A fusion of David Archuleta words and melodies on a summer eve in Toronto
by Mary Lou Sinclair
On Wednesday August 16, a “listening party” was hosted by CYMBA Music Publishing at the Orange Lounge Recording Studio on Queen Street West, Toronto. The reason? To honour Season 7 American Idol finalist, David Archuleta. The buzz of excitement in the air was unbelievable. I was privileged to attend the small gathering and was asked to share the insights here at Fans of David with all of you.
The party was hosted by the personable president of CYMBA Music (“CYMBA” stands for Crush Your Music Business Ambivalence), Vince Degiorgio, a veteran of the music industry. [See bio below.] Guests included numerous music industry professionals, many of whom were Vince’s friends and business associates. David Archuleta’s team was also present. Gina Orr, David’s Manager and Kari Sellards, David’s Tour Manager were continually on the move, greeting individuals as they arrived and managing the music. Also in attendance was Libby Elming of the CYMBA Music team.
Before David took the stage, a meet-and-greet with refreshments was held where guests mingled. There was such a cool vibe in the place with the excitement building as we introduced ourselves to each other. On one side of the room was a signature wall with names of the many people who had recorded at Orange. I quickly found Alessia Cara, Canadian artist with recent singles “Here” and “Scars to Your Beautiful” fame. For those of you who have attended any of David’s recent concerts, you will recall that he does a wonderful cover of Scars. David came by and met the guests and learned of their backgrounds. We showed him Alessia’s name and wondered if he would be signing the wall as well. Vince said only the artists who recorded in the lounge signed the wall, but for David they could make an exception 😊
Setting the Stage
At 7:30 or so, everyone was escorted to the “lab” where the real party started. The lab itself was a sound studio, called the “Moroccan”. The studio was designed and built with incredible attention to acoustical detail. It became our listening location as we took our places in front of an alcove with a grand piano flanked by streams of lights. Ready for the “listening” to begin, some of us sat on chairs placed along the side, while others sat on the floor. In the end, it was standing room only.
Vince was our incredibly charming and knowledgeable emcee. Obviously a man with a keen ear for talent, he introduced David by explaining that we were there to preview David’s new CD, coming out in October (Note: subsequent to this event, David Archuleta announced the date for “Postcards in the Sky” as October 20th). David had already released Orion EP which was available for all the guests. He was also to release Leo, his second EP, on August 25th. Collectively, those 8 songs would be part of the album plus a few others, some of which we would hear during the event. Vince concluded his introduction by welcoming David into the CYMBA Music family.
David Archuleta explains his writing process
The first song we heard was “Numb.” David gave a detailed introduction, an incredibly honest recount of what he has been dealing with after American Idol and after returning from his two-year mission in Chile. He talked about how much that experience changed him and how afterwards he lacked any interest in diving back into the music industry. Returning to North America, he said, left him with a feeling of numbness, uneasiness and discomfort from being thrown back into the “look at me” environment. After two years of service in South America where he was not centre stage and in fact was sometimes not welcomed at all, the 180-degree turnaround felt all wrong. He spoke of the day when he called his Manager, Gina Orr, to discuss his decision to not continue in his career, to “not do this anymore”. The description was very poignant since Gina was in the room and added a bit of colour to the explanation as well. The song “Numb” was written at a possible-final song writing session with Jamie Kenney and Trent Dabbs, who encouraged David to write about those feelings of discomfort and resignation. I thought it was fascinating that a song of Numb‘s calibre came from a place of not wanting to write at all. Although it was not performed live, the song sounded amazing in the studio and even more meaningful given David’s reflective and heartfelt introduction.
The next song up was “I’m Ready” which will be released on the CD but also on the Leo EP. David’s introduction to this song left the audience in stunned silence as he described the relationship he had with one of his collaborators, Annie Schmidt. He explained in detail the continual encouragement he received from her to complete it. He had the melody in his head for a long period of time, but was stalling with the words. Obviously a special individual, David described the relationship and collaboration on the song, his voice full of emotion as he also revealed that she tragically lost her life in a hiking accident. As he stopped to tell the group: “I’m an emotional guy,” Vince came over to lend his support. The song was jaw dropping live (snippets included). Vince introduced it by saying, “It’s the kind of song all writers wish they had written”. Perfectly said.
I’m ready for a change I’m not afraid to lose and leave it all behind
And I know I can’t see around the bend
But if I let you in I know I’ll be alright
“A real record”
The next song we heard was “Up All Night.” Vince was effervescent with enthusiasm for this song and couldn’t hold back his excitement. He told us that once he heard it, he said to himself “Now that is a REAL RECORD”, indicating he will be talking about that song “daily for the next six years.” The studio version was played, and with the sound studio acoustics, every single layer showcased how well produced the song was. As we all listened, grooving to the song, I leaned over to the man beside me and said, “You know, we really should be dancing.” He agreed.
The next song was another song David wrote for a specific reason. In this case, it was a song of inspiration for those battling mental health issues. He carefully described the message of the song was to explain there was a universe, a bigger picture at play when dealing with issues, rather than what is occurring on a single day. Heads nodded among the listeners, and this message struck a chord with many. The title and lyrics also aligned with David’s celestial theme for his EPs, “Orion” and “Leo”, and it was very touching to hear who had inspired the track (title to be revealed when the CD launches in October). The song was very different than all the rest and certainly affected me personally, so of course, there were a few tears shed during this one.
David introduced the track “Invincible” where he described the feelings of frustrations from his pursuit of perfectionism, and being one’s worst enemy. The track was played and it was anthem-like in its production, with a children’s choir providing beautiful harmonies as the song built from start to finish. We all enjoyed hearing how David received encouragement from his co-writers, and in this case he described as one writer was especially insightful during the writing process.
Take a breath
Look at how you’re trying to think it to death
If you’re in the crossfire, don’t forget
That you don’t have to be invincible
Take a step
Even if you fall, it ain’t over yet
If you’re in the crossfire, don’t forget
That you don’t have to be invincible
David Archuleta’s Masterful Ballad ~ Say Me
The last live performance was saved for “Say Me,” a song on the Orion EP and one that Vince said stopped him in his tracks when he heard it. Vince was incredibly excited as he again applauded David’s song-writing and melodic skills. I’m not sure if I have heard anything prettier acoustically as David’s voice filled the Orange Studio chamber. Not wanting to interrupt the very intimate experience, I did not take many pictures or videos, but anticipating this moment, I raised my phone tentatively for this one (see YouTube vid below). When David finished, the applause was long and lingering. We all knew we had just heard something incredibly special.
Finally, as a special treat, there was some audience participation. David discussed a song that he was initially not going to include on the CD, until further reflection that day. He explained he had been at Orange Lounge Recording Studio earlier that afternoon listening to final cuts and reconsidered the CD track list. Still undecided, he provided a detailed backgrounder to the song, let the tape play, and then asked the audience for feedback to assist with his decision. This difficulty in decision-making was a recurring theme for David in many of his song introductions, prompting Vince at one point to announce: “Does anyone know an artist who isn’t indecisive?” This elicited a round of applause, laughter and a sea of nods from the industry guests.
As the song’s sound filled the room, the mood changed instantly. It was apparent we instantly understood that the song was written from a very difficult place, a very painful place. It was a song without a lot of lyrical structure but nevertheless, David had so very much to say. We will have to wait for the final decision from Team Archuleta regarding its fate, but the crowd was unanimous in its recommendation.
As the formal part of the evening ended with that impactful track, the group moved to another room where David made sure he met every single guest and everyone had an opportunity to continue the discussion about the incredible music we had just heard.
In summary, a “listening party” doesn’t adequately describe our evening with David Archuleta. It was a listening experience – an epiphany. We not only listened to beautiful melodies and lyrics ~ we learned where they came from, in a way that was both revealing and incredibly sincere. And we also heard from a knowledgeable music professional where this music can go in the future.
After hearing these songs, I know David’s new CD, with honest, vulnerable and creative lyrics, beautifully enveloped in his soaring vocals, is going to be something special.
The evening was also a beautiful welcome into CYMBA Music for David and his team. Thanks to Kari Sellards, Gina Orr, and Vince Degiorgio for inviting me as a guest. Thanks also to Libby Elming of CYMBA Music and the team at Orange Lounge Recording Studio. It is great to know that David is in good hands with this amazing team.
Hear my heart, and there’s an answered prayer
Feel the magic in the midnight air
Breathe it in, I wanna pass it on
The strength of finding somewhere you belong
~ Lyrics from Up All Night by David Archuleta, Isabeau Miller and Sean Balin
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Think globally. That is the successful mantra of songwriter, label head and music publisher Vincent Degiorgio. He’s President and CEO of Chapter 2 Productions Inc, a company that includes his current main focus, CYMBA Music Publishing.
Founded 24 years ago, CYMBA continues to grow and score hit songs and placements around the globe. Degiorgio stresses that “we’re building a global database. Not just from me having circled the globe 14 times but also because our writers are constantly travelling.”
CYMBA has a select stable of writers that includes Aileen de la Cruz, John Acosta, Olivia Wik, Davor Vulama (Hedley), Ian Smith, Dennis Ellsworth, Ari Rhodes, Swedish writer Hakan Lundberg, and Chinese pop composers Shawn Zhang and Young Feng. Degiorgio is reconnecting with PEI-based Ellsworth this week on his (Degiorgio’s) first visit to the May Run conference, where he’s a panelist.
“With the CYMBA catalogue we continue to diversify the portfolio by giving our writers totally focused and pointed leads to write for. For example, it might be ‘there’s a made for TV movie and we need Christmas songs right away.’ That reminds me of when I slept on a couch in the studio for three and a half weeks getting an *NSYNC Christmas album done!(Degiorgio did A&R on the boy band’s 1998 hit album Home For Christmas).”
Another of his mottos is “Just go out and write the best possible song and we’ll find a home for it. The philosophy of CYMBA from the start has been ‘nobody else is doing this. Why don’t we do it?’ Because of that, we’ve done incredibly well abroad.”
Degiorgio has an impressive track record as a songwriter himself, including hits for Tapps, Love Inc., and, recently, Caro Emerald. He remains prolific as a writer, and is currently working on the third album from Euro star Emerald. “I was just in London working on Caro’s record. We’re up to 35 songs now,” says Degiorgio, who terms her topping the UK charts with her second album as one of his career highlights. “Caro is the original article. I saw her soldout shows at the Bluenote in Tokyo and Royal Albert Hall in London, and I couldn’t believe my eyes that I’d been part of it.” Emerald’s debut album, Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor,’has been certified platinum for sales of over 1 million albums in Europe.
Over his long career in the music business, the Brampton, ON, born and raised Degiorgio has worn many hats, including as a club DJ, record store manager at Toronto’s Disco Sound of Canada, a promo rep (for Unidisc), a music journalist (he wrote a disco column for RPM in the late ‘70s), and record label head. His Power Records label was one of the most important in Canadian dance music in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and he also owned Boulevard Records and Chateau Records.
He also had a lengthy stint at a major label, first at BMG in Canada and then as VP of A&R at BMG in New York, where he helped break such acts as Real McCoy, Snap and NSYNC.
CYMBA is an acronym for “crushing your music business apathy,” and that is exactly what Vincent Degiorgio continues to do.
See full article here
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Please take moment to connect with David’s Team!
I hope you enjoyed the insight to some of the tracks from David Archuleta’s new CD. Not having attended any concerts from David’s recent tour it was very cool to hear the back story to these new songs, and of course to enjoy the beautiful acoustic performances, under extraordinary acoustic conditions. In introducing each of the showcased songs, David was poised and articulate in explaining why “Postcards in the Sky” will be a collection of songs of self-discovery unlike any of his previous projects.
I did have a chance to speak with David briefly after the show and thanked him for an incredible evening of insights and surprises. I was ready to dutifully expand upon my selfish desire for a Toronto concert one day but I was late to the game; it seemed like other guests had already starting rhyming off to David venue recommendations! Well done Torontonians!
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