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Coral Egan: In the Key of C

Robert J. Lewis By

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I can
Coral EganI could feel the vibes, the excitement in her voice. She was in the studio, in the throes of creation, and I felt the last thing on her mind was indulging an interview. And yet there I was, the self-designated musicus interruptus, whom this gracious young lady abided for almost an hour. We began speaking about her new CD, provisionally entitled Magnify, due for release in August, 2007.

All About Jazz: Is Magnify going to be an extension of or departure from My Favorite Distraction (Justin Time, 2004)?

Coral Egan: For sure, it's going to be simpler, and for the first time in my career I'm collaborating with someone: Jay Atwill.

AAJ: Tell us about Jay and how you began to write music together?

CE: During our many long hours on the road touring as a duo, we would often discuss the lyrics and music I was already writing for this next album. We developed an excellent rapport and at some point it occurred to me that it would be nice to get out of my own musical bubble and collaborate with another artist. And of course I'm a great admirer of both Jay's music and lyrics and I was pretty sure that working with him would enhance my own song writing skills.

AAJ: Was one of you more responsible for the melodies, the lyrics?

CE: That would depend on the song. But throughout the writing process, there was a lot of give and take with most of it happening quite spontaneously and instinctively.

AAJ: How did you go about resolving musical conflicts? For example, Jay introduces a melody line you don't like, or vice versa?

CE: I tend to be very frank with what works and what doesn't with my music, and seeing that it is my album, someone has to have the last word and that fell to me. From Jay's side, there were absolutely no feelings of possessiveness which really impressed me because you to have a lot of self-confidence to be in that kind of dynamic; I hope he enjoyed the process as much as I did.

AAJ: So Magnify is going to be simpler. Is simpler an implicit criticism of the quite complex My Favorite Distraction?

CE: I think there's a tendency to want to put everything you have into your first album—not necessarily to show off but to prove that not only can you do it, but you do it and it works. Of course there are things that I would do differently now but that's OK because I'm evolving as a composer and I hope my best work is still ahead of me. I look at My Favorite Distraction (MFD) as a learning experience and necessary link to what's next.

AAJ: Did you deliberately try to simplify your writing?

CE: No, it just came out that way in the writing process. For sure, Jay's input was invaluable.

AAJ: What song are you most proud of from MFD?

CE: I have come to really appreciate "Breathe. For the longest time I was struggling with the lyrics when Charles [Papasoff], my producer, sat me down one afternoon and told me to write them—and the words just flowed. Charles, who is very inspirational, somehow liberated me from my usual way of writing and it resulted in the most poetic lyrics I've written to date.

AAJ: Some people don't like to listen to other music when they're in the studio for fear of it sneaking into the final result. Your comments?

CE: To be honest, after listening to music all day, the last thing you want to do when you get home is listen to more. But I was listening to lots of music while writing for Magnify. Prior to that, I had spent years listening to almost no one, so it was almost a relief when got back into it again, facilitated by my boyfriend-DJ's incredible music collection.

AAJ: How do you create? How does the blank page get filled?

CE:: There are so many ways this can happen, but the key is to be receptive to the beginning of something that will disappear unless you recognize it for what it is. Before I even sit down at either the piano or guitar, I already feel that there is a musical idea locked up inside me that wants to come out. So I start fooling around with the notes, and it usually isn't long before a certain chord or sequence of notes hits me in a certain way and I know that's it—the beginning of something that wants to grow, and I'm kind of just helping it along. After that, I might develop it in one or two sittings or I might have to work on it for months. Sometimes you come to a point where something isn't working—and I might have to try hundreds of combinations before I get it right. And then, if it's right, it might not be right for the bass which means I might have to change it again.



The other way I write is when I'm away from my instruments: I might be going for a walk or biking and a melody or an idea for a song pops into my head. First thing I do when I get home is go to the piano and begin working on it so I don't lose it.

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