Get To Know Multi-Platinum, Award-Winning Songwriter, Frank Musker
Frank John Musker is a British songwriter and composer. Most prolific in the 1980s and 1990s, he has worked with artists such as Sheena Easton, The Babys, Robert Miles, Jennifer Rush, Bucks Fizz, Air Supply, Lucio Battisti, Zucchero, Lisa Stansfield and Brian May.
We were delighted to work with Frank for his new project - this year his band 'World Goes Round' are releasing music they wrote back in the 1980s.
How did you four get together and where did the name World Goes Round come from?
We got together late 1988, early 1989.
My funky house in Laurel Canyon had become a real hive of creativity with friends, musicians and songwriters all coming and going, working in the studio and hanging out. It was a haven from the craziness of Hollywood, two minutes away by car but another planet vibe wise. It was a really pleasant, easy and creative place to be - an enclave of countryside hills in the middle of the huge LA metroplex.
Plus it had a 150 ft Sequoia, a genuine California redwood growing out of the middle of it (we built the studio extension around it). There was a lot of spirit flying around. Everybody could feel it. There had been some amazing sessions like overdubbing all seven of the seawind horns in my living room. I was lucky to meet and befriend some amazing first string players - amongst whom separately were Jeff and Marty.
Elizabeth and I were in the long painful process of breaking up but we're still best friends and massive fans of each other's writing and singing. I think Elizabeth introduced me to Marty - they had been working together with John Denver and the Memphis Horns.
I met Jeff at my studio - he was doing a session for someone else and I was blown away by his musicality and his deep understanding of groove and where the pulse of a record is. A massive asset. Turns out he was also a shit hot drummer (Chaka Khan) I thought I need to work with this guy.
We started writing songs together and really clicked. I was also writing a lot with Elizabeth (Too Much Love will kill you, Soweto BT Jeffrey Osborne) and a few with Marty (Put it on the Line for Michael McDonald.
I don't remember the exact moment but I think Elizabeth and I conceived the idea of starting a band as the four of us - based on our songwriting with she and I doing the vocals and Marty and Jeff being the instrumentalists. There was never a question of my band ego type shit - from the start it was very democratic. It had to be - strong smart characters each needed their say.
The studio was the perfect home base and during the course of 1989 we recorded the bulk of the album.
The name is also a blurry memory. Either it was a line in our song or the existing band name came into a couple of the songs thematically. We wanted an album cover with World Goes Round written in many different languages to capture the idea of universality. Travelling and discovering the beauty of our planet is also a theme. The old divisions of east and west, capitalism vs communism seemed to be crumbling and the more we learned about how diverse we are the more similar to one another we became.
I think there's subliminally a reference to the law of karma in there too - what goes around comes around. If we take care of each other as human beings and of our planet as good custodians we might just survive. Just.
‘Big House’ was written in 1989. Has the relevance of the song changed as we listen to it in 2020? If so, how?
If anything it seems more relevant now than then. Back then it sounded a bit like a doom monger's apocalyptic nightmare but all very far away into the future. Well for thirty years we've done very little to mitigate that approaching global catastrophe and suddenly it's all a lot more urgent. It can't be kicked down the road anymore. Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and Covid 19 have seen to that. Now it's everybody's problem. The virus is very democratic and spares neither the rich and powerful nor the poor and lowly.
The upside is that people's mentality seems to have had a major reset and the lucky ones who survive the illness are relishing our new found humanity and discovering that most of us are quite nice people given half a chance.
What’s your songwriting process?
With WGR the writing process was usually concept based. We didn't have the luxury of jamming together in a live situation so we each fitted our contribution in the recording studio almost from the moment of inception of the idea.
Jeff was like a one man band with his programming and playing and Marty and he really dug each other's stuff and complemented one another very naturally. Marty added his own unique musicality and guitar personality which gave us a liveness we wanted for the tracks.
Elizabeth was such an inspirational lead and harmony singer that she pulled us all up to her level vocally. She has amazing precision but still has great instinctive feel and a beautiful natural range and tone. I loved singing with her. We just fitted together like a glove vocally - almost like siblings. I learned a huge amount about stagecraft and live performance from her.
At the time she was just dipping her toes in the writing pool but she was a natural and took to it with ease, lyrically and melodically. It was great to cowrite with her because she could sing any idea and make it sound fab. She also played the piano and had a schooled knowledge of music theory. Just the opposite of me.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
This is a tough one. Inevitably winners and losers. On the minus side it has driven a coach and horses through copyright (largely the fault of the neglect of the major record companies). It's much harder to make a living now as a full time, non performing songwriter. Things are slowly improving but music creators are still being paid a fraction of their worth and giant corporations like Google and YouTube have been built on the back of essentially stealing creative people's work. This is undeniable and would be unacceptable in any other business except the music business.
On the positive side it has amplified the use of music exponentially and the pie is much bigger. The problem is that there is now so much music being put on line that it's harder for the good stuff to get noticed in the throng. I'm all for people expressing themselves but there's a ton of crap on line which the world could do without.
But the ease with which music is transferred digitally is an amazing plus for musicians and it means people can co operate with other writers and musicians from all over the world without having to leave their homes. The lockdown has spawned a whole genre of cellular recording proving it can be done.
What is the best advice you could give to artists wanting a career within the music industry?
I'm afraid my best advice these days is have another economic string to your bow and don't rely on potential stardom to pay your rent. That sounds very prosaic but the internet has created this reality. It was never easy to make it in any part of the business but now it has become very polarised, very feast or famine. Famine for the vast majority and feast for the few truly global superstars.
This said, if you don't reject my advice and plunge headlong regardless into the void then you're probably not really one of those who want it enough. You have to be totally committed and follow your heart and be prepared to sacrifice everything else for your music. I think it was ever thus really.
Be prepared for more rejection than you think you can take but make sure you learn from even your most dismissive critics. Ultimately the most successful artists have very distinctive personalities - you don't achieve that by trying to please everybody and doing everything by committee.
'Big House', the single by World Goes Round, will be released this Friday May 29th!
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