BWW Interview: Charlie Midnight: The Man Behind the Music!
The holiday season is in full swing and I have had If/Then & FROZEN songstress Idina Menzel's "Holiday Wishes" on repeat since its release. I love the entire album, but the one song that resonates the most with me is "December Prayer." I was given the opportunity to have a chat with one of the song's co-writers, Charlie Midnight, and found out that it's not the only track he's worked on that is on my iTunes Most Played playlist.
Charlie Midnight has been in the songwriting business for over 30 years and has built an impressive rap sheet. He's worked on a variety of musical feats from James Brown's "Gravity" album to Hilary Duff's smash single "So Yesterday" to Barbara Streisand's "Partners" album. With all of that experience, quite a few Grammy nominations and wins under his belt, and a book getting ready to hit bookshelves, I had to ask him about his plethora of successes.
The Brooklynite wasn't always as successful as he is now. Midnight started life as Charlie Kaufman brought up in a middle-class family and actually pursued poetry in the beginning of is life. Things changed when that burning fire within him ignited and he found himself in a rock band playing local bars "to maybe five people" during each set. Although the odds didn't seem to be in Charlie's favor, he persisted. Eventually he was signed to a record label and released his first album. When the album did not sell to the label's satisfaction, he was dropped, but that could not stop him from becoming a staple in the music industry.
Humble as he is talented, Charlie revealed to me that he owes much of his success in the beginning of his songwriting career to fellow songwriter and music producer Dan Hartman. He says of his writing partner, "Dan Hartman was the door that really opened for me." The two worked together for a while and their success skyrocketed when they wrote and released "Living in America," from ROCKY IV with music legend James Brown. That paved the way for Midnight and Hartman to collaborate with the superstar on his "Gravity" album. The rest, as they say, is history. Other notable works Midnight has been a part of include Disney's OLIVER AND COMPANY (he penned the song "Why Should I Worry?"), Nickelodeon TV show BIG TIME RUSH (he co-wrote the sitcom's theme song.) and made a little history by co-writing Cher's first musical number in a movie ever, "Welcome to Burlesque," from the 2010 film BURLESQUE.
As an aspiring songwriter, I asked him what his song writing process is like. "It depends. Different ways.Sometimes I block any sounds around me. Other times I like to collaborate." He and I have the same way of thinking when it comes to starting to write. "Inspiration can strike at any time," he told me. I agreed immediately and we laughed abut the times we've both written lyrics on restaurant napkins.
Midnight has also dabbled into musical theatre in recent years. He, along with Wendy Pigott and James Marr, wrote a musical inspired by the August Strindburg play SWAN WHITE. The new musical, titled THE MAGIC HORN had its first staged reading at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, California. The shows producers are currently looking for a venue to house the show. He also teamed up with Broadway favorite Idina Menzel for a new original musical that includes the song "God Save My Soul," which she performs live during her concerts. That project was put on hold due to Menzel's Tony-nominated run in IF/THEN.
Midnight's career has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, and he seemingly has conquered it all. What else is there for him to do? Inspire others to pursue their passions, of course! Now, he doesn't like to be labeled a "motivational speaker," so I won't call him that. However, I will say that he had quite the words of wisdom to bestow upon me. "Keep on keeping on," he told me, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger-it's cliche, but it is the truth!" For those of you wanting to break into the entertainment business, Charlie says "you have to really really want it. You don;t want to give up," although I think that transcends to anyone wanting to pursue any passion, regardless of the medium. "Collaboration is key," he continued.
Midnight has a lecture that he's taken to schools across the country called Deserves Got Nothing to Do With It: Talking C.R.A.P.P. With Charlie Midnight. C.R.A.P.P. stands for Collaboration, Relationships, Ambition, Passion and Persistence, which Midnight views as the five key elements to becoming the best you that you can be. "I practice what I preach," he explained, "I use these elements in my life on a daily basis." Charlie is planning on releasing a book with the same title and topic in 2015.
It was such a pleasure having a conversation with someone with all of these musical notches in his belt and finding out he is one of the most humble people have ever had the pleasure of talking to. After speaking to him, I have so much more motivation to be great and to pursue what I love, and I thank him immensely for that. The last words he said to me sum up everything he represents in my opinion: "Be Fearless and Be Fierce!