Journalist Phil Gallo takes us on a weekly behind-the-scenes look at the “World Premiere Musical Breaking Through”
Q: Considering your history as pop writers and performers, was it a challenge to work in the confines of a theatrical story?
Katie: I love everything dark and depressing so I loved writing all the more introspective moody stuff. That’s definitely where I love to live. The big, campier stuff was fun.
Cliff: As songwriters, you tend to be doing things that show some integrity and sometimes the work is challenging because it’s not something you do every day. But when you’re given the idea for the song, what it needs to say in a scene, it makes it easier. It’s like getting the blueprints for a house.
Q: This started with the two of you. How much of the lyrics do you see as autobiographical?
Katie: I know for me as a songwriter I always take from my own life and apply to any situation. I feel very connected to the songs.
Q: How about the story? Are these experiences you can relate to?
Katie: There’s a lot of pressure and you’re pulled in a lot of directions and who you want to be and who the industry thinks you should be. Holding onto your authenticity can be somewhat challenging. When I was 14 we wrote my first album together. When I was 18, 19, I was in talks with Virgin Records – the deal fell through – and then the stock market crashed. It left such a bad taste in my mouth I never wanted to do music again.
Cliff: I have been through so many different label situations – not just my own but people I’ve worked with. There are things that are universally true within labels like the pitfalls artists need to look out for and when to stand your ground. You have to figure out which person (at a label) has your back. Most labels sign a person and then want to change them.
Katie: A lot of people wonder does this really happen? Of course,this is theatrical, but we can tell you as artists it’s very much real.
Q: As the show has evolved, how much have you had to rewrite?
Katie: Five or six songs are left from when we started so about a third remain.
Q: Was there a model for the pop songs?
Katie: When we started to do the Scorpio (Constantine Maroulis) stuff there was a Maroon 5 vibe. The most important thing for us on the ‘pop songs’ was that they sound authentic.
Cliff: Not too time-stamped. The songs had to have strong melodies that would hold water five years after they were written. CJ (Alison Luff) is not going to sing something that wouldn’t have a chance of being on the radio so some of them sound flat-out commercial.
Q: Have you rekindled a love for theater?
Katie: I never thought I would one day be writing a musical. But I followed my gut and my intuition so it has been very rewarding. It has become clear to me this is where I fit, but it was an arduous trip to get here.
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