Peter Doran


Peter Doran

I didn’t know about Peter Doran until a friend from Germany, who’s a huge music supporter, named Dieter shared his contact info. It’s really a shame that I didn’t know about Peter sooner because he’s a talented singer and writer and I’ve really enjoyed his songs.  But this whole interaction got me thinking… There’s no music without people like Dieter sharing songs and new releases by artists he likes every day, pledging on fan funding drives, going to shows and buying music. So, once in a while I’m going to mix in some interviews with uber music supporters like Dieter and good “musician friendly” venue owners like Pascale from Opening Bell Coffee and Marko from Hotel Cafe. We can talk all we want about songwriting, but without support from people like this it’s all pointless. Sean Hannity’s not doing anything to help musicians. (there’s your current events reference). Oh and for tying things together, Peter “virtually” knows Salim Nourallah my first interview here. So, here’s Peter Doran….

Peter Doran
Home Town: Mullingar, Ireland
Most recent release: “Overhead The Stars”

Brief Intro/Bio:
Independent Irish Singer Songwriter with 3 albums released to date, and multiple tours of Ireland/Europe.

OSW: What is your songwriting/composing process?
Peter Doran: The process can and will vary wildly from song to song. It will always start with a scrap of something. That something could be a melody, a chord progression, a lyric or an outline of a story… Sometimes you get lucky and it comes together very quickly. Other times it’s a longer drawn out of process of experiment and waiting. I have been trying more and more these days to put aside a block of time each day for creative work, as opposed to just waiting for inspiration to strike. Someone once said “inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work” … I like that. Regardless of the process you have to put in the time.

OSW: What are you most proud of?
Peter Doran: Probably the last record “Overhead the Stars”. As a project it was so much fun and extremely rewarding. I got to work with some amazing musicians in a wonderful studio, I think it’s a good bunch of songs too, so listening back I’m just proud we managed to pull it off.

OSW: You partially funded your last album by a fan-funding campaign. How do you feel about the fan-funding movement that has developed the past 5 years?
Peter Doran: It’s not something I’ve been following very closely to be honest. There are definitely a lot more people doing it now, it hasreally exploded in the last five years. It is an amazing platform to have, if you have the people to go along with you and make it work.

OSW: I’ve played on several albums without even meeting the person. We discuss the parts, they send a track and we file share parts until they have what they want. Now that you basically have access to any musician in the world, have you thought about having some virtual parts added to your album?
Peter Doran: I worked with an Online Session-Drummer based in Colorado for a few tracks on my “Sleepless Street” album. That was a fun experience and the guy did an amazing job. With technology now the world has opened up in amazing ways, but I still do prefer to record with guys in the same room. I love the good old-fashioned human interaction 🙂

OSW: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Peter Doran: Impossible to say, but there’s a good chance Bob Dylan wrote it…

OSW: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Peter Doran: Write as much as possible, keep going, document every scrap of an idea. Record it on your phone, write it on paper. Don’t be afraid to rewrite. Listen to many types of music.

OSW: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Peter Doran: I think Leonard Cohen. It would just be amazing to spend an afternoon with the guy. He is an absolute grand-master of a songwriter and human being.

I’m convinced he makes good tea too.Peter Doran on the Web
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Hope everyone has a great weekend.


John Lefler


John Lefler

In full disclosure, John Lefler is a very good friend of mine.  I’m headed to his house tonight. So, does this mean that I’m only interviewing people I know? Nope.  Does it mean that my life is filled with many extremely talented people that I’m glad to know? Yes, without a doubt.

Let me introduce you to John,

Name: John Lefler
Current City: Dallas, TX
Label: Good Hang
Most recent release: “Shout Fire EP” – 2012, also recently appeared on Treefallsounds’, “There’s No Local Scene Finer,” 2013 compilation, benefiting the students of W.E. Greiner
Band Affiliation: John Lefler, The Trimbles, Revolution 9, Camille Cortinas, Dashboard Confessional

Brief introduction:
Texas-based artist, John Lefler, has an extensive musical resume to say the least.  As the guitarist for Dashboard Confessional, John has toured for the past decade alongside an impressive solo career of his own.  Currently promoting his sophomore EP, “Shout Fire“, the followup to his previous release in 2009, “Better By Design“, Lefler has garnered notable reviews and tours regularly.  He describes his music as “rock and roll, albeit a lighter 30-something version”, and does not reject a likeness to “power pop”.  With obvious talent, an excellent sense of humor and self, and an honest ability to charm crowds, Lefler is an artist to keep on your radar.

What is your songwriting process?
The songwriting process is probably the worst process in the World – possibly worse than fracking. For me, it generally starts with a simple moment of musical inspiration, which then has to be hammered into shape over the course of days, months, years, or decades. I always start with music – and by that I mean the melody. Writing lyrics is such a pain in the ass, that unless I feel strongly about the tune, I won’t even bother attempting words. Having said that, my best songs are generally the most effortless. My favorite song from my last EP was written, words and music, in about 30 minutes. It took me about 5 months to stop writing it, though. I can say without hyperbole that there are around 25 completed and unused bridges. Oh, and I bounce a rubber ball around the house when I write.

What are you most proud of?
For me, pride comes completely from songwriting. All the success and accolade in the world can’t make a shitty song good – at least in my mind (though I am proven wrong everyday, by music critics who should know better). If an album contains three, or four songs that, 10 years later, I can believe in and still play in my live set, then that’s good enough for me. It’s a percentage that worked pretty well for The Eagles…

What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
“People will always be tempted to wipe their feet on anything with, ‘welcome,’ written on it.”-
Andy Partridge

What advice would you give to young songwriters?
I am not a legendary songwriter, so I feel a bit silly giving advice. However, if I had to, I would tell them that songwriting is a craft. It’s a skill that is acquired and, hopefully, kept sharp. I would advise against being one of those musicians that says, “I don’t want to learn the rules because it will stifle me as an artist.” The groundwork of this profession (or hobby) has been laid by men and women that are much more talented than we are. Learn from them. Don’t just learn ten chords and feel like you’ve, “got it.” Also, technology is a tool. It can’t write a song for you. 99% percent of all great songs ever written can be performed with just a voice and guitar, or piano.

For someone who doesn’t like to give advice, I’m very comfortable on a soapbox.

John on the Web

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I truly appreciate everyone that has stopped by, talked about this blog and/or shared with friends. Please continue to share this page and site with fellow music lovers.

Only two posts next week, but they’re bands I’m excited to share with you.  Both are groups I’ve met through this blog.




Kristin Center

Songwriting, Piano, Dallas, California, Santa Monica

Kristin Center

Prejudging someone is a huge mistake.  Yet we all do it now and then, even though we know it’s wrong.  My wife and I were at Opening Bell Coffee (which apparently is a recurring theme in my blog this week) listening to some music, as we frequently do.  A woman with blonde hair was in the back by herself and focused on the performer.  I, in passing, thought she must be the girlfriend of the singer on stage.  My wife went and got some Iced Tea from the back and said, “Do you know that girl in the back? She said she’s a musician and is new in town. I told her you would come back and talk to her” Now, I love that there are hobbyist musicians in the world.  I wish there were as many “weekend musicians” as there were “weekend golfers”. I think the world would be a better place if we had more people making and supporting music. But, I just don’t want to talk to ALL of them, especially when I’m out listening to music. So, based on faulty reasoning, I went back expecting a hobbyist and introduced myself.  You can tell instantly, by how someone talks about music and writing if they are serious about it. I knew instantly that Kristin was very serious about music and writing.  Just in a brief conversation I knew that this was a very intelligent person who was strongly passionate about the things she believes in.  I’m proud to introduce all of you to Kristin now.

Current City: Santa Monica, CA
Label: Independent
Recent release: Kickstarter project started May 30th (still funding!)

Kristin Center is an American concert pianist, contemporary art-song composer and singer-songwriter known for her unusual writing style that combines Latin funk and Impressionist Classical forms with a fierce lyrical message of open your mind.

I really like the theme for your Kickstarter and the idea of doing a video album, instead of a traditional CD.  How did that all come together?
The concept of fusing the music portion of the project with something completely separate that I’m passionate about really has been in fruition for years. This kickstarter project was the perfect time to join them.

Video really adds a whole other level of connection with a song. Also, I think part of working in any competitive field is understanding what is unique about you. Everyone does an album on kickstarter. Why would I want to be one of the masses.

What is your songwriting/composing process?
The process? If I have time, I write. There will never be a “writer’s block” for me. It’s a very logical process of

1) play Piano,
2) write something.

Now, it takes a lot of writing for me find something I like. I usually sleep on it, for months, and then come back and say, “Nah, I don’t like it anymore.” I probably use about 4% of my ideas. Even when those ideas morph into full songs, I sometimes let them go if they don’t feel right on stage.

How did a trained concert pianist become a songwriter?
I think it was actually the other way around! I was first a by-ear musician. When I started at the piano I started with sounds, not notes on a page. So I wrote a lot of music without ever writing it down. I still do.

My parents saw that out of all the art forms they introduced me to, I was mostly drawn to music. And out of all the instrument affairs I’ve had, I’ve always come home to the piano. I’m a pretty obsessive person, so early on when it came time to really “take on” the piano, for me there was no question but to learn the instrument to the best of my ability. Classical music gradually became a wonderful compositional influence as well as a technique training ground.

What are you most proud of?
I’m proud to be someone who believes in things. I’m proud that I always have something to say, and am never afraid to speak up. Above all, I’m thankfully proud that I’m able to speak everything that I believe competently through music.

What are your favorite songwriting lyrics?
By Others-

So out on the tide we go, knowing it will turn,
And all I really want to do, is find a way to go on through.”
Peter Gabriel/AfroCelt Sound System
Less is more in a lot of ways with lyrics (coming from someone who has to rap to get everything out occasionally!). I also never hear lyrics without music. Listen to the song when you read these!

I’ll let someone else choose that. A fan picked out, “my translucent beauty is forever in the shade.” I looked at it again and thought, “yeah, that’s pretty good.” 🙂

What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?

Play your heart out, be as honest as possible, and remember to look at yourself from your audience’s perspective. Would you pay money for your show?

What have you found is the hardest thing when you commit to music as a career?

The hardest is the acceptance that now the actual music will most likely come second, music business will come first. Some people have definitely been dealt a lucky set of cards, but for those of us born completely out of the music loop (and out of the money loop!), you have to be able to pick up a lot of well-rounded skills, quickly. Oh, yeah, and you can never have a bad day in public.



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Levi Weaver


Levi Weaver

I want to introduce you to Levi Weaver. Levi and I have several mutual friends.  I had heard about him for a while. I was so moved when I finally saw him at Opening Bell Coffee in Dallas that I wrote a song based around the layers of things he builds using the looping pedal at his live performances.  We will also be forever connected by a late night at SXSW involving a silent disco in an enchanted forest.  If you ever run into either of us, ask us about that story.

Name- Levi Weaver
Current City- Nashville, TN
Label- None yet
Most recent release- Last Official release was “I Am Only a Tiny Noise”, in Spring of 2012

Brief introduction
Hi, my name is Levi Weaver. I get uncomfortable in rooms with lots of people unless they’re all looking at me, and I don’t know the answer to “what kind of music do you make?” but I get asked that all the time. Someone once told me I should answer that I make soundtracks to existential crises, but I also like making friends, so I’ve kept that one mostly holstered.

What is your songwriting process?
Step one: get sad or think about eternity and space and what it means to be a self-aware being
Step two: songs

(This really is the only consistency in my method, everything else is kind of chaos)

What are you most proud of?
Today, my son was in the kitchen humming Daft Punk (WHERE DID HE HEAR THAT) and then sang these words: “We walk on accident sun, We walk on accident sun, We walk on accident sun, We walk on Mexican ducky”. I’ll never top that. He’s half me, and still manages to be awesome, so until three weeks ago, he was what I was most proud of, but UPDATE: it’s now a tie, though Holland(3 week old)’s stories mostly involve poop, and that’s not a good interview answer.

What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
*shuffles papers, spins chair, adjusts glasses, clears throat*

We walk on accident sun, We walk on accide

Kidding. Honestly, though – I could give you an entire book of lyrics that I love, but to pick one favorite is an impossible task, so I’ll give you two new ones I discovered within the last month:
1. David Ramirez, The Forgiven: “You’re just a songwriter, you ain’t a preacher. We came to mourn you, not to look in the mirror. Sing about those hard times, sing about those women. We love the broken, not the forgiven.”

2. Casey Black, Fire, Fire, Fire: “This all began when someone liked a piece of land and thought to make a border. This all began when someone said ‘Hey man, don’t blame me, I’m only following orders’. This all began when someone said ‘We are we, and they are they, and we are normal’. This all began when someone said ‘Hey, do you disagree?’ and someone else said ‘yeah… sorta’.”

What advice would you give to young songwriters?
The best advice I ever got about songwriting didn’t come from another songwriter, it came from a comedian (I wish I could remember who), who said (I’m paraphrasing), “it takes ten years to find your voice. You’ll struggle, and you’ll accidentally copy other people, and you’ll be really awful at first, and then somewhere around ten years, you’ll discover your voice, and by then – if you’ve been plugging away, and practicing, you’ll be ready.”

I don’t think it necessarily takes that long with songwriters, but it does take a long time. You really are going to be pretty awful for awhile, even if you have a great voice and even if you’re a good writer, unless you’re some kind of savant. Don’t get discouraged by that. I’ve never understood how in every other profession, you go to school and then do an internship, and then after years and years, you become an expert, but in the arts, people act like they should be Paul McCartney by the time they’re twenty. It’s a skill, just like anything else, albeit one that is intensely personal and vulnerable.

All (ALL. I am not exaggerating about this) all of my favorite singer-songwriters that I’ve ever talked to are absolutely riddled with self-doubt. Embrace that early. If you know ahead of time that you’re not going to be good and you have no choice but to play and write and sing anyway, in spite of the nerves, in spite of the discomfort and embarrassment and social anxiety, just because it’s just in you and HAS to get out, then you’re in the right game. Knowing it ahead of time sorta braces you against crushing disappointment right out of the gates, too.

Levi on the Web
and most importantly, Levi is nearing the end of a fan funded drive to complete his next album.  Please be a part of this process if you can and share with any other music loving friends. Here is the link:

Oh and….. there’s a lovely post about Levi that our friends at Music is My First Language did a couple of years back.  You should stop by and read that too, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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I truly appreciate everyone that has stopped by, talked about this blog and/or shared with friends. Please continue to share this page and site with fellow music lovers.

See you back soon,


Salim Nourallah


I’m thrilled that the first interview came back so quickly.  Even happier that it’s from someone I’ve known for several years.  I expect the interviews to be a mix of long time friends and people I’ve never met before.  I’m excited about communicating with some new songwriters and discussing their process and passion for music. That’s the stuff that keeps all of us going.

I’ve known Salim Nourallah for several years here in Dallas.  Played gigs with him and seen him perform several times. He’s with Tapete Records out of Germany and his most recent release was “Hit Parade” (April 2012)

A Brief Introduction
Salim Nourallah is a North Texas music scene fixture. After gaining initial acclaim with the Denton-based Nourallah Brothers he has gone on to release several solo albums and produce an impressive list of many others (including the Old 97s, Rhett Miller, Deathray Davies & Smile Smile). His solo debut, Polaroid (2004), was met with reviews like this one: “discovering a singer-songwriter who can stop time is rare, but Salim Nourallah is such a find…” (Rolling Stone). Beautiful Noise followed in 2006 to more critical acclaim and he swept the Observer music awards with Best Album/Best Song and Best Producer. Salim has gone on to win 7 consecutive Observer Awards for Best Producer, toured Europe three times and had songs placed on HBO’s the Wire, ABC’s Smallville and the Academy Award winning movie the Wrestler. He recently launched a new project called The Disappearing Act with Dashboard Confessional guitarist, John Lefler, and his 5th solo CD, Hit Parade, was released in 2012 by the German indie label, Tapete Records.

What is your songwriting process?
I wait for inspiration to strike. Really, it’s as simple and complicated as that. I never write unless I’ve been struck by inspiration. Of course I never know when it’s going to happen. It’s happened while I’m driving, sleeping, running, waiting for late friends to arrive. Now it seems to happen in the cracks of my busy life.

What are you most proud of?
I’m especially proud of the body of work I’ve produced over the last 10 years. Not only the five full-length solo records under my own name but also all of the records for other artists that I’ve produced. Some of my favorites are;
Buttercup “Weather is Here”; Old 97s “Grand Theatre”; Sammy Strittmatter “Here But Gone”; I Love Math “Getting To The Point…”; Rhett Miller self-titled,  Rahim Quazi “Big Black Box”

What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
I have so many it’s impossible to answer but one of my favorites is “Nothing’s gonna change my world” (Across the Universe)

What advice would you give to young songwriters?
Figure out what you want to say or what emotion you’d like to evoke before you start writing a song. That’s really important in my opinion. Also, figure out what makes songs with your favorite lyrics work and why. Then try and use elements they use in your own songs.
Thanks to Salim for being the first one in the door at our blog.  Please be a part of his next album on his Kickstarter Page. He is truly a talented guy and you’ll enjoy being part of the process.

Salim on the Web


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See you back soon,


(Photo by Jonathan Holloway)