Melody Federer, Burt Bacharach Combine to Shine on “Bridges”

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“Bridges” – a new track from Melody Federer and Burt Bacharach – is a beautiful love ballad with lush production, reminiscent of the grandeur of 1970s staples from Linda Ronstadt or Dionne Warwick.

It features lyrics penned by Federer, music composed by Bacharach, and production from Daniel Tashian (Kacey Musgraves The Golden Hour). The track shuffles along with a strong vocal melody and baseline that provide the perfect backing for the piano and strings to dance around. The track would work as a breather on the dance floor and also has a strong enough groove to support an up-tempo remix.

Federer spoke to American Songwriter about what it was like to meet and work with a legend like Burt.

“My publisher at the time, Billy Mann, saw a video I’d posted doing a little cover of “This Guy’s in Love” but as “This Girl’s in Love”. I love that song so much. He had written with Burt and had the thought that we might write well together. The day I got to meet Burt I was extremely nervous and excited. Growing up in a turbulent home, Burt had been my mother’s favorite musician. She had a record of his on vinyl along, with The Carpenters, and she’d listen to it in her room over and over again she told me. I think she really clung to the beauty of his music as a kid. She used to sing “Close to You” to me when I was a little girl sometimes. When I found out I was going to write with him and told my mom, I felt like it was maybe the first time she began to take me seriously as a songwriter and the life path I’d chosen and had been hustling for for so long. When I got to perform with Burt months later in London, she and my dad actually got to come. They dressed up to the nines and afterwards got to introduce my mom to Burt and she started crying. That was one of those truly amazing moments.

“The moment before I met Burt, I was waiting in his music room clutching a painting I’d done for him because hey — what do you give the guy who’s achieved everything? When I walked into room my heart was racing, I  shook his hand and looked in his eyes and said “Hello Mr. Bacharach. It’s an honor to meet you”. He was so kind to me, and so humble. He had me play him a couple ideas of mine on the piano. Imagine that, sitting down in front of Burt Bacharach at the piano to show him some of your song ideas. To my amazement, he liked them and we set off writing our first of many songs.”

Bacharach also recounted how he came to know Melody, which is an inspiring anecdote for any struggling songwriter proving that putting in the time and work can result in unexpected and life changing opportunities.

“Billy Mann and I had written a few songs together a few years ago, and he spoke very highly of a writer who was also based on the west coast, named Melody Federer. I got her information and called her over to work on some songs at the house. We ended up writing a song that day, a pretty good song, but not as good as it was going to get,” he said. “I found her to be an amazingly good and quick writer, and then I heard her sing in the studio and it took my breath away. I thought that she really had what it took to become a great songwriter and performer. I brought her to England to do two concerts in London at the Royal Festival Hall with a full orchestra. We hadn’t done a guest spot like that since I brought out Noel Gallahger. We did two songs together that went over very well.” 

“She’s got an amazing way with words, and the way she writes. She writes very musically, when I get a lyric that I can just set, that’s very appealing to me. She’s very gifted, and her mind is trigger fast when coming up with good, fine, intelligent lyrics. No wasted words.”

Working with a legend like Burt Bacharach is an experience Melody was able to learn a lot from, saying, “Writing with Burt has been the greatest honor of my songwriting career thus far. He is the hardest working composer I’ve ever met. There isn’t a wasted minute or note with him. He is all about the music and the work. He’s so incredibly passionate about getting the melody and the lyric just right. I’ve grown immensely as a writer since collaborating with him. He pushes me and doesn’t let me settle for good, it has to be right.”

And the songwriting effort that the new track “Bridges” came out of was a truly collaborative effort born from a poem penned by Federer late one gin-soaked night.

“With “Bridges”, he asked me to send him some poetry I’d written. I sent him one I’d originally called the “4 a.m.” poem because I’d sent it to someone I had been in love with for many years at 4 a.m. one morning after a show, probably because I’d had one too many gin and tonics. It was a poem sort of saying “I just keep coming back to you, my heart still yearns for that first love.” It starts off ” The one bridge I could never burn, the lesson I could never learn, every time I took that turn I wound up at your door”. What I didn’t realize was when I forwarded the poem, I accidentally forwarded Burt about ten years worth of letters and poems exchanged between the he and I. So when I showed up to work at Burt’s the next time, he had a stack of poems he’d printed off. “I like these two,” he said. One was mine, and ironically, one was a response. We had a good laugh about that. I left it with him and the next time we worked he showed me what he’d written for it. It took my breath away. It was epic and powerful and everything I’d wanted to convey with the words, except now Burt had given the words a heartbeat. He’d totally elevated and transformed my little poem into this heartbreakingly beautiful ballad. I then had the idea to bring Daniel Tashian on board who’d I’d met during my time in Nashville. He’d just finished the Kacey Musgraves record, Golden Hour, and was also a huge fan of Burt’s.”

Bacharach also had a bit to say about Federer’s lyrical prowess and how the poem she brought to him was so strong lyrically it made it quite easy for him to build a song around. “I took it word for word and put it to music. It really magically came together with little changes from the original poem. I loved it, and I set it. It’s the way I like to write, to a guide mark that creates a form within itself, how the words form. Not a word that had to be changed, and it is a gift to get something structured like that. When lyrics can seamlessly break into song, almost in the same “language,” the same believability.”

“I liked very much what Daniel (Tashian) did with it down in Nashville. It took a bit of a different tone and really came out great.”

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