By Sarah Abrams | October 25, 2021
We had the good fortune of connecting with Carly Robyn Green and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carly, what do you attribute your success to? I think the most important factor behind my success as a musical theatre lyricist, songwriter, recording artist, and entrepreneur, is my ability to find new doors. Doors will always open and close in business, but it has been my strength to constantly seek new doors – or build them – then remain flexible and agile enough to move through them.
In the music world, doors slam shut every day. The multi-platinum artist holds a song that gets cut from the album at the last minute. The TV series featuring a main title theme gets cancelled. Covid-19 hits and musical theatre shuts down worldwide.
When obstacles inevitably come, I always recall my primary motivation for becoming a musician in the first place… storytelling. Whether I’m writing a pop hit for a K-pop artist or a boy band in Orange County, creating a montage song for a bingeworthy reality TV series or a romantic Hallmark movie, crafting a musical theatre lyric for Japanese or Swiss audiences, or performing a big, emotional ballad or a fun, jazzy tune… I’m telling a story. Evoking emotions.
My repeat audiences know my work and I feel a sense of connection when they come back for more and hire me again for a project or purchase another ticket to a show.
But my next audience may exist behind a door I haven’t yet opened, so I must rely on my artistry, adaptability, and ingenuity to find that unopened door and embrace wherever it may lead.
As a musical theatre lyricist, for example, the world premiere of my show YOUR LIE IN APRIL was slated for June 2020 in Tokyo to coincide with the 2020 Olympics, but was pushed back to May 2022 due to the pandemic. Did I sit and wait for opening night to happen two years down the road to begin my next project? No. I seized an opportunity to write another new musical for China, based on Osamu Dazai’s bestselling novel – NO LONGER HUMAN, which is set for a world premiere on December 10th in Shanghai! I also signed on to write lyrics for several new musicals about Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Bruce Lee, and Houdini! One door closed but I walked through many other doors that were presented to me just down the hall, so to speak. I did not spend a moment feeling discouraged or disappointed; I remained open-minded, and I walked through.
And when it seems like no door is in sight, sometimes I must create one.
Throughout 2020, when recording studios, concert venues, and theaters went dark worldwide, I established a new branch of my music licensing company, Zippy Toons LLC – a children’s virtual songwriting school that has matriculated hundreds of students across the US and Canada! I have instructors whom I train, and educational partners coast to coast. I’m proud of my small woman-owned business that is flourishing and continuing to grow, and it’s a door I couldn’t have imagined inventing had multiple other doors not closed last year.
As long as I am telling a story in song, and delivering music I appreciate, I am fulfilled. The platform through which it is delivered doesn’t matter… Nor does the stage on which it is performed or the radio station on which it plays… As an artist, I always have another story to tell, so I always feel like I have another door to open.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans of your music and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work. I feel excited to have the unique opportunity to write music and lyrics for global audiences. Music is a universal language, so my lyrics must resonate across continents in a meaningful way, while maintaining local authenticity and relatability. Much of my lyrical work gets translated for international performances and recordings, so it’s my job to create emotional and clever lyrics that connect with audiences despite language barriers.
As a musical theatre lyricist in partnership with Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn and co-lyricist Tracy Miller, I have penned several new musicals for worldwide markets, with production partners and collaborators abroad.
Our original musical YOUR LIE IN APRIL, produced by Toho Theatricals and Fuji TV, will premiere in May 2022 at the Nissay Theatre in Tokyo. It’s based on the Kodansha manga Your Lie in April, which is a wildly popular title worldwide. So we worked very hard with our Japanese book writer and director to honor realistic Japanese teen lifestyle and culture in our work.
NO LONGER HUMAN, produced by Ranspace, will premiere in December 2021 at the Shanghai Grand Theater in Shanghai. Similarly, this piece is based on the acclaimed novel by Osamu Dazai, and we worked diligently to preserve the integrity of the original work while embracing the modern, avant-garde style our Chinese co-creators envisioned.
THE LIGHT OF FIRENZE is our new musical based on a Renaissance competition between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, produced by OD Company for an upcoming opening in Seoul. For this project, we immersed ourselves in Renaissance history and Italian language, and merged our vision with our Korean partners’ vision for Korean audiences to appreciate.
Joyway Holdings is producing our project KUNG-FU MASTERS, centered on Bruce Lee and his mentor, Ip Man, for Beijing. This show is especially exciting because it’s east meets west, in every sense – we are working with famed writer Guan Shan to delicately portray how the iconic Kung Fu hero manifested the merger of eastern martial arts tradition with western pop culture.
And now, we are in the process of writing a Houdini musical with Broadway/West End writer/director Gordon Greenberg and Viennese playwright Thomas Kahry as well. Here, we’re intertwining turn-of-the-century New York with European cultural sensibilities.
So not only are each of the storylines we create multi-cultural by nature, with diverse settings spanning various eras, but our creative partners on all of these projects speak multiple languages and bring with them varying cultural perspectives as well. As a team, we specialize in crossing borders musically and lyrically for the musical theatre stage.
For many years as a BMG songwriter, I’ve written songs for multiplatinum artists worldwide and global film and television, so writing for global musical theatre feels like a natural progression. My songs have been recorded by international artists including KARA (Universal Music) and MIN HAE (CJENM) in Korea, ANRI (Warner Music Japan), HARUMI (Sony Music Japan), TWICE (Warner Music Japan), J-DEEZ (Sony Music Japan), FAIRIES (Avex), HARAJUKU STAGE (Rising Productions), and STARMARIE (Shikisai Records) in Japan, AYCAN (EMI Music China) in China, DAVE WINNEL (Armada Music) in Australia, SABRINA WECKERLIN (Sound of Music Records) in Austria, and SANDRA N. (Roton Music) in Romania. My song “Ready to Love” was covered by Anri for the Japanese version of ABC program, Scandal, and my songs have been featured in over 175 shows and films domestically and internationally. When working with international artists and producers, I must authentically tap into what the artist has to say, support their cultural point of view, and deliver a message and story that relates to their fans all over the world.
It is an honor and thrill – and often, challenge, indeed – to write lyrics that transcend borders. I must extensively research the cultural realm and time-period for which I’m writing, considering differing viewpoints, points of reference, perspectives, and linguistic patterns. I also must do a LOT of listening and immerse myself in the musical trends of nations around the world, to continue writing relevant songs that resonate. When a song I write moves a listener hundreds of thousands of miles across the globe, it is an amazingly rewarding experience.
If you had some of these global collaborators visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When my international music friends and collaborators visit LA from Japan or Korea, I always share some of my favorite spots around town. If I happen to be performing, I might invite them to one of my shows at my favorite jazz club in Los Angeles – Herb Alpert’s Vibrato. The food, the sound, and the intimacy of the room are impeccable. I might also bring them to a show at the historical El Rey Theatre or the stunning Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, both at which I’ve performed in recent years. If I happen to be recording at the Capitol Records building, I might invite them to a session and insist they peek into music history in the A room. If a red-carpet opening night is on the calendar, I’d definitely bring my guests to the Pantages for a star-studded evening. Singing in its warm, art deco space in support of The Actors Fund was a thrill I’ll never forget. And of course, if any artists I’ve written for are in town on tour, I would bring my guests backstage at the Hollywood Bowl for a behind-the-scenes look! Nothing beats an evening of music under the stars. A scenic Malibu hike with my Westiepoo, Ralphie, a tennis match at Ocean View Park, and dinner at my favorite, Craig’s, are also a must!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? I want to dedicate my “shoutout” to my brother, Brett Greenberg, whose comedy writing keeps a smile on my face no matter what I’m facing on a personal or professional basis. 2021 has been a personally challenging year for me, and Brett’s brilliant, clever, and witty sense of humor brings levity to the darkest of moments. Audiences know his sketch comedy from his work as a MADtv writer for The CW, from FunnyorDie viral videos, and from his ongoing writing for ioWest. He has multiple new animated and live-action comedy films in development and I know he will soon be a household name. He is genuine and supportive, and as a JD/MBA, he is smart as a whip. And yes, ladies, he’s single!