Published: March 30, 2009
“It is extra-fulfilling for me to play a song back for a client and hand them some tissue when they get teary-eyed listening to my work. Moments like those are priceless.”
- Trina Belamide, Professional Songwriter
Innovative songs are being born everyday, as the classic ones continue to create history. Every song is magical in its own way. “L.S.S.” or “Last Song Syndrome” has been an ongoing Pinoy expression—a set phrase that describes how a certain melody would stick to one’s sub-consciousness. And what makes a song extra magical is when the so-called syndrome lasts not just for hours but for years.
“Now that I Have You” is a song that The CompanY, Philippines’ premiere vocal ensemble, recorded in the early 90s and its magic goes on after more than a decade. It is fair enough to owe it to the musical band that popularized the charming love song, but someone else deserves the initial glory. And that someone’s name, who is also behind other inspirational titles, is none other than Trina Belamide—a songwriter, record producer, vocal arranger, singer and entrepreneur rolled into one.
Trina did not take any formal songwriting workshops (aside from her seven years of piano lessons), but she started on with this hobby during her high school days in St. Paul College of Pasig. It was also at this time that she started competing in interclass and interschool songwriting contests. She chose to take up AB Communication in Ateneo de Manila University but she continued on with her passion for music by joining the college glee club. Trina’s professional career in music began in 1991, a year after her graduation in Ateneo, when Joey Albert recorded one of her songs after her friend Moy Ortiz of The CompanY asked her to submit songs for the said artist.
At present, Trina manages the family business, a small beach resort in Batangas, and The Trina Belamide Song Shop, a songwriting business that she has established. Read on to find out more about her sweet successes.
How’s the song shop business doing now?
Like many music-related businesses, we've seen better days. I can't quite say that The Song Shop is in full blast because lately I've been more focused on our resort business. But songwriting is something I always like to do, and nothing beats being paid for what you enjoy doing. I’m not exactly flooded with projects, and that’s a good thing on my part since I am able to give each product a lot of attention. It is always fulfilling to have clients come away with a song that is meaningful to them because I was able to give them the attention needed. My clients are, most often, brides-to-be who would like a special gift for their future spouse. But there are also some who ask me to do songs for special occasions like birthdays or reunions, as well as corporate clients or those who are from non-profit organizations. So, while I can't say that the business is "booming", there are enough clients to keep it alive.
What has inspired you to go into this kind of business?
Just the simple enjoyment in the process of songwriting and discovering I had a gift and that people appreciate it. It's a wonderful creative outlet and it's great to be recognized for something you enjoy doing.
Who and what are your (musical) influences?
Barry Manilow was my main influence. I am also influenced by everyday music that I listen to—pop songs on the radio, even movie songs and soundtracks.
What is your latest songwriting project?
My last one was a collaboration with Mr. Jose Mari Chan on a project for one of his clients. It's my first collaboration with him that finally pushed through. I'm looking forward to more.
What about your favorite songwriting project?
There are many memorable ones but what immediately comes to my mind is the song "Where Peace Begins" which I wrote for Global Peace Festival 2007. I had to write and produce the song in a matter of days in time for the event at Quirino Grandstand, which had no less than Martin Luther King III as one of the speakers. The song went into production a day or two before my birthday, so it was extra fun working with friends who celebrated with me that time, and musically, I was very happy with the output—the arrangement, the singing, the mix and the song itself. It's always a great thing when I'm able to listen to my own works later on and give myself goosebumps! “Where Peace Begins” has since been translated into other languages and it has been such a blessing to be able to see that the song has touched many hearts and continues to do so.
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered so far as a songwriter? How did you handle it?
I once had to work with a client who was overly meticulous with the lyrics and demanded a lot of messages to be expressed in the song, which is really impossible to do when you have only 3-4 stanzas and 3-5 minutes worth of music to work around.
Knowing he was more particular about the lyrics, I worked on that part first and we kept going back and forth and editing. There were lines that didn't sound musical anymore, but I gave in to client demands and just gave him credit as far as the lyric-writing was concerned (I refused to have only my name as lyricist for that particular song!). Eventually, he approved of it when he realized that the deadline for his event was very close and we had no more time to edit any further.
What makes you different from other songwriters (here and abroad)?
My being a Filipino songwriter already makes me different from songwriters abroad, if only for my ability to write lyrics in my native language. What I think makes me different from other songwriters here is my being a very lyric-oriented songwriter who pays closer attention to lyric-writing compared to most of my colleagues. I believe I'm able to capture whatever message a client wants and put that into a piece of work that will move or stir them. It is extra-fulfilling for me to play a song back for a client and hand them some tissue when they get teary-eyed listening to my work. Moments like those are priceless.
I know that you have already achieved much in the music industry, but do you still have plans on expanding your career?
I continue to dream of being able to pitch songs to foreign artists.
If you’re not a songwriter, what do you think you’d be instead?
I might have tried to become a broadcaster or simply have my own business (which is what I have now). I've come to realize that there is nothing better than being your own boss and having total control over your time.