As the sound of cheering crowds from the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games fade and the largest ever Parapan Am Games begin, there is a song that will continue to play until the games are finished, that is “Shine As One.” Written at a 3-day S.A.C. SongWorks songwriting camp, It’s the song that was chosen to be played while athletes receive their medals. Originally written in 15 and 45 second parts, the song was later extended to versions up to 10 minutes long to make sure it could cover up to 20 athletes walking to the podium. We interviewed Montreal songstress/songwriter Sally Folk, PEI Singer/Songwriter Dennis Ellsworth and Toronto based producer/songwriter Karen Kosowski about their experience writing this anthemic song.
1. What is a highlight moment for you in writing the song?
Sally: The first 5 minutes! I think that meeting and greeting with new collaborators is always an awkward moment because, being used to write and compose alone, you really want to be easy going for this “one” time J It’s like starting a new relationship, you want to stay yourself but also make sure the others are meeting their own standards.
Dennis: The collaboration was really fun. we worked really hard to be on point and it paid off.
2. Have you attended any medal ceremonies to hear your song fill the stadium?
Sally: Sad but no. I’ve been touring out here in Québec.
Dennis: Sadly, no.
Karen: I attended one of the medal ceremonies at Sugar Beach, for an outdoor sailing event. It was really cool to see. I also checked out a lot of videos on Youtube and got to see the big stadium ceremonies… made me do a little ugly cry!
3. What was the inspiration in writing this song at SongWorks?
Sally: We were asked to write specifically for the PANAM Games so the song had to be very cheerful and bring everybody together. Karen, who also produced the song, suggested a great beat and we started from there.
Dennis: Sports. weird for me, but true. all the emotions that go hand in hand with competitive sports, but most importantly, that we are all winners.
Karen: As the producer/writer in the room I like to come in with some possible starter material, so the song started from a track I had started the day before the camp. I knew what we were going to be going for (loosely) so from a production standpoint I started out wanting to do something that had a multicultural flavor, and also something with high energy. I started out with some big drums and some latin-american percussion and guitars. Then writing the song with Dennis and Sophia was easy because we had a direction already.
4. Have you ever collaborated with these writers before?
Sally: No, that’s the fun about it. You never know what to expect working with new collaborators as well as the final product. It can totally bring you out of your comfort zone and that is why it is so important to do these kinds of works. You grow as an artist. I would definitely work with Karen and Dennis again.
Dennis: No. I definitely hope so. It’s always nice to write with great writers, especially if we already have a rapport and a successful track record.
Karen: That camp was our first time, but hopefully we will again soon!
5. Any plans for the song after the games?
Sally: You can purchase the original version of “SHINE AS ONE” on ITunes!
Dennis: Not sure. I’d love to see it gets some more love.
Karen: Nothing at the moment, although I suppose it could work for a lot of other similar types of events.
6. How would you describe your experience of SongWorks to another songwriter considering participating in a future camp?
Sally: Just do the work. Be open to new ideas and have fun!
Dennis: I adore the songworks camps. i meet great writers and have a blast. i’m always treated like gold and i always learn something that adds to my own skill set….something that i can bring to future writing camps or sessions. i’ve had nothing but gold from the camps i’ve attended.
Karen: Writing camps like SongWorks are very much like a new blind date every day… it’s intense, fun, and it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers and producers. Try to get a lot of sleep to keep your energy up!!
7. What’s your favourite lyric in “Shine As One”?
Sally: I love the pre-chorus:
“Love and hope
Hear our call
All for one
and one for all
Everybody feel it now
Sing – it – loud!”
I had a lot of fun singing it and I think it fits the purpose of the song perfectly.
Dennis: Either – We love, we fight, we shine as one. OR we may look different, but we’re all the same
Karen: “Let’s shine together bright as stars”
Christmas in July – Feedback on Submissions for The S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge from Vince Degiorgio
Thanks to all who submitted to Vincent Degiorgio’s challenge to write a classic Christmas hit.
He was impressed with the quality and quantity of submissions. He apologized profusely for the delay in responding. We are grateful he took the time to do this. In many ways, the delay provides a true-to-life experience for songwriters wanting replies from the industry. You need to be persistent and have patience. So, let’s celebrate Christmas in July. Have a listen to these songs and see what Vince had to say…
“It’s Funny How Christmas Makes Me Cry” – Allister Bradley & Judy Marshak
-Love the traditional approach and the clean instrumentation
-I would have used, “It’s funny, how Christmas makes me cry” at the end of the second ‘verse’
By establishing this as the title, and it being able to make lyrical sense, so don’t throw that away !
-you’ve used a laundry list method to list all of the elements which is very good
-I think that since the song is basically a style in which the chorus sings as the verse, and the and chorus does likewise as a refrain, I would have inserted an instrumental passage, perhaps a guitar leading the first half and the piano doing the second half of your verse passage to give the singer a break.
-It’s extremely wordy at this point.
-Played this a number of times.
-With the lyric itself, it’s a wonderful exercise in editing and expression in some ways. For example: the 2nd line is using phrases like “oh, so warm”, which is great, but usually rests of expression are used later in a song.
-Another point is the lyricist has to completely personalize the song, otherwise it feels like poetry. Try re-framing the song with the vocalist being the complete narrator. It gets confusing because there is the thought of it the singer with this lyric referring to “I”, “we’ve” and “we are all still children” in three different sections. Choose your ultimate direction. If it’s you, it might work better and stronger to say “I’ve seen so many seasons” -etc.
-There is a lot here to continue to edit and tighten the story. Personalizing it is the key. Good effort.
-With a bit of work, this song could possibly work in a made for TV movie.
“Our First Christmas Eve” – by Michael Nowak
-The vocal performance is clear and clean
-Lyrically, I feel that it’s trying to saying too much in the space that the music provides
-the staccato movement of the end of the verse segments is very clever
-To recall, the references of a bona fide, texas size downpour, and a 40 proof egg nog paint a picture, however it might suit a holiday comedy musical more than in this traditional setting.
-I honestly would suggest trying to say less and be more concise.
-The arrangement here and the vocal are both terrific, but I feel that the lyric lets down the song.
“Where’s The Elf” – by Scott MacKay and Judy Marshak
-This is wonderfully performed, but I have a problem.
-If the song is called “Where’s That Elf”, and in the first line of the song, you declare “I’m A Christmas Elf”, then it contradicts everything in the presentation of the title
-I actually would take the lines that say the word “Elf” in this throughout the song and re-write them, saving the impact of the Christmas elf to the very end of the song.
-The narrator is to my eyes, takes a step out of “Toy Story” at Christmas time.
-There are tons of lyrical gems here that can be maximized by holding back the impact of the “elf” until the end.
-This has a ton of potential. It may need an instrumental passage, and if done acoustically, should provide some space by taking a verse and whistling through it.
-Do these fixes and I think people, especially indie film supervisors will come looking for this song.
“All I Want Is You” by Bernadette Saquibal
-Very close to an early 90’s R&B soul treatment
-I’d suggest saving the title for the chorus
-A lot of stylistic phrasing and liberty with words, feels like more of an artist presentation of a song
-Chorus is disjointed for me
-I like the song, but wanted to love it. May be a bit to stylistic, and oversung to be placed.
“The Perfect Gift” – by Heather Meori
-Quirky inventive rhythm, immediately caught my ears
-Disagree with banking the title to the end of the song, which creates a clunky phrasing problem at the end of chorus sections…just use the Perfect Gift and cement your chorus !
-The tempo makes such a difference
-This is truly adorable.
-Wonderfully descriptive lyric, melodically moving, and kept subtle with an honest and true vocal performance
-Very publishable and a great song (just fix that chorus !)
“Christmas Eve” by Mel Farrimond
-This is just terrific. Fantastic lyric, Great delivery and more.
-I’m thinking in my head – oh, what strings could do for this !
-Evokes the voice of Beverly Craven – who happens to be one of my favourite singers
-Got goosebumps when the solo came in because it was crying for it and the double proved it
-Cements the theme – arrangement for a demo is outstanding
-Instrumental interplay towards the end is excellent and it closes strong.
-This is the winner – beautiful
“Christmas For Two” – Joe Stanton
-Really enjoyed listening to this entry
-Would suggest a little bit of editing and structure work to solidify the strength of the song
-I would try using the intro as the ending of your song
-Start the song with your opening verse, then, take a strong look and the melodic flow in the second half of the opening verse – it needs to flow better.
-The pre chorus intro is very pretty and has great movement
-The chorus is short and concise
-This song in particular was a tremendous challenge to the listener because there is so much there.
– really enjoyed this song – listened to it ten times. One to watch.
In celebration of its induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CHSF) this week, the song “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song,” was covered by Juno Award winner Justin Rutledge as part of the CSHF and CBC/Radio-Canada’s Covered Classics series. Written by Canadian singer-songwriter Valdy, “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song,” is a 1970s folk classic about his experience getting jeered by an audience for playing his folk music at a rock festival. The song spent 12 weeks on RPM’s Top 40 singles chart for Canada and went gold by 1975.
“It’s a huge honour to have my song ‘Play Me a Rock and Roll Song’ inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame,” says Valdy from his West Coast home. “I’m grateful to all involved, and hugely proud to have one of my songs included as a part of Canada’s musical legacy.”
“Valdy is an iconic songwriter and performer, and one of Canada’s great storytellers,” says Justin. “It’s an honour to perform ‘Play Me a Rock and Roll Song’ as part of the Covered Classics series, and to have the opportunity to celebrate Canada’s great songwriting heritage.”
Thank you everyone for taking this challenge by writing some amazing songs and pushing yourself! From reading your takes on the experience, it seems like it was a good challenge that got you a bit further out of your comfort zones. Overall I think the songs were great first attempts and that it will help to get you in that self-edit mode that is critical to grow as a songwriter.
One thing that became pretty obvious to me is that everyone perceives radio differently and something that I always like to tell up and coming artists is to listen to the radio, and get a sense for what is happening now. Radio, like everything, is a constantly evolving medium, changing with the current sounds. So if you haven’t tuned in to a station in awhile and you’re basing your idea on what that station was playing more than 2 years ago, it will have changed. My challenge to you going forward is to listen and familiarize yourself with all radio and get an idea of what is happening now, so you have a better idea of where you might or might not fit.
It was great to see how quick you all were with producing new songs and the great instincts you all have for melody and hooks. I know these were quick demos and could eventually evolve into some great songs, so I didn’t look too hard at sound / instrument choices, production, etc. as I know these would not be considered finished songs. So what I’m looking at here is overall structure, melody, and hooks. I know that from here it would be properly recorded and polished.
Remember, from the Music Director at the radio station to the listener, songs are judged quickly, so your song needs to capture people’s attention quickly, hold it and have them humming along by the end of it!
Tea Petrovic “Boomerang”
Interesting ballad, I really like the sound of the vocals, and the melody is great! The song is very catchy and memorable! This song really illustrates the challenge I set out, editing the structure to make a hard-hitting, catchy song. You were quick to the vocals coming in starting at the 9 sec mark. From there the song draws you in and builds nicely, through catchy pre-chorus to the memorable chorus that comes in at the 40 second mark. Love the bridge, the transition fits nicely in the song, and the slow down/break down part is great as well. I really recommend finishing the song; I think you have something here!
Adrianne Ralph & Gordon Wong “Online Romeo”
This song was another great example of the challenge. Adrianne you have a great a voice! This song is fun, and the lyrics are relatable to those dating in these modern times. Regarding timing, quick to the first vocal (7 seconds), quick verse, and then moving right into the build of the pre chorus, to the chorus at 48 seconds. Nice, concise, catchy and memorable song. I would experiment with a few different types of instrumentation and really finish the song. Great job!
DC James & Ahi “Rise”
This song is good structurally and has a big chorus. At times it reminds me of songs in 80’s movies like Top Gun and Footloose but I think that is just due to the thematic / anthemic sound to the song. Not exactly something that could fit right in at radio as is, but with some re-tooling of sounds, a bit of the structure, and a bit more modern sounding, it might take on a new life. Great overall theme of rising above things and believing in yourself, which is very important!
Shout outs to:
Katy Carswell “702”
The song was a good first attempt at the self-edit. I suggest experimenting with song dynamics a bit more to make different parts have a little more oomph to them but I really love your voice and I just had to tell you that! Good melody too! Maybe this song done slightly different instrumentally and re-worked a bit, might turn into something great!
North Easton / Roseanne Baker Thornley “Invisible Stain (Everybody’s Gotta Secret)
Country song with a great chorus, work out the verses a bit and keep on it. It seems like the song is almost there.
1) Take a listen to a variety of radio and get a sense of what is happening now
2) Study song structure further and think of new / different ideas to implement into your songs
3) Keep pushing yourself! It is evident that you are all so talented, can’t wait to see what songs come from you in the future.
James Linderman is one of the passionate coaches who helped nurture our 120+ community of songwriters who participated in this year’s S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge. As the challenge wrapped up he summarized some words of wisdom which he has agreed to share with us here. Thanks to Debra Alexander, our other passionate coach, for transcribing James’ video.
Be Wary of The Critique.
As you have your work critiqued, remember that you are winning over—or not winning over—one single listener with a perceived importance. Credentials can be a bit of a mirage. The hit song someone has had doesn’t necessarily give them that much information to pass along to you as to how to produce a hit song of your own.
The material that you need to produce a song that you can love comes from:
1) your own personal tastes—deciding what you like and don’t like about other people’s work
2) transferring those personal tastes onto your own work
3) and hard work— the diligence of building skills, so that you can flesh out ideas so that they become, not just imagined, but real
Gaining a true perspective on the value of your work doesn’t necessarily come from the approval of a celebrity. Deciding what music is “consumable” is not determined by celebrities, academics, or any particular segment of society. We all, as “folks,” get to decide what music we like…and that is what makes “folk music.”
Be Wary of the Idea of One Big Break.
People who get their music moved forward have generally worked very hard to get their music moved forward. Forwards are based on the personal tastes of reviewers, as well as a few rules…but remember that personal biases are always a factor, because listeners are flawed human beings.
Getting your music forwarded is a terrific thing to have happen, but consider the break in getting your music forwarded as only part of a series of small steps. Most peoples’ careers are not based on a single piece of good luck or good fortune or one single break. Once you get a break, you have to produce more and more work to show you deserve to have a place at the table. Also it is very difficult to get peoples’ attention, and it is even harder to hold that attention.
Move forward by getting one piece of music recognized, and then another piece of music, and then another… take small steps; back up “breaks” by more hard work in order to obtain longevity.
Karma is a ruthless and fairly relentless piece of social equipment. Karma looks after the things that we generally don’t. Be good to one another. Build relationships with people. Move one another forward and make an effort to have each other’s backs. If you’re doing this right, you’ll have a lot more rejections than you’ll have things go through, and it’s good to have people around you to help you get through the discouraging times, and also to help you have more opportunities and broaden your chances so you can continue to have hope.
Create Your Own Luck.
If you want to have success that is built on making contemporary music, get a radio (!) and put your ear to the ground so you can meet the criteria of contemporary listeners. If you want to be in that part of the music industry, listen carefully to understand what makes contemporary popular music successful, and produce the same kind of music.
If you don’t want to make that kind of music, you can still find success in other parts of the music world. Find other listeners who like whatever kind of music you want to make. Making music only for money is perhaps a hollow pursuit if it is not a reflection of what you truly desire to express.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Success.
More people are afraid of success than of failure. Failure can feel very comforting. Because there are so many rejections compared to successes, you’ll find lots of people who will sympathize with you, people who are in the same boat as you, people who will come to your rescue. On the other hand, when you’re successful it can be very isolating. Lots of people will be jealous of your success; people will be critical of it, and feel you didn’t deserve it because their vision is based on what they put into their own art and they are not willing to see the value in the work you do. Be aware of people who only like you for your accomplishments, and what they think you can offer them. Cultivate relationships with people who understand who you really are, as your achievements are not really you.
Learn How To Shut The World Out.
Mostly, you need to put your head down and work hard at your craft:
-Practice your songs in front of a mirror
-Know what you look like
-Know what you sound like
-Become a great archivist of your image in terms of your art
-Know what it is you want to produce
-Know what it is you DO produce
-Know where you are in the continuum of your career
Your Listeners Deserve Your Work.
Take the opportunity to play your music because you have every right to do so, and you deserve to play it, and your audience can enjoy it whether or not you think you’re on a ‘professional’ level.
Your Listeners Deserve Your Work.
Take the opportunity to play your music because you have every right to do so, and you deserve to play it, and your audience can enjoy it whether or not you think you’re on a ‘professional’ level.
by: Jordan Howard
First of all, songwriters are the back bone of the musical landscape on this planet so thank you for your passion, your drive and your talent.
This challenge was a decent look into what my job is like almost every single day. Most of the time I will receive a “call out” such as the one that I sent to you guys but I will usually not have any more information than what is given to me in that one email. Often I receive very broad requests for music so I understand how difficult it probably is to write something in less than a week when you don’t really know what the scene is or what exactly the directors and editors are looking for.
This weeks winner is Holes by Sean Bertram
I love the groove of this song. Great tempo and the chorus is very strong lyrically and melodically. I would like to see of the lyrics in the verse’s be flushed out a little but you really nailed the Black Keys thing. Elevate the production quality and I would definitely pitch this.
Pat Canavan – Bury Me
Cool song. If I had to guess, I would say that someone is a Pink Floyd fan? The song does seem to drag a little and feels like one giant chorus. Normally this would be a problem however in the context of the challenge it actually works. The more hooky the better. Better production and this could definitely work.
Scott MacKay – A Good Impression
I dig this. Would love to see some more instrumentation come in the second verse (right at “you can tell”) maybe a snare and acoustic, then let the violin come in after but that’s just production. The song also needs a chorus but the melody also acts as a hook so it could attract the supervisors attention in a different way.The lyrics are broad and thus excellent for film/tv. I think this song would work great with a female voice in the last verse which would give the film/tv people a little more variety in the song. It would also be cool to have a girl sing the words “Better lock yer windows. Double-check Now she’s got her fingers round your neck”
Glen MacNeil – Dangerous
The feel of this song is exactly what I was looking for. Minor key!!I would like to see some progression in the guitar line to differentiate between the chorus and the verse’s. Lyrically the song is very strong and is really akin to what I had originally requested.
Donald Delano – Blood Red Rose
I love the feel of this song. Very “True Blood-esque” if you get the reference. I also really like the mood change when the chorus kicks in and its a great tempo for film/tv placement
Adri Anne Ralph – So Easy
The vocals are excellent. I’m not 100% sure that it works for the type of show that we are looking at but it definitely has placement possibilities. I would suggest moving the beat up in the song as the first 90 sec or so does seem to drag a bit.
Tea Petrovic – Begging For More
This is exactly what I was looking for. A little production to be done in the chorus to really create that “Umph” but overall this is really great. Strong vocals, cool instrumentation and the song ties together really well. Excellent job.
Katy Carswell – Sweet Hell
Excellent vocals and a strong melody. I would love to see the kick drum from the chorus continue and pick up through the 2nd verse to create a build.
The 2015 S.A.C. Blogging and Songwriting Challenge was the first of its kind. Every week industry professionals issued challenges that allowed our 121 participants a taste of life as a professional songwriter. Those who committed themselves 100% to the task found that songwriting took over their lives, consuming their thoughts and time. For many it was a taste of the life they aspire to live.
We are grateful to each of our professional mentors, Rob Wells, Heather Gardner, Ron Irving, Jordan Howard, Vincent Degiorgio and Cara Heath, who not only issued challenges but also provided personal feedback to a handful of submissions vetted by our songwriting coaches. The response from the industry was so positive we were able to give participants a choice of taking on two challenges in the final week. It is generous of them to have taken the time to nurture the next generation of songwriters.
We are also grateful to our songwriting coaches, Debra Alexander and James Linderman who lived in the trenches with our songwriters. Our coaches shared advice on lyrics, chord structures and collaboration, going far above and beyond what was expected, fuelled by their genuine desire to see our participants succeed. For many of our songwriters, the help these coaches provided defined their experience of this challenge, opening up new tools and techniques to apply to their craft.
We would also like to thank Barb Sedun for arranging a real life pitch to Matt Dusk (to be posted below), along with Matt himself and his management team for their willingness to give our emerging songwriters a chance to present him songs that would expand his sound for his next album. Having a real opportunity like this has been a game-changer, increasing the intensity in a way no other challenge could.
Lastly, we must thank all of our passionate participants. Everyday the Facebook group was full of positive feedback and constructive criticism as many songwriters shared their work in progress, often times in genres far outside their comfort zones. So much zeal. So much love. By the end of the first week, the group began to feel like a summer camp of sorts, with new friendships forming that we hope will continue long after this challenge is history.
So, we end with where we began. It is time to submit your song for Challenge No. 1 issued by Matt Dusk. Please post the following below by Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59pm:
1. Your Name
2. What was the hardest challenge or hardest part of the challenge for you and why?
3. What did you enjoy most about participating in this experience?
4. What is something significant that you learned from taking on this challenge? (It can be about yourself or about the challenge)
5. Would you do this type of challenge again? Why or why not?
6. Your link to your Matt Dusk submission. Please include lyrics on your SoundCloud page. If one of your collaborating partners is submitting the link to your song, you can refer to their posting (ie. See link from ____________).