And finally, one of the best things I got out of PhilPop was my very first big band song. How many people get to hear their song performed live by a big band? Then again, come to think of it, I guess it's not something every songwriter dreams of. Not a lot of people are exposed to the big band sound after all.
Well, I wouldn't consider myself a fan of jazz, and I didn't grow up listening to this genre, but there were a few Barry Manilow songs that stuck with me: Cloudburst, Bandstand Boogie and Avenue C. I loved the sound of the big swing drums, the rhythm and feel, the bright tones of the instruments.
Two years ago, I got to listen to AMP Big Band for the first time. AMP is the Asosasyon ng Musikong Pilipino (Association of Filipino Musicians) and one of its members, renowned musical director Mel Villena is now the band's leader and main arranger. The venue, then called Ten-02 and now known as Skarlet's (located along Scout Ybardolaza near the corner of Timog), was packed with people - a quarter of which was the band itself, since there were about 18 musicians. When they started to play, it was all goosebumps for me. Glorious, rich, soul-penetrating, amazing. How could it not be? You had an 18-piece band made up of the best musicians in the country, all of whom were there to play not for the money but to feed their souls and the audience's too. And that they certainly did.
I was an instant fan. Upon finding out they didn't have a website or Facebook Fan Page, I opened one for them (visit it by clicking HERE) and brought Mel in to be administrator as well. I feel proud to be part of this group's history somehow, if only in this tiny way.
And so when PhilPop came along and I was trying to think out of the box for a song to submit, AMP Big Band came to mind. And I was so restless with excitement I kept pacing my little condo hallway and came up with the chorus right there and then.
The overall groove was the first thing to come to mind. That intro of Avenue C and Sing Sing Sing, and what Mel later on explained to me was like a "call to the dance floor", that was my main inspiration of my song "Bigtime," a song I now describe as a cross between "Candyman" and "Beh Buti Nga." I wrote the song in Tagalog, which was more difficult for me, but I felt it would work better as a PhilPop entry this way.
I went all out on this song. I asked Mel how much it would cost to record the song with the least number of musicians that would create that big band sound. It would require 10 musicians, a big studio, plus Mel's arrangement. Pricey, as anyone would guess, but a price I was willing to pay and a risk I was willing to take. I wanted an entry that would blow away the screening committee, and a song which, in case it never made it to PhilPop, would be something I would still cherish and be proud of. I told Mel I had a good feeling about the song, so I just went for it. And part of my excitement was seeing that Mel was excited about the project, too!
Taking the risk paid off - bigtime! The day of the recording alone, I was giddy with excitement. I even brought my parents along, since they had become friends with Mel and wife Nori, too, plus my dad loved the big band sound even more than I did. This was something they just had to be part of.
I couldn't get over it! I had the best musicians in the country playing on MY song! Click on the video below (or click HERE to watch on youtube) for a short behind-the-scenes video and to hear part of the song.
I must say Mel did an excellent job of arranging the song. I purposely gave him a rough demo that was very "loose" and "open" that would allow him to work his magic. I knew he would do a great job, and yet he exceeded my expectations.
I would hear much later on various accounts of how "Bigtime" made a mark on the judges because it was so different from all the other entries (not to mention those with trained ears were wondering who in the world would be crazy enough to spend on live musicians for their demo without any assurance of making it to the finals!) and how they were so surprised when the composers of the Top14 songs were finally revealed that the song was written by me. Exactly the way I had wanted things to go.
I do hope this isn't the last time I get to work with Mel and his fabulous group. Maybe I'll have the privilege of writing more songs for them in the future.
Only a contest like PhilPop could push me beyond my comfort zone and come up with this piece of work I so love. Thanks for this, PhilPop, and for all the other blessings that have come with my participating. What a ride! I do hope this contest becomes a yearly thing so that more and more songwriters get the chance to be showered with blessings as well.
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
GreatSongsToSing is my online store and I thank you for dropping by! Do comment on my blog posts. I'd love to hear from you!
Learn more about me on www.trinabelamide.com.