I was born with a thing called perfect pitch. It just means you have a very good ear. So having this talent at a very young age made it very clear that somehow I was going to be involved in the world of music. What also became clear, when I got around people at Juilliard--I was at the age of 6 1/2 or 7--was that I was not going to be the next Horowitz. But I wanted to be the next important--let's say--composer.
Songs can take two weeks, songs can take two minutes. Sometimes you're sitting at the piano--I mean, this is not something you should do eight hours a day, because you'll go crazy. This is something you should do for an hour or two. You sit down at the piano and you start writing, or you start playing and you start coming up with certain styles of music, and you might in the first day just discover what you're not going to do. That's day one. Well, that's not a bad day.
You are sitting at the piano, and you are trying to evoke an emotion, and that feeling could be happiness, it could be sadness. But I have to feel something. I feel sad. I'm writing "The Way We Were," and it's sad, and yet I want it to be hopeful. The terrible part is after you've written, it's like you have to give that piece of music to the world, and they decide if they like it or not. I always wondered what it would be like if some mother who had just given birth to a child, and after they take that picture of the child at the age of three hours, you take that picture, that Polaroid, and you say, "This is my child," and they would say, "Eahh, no big deal, no big deal. It's just a baby." So it's a very personal thing, and you've got to learn to then give it up and go on to the next one. The worst thing for a writer, whether they're successful or not, is not to have another song to write.
--Interview by Patricia E. Dempsey