband’s side into focus.

“From 2004 on, I was Paul’s caregiver,” she said. “But we had a child in 2001, Alexander, and he is doing amazing.”

Cindy Lee said that today it’s all about moving forward.

“At a certain point I really wanted to write a song about love and attraction, but how you need transcendence,” she said.

A New Digital World of Music

Cindy Lee is returning to a business that has changed drastically even over the last 20 years.

“When I grew up, you fell in love with the record, and then you went to see artist,” she said. “Now it’s the other way around.”

Cindy Lee Berryhill by Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill by Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee has a strong connection to trends in the music industry because of her “day” job — she’s a guitar teacher.  She said kids today use a different route to find music they like.

“I’m priviledged working with young people every day,” she said. “Young people are finding music through computer games and TV shows; They know older songs and that’s through their parents. It’s secondary to the games.”

As music is being discovered through TV advertisements, is that considered selling out?

“TV commercials and movies are the way people are discovering the music today,” she said. “So the only thing that’s a sellout is if you hate the product. If it’s something to get behind, then that’s great.”

 

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