Long Distance Songwriting

How on earth do you manage to work and write together, being 2000 miles apart? That question was recently put to me by Trudy Burke of Australia. It's an interesting question, and one which both of us have been hearing with increasing frequency.

By US, I mean Michael T. Wall and myself, Fay Herridge. As I told Trudy, there's the postal service, electronic mail and the telephone. For us - it works! We have been corresponding for five years, since December 1996, and have met only once during that time. Probably the most interesting comment I've heard was You two are one of a kind! Exactly how that works, I'm not sure, but someone said it to Michael. So we felt it was time to enlighten those inquiring minds.

It all started when I wrote Michael a fan letter, offering to help because I believed in him and his goals. We soon learned that we had some very important common interests. Both of us have a strong belief in, and a desire to promote, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are also concerned with the state of the earth and do what we can to promote awareness of environmental issues. In connection with that, Michael and I have both received the Ambassador of Hospitality Award and the Environmental Award for our efforts. However, probably the most important connection we discovered was the ability to write well together, to create lyrics and melodies that we are both pleased with and proud of.

So how exactly do we do it? First of all, we are friends with a unique bond. We trust each other implicitly and have great respect for each other's abilities. We connect on a mental, emotional and spiritual level; we think alike in many ways. The best way to illustrate this is by example. Outlined below is how the song Trucker's Angel was written:

We often toss ideas back and forth while talking on the phone. In this case, Michael gave me:

I met her in the driveway as I was leaving town
I took one look at those green eyes and I turned my rig around

I wrote it down on the thing closest to me at the time - inside the front cover of my address book! As I walked to work the next day, those lines were going through my mind. By the time I got there, I had added:

Well, she looked like an angel, her smile would tempt a Saint
I sized her up from head to toe and had not one complaint
That finished the first verse and I was also working on the chorus.

Second verse: I sent an e-mail to Michael immediately and he replied in record time with:

In high-heeled shoes and cotton dress, just like a country queen
With long and silky hair and lips as red as I have seen

A short time later, I sent another e-mail, completing this verse and giving him the chorus, which I had also finished:

Her voice was soft and gentle when I heard her speak my name
I felt the music in my soul and knew I'd lost the game

Oh, I know that I'm in trouble just as sure as I'm alive
For I met a trucker's angel and my heart's in overdrive
I've played the game of love and always managed to survive
But I met a trucker's angel and my heart's in overdrive.

Without even seeing the e-mail, Michael called me with his next lines. A perfect follow-up to what I had just sent him, it became the first half of verse three. I finished the verse that afternoon and promptly sent it off by e-mail again:

I asked if she would be my Queen and I could be her King
Though I couldn't see a halo or a pair of angel wings
She must have dropped from Heaven and my hopes began to soar
She swayed and walked towards me as I opened up the door

That night, Michael called and gave me another line that had just 'popped into his head.' He already had a melody in mind. I finished the fourth, and final, verse the next morning and sent him the finished song.

She put her seat belt on and then said hit the dirt my friend
You know that love is waiting for us just around the bend
Now trust me when I tell you everything will be all right
Together we will ride the highway forever and a day

Not all our songs are written that quickly. Sometimes Michael sends a title with a few lines or an idea. I work on the lyrics while he works on the melody. Other times I write part of it and send it for him to finish. Or perhaps I will write the lyrics and he then does the melody. Either way, we both contribute pretty equally to the finished product. And that's how we do it, working and writing together, despite being 2000 miles apart.

It isn't important who contributes most to a particular song because we both work on everything we do. The system seems to be working for we have had eight songs recorded by different artists in the past two years. These songs have received airplay in Canada, the United States, Australia, Europe and on an Internet Radio Show. Our songs are being used in live performances from Ontario to British Columbia, America and Australia. More people are inquiring about our work and we already have prospective recordings lined up by several more singers this year.

All our songs are published through our own company, Songs 'R' Us Publishing (SOCAN). Writers and singers associated with us also get promoted here on our website.

© Fay Herridge
Published in The Measure, May 2002
(Newsletter of The Music Industry of Newfoundland and Labrador)


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