From 11-year-old Dreamer to World Travelling Musician – The Path of a Songwriter

Ross Douglasby Ross Douglas

The desire to write songs hit me almost as soon I first heard the Beatles –I started swiping their melodies and putting my own words on top. My  first work that I remember  “ I Hate Her -yeah yeah yeah!” (a response to young love spurned and obviously a lost masterpiece)  borrowed heavily from the early work of misters Lennon and McCartney . As bad as it was, I was putting words to music, being careful to make them rhyme and adding a bit of 11 year old sarcasm.  The bug had bitten.

And there was a great by product.  I had taken piano lessons as a 7-8 year old with limited interest, but to learn the Beatles tunes I got serious  . I pecked away by ear and learned quite a few of them .   To this day I play the instruments I do primarily to aid in the learning and writing of songs.

I moved to Toronto in the mid 70’s – I met Des McAnuff who needed a piano player for some shows and ended up working with and observing a keen genius and great songwriter.  A couple of years later, another stroke of luck gave me the opportunity to become the piano player for John Gray’s “Billy Bishop goes to War” and toured a lot of the world  for about 3 years.  A groundbreaking   show, and more great songs to perform and songwriting brilliance to observe and soak up.  And of course, through travelling I experienced much to delight and inspire me.

All that happened because at age 11 I realized I wanted to be a songwriter. It brought out the musician in me.

I’ve written a lot of songs for historical theatre – songs that at their best have revealed aspects of a character and a time period in a way that only a song can. That requires research  – and in doing it I often find a turn of phrase or nugget of information that sparked me into the  zone where I  knew I’m on to something  good in a place I’ve never been before.  I love that –songs that bring out the detective in me and take me some place new.  To serve that purpose I learned bit of mandolin and ukulele and knowing a bit on those instruments has gotten me work as a performer in other shows.  Once again, an extra payoff.

I tend to be eclectic. I like the variety of style and substance. Performing solo I like stringing together my straight ahead tunes, humor, character tunes, narratives and things that are just plain silly into an evening that takes people a few places. That’s my thing. And I see people who just rip my heart out or have me helpless with laughter doing theirs. Through other songwriters , I am constantly re-inspired by language , melody and personality.

Songwriting has expanded my horizons in every way.  It led me into a career in theatre and music. It has taken me to wonderful parts of the world and introduced me to people of great creativity, heart and soul.  I’ve made a bit of a living. I have 3 albums. People around the world have contacted me to tell me my music has really meant something to them. That’s very gratifying

The most recent thing I was reminded of as a songwriter is that you’re never beyond a good tip from someone else.  I was asked to share some of what I’ve learned over the years . I confessed to Lily Cheng that I was finding it hard to start the flow of ideas. She offered me some excellent starting  points- So thank you Lily-one songwriter to another.   Here’s to us all!

Click Here to visit Ross Douglas’ Songwriter Profile

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