Can you co-write and record a song a day for 3 days in a row? Ed Oakley and his SongWorks Adventure.

Left to right:  Dennis Ellsworth, Adam Williamson, Ed Oakley, Don Levandier, Shawn Chaisson, Ryan G. Hillier, Katrine Noel and Julie AubeNot in photo: Vivianne Roy
SongWorks Moncton 2013 Participants.  Left to right: Dennis Ellsworth, Adam Williamson, Ed Oakley, Don Levandier, Shawn Chaisson, Ryan G. Hillier, Katrine Noël and Julie Aubé.  Not in photo: Vivianne Roy

Ed Oakley is the most recent winner of the Open Chair opportunity for the Songwriters Association of Canada’s sponsored SongWorks professional songwriting camp.  He got to kick off 2013 with an intense cowriting experience.  Here are his takeaways from the experience.  Stay tuned for more Open Chair opportunities on the horizon.

In Ed’s Words…

Vince DeGiorgio has a weak stomach when it comes to tequila….the Laundromat Bar on St. George Street has a phenomenal selection of beers….do not park your car on the streets of Moncton when the winter parking ban is on and when QSC front of house speakers burn they make one hell of a stink. All this learned while attending the S.A.C SongWorks camp this past week in Moncton, New Brunswick.

For those of you not familiar with SongWorks, a little explanation is in order. SongWorks is a three day songwriting camp hosted by S.A.C. It involves taking nine writers, dividing them into groups of three, putting each group into separate rooms with recording equipment and tasking them with writing and recording a song a day for three days. Groups are rearranged daily so that you write with different artists every session. There is no topic or genre dictated.

Having never been involved in collaborative song writing I hope to carry the torch for this practice and give some insight into the concerns I had going into the camp. I will then address these concerns post-Songworks and shed light on the dark world of uncertainty that surrounds co-writing (I know, a little deep but I am feeling extra creative right now). Hence, the goal of this blog will be to persuade any timid songwriter into giving co-writing at least one try before dismissing it. Co-writing can have a profound positive effect on your creativity. Fresh from one of the premier songwriting camps in Canada, here we go…

Before Songworks: I am not good enough to write with other artists.

After Songworks: The genetic makeup of a songwriter is someone who wants to share, learn, experience and live in a supportive environment. These things are the essence of creativity. A writer who shuts themselves off from experience will have nothing to write about. For me, that meant that any weakness I had as a writer was overlooked for the strength I brought. Even if that strength only accounted for a small part in the song. Songwriters in these camps are nice people. They are too poor to be mean!

Before Songworks: I only write one type of music. I can’t write other genres.

After Songworks: You are blessed, and sometimes cursed, with being creative. Your artistic door does not close when it comes to writing other genres. You may prefer one type of music but as a creative person you cannot stop composing music. I can assure you that, no matter what type of song you collaborate on, nature will kick in and you will be throwing out ideas and coming up with structure and progressions before you even realize it.      

Before Songworks: It is too hard to write and record a song a day for three days.

After Songworks: There lies the magic of a songwriting camp. Yes, there is subtle pressure in knowing that you have one day to write a song, rehearse it and then record a demo quality version. But, how many times do we write a song…re-write it… change it…speed it up…slow it down…only to realize that the best version was within the original idea. Writing within a constrained timeframe results in the essence of the song being captured and completed before it becomes over analyzed. You will be surprised at how enjoyable this is. Stress brings out the humour in people and makes for some very funny moments. When I go back and listen to the songs we did I can hear an energy that sometimes gets lost when trying to make things too perfect.    

Before Songworks: What if I don’t contribute the same amount as everyone else.

After Songworks: You won’t. Sometimes you’ll contribute less and sometimes you will contribute more. There were moments in every day that I sat back and enjoyed the ideas of my other team members without feeling that I had to contribute. There were times when my ideas took center stage and became the driving energy behind the song. It was a beautiful thing. Every artist understood it. You will lead and you will follow. Feel the force Luke….

I am not a world renowned songwriter. Publishers are not beating a path to my door to get their hands on my songs. My skill as a guitar player is adequate but not noteworthy. Thankfully, Songworks is not a competition. By opening up to this process and letting go of my traditional way of writing, I have absolutely become a better composer. I would not have written three songs in three days sitting at my house last week. I surely would not have written the types of songs that I ended up co-writing. And most importantly, I would not have met the wonderful, creative people that I did nor established the professional connections that may carry me forward to future songwriting opportunities. Would I do Songworks again? Where do I sign up…..

Click Here to visit Ed Oakley’s Songwriters’ Profile.