The Writers Room: Episode 07 Bill DeMain

David Mead - photo by Heidi Ross

Songwriter, Grammy-nominated rock journalist and Nashville tour guide, Bill DeMain, is a hard man to keep up with.

Between his nearly 2-decade run with the internationally renowned pop duo, Swan Dive, his critically acclaimed solo albums, and his many dozens of collaborations with the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Viola, and David Mead, you would need mass quantities of free time to assimilate everything hes published.

Luckily for you, we've created a guided tour podcast-style to the many sides of Bill DeMain. 

See our Studio page for the interview link, then take a self-guided tour through the songs and books below.

  Album Title Artist Songwriter Producer Songs Featured
Circle
(1998)
Swan
Dive
Bill DeMain Brad
Jones
Better to Fly
From its trundling guitar riff in the intro and verse to the playful vocal, melody and arrangement, there's always something new springing up to tickle your ears.

Circle
A percussively funky song punctiated with horns and flutes, featuring vocals that dance along from octaves to sweet harmonies and even counterpoint.

June
(2001)
Swan
Dive
Bill DeMain,
Marshall Crenshaw
Brad
Jones
Truly, Madly, Deeply
Marshall Crenshaw brought the hummed tune to Bill and Bill conjured early Crenshaw imagery to feed the lyric.  Hear Marshall's version below.
MayFair
(2009)
Swan
Dive

 

Bill DeMain,
David Scott
Brad
Jones
Once I Lived In London
"Once I lived in London
Right near the Vauxhall bridge
In a room on a corner
The size of a fridge
A bed, a desk, a window
And the fog across the Thames
Drinking English tea each morning
And the sound of Big Ben."

-- Lyrics by Bill DeMain.
Love & Other Hopeless Things
(2019)
The Pearlfishers Bill DeMain,
David Scott
David
Scott
Once I Lived In London
Ten years after Swan Dive recorded the song Bill co-wrote with David Scott, David and his band, The Pearlfishers, gave it a new life by recording their own version.  This is David's arrangement, too.
Extended
Stay
(2012)
Bill
DeMain
Bill DeMain,
Larry Goldings
? In Your Letter
Notice how comfortably the bridge follows the lyrics into fresh territory ("mountain air") and tonality, while still being true to the tone and feel of the rest of the song.  "What a pair of biscuits we'd become / too dizzy and dumb."

Common Love Song
Lovely chord changes, stacked vocal harmonies and lead guitar that could've been played by Andrew Gold.  "Fell asleep at my desk, waiting for inspiration to bring me a clever line or two."

Transatlantic
Romantic
(2017)
Bill
DeMain
Bill DeMain,
Gabe Dixon
Bill DeMain,
Jim Hoke

Brewster, IL, April 23, 1952
Similar to the origin story of John Lennon's "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," (whose lyric was crafted from phrases on a circus poster), this clever and heartwarming lyric sprang from headlines in an old, home town newspaper.

Wendy (by Brian Wison, Mike Love)
As with Paul Simon's live version of "Surfer Girl," Bill DeMain lifts "Wendy" to hymn status.

#447
(1999)
Marshall
Crenshaw
Marshall Crenshaw,
Bill DeMain
 
Biff
Jerome
Productions
T.M.D.
Here's Marshall Crenshaw's version of "Truly, Madly, Deeply."  Possibly because of Savage Garden's hit of the same name, he chose to use initials for the title.
Almost
and
Always
(2008)
  David Mead,
Bill DeMain,
Brad
Jones
Twenty Girls Ago
A 1962 Buster Keaton movie called "Ten Girls Ago" inspired the title for this gorgeous collaboration.
Little
Windows
(2016)
Teddy Thompson
and
Kelly
Jones
Kelly Jones,
Teddy Thompson,
 Bill DeMain
Mike
Viola
As You Were
A clever turn of phrase makes a great starting point for this lyric by Bill DeMain.
Many
Happy
Returns
(2017)
Cliff
Hillis
Cliff Hillis,
Bill DeMain
Cliff
Hillis
With All the World
A comfortably poppy guitar tune with Bacharach-style trumpet.
Nostalgia
Kills
(2018)
Jill
Sobule
Jill Sobule,
Bill DeMain
Ben Lee The Party's Over, Party Girl
An appropriately sultry and sassy delivery of a story we've all seen before, either in person or in the tabloids.  The reverb-washed vocal and the dry wit of the sax spill from a gin-soaked stage, from where the singer might've observed the desperate actions of our drama-rama protagonist -- a good-time girl who doesn't know when to quit..
 

All song clips heard in the podcast, in play order

(Song Title / Artist / Album Title)

Begin / Bill DeMain / Transatlantic Romantic

Girl On a Wire / Swan Dive / June

Lemon Yellow / Bill DeMain / Transatlantic Romantic

Circle / Swan Dive / Circle

Beautiful Excuse / Swan Dive / You're Beautiful

Better To Fly / Swan Dive / Circle

Sleeper / Swan Dive / William & Marlys

You Are My Superstar / Swan Dive / Popcorn and a Mama Who Loves Me

Once I Lived In London / Swan Dive / Mayfair

In Your Letter / Bill DeMain / Extended Stay

Common Love Song / Bill DeMain / Extended Stay

Brewster, IL, April 3rd, 1952 / Bill DeMain / Transatlantic Romantic

The Golden Age / Bill Demain / Transatlantic Romantic

Scicily / David Mead / Almost and Always

Twenty Girls Ago / David Mead / Almost and Always

T.M.D. / Marshall Crenshaw / #447

Truly, Madly, Deeply / Swan Dive / June

Star-Crossed Lover / Swan Dive / Soundtrack to Me and You

The Party's Over, Party Girl / Jill Sobule / Nostalgia Kills

Soundtrack to Me and You / Swan Dive / Soundtrack to Me and You

Mumbling a Goodbye / Swan Dive / Popcorn and a Mama Who Loves Me

 

Books on Songwriting by Bill DeMain

 
In Their Own Words:
Songwriters Talk About The Creative Process

by Bill DeMain (2001)

Behind the Muse:
Pop & Rock's Greatest Songwriters Talk

About Their Work and Inspiration

by Bill DeMain (2004)

 

Our Content Producer for this episode was Bill DeMain aficionado and Swan Dive Uber Fan, Chipper Saam. Be sure and check out my Songwriter Stories interview with Chip and his bandmates, The Hangabouts.

 

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