Interview with Bill Champlin

First of all: thank you Melanie Carlston (www.billchamplin.net) for the help and for editing the interview with Bill Champlin.

Your role as background vocalist and as a composer was quite huge these days. I am keeping a database that is growing bigger every day and lost count how many times I saw your name. You worked with e.g. Al Jarreau, Elton John, Cory Wells, Steve Kipner. How did you get into the sessionworld? What was your first gig?

In those days, after I moved to LA from the San Francisco area, I was close to David Foster and Jay Graydon. They were playing on a lottta’ records and they told producers that I was in town. That kinda’ got me my first dates after moving here in August of 1977. Things just moved along from that time. I guess I was the new guy in town and that got me some gigs right there. Before that I flew down to LA from Marin County, north of San Francisco. I did dates for Keith Olson and David Foster before I moved down. There were lots of records being recorded in those days.

I am digging the older albums (Single and Runaway) can you tell the making of these albums? How did the session players came together? Who decided who played on what track?

David Foster produced those albums. He knew everyone on those tracks pretty well,  having done basics with all of them himself. He had a great eye on who would be right for which songs of mine. He kinda’ used the Toto guys for 1/2 of “Single” and Ray Parker’s rhythm for the other half.

In 1979 you co-wrote After The Love Has Gone with Jay Graydon and David Foster for Earth, Wind and Fire. It won a grammy. Your first grammy. What is the story behind that song?
We wrote the song for my album but didn’t really cut it that well, compared to the rest of the “Single” album. He was just fooling around on an EWF basic he was playing on and Maurice White heard it and wanted it. The rest is history.

Your second grammy in 1982 you co-wrote Turn Your Love Around (George Benson) with Jay Graydon and Steve Lukather. I’ve read this story that Jay Graydon came up with the melody in the bathroom and had only four days to come up with a song for the George Benson collection, but was is the rest of the story? How does Steve and you fit in?

Steve played piano on the demo and Jai Winding played on George’s record. The guys took me to the piano and we put what they had on cassette. I took it home and wrote the lyrics and a few of the melodies. Jay and Steve had most of the verses and choruses pretty well locked in. I just got lucky being involved in that one.

I can scroll through your whole discography on Allmusic and discus all sessions. Maybe the easiest question is: what is the most remarkable session(s) you did?

I think back and the sessions I did with Jay and/or David come to mind musically. The sessions were in the time where “Musical” counted. I did some sessions with other, even well known, producers who said, “Don’t be musical; we want a hit!” That was around the time that it was getting boring and I got an offer to play with Chicago, so I took it.