Moline, Songwriter/Composer/Singer, has graced the
world with his music. In our interview, he talked
about his work with Disney; the idea that artists
have to think beyond themselves; the importance of
sharing our work, believing in ourselves, and persisting;
and what he's doing with the Psalms and musicals he's
Your music has been central to Disney. How did
you end up working there?
I was working at the Newporter Inn in Newport Beach,
CA, not far from Balboa Island. One night, Disneyland
advertising took over the room for a private party.
They liked my music and asked me to write a jingle
for Disneyland. They would film people in the park
having fun, going on rides, and my jingle underscored
it. They accepted my jingle (and most of the later
ones) without any changes. It was titled, "It
could only happen at Disneyland," and was used
on radio and TV. After it ran for 13 weeks, I received
a CLIO (Advertising) Award for it. Then, when Epcot
center was being built, they asked me to write theme
songs for the center. One of the songs I wrote was
for the "American Adventure," a very popular
attraction. It was later borrowed and used by Disneyland
in the attraction called "Great Moments with
Mr. Lincoln." The song was used for 10 years.
They're even using my songs for the new Tokyo Disney
Theme Park. In 1988, I did a music campaign for Delta
Airlines and Disney to present the history of aviation.
It was a lot of fun to work on this project titled,
"Dreamflight." Delta really appreciated
How do you come up with ideas?
I've been a songwriter for many years, and I've never
suffered from writer's block. I just hold the yellow
tablet up with a pen in hand and let the ideas flow.
Walt Disney Imagineering would give me a storyboard
and/or a campaign idea. I'd think about that, look
at the pictures, and just come up with the words and
music. In the work, I really try to express what Disneyland
executives and advertising want as well as what I
think will spark interest and, hopefully, reach the
hearts of people to bring them to the "happiest
place on earth."
When did you start writing music?
I started when I was 17. For several years, I thought
all the songs I wrote were really good. However, I
had to find out that they needed rewrites through
years of getting rejection letters from record companies
and music publishers.
How did you find the stamina to keep writing even
though you were rejected?
Well, I wallpapered my room with the rejection letters.
Then I finally got a "yes." Once I got that
yes, I recall having had a greater impetus to move
forward. After gaining a greater understanding of
God, which I'd say was in my early twenties, I turned
to the Bible, mostly to the New Testament, whenever
I wanted stability. I loved reading about Jesus' healings.
The things he said and did are for all times, which
of course, included me and everyone.
When did you get your first "yes"?
In the mid '60s. Even though my own songs hadn't been
produced, I stayed in the music industry. I went to
Las Vegas when I was about 25 and auditioned for a
part in a musical that was supposed to be Broadway
bound. I had the opportunity to work with some old-time
movie stars, who were brought out of retirement. The
gal who played the lead eventually ended up on "HeeHaw."
I made it into the Vegas show, understudied, and ended
up with a small part. But the musical never went to
Broadway. So, I went across the street to the Stardust
Hotel and performed there for two years in "The
Lido Show," which started in Paris before coming
to Las Vegas. It featured different attractions --
animals, big production numbers, all sorts of stuff.
I was also playing guitar and singing, and learned
a lot about writing. I would look at the popular music
and learn more about what made a hit song. All the
formulas and structures were there. One day, I met
someone who liked my work and presented my material
to Challenge Records, originally owned by Gene Autry.
I got a manager and got some air play, which was encouraging.
I ended up coming back to CA and worked for awhile
at various venues. I ended up at The Villa Nova, a
restaurant in Newport Beach, and soon was hired away
to work at the Dry Dock restaurant, where I was spotted
by the general manager of The Newporter Hotel, who
asked me to work for him in a room called The Cellar.
That ended up to be a 13-year stand. I met John Wayne
during those years, and he hired me to sing and play
at parties in his home. I did most of his parties
for the last 10 years of his life. It was fun. I met
many interesting people there, among them Prince Albert
and his father Prince Rainier, husband to Princess
Grace of Monoco. I continued performing through my
20s and 30s at The Newporter prior to a more productive
relationship with the Walt Disney Company and others.
What qualities do you have to have to be a songwriter?
I think you need to think beyond yourself most of
the time. You have to think about what others may
want to hear and not just what pleases you. I think
about what would benefit other people.
Were there any pressures that you confronted?
When doing a project, you start thinking about the
end result and setting up studio time. The only pressure
is the deadline you set for yourself.
Are there any Bible passages or stories that helped
you turn challenges into successes?
One of the stories that was very helpful was the story
of Moses and the Children of Israel in the wilderness.
In our Bible study group at church, we were looking
at all the stops they made along the way. In some
cases, they were years and years in one spot, looking
for the milk and honey. But they never gave up, and
that to me was very helpful. I've also always loved
Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not
. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in
the paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
(1, 3). Psalm 91 is another favorite: "He that
dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall
abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (1).
There are many healing messages in those psalms.
And you have set some psalms to music. I would
think that the inspiration you see in the psalms and
your musicality are a perfect fit. How did you decide
to set them to music?
I started looking at the words, many of which were
very inspiring. I decided to set ten of the King James'
versions of the psalms to music, which I could do
without changing the words. There are some beautiful
lyrics in Psalms. In addition to 23 and 91, I love
19: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and
the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (1); 104:
"Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou
art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty"
(1); 121: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the
hills, from whence cometh my help" (1). I also
enjoy the idea that King David, himself, was a musician.
He performed his psalms on a stringed instrument,
probably a lute and probably in a minor key, like
most of the songs in those days. And the Bible is
What's the status of the musical on which you're
I've finished writing the music about the life of
Busby Berkeley, a famous Broadway choreographer and
director. He was the one who came up with the "top
shot." He would get way up on the crane and shoot
down on a line of girls dancing or doing synchronized
swimming formations. He did all the Esther Williams
shows, directed some great numbers for "42nd
Street." Warner Bros. gave him free reign to
do the "Gold Diggers" movie series. Right
now, I'm just keeping in touch with the man who commissioned
me to do the music. He's working with a director who
is interested in producing it in NY or Vegas. So I'm
optimistic that it will get mounted. I met Busby Berkeley's
widow when she was 94. I wrote one of the songs in
the musical about her and called it "Etta's Waltz."
I sang it to her at her bedside with my guitar, and
she reached out and touched my hand. It was a very
moving moment. Prior to that, I was doing the music
for a musical about the Disney brothers, called "Uncle
Walt." I'm looking for opportunities to get the
What does music do for you?
Whether I'm listening to something I enjoy or writing,
I find music uplifting and energizing. It has a healing
aspect to it in many ways. I'm full of gratitude that
I've been able to write and sing my own songs, and
that God has given me that talent.
What would you tell people who are working hard
or struggling to succeed in the music industry --
or any creative industry, for that matter.
Believe in themselves! Study -- either by themselves
or with a teacher. I learned guitar on my own. I would
learn new keys, chords, and formulas each time I played
a particular popular song. You don't always have to
be formally educated in everything you do. Talent
is within an individual, and there's always a way
to explore and develop the talent with discipline.
I've been able to share what I've learned in music
with others, too. I taught for awhile for Classes
Unlimited in South Pasadena, where you can go study
with experts in their field. Age didn't matter, although
most students were still in their 20s, aspiring to
become songwriters. I'm still thinking about teaching
It sounds like it's very important for you to
We're given gifts to share. It's important to do things
that will touch and help people. And music crosses
over all barriers. By doing concerts in other parts
of the world, artists have touched the lives of millions
and millions of people.
How has your study of the Bible affected your
contribution to the music industry?
Well, I believe that the Bible gives us truths that
we can rely on, and I believe in applying them to
your life. If we really think about what Jesus said,
we can "move mountains." Jesus said: "He
that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he
do also; and greater works than these shall he do;
because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12). Also,
he affirms, "What things soever ye desire, when
ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall
have them" (Mark 11:24).
Believing in ourselves, which we can do as God's
children, is so significant. It's important for each
of us to find something within ourselves that we do
well, that makes us happy, that glorifies God. We
have to realize that we've all been given different
gifts, and it's up to us to be stewards of those gifts,
and to help mankind. If we keep that in mind, we can
help mankind. I always dreamed that I would write
inspirational music. I think the work that I did for
Epcot was inspiring and uplifting. I've had the opportunity
to work on inspiring projects, such as "Golden
Dreams" in Disney's "American Adventure,"
which is about American history.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
For those who are aspiring to any career, it's helpful
to realize that if they've already found within themselves
the impetus and talent, they need to persist. Persistence
and prayerful work will lead them to the right people
and places, enabling their talents to blossom and
their careers to unfold.