Five Questions with Singer Gael MacGregor

Singer Gael MacGregor

This week we would like you to meet one of our Individual Creator Members, Singer Gael MacGregor

1. What was the inspiration behind becoming a songwriter and author? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

I was doing musical theatre and club gigs, and was tired of playing/singing the same stuff over and over again. So I started writing, then was fortunate to land a wonderful mentor as a result of being a backup vocalist for one of the artists/songwriters he was mentoring. I worked on hundreds of songs with him, and was so grateful for all he taught me, including arranging. We were just about to collaborate on a project with two highly successful and respected writers when he passed away suddenly. It was a blow, but I tried to apply his advice throughout my career — both as a songwriter, and subsequently as an author. He helped to instill in me a love of the craft of writing, and taking a germ of an idea, then creating a melody and lyric that tells a distinct story which elicits an emotional response. Sometimes, though, I think I just have the good sense to grab the good ideas as they float by in the ether. It doesn’t always feel like I’m always the one in control of the process.

2. Can you take us through your process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

It all depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes the lyrics come first; sometimes the melody. I tend to write away from instruments so I’m not bound by the limitations of my guitar or piano abilities (a practice gleaned from a Stephen Sondheim interview in which he said he rarely sat at the piano to compose). I find that I’m much more creative when my focus is on the melody and words, and not arrangement elements. Chord progressions, groove, and such things come later, unless I’m co-writing with someone who has supplied an instrumental track that inspires a melody and lyric. To be honest, I have written a lot of songs in my car, especially when working on musicals. I would have a meeting with the playwright, then take those notes and create the melody and lyrics for the scene while driving home. I’d then call him, sing what I’d written over the phone and we’d refine things from there. There’s no set time frame, though. A song I wrote after a close friend died poured out in maybe fifteen minutes. Other times I’ve sat on a lyric or a melody for ages before it calls me back to finish it. It can take minutes, hours, or days (writing a book, however, can take months or years). While I’ve written or co-written four musicals, and they have all been produced, little money has come from that fountain. Most of my income from my intellectual property has come from songwriting, selling CDs/downloads, placing songs into films, and from a book I wrote that took decades before it saw the light of day (it’s a sort of memoir/inspirational non-fiction book).

3. When did you first become aware of copyright and why?

When I was in high school and we did a musical every summer. On all of the scripts and musical scores there were warnings about unauthorized use. So I started learning about copyright, its significance, and the importance of respecting all intellectual property and obtaining proper permission for its use. I subsequently became a bit of an expert in music licensing as a music supervisor for film and television, and an advocate for composers.

4. Have you experienced copyright infringement and if so how has it affected you personally and financially?

Oh, yeah. I find some every week. I really don’t know how much it has affected me financially from a musical standpoint, but I’ve lost a lot from unauthorized downloads of my book. It does get me more than a little steamed every time I see someone — without authorization — monetizing something that I created (or had a hand in creating) and leaving the creators out of the loop.

5. What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time and money into?

I usually send a “cease and desist” letter or a DMCA notice. So far, it’s maybe 60/40 successful in getting my content removed. Sometimes it seems like more trouble than it’s worth (for music, anyway), since many such sites are often poorly constructed and troublesome to use.

Gael MacGregor
Singer/Independent Recording Artist

Photo by Pamela Royce

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