MusicalWriters is thrilled to host songwriter Joey Contreras this summer as the keynote speaker of our 2023 Festival. (Click HERE for details.) Contreras is the writer of IN PIECES, a new musical about modern day relationships in New York City. Broadway World called the IN PIECES album “stunningly vulnerable,” and reviews of the show’s many productions have called Contreras’s work “a total triumph,” and a “musical theatre tour de force you’ll want to watch over and over again.”
We checked in with Joey to get the inside scoop on his processes, career highlights, writing tips, and what he’s looking most forward to in Fort Worth!
Joey Contreras: Origin Story
MusicalWriters: What do you remember about the first song you ever wrote?
Joey Contreras: I was around 13 years old when I started writing and recording songs. I’d lock myself in a room with some studio software and a keyboard, playing chords, stacking loops and harmonies, making overly emotional and dramatic bops. And I haven’t really stopped.
MW: What were your biggest non-theatre musical influences?
JC: Early on, I was heavily influenced by 2000’s Britney, P!nk, Brandy, Janet Jackson – lots of Max Martin and Rodney Jerkins productions – then it sort of segued into Ben Folds, Jason Mraz, Kelly Clarkson, Gavin Degraw. Lately, I’ve been very inspired by Kacey Musgraves, Harry Styles, and of course, Taylor Swift.
On Musical Licensing
MW: IN PIECES is available for licensure worldwide. What was the journey to licensure like for you?
JC: In Pieces has definitely had an unconventional, but exciting developmental journey. I’ve always been a strong activator in my career, never waiting for the phone to ring, so when we saw an interest in the show, I assembled a small team and we independently released the licensing rights. Amazingly, there have been over 25 productions around the world so far – in Singapore, Australia, London, all over the US – but I still haven’t done my own premiere production. I think our Highlights album, distributed by Broadway Records in 2021, was a great way to introduce the piece, but now we have a commercial producer, so I’ve been working on a new version of the show and I’m looking forward to presenting that soon!
More and more, I think artists are disrupting what the pipeline of musical theatre development can look like, by growing a brand in real time, and expanding accessibility to new musical theatre in an interactive, organic, and then hopefully also a financially sustainable way.
Listen to the song “Me and Mr. Popularity” from IN PIECES below.
Joey Contreras: Current Process
MW: What can you tell us about the project you’re currently working on?
JC: Right now, I’m working on a handful of projects that are all at different stages of development and I’m enjoying that. I like jumping from world to world. I like traction.
MW: How do you typically collaborate with other writing and production partners?
JC: Everything we do is in service of the story, so initially, there are a lot of discussions about intention, character, themes and story arcs. Outlining is so helpful and we all want to make sure we are telling the same story. Then once we get on the same page we can begin diving into the musical moments and that will usually be a bit of baking separately, and then baking together.
MW: What advice would you give to aspiring musical theatre writers who are just starting out in the industry?
JC: I spent a lot of my early career putting all my energy into one show at a time… and that’s not productive. I think it’s important to multitask, because having your emotional and creative stability resting solely on the success or traction of a single project is not sustainable.
Learn how to make high quality demos. Good bones are important, but ears and expectations have changed. Fleshing out some arrangement and orchestration is a must. Learn your way around a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), like ProTools or Logic, so you can save money and time and rely less on others to execute a quick musical vision.
Sheet music is your merch. Those sales will support you financially, and it will promote your music.
P.S. Click the image below to visit the Joey Contreras Sheet Music Store!
Joey Contreras at the Musical Writers Festival
MW: What are you most looking forward to about the Musical Writers Festival?
JC: I’m excited to connect with a community of new writers who have stories to tell. And I look forward to sharing ideas on how we can continue to expand our network, our platforms and storytelling abilities.
MW: What can attendees at the Musical Writers Festival expect to learn from your sessions and feedback?
JC: I’ll definitely be asking a lot of questions and engage in the kind of process that I do personally when it comes to investigating and clarifying story, action, and character.
MW: Are you planning on doing anything else in Fort Worth during your Festival visit?
JC: Hopefully eating some good food!
Just for Fun
MW: What is your guilty pleasure musical cast album and why?
JC: The 2012 Carrie Off-Broadway Revival Recording! I remember being very invested in the original “flop.” I would deconstruct the opening number and show grainy bootlegs at parties. So when they revamped the show for the revival, I honestly was such a fan.
Beyond IN PIECES, Conteras’s other musicals include ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT, FORGET ME NOT, I USED TO SHINE (all co-written with Kate Thomas), and the modern-day adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, HEARTBREAKERS IN HELL (co-written with Benjamin Halstead). Additionally, he has composed for the Walt Disney Company (KIWI’S FIRST FLIGHT from LIGHTS, CAMERA, LEXI!), The 5th Avenue Theatre (THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED) and various short films. For more information, visit https://www.joeycontreras.com/.
The Musical Writers Festival, featuring Joey Contreras, takes place in Fort Worth, TX, on July 14-15, 2023. In addition to the Conteras keynote, the festival will feature informative sessions, opportunities for writers to submit and receive critiques on their own songs, a New Works Cabaret, networking opportunities, and more. Registration is currently open; click HERE for more information.