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Day in the Work Life: Jingle writer

Marketplace Staff Jun 16, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: What walks downstairs, alone or in pairs and makes a slinkety sound? A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it’s slinky.

You know the words, and chances are, you remember the tune that went along with it, whether you want to or not. I mean, seriously, how long ago did that commercial air? And still, there it is, embedded in your brain.

Now, we know one reason you listen to public radio is to avoid commercials, but there is no denying it takes a special kind of genius to make music as insidiously memorable as a jingle. And so on today’s edition of A Day in the Work Life, we grudgingly salute the craft of a musical salesman:

JAIME GARAMELLA: My name is Jaime Garamella, and I am a jingle-writer.

My clients are small businesses who advertise on the radio and on television. I haven’t written anything for McDonald’s or Coca-Cola at
this point, although that would be awesome someday.

One of the jingles I had the most fun recording was one for a western-wear store down in North Carolina.

[ Jingle: “Your loafers have more holes than your khakis, your boots would make your feet a better pair. In a Stetson and jeans you’ll
be looking pretty mean. Step into Bull Chute Western Wear.” ]

It was already pre-determined what kind of music it would be. You have to have a country/blue grass feel. They’re selling cowboy hats and

The fun thing about that jingle was that for the violin parts I got to
write a whole bunch of parts for my girlfriend to play violin on. It sounds like there’s a whole string band on there, and it’s just her playing all the parts I wrote for violin.

I have a studio that’s attached to the house, and I have some keyboards, guitars, basses, but the most important thing are the musicians and singers I bring in, because it’s all about the singing. That’s always the most important thing.

I studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Took a class in jingle-writing.

When I’m writing a jingle, usually I think about two things: the name of the business, because that’s what you want people to remember; and then the other thing I think about is what kind of feeling do they want the customer to have when they walk in?

I went to this car dealership, and I wrote them this really hip, modern piece. It was very dance/pop, because the type of car they were selling was a very sleek, modern brand. The guy goes, ‘Not really doing it for me. What else do you have?’

So I played him a sample of all the other different styles of music
I’ve written for different commercials, other car commercials, everything.

He looks at me and he says, ‘I don’t like any of those styles.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Geez, there’s not many styles that I haven’t done here.’

And you’ve got to picture, this guy looks like Jerry Stiller. He looks at me dead serious, and he goes, ‘You know what we need? We need a rap.’

Jingle Singer #1: Yo, Middle Town Auto’s where I’m headed.
Jingle Singer #2: What for?
Jingle Singer #1: They got the hippest selection of brand-new cars.
Jingle Singer #2: It’s 1 (800) 99-HONDA, right?
Jingle Singer #1: Yup. 1 (800) 99-HONDA.

He loved it. But then his sales manager pulled me aside and he says, ‘Is this really what we want? Do we want a rap?’ I said, ‘Well, since you’re only advertising on classic rock stations, I would have to say that’s a big no.’

Right now I’m making about a little over $30,000 a year, but next year should be a lot better. I’ve gotten a lot better at the selling part.

I really like the fact that my job is to try to come up with a song that’s going to really help someone’s business.

For me, writing songs is just fun. I almost feel like I’m getting away with something every day that I wake up, and I’m like, ‘Man, all I have to do today is write a couple of songs.’ I feel like somebody woke up and said, ‘All you have to do today is eat a piece of pie.’

KAI RYSSDAL: A Day in the Work Life was reported by Judith Ritter.

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