The Latest: Could you describe for us your career, where it has been and where you're taking it now?
Harriet: It's hard to know when my career started. When I was four, in Dallas, Texas, my dermatologist father helped me develop a musical ear and play the piano. When I was around 7, my mother would read to me from books so I could write the words on paper. This was ecstasy for me, just the process of "writing." Who knows when it really began? I started writing songs in the seventh grade. Throughout college, I would write skits and songs for competitions between sororities (yes, I was one of those Greek people), and we won both years I wrote them. It still never occurred to me I could make a living at it, so I got a teaching certificate by advanced standing (which means taking the tests on material read outside of class), so my English degree wouldn't be for naught. I used the teaching certificate only briefly as a substitute teacher for a few months, in high schools and junior highs, after I moved to California. As soon as I got out of college, I got a job in an advertising agency, typing. Within two months, I was writing copy. Shortly, I left to become a full time songwriter, after Colgems/EMI signed me as a staff writer. They made demos of my songs with me singing them and I got signed to a record company, Twentieth Century Records, where I recorded three albums as a singer/ songwriter. On my first album, my version of my song, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady," got played enough for Helen Reddy to hear it on the radio and she recorded it. It became a #1 record for her in 1975 and my parents could finally mention a recognizable song their daughter had written. All was right with the world.
During the eighties, I mostly wrote songs for films and TV, including "First Time On A Ferris Wheel," with Misha Segal for the Motown film, "The Last Dragon." To date, about 30 people have sung this song either live, or on record. Misha and I also wrote all the songs for "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" and ABC's "The Secret Garden," among many others. I co-wrote with Frederick Talgorn the end title song for "Delta Force II" and mostly these years were consumed with assignment writing for film, TV and artists. My songs were being recorded by Smokey Robinson, Roberta Flack, Lee Greenwood, Johnny Mathis, Carl Anderson, Gloria Loring, Nancy Wilson, Manfred Mann, The Little Mermaid and others.
Then in 1991, I met Nik Venet, the legendary record producer who discovered and produced the first hits on Linda Ronstadt, The Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, Jim Croce, John Stewart, Lou Rawls, Dory Previn and others. He produced my next two albums, including my current CD, "Rosebud," as well as my previous one, "American Romance." He inspired a whole new direction for me, which was actually more of an old direction -- writing the truth from who I am. I'd forgotten that for a while. I had survived disco and techno pop and I was writing and singing real songs again. My latest CD, Rosebud, was recently remixed in preparation for national release by the record company, Evening*Star Music Group. It's being distributed not only as a CD, but is also packaged in the back of my new book, "BECOMING REMARKABLE, For Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs," which Blue Dolphin is publishing. Whew! Covering 23 years in 5 minutes, I feel like I've just watched one of those Chuckie Braverman quick clip films that used to cover a decade in a minute on film. Anyway, I'm preparing to do a lot of traveling, some of which has already started. I did an East Coast tour and I'm going up North this month, as well, to speak and to perform.
The Latest: When did you first discover your desire for writing songs?
Harriet: When I had something I wanted to tell a boyfriend I thought I couldn't say quite right face to face. I think I was 13.
The Latest: When did you first discover your desire for performing?
Harriet: I thought of myself as a songwriter. I entered a songwriting contest where you had to perform your song live. I had never played in front of people before, but I'd heard there was some place called Celebrity Centre over on 8th Street and they were rumored to let anyone get up and perform, so I went there two days before the contest. The night before, I sang at the Blah Blah Cafe in the middle of Al Jarreau's set, when he was on a break. My hands were shaking so hard, I could hardly find the piano keys. The next night, I aced the contest, winning the $10 prize for #1, which I kept for years in the same envelope. When I heard the applause after my two songs, it was like a baby shark tasting blood for the first time. I knew there was no way I was going to walk away from this. A whole room full of people actually "getting" what I was singing? This was TOO much fun. I was hooked. I've been performing ever since.
The Latest: How were you professionally discovered?
Harriet: In 1973, I met Roger Gordon at an ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) meeting. He asked if I was playing anywhere. I told him the name of the club and he came. He signed me to a staff publishing deal, which means you write songs and the publisher keeps half the money earned by your songs, in exchange for having paid you a weekly advance against your future royalties early on.
The Latest: What's your average workday like? continued