11-Year-Old Songwriter Pursues His Dreams

Spencer MacKenzie is currently the youngest member of the Songwriters Association of Canada, but his dreams are certainly not the smallest.  At only 11 years old, he’s already written 5 songs and recorded 3 songs, along with having a professionally shot music video (complete with special effects) that is currently featured on our homepage.  He picked up the guitar at age 5 and knew that country music was his dream the moment he saw Keith Urban perform.  As you will see from our interview, Spencer already has quite a team behind him and we believe that as he grows and continues to pursue his dreams, we’ll be hearing much more from Spencer.  Here is our interview with him.

1.  How did you discover you had a love for songwriting?  My nana passed away two and a half years ago.  I realized that by writing a song I was able to put my feelings into words.  My guitar teacher, Steve Kenyon, thought it would be a challenge to start writting my own songs and it would be fun. It was my very first experience so I started writing my first song called “Too Soon To Say Goodbye.”  Steve became co-writer on this song and in a few short months my first song was born and dedicated to my nana.

2.  What are your goals as a songwriter?  To write and write and write many songs, be as creative as I can be and hope to share my experiences with my friends and family and be enjoyed by whoever listens to my music.

3.  How do you get your inspiration? What steps does it take to go from your first idea to a song?  Even though I am only 11 years old I get all my inspirations from my life and what is going on around me what I see and how I feel. I start building on an idea that comes into my head. I write all my thoughts down that come into my head even if it does not make sense at the time, I work on a melody, I bounce ideas off of my parents. I then form it all together to make it sound the best that I can.

4.  Which is your favourite song that you’ve written and why is it your favourite?  Its hard to pick a favourite song since each song has a special meaning to me. If I had to pick one i guess it would be “Writing a Song.”  It is my favourite because I like how it expresses to songwriters the journey we go thru from getting an idea, stumbling across writters block, over coming it, seeing how it finally all comes toghether. I also had the oppourtunity of a lifetime to do a music video to this song which was a fantastic life experience!

6.  What do you admire most about Keith Urban?  What have you learned from listening to his songs?  My admiration came from when I was five years old. I went to his concert and loved how he performs on stage with the crowd. From that moment on I asked my mom to buy his videos, CD’s and this September I will be attending my 5th concert of his. I THANK him for putting the love of country music in my heart! I have learned from Keith Urban that when you write a song it should have a great story line. Every song I hear him sing I want to hear it over and over and over not only because it is catchy but to try and feel what he is feeling. He is an amazing guitar player I hope one day to be as good of a song writer and guitar player as he is.

7.  Do you get nervous when you perform?   YES absolutely! I get nervous mostly because I am afraid that I am going to mess up. Once I get playing the love I feel takes over and I have an awesome time and to see everyone enjoy it and when they congratulate me it makes me feel great!

8.  Where do you hope to be as a songwriter 5 years from now?  To be doing what I am doing now and that is writing more and more music, getting more experience as a song writer and performer and right now I am living the dream so I hope it continues

9. Who are the people behind you supporting your dream?  I can put a story toghether, pick a melody, write a song but I look up to sooooo many people and am thankful everyday that they are a part of my journey! Keith Urban as my mentor, my nana for being by my side everytime I pick up a pen or my guitar, my papa who is my hero, Steve Kenyon my guitar teacher who helps me think out side the box, Jordan Ferrara my cousin, lead guitarist and my go to person for melody writing, Brad Krauss from Red Cave Studios for producing/engineering my songs, Ann singer my back up vocalist and voice coach, Louis Philippe Baraby my producer/director of my music video, my mom and dad and at the top God for making me who I am.

Click Here to visit Spencer’s profile.

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Pursuing the elusive Hit Song…or not…

We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s the journey, not the destination that counts.”  At the same time we live in a society that worships glorified destinations.  Hollywood and the world of sports, epitomize the golden crown so many wish to achieve.  For those without artistic or athletic dreams, the values instilled by media affect how we view ourselves, our bodies and deeply affect how we choose to spend hard-earned resources.  For those with acting, music or sports on their hearts, the final destination can become a prison rather than a playing field, especially when success, as defined by society at large, can often be elusive.

For the past few years of my life, I have wrestled with the desire to create music.  This has at times been inspirational and hopeful, leading me to meet incredibly talented and passionate people whom I would never have met had I not embarked on this journey.  Other times, it can seem like a black hole that sucks up all my time, resources, and energy.  During the harder moments, I often try to remind myself – it’s about the journey.  However, sometimes these reminders ring hollow as I look to find a result or a breakthrough.

Lately, I experienced a supernatural shift in my perspective, for which I am deeply grateful.  This shift has brought a new hope, and a new peace to how I approach what I am doing.  The shift comes from the knowledge that each of us is gifted in a unique way that is meant to be a contribution to this world.  Paul Williams, President of ASCAP proclaimed at the 2011 “I Create Music” Expo, “The world deserves to hear your song!”  While I’m not sure the entire world needs to hear my songs, I’m certain there are people out there who will find encouragement and resonance with what I represent.

For many songwriters, life is about the pursuit of writing a “hit.”  If you measure yourself against this goal, anything short of a “hit” could be deemed a failure.  I think this is a cruel form of self-punishment.  Rather, I choose henceforth, to open my hands with gratitude for the songs that I’ve been given and choose to honour these gifts by continually finding creative ways to share my unique perspective on life.  Having hosted open mics for a few years now, including the Songwriters Association of Canadas Toronto Regional Writers Group, it always strikes me how each songwriter has a personal style that is like a fingerprint, completely one-of-a-kind.  I too have my fingerprint that cannot be replicated in this world.

In my mind, I see a picture of myself opening the window and setting a cage of doves free to take flight. I can’t wait to see my songs fly…

Visit Lily C’s Songwriters Profile

“Songwriter At Your Service”

For the past 4 years Ania Ziemirska has had the privilege of combining her passion for songwriting with helping fellow songwriters as the Membership Services Representative at the Songwriters Association of Canada.  Ania has fielded all kinds of phone calls from songwriters with questions ranging from digital distribution advice to membership renewals.  She’s the perfect person for the job having released her debut CD, “I Was The Girl,”  last year garnering critical acclaim and airplay.  Many members have benefited from her experience.

She sat down to talk to us about her job, her music and her advice for members.  Here’s what she had to say.

1.  How long have you been working for the S.A.C.?  and how did you land this job?  I’ve been at the S.A.C. since July 2007. I found this job on workinculture.ca and applied for it via email. By chance I was introduced to Executive Director, Don Quarles at an event and went in for an interview the next day. (There’s some proof that networking does pay off)

2.  What has been the highlight of your time working as a Membership Services Representative?  I’m a people person and I love that the job lets me interact with like minded individuals.  It’s also a great feeling to be able to share my experiences to help others.

3.  What training did you receive that best equipped you for your current responsibilities?  I completed a post graduate diploma in Arts Administration and Cultural Management, giving me the necessary background for managing a non-profit. I have also set up a non-profit arts organization in the past and thus was able to see how things work from the board of directors point of view. My undergraduate degree in Psychology helps me deal with people in general.

4.  Congratulations on the 2010 release of your debut EP, “I Was the Girl.”  What tips would you like to share about the creative and production process?  Do your research, don’t cut corners and be prepared for things to take longer than you anticipated.

5.  What did you learn from making this album that you will use towards your next one?  I will never again let a recording leave the engineering stage until it’s the best it can be. There was some serious issues that could not be “fixed in the mix” and I couldn’t go back and re-record them. Next time around I’ll make sure that things sound as good as they could even if it means longer hours and more takes!

6.  What is your favourite song off your EP?  It’s hard to choose. “Ditched Romance” is probably the best recording but I also love the the cello on “Fade Away”. “Giving Love a Try” is probably one of my favorite songs on the EP but sadly my least favorite recording.

7.  What would you like to say to your fellow S.A.C. Members?  Network! Get on Facebook/Twitter/etc, come out to events, and workshops to connect with other writers. You never know who you’ll meet and who they might know. And of course, keep writing; the more you write, the better you’ll be. The brain is a muscle, you need to use it. Last, but not least: a wise person once told me that re-writing is just as important as writing, so be open to letting your songs grow!

Click Here to see Ania’s Songwriter Profile.

The S.A.C. Writers’ Room launches with a FULL HOUSE!

Songwriting in the hallway.

The offices of the Songwriters Association of Canada were filled with songwriters and new songs being written this past Monday at the Open House and launch of the ALL-NEW S.A.C. Writers’ Room hosted by the Toronto Regional Writers’ Group.  The event, was a great springboard for songwriters to connect with new collaboration partners, as well as to explore exercises to stimulate creativity.  The room was buzzing with enthusiasm and friendliness!

Peter Linseman and myself (Lily C) were pleased with the turn-out (we were filled to capacity!), as well as the resulting songs.  Meghan Morrison was excited about participating in her largest ever co-write with 3 other people, while Joanne Ingrassia looks forward to adding the song she collaborated on into her performing repertoire.  From folk to R&B to children’s songs, everyone brought different styles and talents to the table.

The event was so successful, plans are underway for another collaboration night.  If you weren’t able to make this one, we hope to see you next time!

Click Here to see Photo Gallery.

Click Here to Joint the Toronto Regional Writers Group Facebook Group.

Take a Tour of the Writers Room (see video below) and book your time today.