Collaboration Conversations #1: M L Dunn
By Justine Perry (@justine_perry)
This blog post is a Q&A with my client (and now friend) M L Dunn. Mike is a composer and songwriter. We collaborated on two songs, Dear Beloved Demon and Knuckles.
As a lyricist, I work with clients in one of two ways:
If you have an instrumental or backing track, I write lyrics to accompany this (including the vocal melody – “topline” – if needed.)
If you prefer starting with lyrics, I write words for you to set to music. If you have a topic in mind or want the lyrics tailored to you, a commission is the best option. I also have pre-written lyrics available. Mike licensed two of my ready-made lyrics from Songbay, an online platform for trading original music and lyrics. This is how Dear Beloved Demon and Knuckles were born.
I chatted with Mike about the collaboration process…
Why did you choose to work with my lyrics?
When I read them they latched on to a tune I was currently working on, and my head/muse/inspiration would not let go until I had woven them into a song, which only took 24 hours or so, which is ridiculously fast for me.
How did you find the licensing process? Was it straightforward?
It could not have been easier; easy online forms to fill in, I paid with PayPal, as I recall.
How easy (or hard) was setting the lyrics to music?
The first Justine Perry lyrics I set to music, Dear Beloved Demon, almost set themselves (see above). The second set of lyrics took longer – weeks in fact. Justine had told me about an episode in her life and that she was going to write lyrics about it. This I thought was excellent. However, when the lyrics arrived, I think I had too much vested emotionally for it to be an easy process. Instead it took me ages, and I had to work through it on several instruments to make it work in my mind.
Do you enjoy working with me? Why?
I am lucky enough to be in a situation, and of an age, where I do not need to work with people that I do not enjoy working with, so it goes without saying. Life has taught me that working with people you do not enjoy working with is an utter waste of our most valuable resource, time. Don't do it.
Do you usually write your own lyrics? If so, why did you decide to collaborate on these songs?
I mostly write my own lyrics, though for the last 10 years I haven't needed lyrics as my obsession is writing Digitiphonies, which are largely instrumental. I have, however, collaborated on a few occasions in the past. At school I wrote a musical with a classmate about a Biblical Plague of Frogs. The first band I played in, many years ago, called The Cast, was made up of 5 healthy egos, we all wrote lyrics and music together and separately. And criticised each other's work. That's what bands do. As to why I collaborated on this occasion, only muse can answer that. I read the lyrics out of curiosity but then could not stop myself.
Why do you believe collaboration is important?
The sum of the parts is often greater than the sum of the whole. This involves favourable chemistry, and is not, sadly, always the case. I have tried collaborating where the chemistry is not right and that is a thankless task.
Let’s get to know you better! Tell us 5 fun facts about yourself.
The instruments I was taught (violin, trumpet) I no longer play.
The instruments I taught myself (guitar, keyboards, voice) I still play.
I am a natural reactionary.
Aged 17, I lost a trumpet scholarship because I threw my (borrowed) trumpet against the practice room wall in a fit of pique. Actually I'm not sure that is a fun fact.
Writing good music is hard but being a good parent is harder. That's not a fun fact either, but it's true.
Mike’s biggest musical focus is his Digitiphonies (Electro-Orchestral Symphonies.) He is also a founding member of the band U. Kay Hytz. His wife and son are fellow musicians.
Listen to Mike’s music here: