He worked for 30 years as an exec in corporate life but after becoming the youngest VP in the history of Avon Products, Inc., Mike Greenly changed his life.
Now Greenly uses his knowledge and experience to help other leaders rise and succeed in their executive positions – writing their speeches, videos and PowerPoint presentations and coaching their effective delivery on-stage.
When he’s not coaching or writing in the corporate world, however, Mike is still writing … song lyrics. He’s the author of “Our Great Virginia” which in 2015 became an Official Traditional State Song. He also writes lyrics for a wide range of musical genres – choral, country, pop songs and more. Mike’s latest Billboard #1 Dance Club song is “I’m In Love With You,” written with DJ Tony Moran and artist Ryan Shaw and performed by Jason Walker.
Mike’s last four songs have all been #1 achievers, so I wanted to learn more about he does his thing.
Jimmy Star: You’ve just achieved your fourth #1 Dance Club hit on the Billboard magazine chart. How do you do it?
Mike Greenly: You know, I have zero mechanical aptitude. I can’t safely change a tire and I’m clueless about what’s under the hood of a car. But words seem to be my friends, and I’m grateful to have figured that out!
It was a great experience, being a Fortune 500 sales and marketing VP. That perspective helps me be useful to business clients today – individual executives or entire teams. But I can’t stop writing! So it’s become a pleasure for me to write for talents like Jason Walker whose voice and artistry amaze me every time I hear him sing.
I approach every song the same way I do a speech: one overall message must be conveyed with impact.
JS: You had another important #1 Dance hit this year: “You’re Good for Me” by Kimberly Davis. Already I’ve been hearing people mention it as a potential Grammy nominee.
MG: Some folks have told me that, too. I try not to think about it too much so I don’t drive myself crazy. A nomination would mean more to me than I can express.
Both Jason and Kimberly are exceptional singers. Kimberly is actually lead singer for Nile Rodgers and Chic and she too has a powerhouse voice. But I’ll confess: it’s true. “You’re Good for Me” is a hopeful for Best Dance Recording, best non-classical Production and best short form music video.
Kimberly has toured with superstar Nile Rodgers for many years, now. She’s known around the world and I love it when people tell me that our song might have Grammy potential. And since I hope to write songs for many more years, my personal dream is to earn a Grammy nomination with Kimberly and, in another year, to earn one with Jason, too!
JS: I hear a third artist is recording your work, as well … U.K. singer/songwriter Sam Stevens.
MG: Yes – pinch me! British romantic pop singer, Sam Stevens, is so elegantly suave and silky, he’s known as the “James Bond of the Music World.” I was an English Lit. major in college, reading all of Shakespeare for example. Now to have this magnetically charming Brit singing my songs is astonishing.
Several of my songs are in plans and the first one has just been released in three distinctive versions. It’s a song called, “Common Ground” which I write with talented composer, Gil Polk, as well as with Sam, himself. He’s introduced three different takes of our song … a “Come Together” version, a “Faith in the Future” version and his “Creators of the Future” version. All three are quite special. No big surprise – Sam has performed with artists like Prince and Boy George and has developed his own smooth and romantic style.
JS: I know you don’t sing or compose, so how do you go about creating lyrics for a song?
MG: My lack of other talents means that every song is a collaboration – which I very much enjoy. All I can bring are my friends, the words! But there are several different ways they can turn into a song.
Example: Sometimes I start simply with an idea … a phrase I heard pop out of someone else’s mouth … or maybe even my own. (I make it a point to jot down and save my song ideas every time I have one.) Starting with a single idea is what I did with famous choral composer, Jim Papoulis, on a song that’s just come out in sheet music.
I had been working with a genuine war hero, Dr. Richard Jadick, and was inspired by the true story in his book, On Call In Hell. Because of this man’s courage and creative thinking, 30 of our American military fighters came home alive from Iraq.
Some didn’t make it, however, and I wrote the lyrics for “To Those Who Came Before Us” as a way to honor their sacrifices. Jim Papoulis created a poignant melody and has arranged it for different types of voices. Someday I hope to hear a real military choir perform it live, in honor of our fallen and wounded heroes.
This particular song promotes the Independence Fund for America’s wounded warriors. If a Vet returns home disabled, this group of volunteers finds ways to help – like buying wheelchairs for Vets who’ve lost their legs and helping them re-adapt back into American society.
JS: So in that case, the inspiration came directly from you. How else to you develop your lyrics?
MG: With other songs, someone might give me an idea to write about. Again, for example, a choral song with Jim is called “Always My Angel.”
Jim Papoulis is an actual legend in the world of choral music. I wasn’t surprised when he was asked by the music department of Sandy Hook Elementary School to create a song that honored the lives of innocent children and faculty members, all lost to a deranged gunman who attacked the school back in 2012.
Jim approached me to request lyrics around the idea that even though those tragic victims were no longer here on earth, they are still with us now … as angels. This song, too, will be released in sheet music for choirs.
There are other times, though, when a composer has no starting concept and simply sends me a melody. In that case, my lyrics reflect whatever thoughts the music creates in my head.
Back when I was at Avon, a poster on the executive floor proclaimed that “A good idea doesn’t care where it comes from.” I’ve always kept that in mind.
Bottom line: I don’t care how I get my ideas for a song. I just love to write ‘em!
JS: After this latest #1 celebration dies down, what’s next for you?
MG: Well, I’ll still create business presentations and coach my clients on how to deliver them with maximum impact. I continue to enjoy working as a freelance for people and teams in corporate life. Being an executive taught me many valuable lessons, including the fact that I’d live longer not being one! But having achieved the success I did, I find it satisfying for me now to pass on what I’ve learned and help today’s execs be more successful in their pursuits.
Meantime, I’ve got more songs in the hopper involving Jason Walker, Kimberly Davis, Sam Stevens and others. Writing is my passion – whether for corporate audiences or musical ones – and I hope to keep going as long as I can still think and type!
Find out more about Mike Greenly at his website here.