August 12, 2021

Q & A Interview with American Songwriter Debra Gussin



During this horrible global pandemic crisis, everyone was challenged in one or another way, which gave me the idea to feature a few creative guests in my summer blog series Corona & Creativity. 

My last guest in my blog series 2021 is the lovely multiple award-winning American songwriter and lyricist, Debra Gussin. She discovered her passion for music at the age of twelve. Her career would lead her on a journey through TV production and the entertainment industry until she won the Concord Records & Barry Manilow Songwriting Scholarship (four times), prompting Debra to shift her focus to creating songs.


Debra has been named Best Lyricist at the 2016 and 2017 HOLLYWOOD MUSIC IN MEDIA AWARDS, as well Best Adult Contemporary/AAA Song in 2013. In 2015, she won the UK Songwriting Contest with the song lyric "Best Actor" and in 2018 she became a Grammy-voting member of The Recording Academy. She is also a Grand Prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and has won several Film Festivals around the world in the categories of Best Original Song and Best Music Video.     

 

Debra is truly an inspirational and lovely lady. When she was asked if luck played a meaningful role in her life and business, her response was:

 

“I don’t really believe in bad luck. When I want something to happen, and it doesn’t, I try to look at it as being pointed in a different direction. I do my best to remain positive and open to what the universe brings my way.” 

Debra Gussin


Lovely Debra, thank you so much for being my blog guest. It is truly an honor. Tell me, what does creativity mean to you? 

To me, creativity means transforming your imagination and ideas into reality…generating something that didn’t exist before, or seeing something that does exist in a different way. 

As a lyricist, one moment there’s a blank page, and a period of time later, there are words on the page.  For an artist, it could be a blank page followed by a drawing, or an empty canvas followed by a painting.  

Creativity is what happens in between the blankness and the content.


What is your favourite creative activity?

My favorite creative activity is songwriting.  Coming up with a musical and lyrical creation from nothing, and ultimately making someone else feel something from that.

What is your favourite color?

My favorite color is blue.  Particularly navy blue and turquoise.


Do you think creative people are happier in general?

I’m a creative person, so I would like to say yes, but I don’t know that every creative person is necessarily happier than a less creative person.  Yet, in their own way, isn’t everyone creative at doing something?  A scientist can be creative in coming up with a cure for a disease, just as much as a songwriter can be creative in coming up with an idea that moves someone, makes them laugh or makes them cry.  

Creativity can be an outlet for one’s inner thoughts. Many people voice their emotions through their creations, using creativity as a form of therapy, healing, and figuring out life. 

If someone has a consistent way to express themselves, their moods, and experiences, I would think that would lead them to be happier in general, as they wouldn’t have to keep anything bottled up.  

On the other hand, if someone is creating something emotional, it might mean re-living a sad time in their life while drawing from that experience.  While it might not make them happy in that moment, later on they may find that working through that emotion helped them release the sadness related to it.

Just knowing that your creation may help someone also brings a sense of contentment.  Creative people feel most fulfilled and happy when they enrich the lives of others through their creations.


Would you say creativity is kind of a self-therapy?

Yes, it can be. Not everything one creates is necessarily therapeutic, but I think our life experiences certainly contribute to our creations, whether consciously or unconsciously.

As a lyricist and songwriter, I have the ability to create a character in a song, and give them the words and thoughts I might have wanted to say in a situation, but perhaps didn’t, or thought of it after the fact.  Similarly, a painter can come up with a scene that details their perspective on a situation.  




Would you say that creative people are more driven and disciplined?

I’m not sure whether drive and discipline are necessarily related to creating.  It can take a long time to create something that feels finished to the creator.  In songwriting, I re-write a lot until a song communicates what I want it to say.  Has it been said before?  How can I say it differently or in a fresh way, or in a way that an artist wouldn’t write it for themselves?  While that does take drive and discipline, to me that’s still part of the creative process.

Once a song feels finished to me (which doesn’t mean it actually is!), and it’s recorded in a way that best demonstrates the song I intended to write, that’s when my drive and discipline to get people to hear it come into play.  But that’s more of the business side of things, and not all creative people are adept at that aspect.  Many people like to move on to create their next project, and let someone else take care of the business part of their creations so that they can continue to create.

I think drive and discipline depend on an individual’s strength in that area, separate from the act of creating.  But the more of it you have, the more people you can hopefully get to experience your creations.


What did you create during Lockdown? 

I actually worked on holiday songs during lockdown.  Since the news around the world was filled with so much sadness, I tried to use the opposite emotion to create some happiness and positivity.  Santa was a big inspiration during that time, ho ho ho!

Were your creative skills natural or trained?

When it comes to songwriting, I would have to say both.  Growing up, I always had an inclination to rhyme.  So, that part is probably natural.  I also took many music classes in school, learning the violin, flute, guitar, piano, and sang in my school chorus.  I’m sure I’ve drawn on those early lessons without realizing it, as things learned in our youth can become second nature over the years.

But the craft of writing a song and lyrics, such as song structures, how words sing, and how they fit with melody, are definitely something that I had to be trained to do.  I’m grateful to a number of wonderful songwriters and teachers who have mentored me over the years, and I continue to learn from them.

Lovely Debra with my favorite TV character, Monk (Tony Shalhoub)
I love this man! :-)

A new study from researchers has found that women are engaged in creative fields like art, music and literature at higher rates than men and are generally more creative than men. What is your thought on that?

I haven’t heard of this new study that you mention, where more women are engaged in creative arts than men.  I work with many men when writing songs, and recently heard a statistic that only 2% of music producers are women.  In country music for example, radio plays mostly male artists, even though there are many female artists making music in that genre.  

It just might be a matter of the “powers that be” deciding which of those creators they will invest in to market and promote.  So perhaps in pop music we hear about more female artists, and in rock we hear about more male artists? 

Perhaps men and women are drawn to different areas of creating, but I think in general we’re all creating.    

Debra's inspiration from young age, the legendary Barry Manilow

Do you think being creative and productive is also related to season?

I tend to create more new songs in the winter months, at least first drafts and new ideas that I can work on and finish up throughout the rest of the year.  But in general, I create all year long, regardless of the season.  With regards to time of day, I’m more creative late at night.

Words that describe myself to your blog visitors? 

Storyteller, musical, lyrical, imaginative, innovative, authentic, enthusiastic, articulate, dynamic, productive, energetic, inquisitive, perceptive, insightful, sensitive, expressive, compassionate, empathetic, artistic, friendly, kind.

Debra with the crème de la crème of the Hollywood & Music industries

Debra, thank you again for being my summer blog guest, and best of luck with all your creative activities and music projects. You have motivated me to participate in this year's UK songwriting contest. I hope I can share positive news! 

If you like to know more about Debra Gussin, follow her on Social media or visit her website!


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