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A Conversation With Miranda Mulholland

August 9, 2017
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Bill King was a recent guest on Blair Packham and Bob Reid’s In the Studio radio hour at Newstalk 1010, where Blair introduced him to Miranda Mulholland, a Canadian fiddle player and singer. In this interview Miranda talks about her festival, the Sawdust City Music Festival, and tells us what is upcoming for her this summer.

Read the full FYI Music News interview here!

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Follow Miranda on social media

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Twitter: @miramulholland

Facebook: @mirandaMulholland

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BlueBird North is now SongBird North

July 7, 2017
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Intro SongBird North Slide

This name change announcement from Bluebird North to SongBird North concerns the showcase concert series presented by the Songwriters Association of Canada and sponsorship partners across Canada. We asked the Vancouver series’ host, Shari Ulrich, to write a statement outlining the idea behind the change.

“I performed at the very first Bluebird North presented by Amy Sky and Marc Jordon in Toronto almost 25 years ago. Other than Folk Festival workshops, I’d never experienced a song circle and fell in love with the format. In 1995, fellow board member Ron Irving launched the event in Vancouver, and for 21 years now I have produced and eventually hosted the series. When the word came that we would have to change the name, after some passionate whining, I quickly realized, it isn’t the name that makes the event so special, it is the remarkable songwriters from across the country, who say yes to sharing a stage with other great writers and their songs with the most appreciative audiences a songwriter could ever hope to have. Every evening is unique, magical, enlightening and highly entertaining. Songbird North will certainly be soaring long into the future thanks to the vision of the SAC.”

– SongBird North YVR Vancouver, Host – Shari Ulrich.

Checkout the SongBird Vancouver Facebook Page

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@SongwritersofCa

Checkout the website for more details.

Feature Article #6: “Back When I was a kid…”

June 28, 2017
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For the Month of June the S.A.C. will be featuring a series of articles by James Linderman.

James @ Berkleemusic

James Linderman works at the James Linderman Music Lesson Studio in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He teaches guitar, piano, bass and music theory as well as contemporary songwriting and film composition, in studio, as well as over Skype to students all over the world.

Back When I Was A Kid…

by James Linderman

I am just about the age where it is appropriate for me to begin every sentence with, “Back when I was a kid…” Like, “Back when I was a kid, going to music lessons was tough. We had to climb over Canadian Shied rocks in our bare feet, and there was all this snow and it was uphill both ways and the teacher hit our knuckles with a gigantic ruler, and we had to play real music…the classics and…blah,blah,blah…

The first place my parents took me to, for guitar and piano lessons had a plaque on the wall that read, “The best lessons money can buy”. I thought that it should have read, “Our lessons are the most money we can legally charge for attempting to teach your certifiably un-musical children”.

The first “remarkable” lesson I can remember was just after The Beatles appeared for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. I told my teacher that he had to teach me how to play like The Beatles because that’s the music that I wanted to play. I can still remember his wicked laugh as he informed me that my parents would keep me in lessons no matter what he taught me and so he may as well teach me the music that he thought was best. I was doomed.

That meant a heavy dose of Ellington and Jobim for jazz and Bach and Mozart for the classical. It could be stated “for the record” that he inadvertently did me a favour by teaching me great music by great artists and providing me with a solid academic foundation. I did, however, reluctantly learn this music, that he and my parents loved, with the same closed-minded distain, that most children look at vegetables with.

My next teacher was very cool because he was a deal maker. He would say, “I will teach you a Rolling Stones tune in exchange for three well practiced pieces from your workbook”. This is the same approach that I teach with, to get academic work done, in my studio today.

The other aspect of music lessons that makes me say, “Back when I was a kid…” was the quality of my first guitar and the guitars many of us started lessons with, back in the early 60’s.

Back when I was a kid, my first guitar was a $25.00 Saturn, from the Sears catalogue store. I carried it to my lessons in its slowly deteriorating cardboard box, which was kept closed with one of my father’s old belts. My teacher just barely controlled his urge to smash this horrid instrument each and every week as he endeavoured, with limited success, to tune it.

He would beg my father to buy me a new one, only to have my dad snatch the guitar out of his hands and perform “Edelweiss” on it, (chord accompaniment with vocal), right there at the front counter. Why should my father entertain the idea of purchasing a new guitar from these people when this perfectly good instrument could produce such a masterpiece? My teacher would look on this with terrified disbelief. For me, this was an experience that it has taken many hours of music therapy to overcome.

The point of all this is that… back when I was a kid there were cheap guitars, out of tune pianos, drab books, lousy teachers, ancient pieces, and crazy parents and it still could not stop me from seeing the magic that there is in making music with your own hands.

I can also now say that, back when I was a kid, I really did not understand, just how great a gift my parents gave me, by investing in me as a musician.

 

Ad for Book wit Piano and guitar pick

James is the author of the book series titled “Song Forms for Songwriters” that is based on his primary academic discipline known as compositional abstraction. It is a system for creating new songs from shadowing single elemental features extracted from existing work.

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Disclaimer:   Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members.  Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

Songwriters Update!

June 26, 2017
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Intro SongBird North Slide

 

This name change announcement from Bluebird North to SongBird North concerns the showcase concert series presented by the Songwriters Association of Canada and sponsorship partners across Canada.  We asked the Toronto series’ producer, Blair Packham, to write a statement outlining the idea behind the change.

“For more than 20 years, the S.A.C. has presented the regular concert series that we called Bluebird North. A showcase for accomplished Canadian songwriters—four sitting in a row—each performance was unique, but they all shared some key elements: a celebration of the art and craft of songwriting, complete with road stories about hits and misses, and plenty of humour along the way. Decades ago, when I was asked to take over as producer of the Toronto shows, I wanted to change its name because I wanted to make it ours, not a tribute to some place faraway. That didn’t happen for a variety of good reasons, and in the interim, we in the lineup, there would be a good show that night. For the 2017/2018 season at the Royal Conservatory of  Music, we’ve decided to make that name change, but the shows themselves will remain reliably the same: excellent songwriters trading songs and stories, singing, playing and laughing together. We’re calling it SongBird North, as a nod to our glorious past and our promising future, not to mention our Canadian geography, which so often shapes the songs we write and sing.”

— Blair Packham

Songwriters Association of Canada

Feature Article #5: The Thrill is Gone

June 23, 2017
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For the Month of June the S.A.C. will be featuring a series of articles by James Linderman.

James @ Berkleemusic
James Linderman works at the James Linderman Music Lesson Studio in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He teaches guitar, piano, bass and music theory as well as contemporary songwriting and film composition, in studio, as well as over Skype to students all over the world.

The Thrill is Gone

By James Linderman

There is a story I love to tell to my songwriting clients. It goes like this….

BB King had a massive hit song called “The Thrill is Gone”.

It launched his national and then international career to make him the most widely recognized ambassador of the blues.

He recording the song in 1969, with a string section and a production palate that would appeal to a mainstream (read “white” into the word mainstream) audience. The song took him from being a national, somewhat marginal blues artist to an international superstar. He opened for The Rolling Stones US tour that year as well, which certainly helped.What many people don’t know is that he did not write this song. His signature hit was written in the 1950’s by 2 writers, Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell.

The other interesting fact is that BB King was born in 1925 making him almost 50 years old when his mainstream international career began.

Some would argue that “3 O’Clock Blues” or the song “Everyday I have the Blues” or his deal in the 1940’s with a major label or his songs recorded with Sam Philips, before “The Thrill is Gone” was recorded, were indications of a steady ascension to stardom but they would be mistaken to think that.

I remember hearing BB King in 1970 and for mainstream listeners, outside of blues fans in the US particularly, this was a new artist with a new song, period.

BB King was 50 years old playing a 20 year old song and taking the world by storm.

Today you would probably hear from music industry insiders that this could not happen today and they are correct…if by today you mean the business that they used to work in.

It is hard for me to imagine still taking anything they have to say seriously when Youtube and Spotify are the new reality and the internet is so far beyond the control of any of these industry insiders that I hear speaking on panels at music conferences and workshops.

It reminds me of what it might sound like to hear a group of dinosaurs discuss the ice age, as if we were still in it, just because it’s wintertime.

What can happen, outside of these music pundits limited perception is actually where this story becomes valuable to the rest of us.

BB King brought a marginalized genre to a mainstream audience by blending a traditional established piece of writing with a production element not normally found in that genres music but really valued by mainstream listeners.

Orchestrations were what mades a piece of music sound like it belonged in the public ear. It showed investment, made the piece sound like it should be taken seriously.

That trick, in a variety of applications, has been done thousands of times now…but we don’t seem to add it to the narrative for some reason….

For example, Eric Clapton put Bob Marley (and reggae as a style of music) on the map by recording “I Shot the Sheriff”.

Paul McCartney used elements of a Scott Joplin ragtime piece to build the piano performance for “Lady Madonna.

The intro to “Stairway to Heaven” is constructed from the intro of lots of previous compositions using a compositional technique called voice lead. Particularly, Baden Powell’s “Samba Triste” written in 1959 when Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was 15 years old…..”Samba Triste” is definitely a jazz piece and Page took this compositional convention to a rock audience with great success.

All of these recordings display risk, all are synergies of style and production or genre and presentation.

When artists ask me what they should do today to stand out to become famous and get some hits, all I can think about is Justin Beiber joining forces with Skrillex and rebuilding his career and it is the same story…

 

Ad for Book wit Piano and guitar pick
James is the author of the book series titled “Song Forms for Songwriters” that is based on his primary academic discipline known as compositional abstraction. It is a system for creating new songs from shadowing single elemental features extracted from existing work.
James Linderman - QrtrPg_Ad_BookRelease1 copy
Disclaimer:   Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members.  Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

Feature Article #4: The Questions Your Listener Wants Your Song to Answer …and Ask

June 20, 2017
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For the Month of June the S.A.C. will be featuring a series of articles by James Linderman.

James @ Berkleemusic
James Linderman works at the James Linderman Music Lesson Studio in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He teaches guitar, piano, bass and music theory as well as contemporary songwriting and film composition, in studio, as well as over Skype to students all over the world.

 

 

The Questions Your Listener Wants Your Song to Answer …and Ask

by James Linderman

 

Picture the beginning of the film.

The camera pans down from the sky across a hillside, past a statue of Jesus Christ; arms outstretched. Many of us know instantly we are in Rio. The camera continues down the hillside and into the busy city streets where we see modern cars and we know that the film is set in the present era.

We then follow the camera into a coffee shop where a man is siting at a table holding a newspaper up; it covers most of his face but as the camera rises above it, we see, behind dark sunglasses the face of film actor; Denzel Washington. At this point we now know that we are watching a film where a number of people are going to lose their life; primarily because they’ve done something horrendous to someone innocent. In the scene, there are lots of people scurrying about, but one other person stands out and as he enters the coffee shop and sits down across from the star, we realize that this person will feature in the storyline.

If we trace the stages of the opening of this film, we can see that it answers questions in a pattern that allows the audience to feel like they are right there with the characters; not being told the story, but being shown it, as it unfolds.This distinction, in art, is a huge one because the difference between being told something and being shown something is not only a fundamental difference that ignites our senses of both sight and sound but also inspires a greater amount of care for the characters involved. It also helps if everyone involved in producing the art, have worked hard to make it seem as real, or at least as relatable, as possible.

If we follow the storyline written above we can see that, even in the opening scene, a number of important questions have been answered. The first question that is answered is “where”. The filmmaker has made sure that we know the story is taking place in Rio and the famous statue of Jesus Christ does that job. The question of “when” is the next one that is answered. We see the contemporary looking automobiles and instantly know the timeframe that the story is set in. Some smaller time questions may also be answered by it appearing to be morning, afternoon or evening as well and we may even be able to tell it is a weekday or weekend, that sort of thing.

The audience may not even be aware that they are being informed when they are shown, and not directly told, this information, but that is part of the experience of discovery, for an audience enjoying a work of art.

The next question that follows is “who” and we are shown the actor without being told, just yet, what he will be doing and why. We also get to see another character and by his proximity to the star of the film, the audience instantly attaches greater importance to this person as the rest of the actors (waiters, other patrons of the shop, passers by on the street) fade into the background as if they are human props. The longer someone stays on screen and the more they say or do, the more we are led to believe that they will be essential to the successful continuance of the storyline.

“What” is a question that will now be answered, as in, “what will happen next?” and the question “how” will also unfold. Some of these questions can be answered in dialogue or narrative explanation in a film and in that regard they are certainly told and not always shown but shown is the dominant and preferred mode of expression for the movie goer.

As songwriters we can be tricked into believing that because we are expressing our ideas in a song, with the words in our lyric, and not with a camera, as with a film, that our job is to tell and not show, and more pointedly to explain and not describe. It is generally understood that there is language that tells and language that shows. A lyric like, “I loved you from the moment I saw you” is a statement of explanation whereby the lyric, “Indian summer, Abaline, you were new in town, I was 19, sparks flew” written by Dave Tyson, Dean McTaggert and Amanda Marshall from the Amanda Marshall hit song Dark Horse uses imagery and descriptive language to take the listener right there and show them.

If we look at the progression of description in this short piece of writing we can see that it opens with when -“Indian summer”, where – “Abeline”, who #1– “You were new in town”, who #2 – “I was 19” and we get a little hint of what– “sparks flew”. Now that our listener has been taken to the scene and shown the scenario the writer can then get away with some “telling” and start a bit of narrative but mixed with more imagery to keep the listener at the scene.

Often, however a song lyric does not need to provide a setting and is written mostly to explain some aspect of life, some feature that is just the right balance of unique and universally relatable. Having clever and non obvious imagery can be key to making this work and writing consistent to a form is also very important to this kind of song. The song may just answer one single question.Therefore, analyzing a template of an existing song, line by line, can be a great way to grow this skill faster. Certainly much faster than if we just wrote songs till we got this quality of pattern and pacing right.

A song written by Gary Burr, Joel Feeney and Kylie Stackley that was a country single for Lee Ann Rymes called “Nothing About Love Makes Sense”  displays a pattern for the type of application. Look up the lyric to this song online and match it up with this line by line form template. The song asks the listener, “Is love as confounding as it seems, since the world in general also has some puzzling features?

Verse #1

Line #1 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #2 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #3 – Example of contradiction in romantic love

Line #4 – Refrain line – Title.

Verse #2

 Line #1 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #2 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #3 – Example of  contradiction in romantic love

Line #4 – Refrain line – Title.

Chorus

Line #1 – Statement of wonder concerning contradictions of love

Line #2 – Example of contradiction in romantic love

Line #3 – Example of contradiction of romantic love

Line #4 – Statement of wonder concerning contradictions of love

Line #5 – Statement of wonder concerning contradictions of love

Line #6 – Statement of wonder concerning contradictions of love

Line #7 – Statement of wonder concerning contradictions of love

Line #8 – Statement of wonder concerning contradictions of love

Verse #3

Line #1 – Examples of features of romantic love

Line #2 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #3 – Example of contradiction in romantic love

Line #4 – Refrain line – Title.

Chorus

Verse#4

Line #1 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #2 – Example of contradiction in the world

Line #3 – Example of contradiction in romantic love

Line #4 – Refrain line – Title.

Outro

Title repeat.

You could now just pour your own creative ideas into this pattern, knowing that the form will help measure out your lyric message, helping your listener to comprehend it and feel it’s emotional implications to produce the greatest impact.

As mentioned earlier, in this example the lyric sends the listener one unified message, “love is confounding” and asks the listener, (without coming right out and asking them) if they experience love the same way. Due to the universality of loves confusing nature, it is a relatable song to every honest listener.

That certainly seems to appear to be what we want, a relationship with our listener whereby we answer our own questions about life…and love, and we inspire listeners to weigh the value of the evidence our song provides. In great songs it is a terrific conversation.

 

Ad for Book wit Piano and guitar pick
James is the author of the book series titled “Song Forms for Songwriters” that is based on his primary academic discipline known as compositional abstraction. It is a system for creating new songs from shadowing single elemental features extracted from existing work.
James Linderman - QrtrPg_Ad_BookRelease1 copy
Disclaimer:   Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members.  Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

Feature Article #3: The Long Distance Co-Writer

June 16, 2017
by

For the Month of June the S.A.C. will be featuring a series of articles by James Linderman.

James @ Berkleemusic
James Linderman works at the James Linderman Music Lesson Studio in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He teaches guitar, piano, bass and music theory as well as contemporary songwriting and film composition, in studio, as well as over Skype to students all over the world.

 

 

The Long Distance Co-Writer

By James Linderman

As songwriters we live a fairly solitary existence.

If we are any good at it, we have unquestionably practiced an entire lifetime away and have gotten pretty good at being alone.

Certainly every skilled songwriter I know has done the now emblematic 10,000 hours of alone time drilling chords, strumming strums, singing and writing lyrics over and over…and over!

For me, this is added to the hours that have gone into being an agile notational reader on the guitar, piano and bass most of my life.

One of the reasons I started to love collaboration was simply for the company, and not just that it was “people time” but more that it was my kind of people time.

It was also great to have other artists make good use of my education and training and to turn our work into something greater than the sum of its parts. I did however find that there were certainly limitations to having to meet with other songwriters face to face. Schedules and distance would be in direct conflict with skill and status.

If someone was further along than I was in terms of success or skill then it was understood that I would have to travel to where they were at. That was not always possible and certainly never easy, since I always lived in the suburbs and most of the heavyweight songwriters were certainly not in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. Yes, really!

There is also the fact that I have never been a performing songwriter and so everyone writing with me would have to carry that part of the songs future completely on their own shoulders. I found that really narrowed the field of opportunity as well.

Very early in the development of the internet I started trying to figure out how I might write with collaborators online and I started reaching out to some writers I already knew right away.

My first long distance co-writes were top lines and bottom lines. I would send out tracks and get writers to write a melody and lyrics on them. Sometimes they were just a single rhythm guitar track or a piano performance, and other times it was full band, or small form orchestral tracks I would record here as instrumentals with my first DAW.

Sometimes writers would ignore these e-mails with the mp3 attached of my track and delete them as if they were spam and never return my e-mail. Some writers would politely e-mail me back and let me know that this was not the kind of music they were interested in writing, or not the kind of collaboration that they were “into” but would often thank me for sending the track and respectfully decline.

Occasionally, this would be the start of an actual collaboration and the other writer would often get started right away. They would usually get part way in and we would schedule a phone conversation (in the pre-Skype days) and see where the song was at and often work a little bit together over the phone to get on the same page before all the ink was dry.

If outside musicians were needed to do up a good demo we would split the cost of hiring who we might need but for the most part I would do most of the playing and my collaborators were almost always singers who would then take the tracks into a studio (or their own home studio) and add the vocal.

We would then work together to promote the songs, doubling our chances of placing our work and had some reasonable successes with that approach.

Bottom lining is the same approach but I would send potential collaborators a completed lyric with the suggested stress syllables underlined and they would create a melody and send it back for me to write the accompaniment to. One of us would then add everything from chords strummed on the guitar or comped on the piano to full band or orchestrated tracks.

Another outcome would be that they would take the lyric and write all of the rest of the song and complete it to a finished recording.

It was not always essential that the song ended up to be “my kind of music” or my idea of what a great song would be, since I felt like there were lots of “kinds” of listeners and our songs would attract fans of that kind of music. I was aware, pretty early into this, that I was not the only valuable target market and I also trusted the judgement of my co-writers.

A destructive collaborator is the one that needs to be right, even when they are unsure. The most destructive collaborator is the one that has to be right even when they know they are wrong. I have written with both of those kinds…only one time! …And I WAS that collaborator…but only one time!

Anyway, back to bottom lining……

Writers who found it challenging to write a complete lyric would be very enthusiastic about being handed a complete lyric since the “struggle” part would be handed to them and all that remained was the part they actually found to be fun and easily inspired.

Skype has also become a valuable tool to the long distance collaboration as it allows songwriters to write together almost as if in the same room face to face. There is often a slight time delay with Skype and FaceTime but this will get better soon and long distance writing will have almost all of the advantages that having a co writer in the room has.

The question I get asked all of the time is where to find potential collaborators. The first thing I did when I started out was to make a list of all of the songwriters I already knew and ranked them, not based on any metric of value, but based on overlap of skill and if I liked the idea of spending time with them as people as well.

I did not actually contact some of the songwriters on my list simply because most, or sometimes even all of their skills overlapped with mine and I determined that they did not actually need to write with someone like me. I wanted to start with writers who would most benefit from my skill set. Most of the writers I tried to collaborate with were singers since I am not a “great” vocalist. I also looked for good song starters because at the time I was slowly getting to be known to be a good editor and so was thought of as a song “finisher” in those terms… and it was becoming legend that I was not a brilliant singer.

I got good at describing my strengths and weaknesses to my potential co writers which helped them understand their role in the collaboration and I ALWAYS let them know how grateful I was that they would consider writing songs with me. I also eventually found co writers on sites like Indaba Music, Hit Licence and even DAW forums but mostly someone would show me a Youtube video of someone that they were “into”, and if I liked their writing, I would go to their website and contact them.

When you ask someone to co-write with you it is helpful to have something prepared that is a good fit for them and it is helpful to let them know how you discovered them and why the collaboration will benefit them…as well as you. There are only 2 answers to the question, “Will you write this song with me?” One is “yes” and the other, these days, is silence and if you get silence back then fill that void by sending another request to another writer till you find a good fit; someone who values your song and values you as a person.

There are a LOT of people out there in the world writing songs so go find the ones that will want to write some of those songs with you.

 

Ad for Book wit Piano and guitar pick
James is the author of the book series titled “Song Forms for Songwriters” that is based on his primary academic discipline known as compositional abstraction. It is a system for creating new songs from shadowing single elemental features extracted from existing work.
James Linderman - QrtrPg_Ad_BookRelease1 copy
Disclaimer:   Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members.  Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.