Glen Ballard Biography
Glen Ballard (born 1953 in Natchez, Mississippi, USA) is a veteran songwriter/record producer, best known as the producer of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill. He started playing the piano as soon as he could crawl, and later learned the guitar. Glen was ten years old when he wrote his first song, and he was in local rock bands beginning in the fifth grade.
Ballard has a love for diverse musical styles. When Glen was younger, Jerry Lee Lewis lived within ten miles of his Natchez home, and young Ballard grew up watching him perform. Glen’s favorites included southern rhythm and blues singer Irma Thomas, Memphis-based soul singer Al Green, and nearly all of the great blues and jazz singers emerging from New Orleans. When the Beatles became popular, Ballard’s appreciation of popular music expanded.
Glen Ballard attended the University of Mississippi, where he studied English, political science, and journalism and he graduated with honors. He had the option of attending either graduate or law schools, but Ballard was intent upon a career as a songwriter. Within a week of graduation (1975), he packed his bags and moved to the West coast.
After moving to the West coast, Ballard immediately joined Elton John’s organization in Los Angeles. Starting out as a lower level assistant, Ballard eventually ended up playing piano for Kiki Dee. He was writing constantly, and when Dee recorded his song “One Step" in 1978, Ballard had his first charted single. This success enabled him to secure a professional songwriting job at MCA Music Publishing. Even though Ballard was only earning $100 a week, he was occupied full-time with the work he loved.
During the ‘70's and ‘80's, Ballard composed scores of songs, including "What’s on Your Mind," a Quincy-Jones-produced hit for George Benson, along with many others for various artists. Jones saw promise in Ballard and took him under his wing. Thanks to his connection with Jones, Ballard’s “Try Your Love Again” appeared on James Ingram’s 1983 debut album, It's Your Night. Along with Clif Magness, Glen co-wrote and produced two tracks for Patti Austin entitled “Its Gonna Be Special” and “Shoot the Moon.” By the time Austin’s album came out in 1985, Ballard was writing and producing full time for his mentor, Quincy Jones, at Quest Records. Once Ballard learned to apply his wide-range of musical sensibilities, he produced for rhythm and blues artist Evelyn “Champagne” King, Teddy Pendergrass, and Jack Wagner. Ballard and Magness wrote “All I Need” for Wagner, and it soared to number 2 on Billboard's pop chart.
Spurred by his success, Ballard went independent. He had a number one hit for George Strait, “You Look So Good in Love." which became the 1986 country song of the year. The same year he co-wrote “Man in the Mirror,” which appeared on Bad, Michael Jackson’s acclaimed sequel to Thriller. “Man in the Mirror” was also produced by Quincy Jones, and it featured Ballard’s synthesizer arrangement and keyboards. This song raced to the top of the rhythm and blues charts and today it remains one of Jackson's most popular songs.
In 1989, Ballard teamed up with his long-time songwriting and production partner Clif Magness, as well as producer, guitarist and songwriter ace Jay Graydon, and formed the trio "Planet 3". They wrote and demoed the song "I Don't Want to Say Goodnight", which earned them a deal with Capitol Records, as well as having the song featured in the 1990 movie "Navy Seals". Planet 3 wrote and recorded an album in 1989, however problems with the record company led to the album (called "A Heart from the Big Machine") not being released until 1991, and then in Japan only. A European release on Sony Records followed in 1992, with the trio billed as "Planet 3 featuring Jay Graydon" (the release was titled "Music from the Planet", and Graydon chose to replace the Magness/Ballard-penned "I Will be Loving You" from the Japan release with a composition of his own). The trio split around 1991, ostensibly because Graydon and Magness fell out with each other. However a number of Planet 3 songs left off the album (as well as both Ballard and Graydon) were featured on Clif Magness' solo debut album "Solo" in 1994. Also, Jay Graydon released a collection of unreleased Planet 3 demos on his own label in 2004, under the title "Gems Unearthed". All these demos were co-written by Ballard, who is also credited with keyboards and programming on all of them.
In 1995, Ballard teamed up with Toto and co-wrote two songs with Steve Lukather and David Paich for Toto's "Tambu" album: "The Road Goes On" and "Just Can't Get to You". The latter was released as a single, whilst the former remains a fan favourite.
Ballard has worked with some of the most revered names in the industry, including:
Ballard wrote the screenplay for Clubland, an ill-received music-driven film about an aspiring musician in Los Angeles. He has written songs in half-a-dozen films including The Slugger’s Wife, Navy Seals, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.