brillig meets Paul Williams -or- “Never thought I’d get to meet the devil”

Ok, so this isn’t exactly new, but Brillig just started this blog and figured we’d better put *SOMETHING* up!

This tells the tale of how we met one of our fave songwriters, Paul Williams.

It’s actually apropos as well – Brillig’s cover of a song from the Phantom of the Paradise movie soundtrack (scored by Paul Williams) has just been included on the seminal website for that film, Swan Archives in April 2010.

Read all about this *new* news on our News page:

Here’s the blog itself:

brillig meets Paul Williams -or- “Never thought I’d get to meet the devil”**

At the recent S3 songwriting conference in Sydney (’08) Elizabeth & I were lucky enough to meet the songwriter Paul Williams.

Paul is known for penning mega-hits like “Evergreen” (he described working with Streisand as “like trying to have a picnic at the end of a runway”), “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” (The Carpenters), “Just an old fashioned love song” & “The Love Boat Theme” just to name a few (his songs have also been covered by Elvis, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald…and the list goes on).

“Not very brillig-y songs” I hear you thinking…true, but here’s where Paul starts really kicking in for us…

He wrote “The Rainbow Connection”. Truly one of the most beautiful songs of all time. Featuring Kermit The Frog asking many of life’s most intriguing questions, we are left to ponder.

We also regard him ever so highly for his role playing the evil record tycoon SWAN and writing the music for Director Brian de Palma’s (Carrie) 1974 cult Musical Horror Classic “Phantom Of The Paradise”, which is one of brillig’s all time favourite films. I won’t even get started on the greatness of this film.

After having the pleasure of meeting Paul twice over two days it needs to be said that he is charming to say the least.

Impressively, he also fits into that category of people who begin reciting Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky upon hearing the name of our band.

Keen to hear which instruments we were using to play our particular brand of Gothic/Folk/Country music, the mention of banjo brought Paul to speak of his use of banjo at the beginning of “The Rainbow Connection” (for mine, the best use of that instrument ever) & how it’s voice could be incredibly plaintive when played slowly.

His official role at the conference (no, it wasn’t to have a conversation with brillig) was to present a small talk to 25 or so songwriters in the director’s suite of a cinema focussing on his experiences writing for movies. I was lucky enough to sit next to Elizabeth Reid AND John Baker during this.

Immediately afterwards I asked Paul if he wouldn’t mind having his photo taken with Elizabeth and myself and upon seeing us he smiled and said “cool, brillig came to see me talk”. It’s funny sometimes how as an artist such a large amount of inspiration can come in such a short time. After the talk John Baker expressed how he felt by saying “I can go home now” and I knew just what he meant.

Paul’s second official conference obligation was to present a more general talk/be interviewed on the topic of songwriting in front of a couple hundred songwriters. After being at the more intimate talk Elizabeth, John and myself knew what we were up for so we sat close as possible to the stage (just a couple of rows back). To our complete joy there was a baby grand piano on stage and to illustrate points Paul (with piano backing from Chris Caswell) would break into song.
He performed (amongst other songs) “I’m going to go back there someday”, which is one of Elizabeth’s favourite tracks. It’s the sad song in The Muppet Movie sung by the flightless bird Gonzo, who had only ever once briefly experienced flight (after buying too many helium balloons at a fair), and wished for just one more chance.

Another tear jerker followed – “You’re gone”, which is a masterpiece, but extremely heavy as it directly deals with the damage caused by addiction in Paul’s past.

And bringing the house down he ended with “Rainbow Connection”.

To meet an artist for which you have the utmost respect and to find them open, interested and passionate toward life and music is a truly fine experience.

– Matt Swayne


(**”Never Thought I’d Get To Meet The Devil” is a title from a song featured in Phantom Of The Paradise. The devil referred to is the evil Swan & not the delightful Paul Williams).

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