FAMILY & EDUCATION: Summer Song Writing Q&A with Elizabeth McQueen
Elizabeth McQueen led last year’s hugely popular Song Writing Intensive. She is a Grammy nominated musician who spent eight years as the front-woman for Asleep at the Wheel. Her new band, EMQ, is an electronic pop outfit that highlights the unique talents of members McQueen, Lindsay Greene, and Lauren Gurgiolo. Elizabeth has released several solo albums and hosts a weekly Saturday morning show on KUTX as well as their new podcast, “This Song,” where she talks to musicians about life changing songs, inspiration, and creativity.
The Paramount Academy for the Arts’ Song Writing Intensive returns August 1-5 at the Stateside Theatre, and is open to 6th through 12th grade students. Visit the website for more information about the class, to learn about scholarship opportunities, or to register. Get the inside scoop on the program and read our Q&A with the musical mentor, below.
Paramount Academy for the Arts: You’ve been making music in Austin for over a decade. From your time with Asleep at the Wheel, to solo albums, to your band EMQ, and your show and podcast on KUTX. If parents or young songwriters come across this class and aren’t familiar with Elizabeth McQueen, what should they know?
Elizabeth McQueen: I guess the first thing they should know is that I truly love teaching songwriting. I’ve done a lot of different things in my decade and a half as a professional musician — I’ve toured the country and Europe in both vans and buses — I’ve played Radio City Music Hall and quite possibly every dance hall in Texas — I’ve been on a record that was nominated for a Grammy — I’ve written songs and led bands and sung other people songs and now, at age 39, I’m quite excited to share everything I’ve learned with the next generation of musicians.
PAA: What is your earliest memory of song writing?
EM: I used to write songs when I was a kid in my room with my little toy piano. I knew nothing about playing piano, so they were very free form, and often thematically based on what I was hearing on the radio back in 1984.
PAA: If you could tell your younger self one thing you’ve learned about song writing over the years, what would it be?
EM: The more mistakes you make, the better you’re going to end up in the end. Allow yourself to write a lot of bad songs, because you’ll learn something new with every bad song, and eventually those bad songs will lead you to songs you can stand behind.
PAA: What makes Austin a great city for music?
EM: Austin has an incredibly open artistic scene. If you want to play music or make something new, all you have to do is ask, and a bunch of people will offer to help you out. At least that’s been my experience.
PAA: Tell me a little bit about the song writing class. What can students expect?
EM: We’ll be mostly talking about different strategies for getting into a song. Songwriting is an incredibly personal endeavor, so often it’s about allowing people to find ways to access the parts of themselves that will allow songs to come out.
PAA: You taught the class last year. What did you enjoy about it?
EM: I really loved seeing each student discover different aspects of their creative process — what worked for them and what didn’t. And I loved the camaraderie that developed over the course of the class. Songwriting is deeply personal, and sharing your attempts at different songwriting techniques can make a person feel quite vulnerable. Watching the students’ bravery and support of each other was incredible.