Playing for the Feeling: Johnny Cattini & “Margot Robbie”

Morningbird guitarist Johnny Cattini proves just as smooth on his own. Last Friday, April 17th, the London native and Berklee grad released the groovy “Margot Robbie”, off his forthcoming Soul Ride Along EP (release TBD). The latest single followed last year’s “No Woman” and “It’s Too Late,” and adds a distinct disco vibe to the strong blend of timeless guitar chops and modern, glossy production that has become Cattini’s brand. 

Powerful, driving drums kick open the track, as the lyrics share an encounter with a dead ringer for the titular actress: 

Saw her playing drums in the hotel lobby

She shakes the tambourine, she looks like Margot Robbie 

But the song’s subject resists comparison and the classic markers of fame and success: big crowds, spending bigtime money, endless nights spent drinking. What she’s after is the free, infectious joy this song spreads: 

She said to me, “Well you don’t understand

I don’t play for (I don’t play for) 

For anything more than this 

I don’t play for anything other than this feeling” 

Towards the end, the lyrical content fades into the background, as the last minute dissolves into a guitar solo showcasing Cattini’s classic rock influences. 

If this song isn’t on that playlist for your kitchen dance party, you’re doing it wrong. 

Listen here:

For fans of: Mt. Joy, John Mayer, Harry Styles

Writing Tip: Tackle the Query Letter First

Some of you probably can’t think about creating in these crazy times, and that’s okay. Since the quarantine began, I’ve been overwhelmed with offers of various Zoom workshops, conferences, free classes, and like a million social media livestreams to learn how to adjust to working from home, flipping around your daily routine, taking all this alleged extra free time and putting it into a new hobby or craft, or watching my favorite bands perform from their living rooms. What I mean to say is, even though indie and trad publishers are still operating through COVID-19, there’s no pressure from me at least to write anything if you feel like you have bigger priorities. Staying safe and healthy, and keeping your loved ones safe and healthy, will always be number one.

With that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the point of this post, inspired by a realization I had while going through old files for an abandoned book idea from mid-2019. It was exciting to revisit old characters and themes, so as I got re-energized about tackling this book after I finish my current WIP (hopefully in time for #RevPit in just a couple of weeks!)…

…I found myself rewriting the draft of its query letter. That’s right, perhaps the document authors dread most, besides synopses and, you know, rejections. For a book I hadn’t even fully written.

Why, you might be asking, would I do such a thing? Don’t you know that your book has to be super-extra-polished before you even think about sending it anywhere?

(Yes, I would say, I do know. I learned the hard way).

It’s because I’m crazy.

Well, that’s up for debate, but the real reason I piece together the query so early on is because that handful of paragraphs forces me to consider how to communicate the story’s big picture in its smaller elements. Building the skeleton upfront saves time later on, when I’m actually writing. Knowing who my characters are, what they want, what’s in their way, and why their physical and emotional journeys matter at all (i.e., stakes) creates a framework for the story.

I think not knowing how to do this when I was drafting my first book–back when I had no idea how publishing worked–was precisely why I went through countless drafts, switched up the outline, pushed through another few thousand words and then realized something else wasn’t working. And that’s why that book took me literal years. My second and third concepts have solidified much faster, because now I know how to develop them from the outset.

So my advice: zoom out a little bit from where you are in your story. You might know where your character ends up, or you might not, but you have to be able to say where they are, and why it matters.

If you’re an author seeking the traditional path to publication, you’re gonna have to do it anyway. If you’re an indie author… you’re gonna have to do it anyway. Not for the purposes of attracting an agent or editor, but for hooking the readers who will decide within thirty seconds of reading your book’s Amazon blurb if they want to trade their money for your words.

And maybe you can save yourself some headaches.