MadonnaTribe meets Gardner Cole, co-writer
with Peter Rafelson of one of Madonna's
classics: "Open Your Heart".
Gardner gives our readers an insight into the "True
Blue" days as we learn many interesting tidbits on
how the song came to life.
MadonnaTribe: Hello Gardner and welcome to MadonnaTribe.
You began writing songs when you were very young. How did
it all start for you?
Gardner Cole: I was a musician at a very
young age (4 years old) but I didn't really seriously start
composing until I was around 12 or 13. I honestly only started
writing songs for girls that I was in love with.
MT: Writing a song
is about inspiration and it works differently for each
How do you approach writing and where do you get the inspiration
GC: Most of my songs come to me when
I am dreaming, I force myself to get up and record them
on a portable cassette recorder and then I go back to
bed and get up later and finish them. I also am inspired
by events in my own personal life and other peoples conversations
and stories and get inspired through them as well.
When I co-write with other people, there are many ways
Sometimes I'll have a lyric/melody idea and ask someone
to help me with the track. Other times, writers come to
me with a track and ask me to write a lyric/melody and
sometimes we just start from scratch.
are a composer and a musician. Is it hard to let your
own creation in the hands of other artists who may choose
to use them differently from you.
is only hard when I think I can do a better job of producing
Actually, I'm almost always thrilled with what others
do with my songs.
our readers know you're the co-author of one of Madonna's
most popular and loved songs ever: Open Your Heart. When
did you write that song and what was your original inspiration
GC: The song was started
with my good friend Peter Rafelson, we worked on the song
for over a year.
The original title was "Follow Your Heart" which
is the name of a vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles.
I was in love with a waitress there named Lisa and she
was the original inspiration for the lyrics.
Legend says that when you submitted a demo of the song to
Madonna she didn't accept it at first. You then asked your
friend Donna Delory, to sing a new version of the demo,
right? Can you tell us a bit more about that?
GC: Actually the truth is, I did submit
a song that Madonna didn't accept but it was titled "Motor
City Girl" and was a song that I co-wrote with songwriter
David Bryant (Whitney Houston).
The lead singer of the group Chicago (Jason Scheff) sang
the original demo of "Open Your Heart".
I was being managed by a man named Bennett Freed who was
part of Madonna's management company (Weisner and Demann
management), I went in to the offices on Sunset blvd and
song for Bennett, Freddy Demman overheard the song and thought
it would be a hit for Madonna and he asked me to re-demo
a female demo version. Donna Delory was my very first girlfriend
in LA and I immediatelay asked her to sing the demo.
Later, I became friends with Patrick Leonard and when he
was helping Madonna put together a tour I suggested they
use Donna to dance and sing back-up and I gave him her contact
MT: Speaking about demos, apparently there's a
song called "Dance" floating around on sharing
programs by some unknown artist which is passed for the
"Open your heart demo". From what we heard it
has nothing to do with your song but some fans believe it
can be genuine.
GC: No, It is definetly not the original
MT: What did Madonna add to your original
song and how was the original different from the final version
we have on the True Blue album?
GC: Madonna changed some of the verse and
B section lyrics. Patrick Leonard changed the groove and
made it more uptempo, I think his production is superb!
The song went on being a number one single in many countries
around the world, was that a surprise to you? How did you
react to that?
GC: I had a dream that I was driving in my car
and Casey Kasem (the host of the weekly top 40 countdown
show) was announcing the song as the number one song in
America, on my birthday a year later I was driving to Malibu
beach and Casey Kasem announced on the radio that "Open
Your Heart was number 1! It was an incredibly joyous moment.
The video that accompanied the song, by Mondino, made "Madonna
history" by presenting her in the first ever bustier,
that later became a sort of a trademark. What do you think
about the video?
I absolutely loved the video from the very first time I
saw it. I knew it would become a classic.
MT: Did you ever think about recording
your own version of the song?
GC: Yes actually. I have a version that
I started to put together that is slower and more dreamy.
MT: You had the chance to work with so
many artists, who is your favourite among them?
GC: I have loved working with
so many of them it would be very hard to name one, so I
will name a few.
Michael McDonald, Al Jarreau, Jody Watley, Peter Murphy
and Amy Grant.
MT: You are a multitalented musician who works
on projects from different mediums: Music, Television, Cinema
and you're a successful recording artist in your own right.
How do you adjust yourself to each one of these mediums.
GC: I always do the very best that I can
in any given situation and hope for the best. Doing work
in Film and TV is usually dictated by the Director, so I
listen very intently to what their vision is and do my best
to accomodate their wishes.
When I am producing a recording artist I try to envision
where their next step should be in their growth as an artist.
MT: What are the main influences on the
music you write?
GC: I grew up in the Detroit area and have
been heavily influenced by the sound of Motown music.
MT: What are your future projects?
GC: I just finished a great new record
on Robbie Nevil (C'est La Vie) called "Soul Classics"
and I'm currently in the studio with an amazing new female
artist named Breanna Vansickle.
MT: Gardner, thanks for sharing some of
your time with us.