Searching the web provides a number of great articles about Preston. Here are a few stand-outs:
While his name may not be regularly mentioned amongst the hierarchy of all-time R&B producer/writer greats like Gamble & Huff, Jam & Lewis, Babyface and even his one time boss Narada Michael Walden, there’s nevertheless no disputing the fact that California-based Preston Glass does hold a mighty impressive CV in his own right.
With his career peaks including writing Natalie Cole’s 1989 international Number One ‘Miss You Like Crazy’ and producing the biggest-selling jazz/pop LP of the Eighties – Kenny G’s multi-Platinum ‘Duotones’ – fact is Preston’s long range of writing and/or production credits range from such bona fide mainstream black icons as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross and Earth, Wind & Fire; to respected connoisseur favourites like Angela Bofill, Lenny Williams and Phyllis Hyman.
Having been initially exposed to many different cultures and musics from his early travels while growing up as an “army brat”, Preston first started out as a staff writer for legendary Philly producer/writer Thom Bell in the late Seventies – before blossoming as both a writer and producer under the auspices of then man-of-the-moment Narada Michael Walden in the Eighties. During which decade he collaborated with most of the aforementioned superstars.
Meanwhile, this month has seen the release of Preston’s own album “Music As Medicine.” Where he combines his considerable production/songwriting skills with a range of guest artists, ranging from new protégés like young Latino soul man Carlos and ragga-rapper Silver Turtle; to such established soul names as Earth, Wind & Fire frontman Maurice White; former Sly & The Family Stone bassist Larry Graham; one-time Temptation Ali Woodson; as well as the arguably least-known member of the famed Jackson siblings, oldest sister Rebbie Jackson.
A long-standing ‘B&S’ reader and admirer, an affable and humble-mannered Preston speaks about his ambitious new project from his LA studio.
– Let’s start by discussing your new album ‘Music As Medicine.’
“The title reflects how music has always been a healing force, a feel-good source, and a life-saving course in my life – and how I wanted to do a project that had that same effect on everyone who heard it. You know, I basically set out to compose and arrange songs that had that soul-stirring and heart-touching thread running through them. So, in addition to the record being a reflection of me, I also wanted to reach a lotta different kinds of people. I actually include my musical influences in the booklet inside the CD, and you will notice the wide variety there. The singers include everyone from James Brown to Neil Diamond to Carole King. While on the writing side I go from Tony Hatch to Bob Marley! And I guess the music itself kinda reflects that diversity.”
– How did some of the well-known guest artists become involved?
“I’d say 99% of them basically came from working relationships I’ve had over the years. Whether it be me working on a project of their’s, or vice versa…For instance, Rebbie Jackson I got to know when I was working on her brother Jermaine’s album back in the Eighties, and her family and I have kinda become friends over the years.
Then with (contemporary R&B songstress) LaToya London – though she was one of the ‘American Idol’ finalists the same year as Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson, I’d actually met her years before that, when she was just 13 – when I almost got her a deal with Clive Davis.
Wilton Felder (legendary Crusaders saxman) meanwhile has played on many earlier projects I’ve been involved with.
Larry Graham actually happens to be my brother-in-law! His wife is my wife’s sister!
Then Maurice White and I are also very good friends. We originally met when I worked with Earth, Wind & Fire back in the Eighties. We stayed in contact, and actually over the last 10/15 years we’ve written like 30 songs together. And, while he has had some health problems, he’s actually better now than he has been in a long time. But, because he hasn’t come out with anything recently, I guess people have assumed he’s still too ill to work. So, one of the reasons I really pushed him to do something on this album, was to let people know that he’s fine again.”
– Who of the many legends you’ve worked with over the years stand out and why?
“In terms of musical technique I guess Aretha Franklin for me is actually a creative genius. Everybody knows her voice. But a lotta people don’t really take notice of the fact that firstly, she’s a great piano player and secondly, just her speech alone can inspire creativity. I mean, the song “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” came from her just talking on the telephone with me and Narada! She was talking about her love-life, about going to a club and just getting away from it all. She was like “I’m lookin’ at him, he’s lookin’ at me – and it’s like well, who’s zoomin’ who?” In that conversation alone we musta wrote down, like 10 song titles! So that part of her is very creative.
Then one thing I like to tell people about Diana Ross is that, though she gets a lotta flack for being a diva, she was actually one of the nicest artists I’ve ever worked with! She was very gracious. You know, usually – when you do a project with an artist – you turn it in, it’s done, then you say goodbye and you don’t talk to them for a long time. Whereas, when I finished working with Diana, she sent us free tickets to her show, booked us free dinner at Spargo’s – a really classy restaurant here in LA… And she didn’t have to do ANY of that! So, that’s one side of her the public don’t know about and that I think might surprise people.”
How do you feel about the difference between today’s R&B marketplace and your chart-topping heyday in the Eighties?
“A lotta people my age and older, that come from the same musical background as me, complain today about the downloading, the industry changes and the type of music. I personally don’t think it’s the recording artists and creative people that are to blame. Neither, in my opinion, do I even think it’s the fault of the people who are pirating, because, at the end of the day, piracy itself has been around in one form or another for years. And, while it is illegal, it does serve as being a promotional tool. The people I personally blame are the record companies and radio stations that in recent times have tried to monopolize artists and have become very lazy. To where they feel they can just make money sitting on their laurels without developing artists and finding rare talent. I mean, the example I always use is how, back in the Sixties, Berry Gordy had so many different styles of singers on that one label – Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5… None of them sounded alike, yet all of them ended up being legends. And, as a producer, the change I suddenly saw happening in the Nineties was that record companies would call me and always say things like “You gotta bring me something like Brandy!” or whoever was selling at the time…basically they were wanting IMITATION instead of ORIGINALITY. Which I think was the big downfall that’s since backfired on them.”
So where do we go from here?
“I actually think now is an exciting time. Because, while everything is a little unsure, basically anybody today can just put out their music and get it exposed potentially to MILLIONS, without having to go to any big corporation. So, while a lotta people are still complaining, I’m actually thinking POSITIVE right now. I personally think this could be the start of a good time for real music again.”
The album “Music As Medicine” is out now through Expansion Records
Words By: PETE LEWIS
VIDEO INTERVIEW DIALOGUE:
Preston says of “Music As Medicine,” his brand new album on Expansion Records:
“Because of the way that music has always been a healing force, a feel-good source, and a life-saving course in my life, I wanted to do a project that had that effect on those that would hear it. Whether it’s the melody, the lyric, or just the sheer groove, I set out composing and arranging songs that had the thread of “soul-stirring” and “heart touching”.
Once the songs started to evolve, the core of guest artists and musicians started to formulate in a natural way; primarily because people usually want to be involved in something that would make people “feel better.”
Names such as Ali Woodson, Rebbie Jackson, Brian Culbertson, Maurice White, Dave Koz, Larry Graham, Amy Keys, Wilton Felder & LaToya London (of “American Idol” fame) all contributed to the potpourri stew of nourishing music.
Up & coming protÃ©gÃ© artists like Seabron, Lyndon Carter, Oya, Gem, Kellie Blaise, Silver Turtle, Craig Thomas, Carlos, Punkin, Darric Graham & Keni Jackson add the right spice to make the CD flavored just right. Previously for Expansion, Preston Glass wrote/produced key tracks for the ALI OLLIE WOODSON album “Right Here All Along.”
AGENDA FASHION AND LIFESTYLE ONLINE MAGAZINE
Award-Winner Songwriter/Producer Preston Glass Talks About His Career and Gives Advice to Musicians Navigating Their Way Through the New Music Industry
By: Kaylene Peoples
You might not recognize his name, but I bet you’ve heard his music. Preston Glass is a songwriter and a producer who has written over 30 R&B hits and 5 top ten hits with artists such as Whitney Houston, Earth, Wind & Fire, George Benson, Lionel Richie, Aretha Franklin, and more.
He is a five-time BMI Award winner (three songs received the Millionaire Awards), and he was a professor of music at UCLA (extension programs). I recently had the privilege of hearing him perform some of his hits at the Westport Jazz Festival in Los Angeles.
I visited Preston’s home in Los Angeles. Upon entering, the first thing you see is his beautiful baby grand piano in the living room. He guided me to his home studio, full of musical equipment and a sound room. Up on the computer screen was a song he was working on, displayed in the sequencing program Logic Audio.
While I sipped my Good Earth Spice tea he had prepared for me, I had a lovely chat with him about his career and where the music industry is headed today for both established and independent artists.
Interview by: Kaylene Peoples
Responses: by Preston Glass
Tell me a little bit about your career.
“I started writing songs on guitar when I six. I didn’t actually know what I was doing when I was composing. My older brother asked me where I heard the song I was playing, and I told him I made it up. He was shocked, so he had a little tape recorder and started taping my songs. I was about 10 or so. I kept writing songs with the encouragement of my family and friends.
I have been doing it professionally ever since I got out of high school. I signed with a company as a staff writer to Tom Bell. Philly Sound was the next big black music company after Motown. Their music was The O’Jays, “The Love Train,” “Betcha by Golly Wow,” etc. In the late 70s I started sending my music to them. I relocated to Seattle, and Tom Bell signed me, took me under his wing; and after a couple of years I started having cuts with Denise Williams, Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Temptations. I started writing for Narada Michael Walden and wrote for Angela Bofill, Aretha Franklin, and a young new singer named Whitney Houston. That’s when I started really learning production.
We were in the studio cutting tracks. Clive Davis’s label was producing hits, and he saw my name on the credits and asked me if I wanted to produce Kenny G. With a small budget, I produced Kenny G, and “Song Bird” exploded. Then the floodgates opened, and I got thrust into production, but I still consider myself a songwriter even now. I still play and sing a little on the songs I produce.
In 2006 I became an artist. A jazz label wanted me to be a solo artist, and I was asked to do an album, Street Corner Prophesy, which featured Al Jarreau, Johnny Mathis, The Spinners. My second release, Music As Medicine, had Brian Colbertson, Rebbie Jackson, Larry Graham, Maurice White, and I just released an album last December. The first single, “Orange You Ready,” went to the top ten.”
Do you do a lot of performing?
“I’m toying with the idea of doing an all-star cast of people who’ve sung on my album.”
I understand you also teach?
“I taught at San Diego State, and I taught at UCLA a couple of years ago, “Song Writing in Today’s Music Industry.”
I’m very interested in hearing real professionals who are doing music in today’s industry offer ways to help those independent musicians. Everybody’s scratching his head trying to figure it all out.
Offering my two cents on how I can help is definitely a passion of mine.”
“Those are big questions, and the answers to those questions are evolving every day. When a lot of my contemporaries are being asked those questions, they blame it on pirating (stealing music). In this case, I guess free downloading of music. But I don’t think that’s the blame. Pirating has always been there—maybe not at this large of a scale.”
So it’s not Napster’s fault?
“No. Back in the day people recorded albums on cassette and shared it with their friends. But most people, after hearing it on the copied cassette, some would go out and buy it. So, to me it was like promotion. It’s always been that way. So to blame free downloading and pirating is not the end all. Now let’s look at the record companies who have always been the ones to reap the most benefits monetarily, more so than the creators of the music (producers, artists, publishers). Let’s not look at the independents right now but the big artists like Rolling Stones, Mariah Carey, who are brands. They don’t need record companies now. The labels used to be the only way to get the music to the people, that and radio, television maybe a little. Record companies kept the lion’s share of the money (85%). So, now that they’re not needed primarily, unless the artist wants them, we’re seeing a shift. Instead of the record company signing these artists and giving them an opportunity, now it’s the other way around. For instance, John Legend gave Sony a chance to distribute his music, the contract is more to John’s benefit. Prince was the first to do that. Record companies don’t have a monopoly anymore; that’s why they’re closing shop.
Now the independent artist trying to break in . . . it is a little harder; but then in some ways I think it weeds out the men from the boys, so to speak. The ones that can’t perform and bring their audiences with them and create a buzz or following are the ones that are weeded out. It’s really the ones that are studio-type artists that can’t really get out there and perform. The ones that can get out there and perform, even though they haven’t gotten exposure on a mass distribution, they start building a following through word of mouth, and then eventually something will happen. The good thing is you don’t have to sell a million albums to make money. One of the reasons why some artists have had to sell a million to break even is they would get a little up-front money—most of that went to pay for the album. The record company would charge all that back and do a promotional recoup. It was nonstop where they’d never recoup. That’s why Tony Braxton and TLC, who’ve sold millions of albums, went bankrupt. Now if you sell 20,000 records, multiply it by $10 per CD sale, you just made $200,000. It adds up.”
When you’re selling music at a show, how do you get the Sound Scan?
“But what’s the goal? To pocket the money, right?”
Well, I think some people will want to pocket it, but I also think some people might want to get the notoriety and possibly be considered for a Grammy, too, or at least be considered viable on that level. So you can sell your CDs out of your car, but you’re not advancing your career.
“Yes, then you need to do it right, even if you do it on your own label. Barcode it, and now they have these international record recording codes per song.”
The ISRC codes?
“Exactly. The older people are still trying to do it the old way, and they are a little bitter about not getting the big up-front money and letting the record company do everything and all they have to do is sing. Those days are gone. But they don’t have the royalties on those huge hits. Look at the Stylistics (“Betcha by Golly Wow”). They had eight top ten pop hits and R&B and hits, too. The labels they were on weren’t that big; and when those labels sold, their accounting was so bad they got nothing from those hits. I made a deal with them to make a new album. If they made a new CD, they’d sell a lot of CDs because they have a huge following. Three years ago I convinced them to pay for a new album. I charged $15,000.00 for the whole album. I even got them a full orchestra on three songs. For four grand a member they pooled their money, and they made their money back; and I got them a deal in Japan. It took two years to convince them because they were so set in their ways. I also gave them a piece of the publishing. We’re about to do the same thing with Cuba Gooding, Sr. (“Everybody Plays the Fool”).”
This is a different side of things. We’ve been focusing on the new artists, but you don’t think about the established artist who’s flailing. What about them? Any advice you’d like to give?
“Follow your instincts and don’t try to follow exactly what everybody else is doing. I remember in the early 90s when hip-hop was getting big. I was talking to this publisher about switching to hip-hop. He said the world will revolve and circle back. Stand there and do what you do, and it will come back around to you. At first I didn’t know what that meant, but it has proven to be true. This business, this art form, is full of opinions. Sometimes none of them are wrong and none of them are right. So don’t put your faith in every word. They might be negative, but if you really believe in what you’re doing, do it! There are tons of people who’ve been told no, and they ended up being the greatest artists in histories. Remember The Beatles?”
My mom always says cream rises to the top. Eventually you’ll get there. Any last words?
“In my career and in my life there were a few people who’ve steered me in the right direction. This industry is a lot about avoiding pitfalls really. If you hit a pitfall that’s a bad one, it will take you a while to get out of it. But if you can avoid it, you’re on a faster track. I always say when I’m teaching, “This is not the end all because there are a lot of different ways of doing things.” And yes, the cream does rise to the top!”
Preston Glass CDs are available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and CD Universe.
———————————————————–THRILL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP
BIO: PRESTON GLASS
As a successful commercial songwriter/producer, Preston Glass has few equals, and fewer who surpass. BMI tallies 567 fanglasstic titles, so the bar is high and still rising.
Glass, of New Orleans musical heritage, also teaches music, as did his grandfather and mother. Through UCLA he offers Glassology to a savvy generation of tin pan hopefuls, as he gladly shares his tricks and trademarks.
Truly the renaissance writer/producer, he ably performs his own musical tracks, arranges, mixes, and writes lyrics and melodies.
Forging hit after illustrious hit, Professor Glass often gleans the best from himself in collaborations. His inspired #1 SMASH, “Miss You Like Crazy”, paired him with Michael Maser and Gerry Goffin. Their Natalie Cole recording garnered the coveted BMI Million-Air Award, and keeps on going….
He also penned the Glassic Million-Air, “Don’t Make Me Wait For Love” for Kenny G, another evergreen. Glass’s glistening production is also imprinted on G’s breakout landmark, “Song Bird”.
Earth, Wind & Fire strode to #1 on his “System Of Survival” production.
A third Million-Air Award was bestowed on Aretha Franklin’s “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, a co-write with Narada Michael Walden.
Additional BMI Awards were lauded on his glassical cuts, “Jimmy Lee”/Aretha and “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off”/Jermain Stewart.
In Europe, Glass is recognized by his Brit Awards Song Of the Year nominated “Sweetness”, a #1 UK hit for Michelle Gayle.
In Film and television exploitations, “Acapulco Heat” used Glassophonic music recurrently.
“Big Bully”, starring Tom Arnold and Rick Moranis, utilizes the Glassingle, “You Were My 911″.
The Showtime movie, “Right Connections” features five shards of Glass, with “Night Vision” spinning three.
The newly released “Down ‘N Dirty” soundtrack LP serves up seven songs while Glass co-produced the entire album.
His “Shout Of The Streets” is the closing theme of “Original Gangstas”. Additional film and TV producers that have gone to Glass for cuts include, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier, and Jeff Franklin.
Recent chart action proves that Glass is truly Mr. Eveready. The Brian Culbertson/Atlantic Top 10 LP, “Somethin’ ‘Bout Love” features the smooth-as-Glass track “Sittin’” Back” and has charted for 45+ weeks.
Glass is Top 10, again, by Norman Conners/Capitol-Right Stuff on his “Eternity ” LP with the Glass-penned single, “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore”. Yet another new face Glassed up in lights, the hip-hop/top 40 pop act, SOULDECISION, bubbled up to #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers with the LP “No One Does It Better”. The LP features chiseled Glass on, “Feelin’ You”. With Christina Aguilera and N’Sync tours rolling for the newcomers, they are bound to bubble higher.
Nu Skool Joyntz from Professor Glass include theme work and music supervision for an animation by Hand In Hand Productions, “The Ironheads”, and a Bryville Productions work, “High Caliber”, by scriptwriter, Gerard Brown (“Juice”).
Continuing to Glassify soundtracks, Glass provided music, production, and supervision on the Narcissistic Films feature, “That Summer In LA” slated to street in Fall 2001. Due to out soon, as well, are numerous Glass produced songs with The Dells and Freda Payne. New tracks are under construction with The Natural Four and a three-peat by the legendary Earth, Wind & Fire.
Timeless Glassics have, in all, chalked up 30+ Top10 R&B Hits, 5 Top10 Pop Hits, and 5 BMI Award Winning Songs. If that is not Glasstronomical enough, Natalie Cole and George Benson both feature a Blast from Glass in their just released “Best Of’s”.
So, if you want a Hit, the Bomb, an Evergreen, or some heavy metal like, say Gold or Platinum, just check out the Glassifieds for another “Hall of Game” track.