Rand Bishop, long story short:
In his 40-year career, Rand Bishop has filled just about every role in the creative end of the music business: recording artist, songwriter, studio vocalist, producer, recording engineer, A&R exec, and publisher. However, Bishop refers to himself simply as “a writer”—of songs, books, essays, blogs, letters to the editor, any creative outlet “that involves manipulating the mother tongue.” As a songwriter, he has garnered a Grammy nomination, several BMI awards, and a guesstimated 250 or so cuts—by such artists as Beach Boys, Heart, Cheap Trick, Indigo Girls, Tim McGraw, and Vanilla Fudge (to name a few). Bishop’s "My List," recorded by Toby Keith (co-written with Tim James) spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard country singles chart in the spring of 2002 and ended that year as country radio’s most played song.
Public response to the Keith hit inspired Bishop and James to co-author the popular companion book, My List, 24 Reflections on Life’s Priorities (McGraw-Hill, 2003). That experience, in turn, motivated Bishop to “keep on breaking out of the confines of the three-minute song.” What followed was a screenplay, The Tin Roof (First Place, The National Screenplay Showdown, 2004), a stage play, The Viewing (Rhubarb Theatre Company, Darkhorse Theatre, 2006), a novel, Grand Pop (Eloquent Books, 2010), and two books on songwriting: Makin’ Stuff Up (Weightless Cargo Press, 2008), and The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success (Alfred Publishing, 2010).
Bishop continues his endless duel with the English language in Nashville, TN, where he lives with Stacey (his exceptionally tolerant wife of more than two decades), Millie, the beagle, and Sushi, the cat.
Rand Bishop, long story long:
You won’t find many music-biz pros with the wide range of experience of Rand Bishop.
Born and raised amidst the soggy greenery of the Pacific Northwest, Rand committed at a very young age to two equally unrealistic and insecure career paths: rock star and stage actor. On weekends, when he wasn’t wearing a pair of tights, treading the boards of the Lake Oswego High School stage, Rand was warbling in a Portland-area coffee house, or gigging with one of his high school garage bands.
Neatly sandwiched between a disillusioning freshman year at Oberlin Conservatory (studying music composition) and a nearly terminal semester at University of Washington, was a summer-long stint in the acting company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. That one season of professional theatre was instrumental in helping Rand make his ultimate decision—to pursue the rock-star route.
A year later (1969) Rand placed his signature on the first in a series of record contracts. Over the next dozen years, recording-artist Rand cut five albums for Elektra Records (with bands, Roxy and The Wackers—“The greatest rock ’n‘ roll band in North America” Creem Magazine), produced two top-five, solo singles in Canada (on the indie Good Noise imprint), spent an ill-fated year on the A&M roster, and released an album on Infinity/MCA as half of the duo, Bishop and Gwinn. Rand’s final major label artist effort—the muscular Dangerous Infatuation (Pasha/CBS)—was released to a rather disappointing response in 1983.
Rand began his record-production career in 1974 in Montreal with an impressive string of seven consecutive top-five singles in the French Canadian market. By the early ’80s, Rand had produced a number of albums in studios across the globe and contributed songs to a growing résumé of feature films—a list that began with his two credits in the ’70s cult classic, Vanishing Point. During this same period, other artists—notably the Dillards and Long John Baldry—began discovering and recording Rand’s songs. Rand was also drafted into the creative team for Broadway-bound Reggae, produced by Michael Butler of Hair fame.
After raising the white flag on his rock-star ambitions, Rand accepted an A&R position at Spencer Proffer’s Pasha Records. There, he spent the mid-’80s continuing to write and produce, helming projects for Southern rock stalwarts the Outlaws, Australian mega-voice John Farnham, Canadian metal monsters Kick Axe, New Jersey hard-rockers Prophet, and Motor City alt-rock heroes Rhythm Corps. His production of (We Dance) So Close To the Fire, co-written with singer Tommy Faragher—from Paramount’s Saturday Night Fever sequel, Staying Alive—garnered Rand a Grammy Nomination in 1984.
In between production gigs, Rand performed on vocal sessions for Cat Stevens, Rita Coolidge, the Beach Boys, Billy Thorpe, Allan Clarke (of the Hollies), Quiet Riot and Ted Nugent. Meanwhile, Rand’s songs were recorded by Heart, Cheap Trick, the Beach Boys, Peter Noone and Vanilla Fudge.
A spiritual awakening and bankruptcy closed out a very active decade. Then, in 1990, Rand satisfied his undeniable urge to use his innate gifts for a higher purpose—by co-founding the not-for-profit environmental organization, Songwriters and Artists For the Earth (S.A.F.E.). In the role of A&R Coordinator and in-house producer, Rand guided the production of two S.A.F.E. compilation albums, benefiting Earth Island Institute and Save The Children: Put On Your Green Shoes (Sony/Kids) featured Cyndi Lauper, Richie Havens, Indigo Girls, Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Loggins, Willie Nelson and Dr. John; Friends For Life (Lightyear/WEA) included Boys II Men, Al Jarreau, Brenda Russell, Los Lobos, Ziggy Marley, Richard Marx, Wynnona and Lorrie Morgan.
Rand began commuting regularly from L.A. to Nashville in 1993, where he discovered reborn vigor in his songwriting career. Those many cross-country trips resulted in cuts by Tim McGraw and Doug Stone. In ’95, Rand, his wife Stacey and daughter Glendyn made the big move from California to Tennessee.
By the turn of the new millennium, despite collaborating daily in the writing rooms of Music Row, Rand found himself without a publishing deal, and with few options. The Garth Brooks decade was over, and companies were shuttering up and down the Row.
“I expected sagebrush to blow across 16th Avenue any minute,” he reflects. “I felt like I was writing for my life.” That’s about the time Rand and longtime collaborator Tim James sat down in Rand’s attic studio to compose a thoughtful little tune about the very things that are truly important in life—they called their new song My List.
But alas, despite his best efforts, no new publishing offers materialized for Rand. At long last, finding genuine gratitude in the many, wonderful opportunities he’d enjoyed over the course of his long show-biz journey, Rand willingly left the music-biz rat race behind and began building an enterprise marketing legal plans to families and small businesses. Then—nearly two years after Tim and Rand had made the tune up—Toby Keith recorded My List.
A five-week Billboard number one in the spring of 2002, My List ended that year as R&R’s most-played country single. Unexpectedly, Rand found himself back in the music-biz. Enormous public response to the Toby Keith hit inspired Rand and Tim to co-author a companion book: My List, 24 Reflections on Life’s Priorities (McGraw-Hill, 2003).
The creative fulfillment of the book-writing process opened up new creative vistas beyond the seemingly-finite boundaries of the three-minute pop song. Rand’s original movie script, The Tin Roof, won first place in 2004’s National Screenplay Showdown. Another, The Shepherds of Wildwood, was optioned by Nashville’s No Negative Pictures. A stage play, The Viewing, enjoyed its debut production at West Nashville’s prestigious Darkhorse Theatre in September 2006. Rand’s darkly comic novel, Grand Pop, is now out there circulating in the publishing world.
Writer Zone Music, LLC, the company Rand founded with Steve Bloch, Jon Robbin and banker/investor Parker MacDonell opened its Music Row offices in September, 2003. At Writer Zone, Rand signed Trent Summar and produced the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades CD—which spawned covers by Gary Allan, Billy Currington and a top-ten single for Jack Ingram (the irreverent, hilariously nuanced Love You). Rand penned singles for David Ball, Caroline Rain and Great Divide and co-produced sides for duo Thompson Square. Rand has spent much of 2007 and 2008 developing and producing burgeoning country diva Hailey Stout (runner-up, Colgate Country Showdown, 2007) and writing with up-and-coming artists like Matt Kennon and Justyna Kelley.
Rand lectures quarterly for Southern Illinois University’s Nashville Studies program. The fulfillment he has discovered in teaching and in more than 20 years of helping young artists develop their talent inspired Rand to write his latest book, Makin’ Stuff Up, and to share his hard-earned trade secrets on makinstuffup.net.
At this writing, Rand has spent nearly 40 years in the music-biz. But, at 59, he’s not ready to pack it in just yet.
“I love working with young writers with fresh ideas and stars in their eyes,”