Born and raised on the North Side of Chicago, Ross Golan has been fascinated with music for most of his life. He began playing the piano as a four year old and participated in musical theatre throughout his childhood, something that he accredits to being his musical foundation, “Being able to perform in these plays at such a young age is an extensive education. You learn the theory behind music, and study such a variety of genres. You don’t realize it, but you become very knowledgeable, understand that importance of lyrics and music.” Ross later attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from USC in Los Angeles, “I studied everything from music theory, classical composition, to intellectual property law. The real inner workings of the music industry.” He believes all of the education he received has helped him as he has moved on to writing for pop music, “It’s all a matter of vernacular, how to fuse everything. It’s considered pop, but the theories and melodies haven’t changed a lot since Schubert. All songs are still in the sonata form, which has been around since the 19th century.”
Ross’s path is certainly an interesting story. At 24, after graduating from college, he had a record company that was bought by EMI. He then ran a record label and was a member of the band ‘Glacier Hiking,’ “People knew who we were, and it opened up a lot of doors for a while.” They were signed by APA and represented by Evan Bogart and Ryan Tedder (of One Republic). They both encouraged Ross to write music, and he found it addicting, “I don’t think they realize how influential they both are to me, those initial conversations with them, they had a lot to do with me wanting to learn to do this right.”
Ross also believes that the financial crisis saved his music career, “It was because of the leniency from credit unions and the government for foreclosing and short selling that I was able to live at my place for free, and pursue being a musician.” Then he got his publishing deal at Warner Chappell, and that changed everything, “Everyone makes the most of what they are given. I gave up everything I owned to do this. I’m not qualified to do anything else so I chose my music career.” He also says that the struggled of the music industry affected his previous band but helped his songwriting career.
Ross says that his process varies, “Each session is different. You really have to have an artist in mind. I like having a good concept.” He also believes that as important is having the correct vernacular, and knowing whom you are writing for, “It has to be gender, sex and age appropriate. You can’t just say let’s write a song. That tends to not have a purpose and then the artist may not connect to the song.” Ross says that one of the most important things, and advice he would give is to write with everyone, and just grind it out, “I did two sessions a day for a couple years. I would write from 11am to 7pm and then 7pm to 4am. Doing it over and over, and not knowing if you’re writing a hit or not, if it’s good or not. Until you reach a point it all comes together.”
Ross says that unlike some writers, he listens to his songs when they come out, “A lot of people criticize their music when it comes out, but in theory, if I’m writing good music, I should want to listen to it. If there isn’t a good song out there, I go home and write it.” But he says he isn’t a huge fan of music, as much as he is of writing it, “When I go to concerts I’m always wearing ear plugs. I’m not particularly “cool” you know. In my car I usually listen to talk radio or NPR. It’s hard to listen to a lot of music and focus on my work.”
Ross considers himself a top liner, who writes lyrics and melody primarily, “People send me tracks, which essentially is a song without the artist, and just the music and I write the lyrics and the melody. And sometimes just exclusively just do vocals.” He also mentions that you have to accept changes, “Most artists make changes, sometimes it’s so they can own the publishing. But also, rarely do you have a hit right off the bat.” He says there’s rarely a situation where he feels like someone stole his work, “In terms of publishing, I’m playing for the Red Sox, so people know not to steal my stuff. And now there’s a very easy way to follow the trail, the copyright issue is pretty cut and dry.” There was a time, when he was younger, where he would send each song he wrote to the Library of Congress to make sure it was copy written, but now, being a part of the industry, he’s realized you have to trust people, or no one will trust you, “This industry is so small, it’s like half my high school, so that’s important.”
Another piece of advice he would give up and comers is, “It’s so easy to just say don’t do it. It’s a struggle. There’s a perseverance that is probably worth more than talent. Remember that it takes ten years to make an overnight success.”
Ross doesn’t like the negative connotation often associated with pop music, “When people talk negatively about pop music they don’t know what it really is, it just means popular music. I mean the top 5 selling albums range from Tony Bennet to Lil Wayne. That’s insane. Those who look negatively are elitist, and close minded.” He also believes that there is a huge difference been good music and good songs, but doesn’t think it’s fair to criticize artists for not writing their own music, “People are quick to judge Britney Spears for not writing her own songs or N’Sync, but no one criticized Sinatra, Aerosmith or Beyoncé. It’s two such different talents. I mean, hey, in acting Brad Pitt never wrote any of his own scripts. You don’t have to be good at everything. Adele did both, but she’s so rare, that’s why she went diamond.”
While Ross has many idols he would love to work with, including Paul McCartney, he has already had the chance to collaborate with a lot of them, “I mean even this week, I’ve been able to work with Weezer. To write with them is a dream come true.” Ross has also written for, and worked with, Cee Lo Green, Flo Rida, Demi Lovato, Sean Kingston, Jason Derulo, Akon and Maroon 5, to name a few.
Demi Lovato Hold Up lyrics is a new track included on Demi Lovato’s “Unbroken” album. “Hold Up” was co-written by Ross Golan, Haywood, D. James and Demi Lovato.
Ross can’t see himself doing anything else, “I wrote a one man musical that I’m starting to perform in November. It’s important to me to continue being an artist. To be a little more adventurous and creative as a song writer.” He hopes at some point to have a publishing company and a record company, “I wouldn’t know what to do outside of music.” In 10 years he says he’ll still be tagged with the term ‘Hit Songwriter,’ “I just hope I’m better at it than I am now. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen.”
Written By: Ishira Kumar