PLAYBILL PICKS: The Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know, Part Three

By Michael Gioia
28 Jan 2014

Joey Contreras

Joey Contreras considers himself "a musical pop songwriter." He said, "I have songs that are musical theatre tunes through a pop lens [as well as] those that are pop songs through a musical theatre lens. I like playing in the gradience of those two colors." (Check out "Great, Cool," a song that straddles the worlds of pop and musical theatre and is performed by Spring Awakening's Blake Daniel and Newsies' Ben Fankhauser. The song functioned as the premiere music video in "Hot Off the Ivories," a music series, created by Contreras, that screens exclusively on Playbill Video and captures story songs in a sleek, intimate format, à la MTV-style music videos. "Good Friends," performed by Spring Awakening's Phoebe Strole — and the second video in the "Hot Off the Ivories" series — is another example of Contreras' musical theatre instincts infused by a pop flair.)

"My current trifecta of inspiration is Dr. Luke, Sara Bareilles and, randomly, Leonard Bernstein," explained Contreras, whose musicals include All The Kids Are Doing It, which features a book and lyrics by Kate Thomas and recently received a workshop at The Provincetown Theatre with The Steinhardt School at New York University, and the song cycle This Thing Called Love. "Their work has such elements of fun, emotion and sensuality — all things I respond to and hope I can pack into my music. Not many shows have strongly influenced my style, per se, but I will say that The Last Five Years opened my eyes and ushered me into the contemporary musical theatre scene… Company sort of changed my life as well." (Watch Contreras' "Love Me, Love Me Not," a song about unrequited love performed here by Natalie Weiss that is the title track off his debut album "Love Me, Love Me Not: The Music of Joey Contreras" and arguably his most popular piece — alongside "With Him," passionately performed here by Katie Thompson, who, Contreras claimed, "hit it out of the park" with this song. His album features many tunes from This Thing Called Love.)

Contreras, a recipient of the 2010 ASCAP Foundation Max Dreyfus Scholarship Award, is currently the first artist-in-residence with Broadway Dreams Foundation, in which he is currently developing his next album "Young Kind of Love." The composer-lyricist, who has recently played sold-out concerts at Rockwood (premiering a plethora of pop music) and will make his Los Angeles debut next month, plans to create "refreshing, honest and enjoyable stories that pack emotional punches and infectious melodies." He continues to develop All The Kids Are Doing It alongside collaborator Thomas, with plans for additional book musicals in his future.

Listen to Contreras' current single "Constellation," recorded alongside BDF students:

Listen to "Ready," a song Contreras is particularly proud of. "The fact that it's been used in a bunch of graduations and show choirs across the country," he added, "is pretty amazing."