Rising to the Challenge: North Easton Lets Go of the Lap Bar

Some rights reserved by flatluigi (Flickr) under Creative Commons license.
Some rights reserved by flatluigi (Flickr) under Creative Commons license.

Throughout our Songwriting & Blogging Challenge 2013 – one of our participants really stood out from the crowd.  He was able to turn out well written fully produced recordings week after week as the assignments from Pat Pattison seemed to pile higher and faster.  North Easton is not only the winner of this year’s challenge, but also our current Featured Member.  We asked him to blog about his experience participating in this year’s challenge.  Here’s what he had to say…

In His Words…

My feet ache as I shift my weight from one leg to the other. I patiently stand there in the hot summer sun, staring at the backs of people heads who are staring at the backs of peoples heads. A lineup, a waiting game for the next ride that will send me soaring up and down, left and right, over and over as my heart battles my voicebox for room in my throat. 60 minutes traded for 2. Seems fair! The climb up the clickety clack tracks, the rush in the final seconds before we inch over the top and scream down the other side. My hands clenching the bar at first, mind racing against the thoughts of peril vs pure adrenaline bliss. Stomach tightens as it swirls back and forth against the force of gravity, eyes watering, cheeks pressed back and a smile carved into my face like words in stone…and then in the blur of peripheral vision, my tightly clenched fingers begin to relax…my eyes open wide as I lift my arms to the sky and truly soak in the roller coaster ride before me. I become one with the speeding cart across the rails and the adventure truly is one I own…forever.

According to Albert, the only source of knowledge is experience. So when I took on the great journey into the mind of Mr. Pat Pattison, (the songwriting guru who walked 63,000 songwriters through the 6 week course offered through Coursera)…I was completely captivated. As a father of 6, a music teacher, and the husband of a wife finishing up law school, I was slightly intimidated by not only the course, but the idea of a weekly blog inspired by the Songwriters Association of Canada. But why not…let the roller-coaster ride begin.

Rusty fingers and tongue tied words fought to keep up with the concepts dangled before us all. The simplicity of Box thinking and the new revelations of all the parts of your song intensifying and strengthening the chorus. A bunch of new friends we made, all asking the questions that help bring the point of the song to the surface.

Diving into the unstable waters of week 2, I happily held my breath and tried to stay under as long as possible. Gathering new tricks of the trade before coming up for air. As an avid movie watcher, I often pull emotions, camera angles, intense situations into my songs, and with Pat holding a cheat sheet up at the spelling Bee…it became so much easier to bridge these two mediums together.

Like most songwriters, I thrive on rhyming. The dance of the language and sound that twists and turns as it burns a picture in the listeners mind. The rhymes they link the words, make us think that what we heard is not only important but real, phrases that make us feel resolve as we solve the story line, the state of mind, the point of view or just something new that no one else has said. I fed on week 3, and got caught up in the free thought of perfect vs family, additive, subtractive, assonance, and consonance and will probably never again write a lyric without the chance to hear it in another way.

The windows into the minds of my fellow songwriters in Canada and beyond was my favourite part of the entire adventure. Reading conversations, reviews, ideas on direction…hearing the doubt shared by others, the hopes, the desire and passion as it came out and seemed to inspire everyone I chatted with. I learned more from you guys, than from Pat himself. I throw my thanks into the ring and if you could see my smile upon reflection of these past weeks…you would know!

I am not the songwriter I was at the beginning of this course. I think most of the other writers would agree with me that we have all changed the way we look at writing, and every day that passes by I personally realize how little I know about everything on this planet…and that kind of excites me for the journey ahead. So let go of the “lapbar” put your hands in the sky and scream.

In closing, and to sum things up with a quote from a very famous Doctor.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
                                                                                              -Dr. Seuss
Take a listen to some of his songs…

Recording At Home – An Introduction

Michael HollandThe S.A.C. is defined by the passionate members that make up our community.  One of whom has generously offered to let us publish his articles about Recording At Home.  Over the course of the next few months we will sharing his blogs which cover a wide range of important subjects aimed at empowering songwriters to better handle recording tools to support their songwriting.  Michael Holland was a participant in the recent blogging challenge, who is also enthusiastic about recording.  We’ll let him tell you more about himself in this introduction…

By Michael Holland

You love songs.  You write songs.  You want to present your songs in the best possible light with a top-notch recording, but you want to do it at home.

Look no further.  This blog series is for you!

I offer a special welcome to my fellow members of the Songwriters Association of Canada.  Together, we enjoy camaraderie, mutual inspiration and some really great music.   If you are in Canada, and you write songs, I strongly recommend that you join the SAC.   It’s a great organization.  Thanks to the economic realities of our business, songwriters need to stick together now more than ever.

Go to http://www.songwriters.ca/ if you’d like to find out more about the SAC.

I assume that you want great results from your recording set-up, and that you are not made of money.   I also assume that you don’t have a handy recording engineer and don’t know anything much about recording.  If I talk to you like an idiot, I apologize in advance, but I do want to be sure the least informed readers are not left behind.  I am well aware that most songwriters don’t want to be an engineer, but knowing how increases your artistic options and helps you to show your work off – and it can save you a great deal of money over the years!

It may surprise you to realize that there are quite a few really simple (and free or low-cost) things that you can do to bring your work to a new realm of audio quality.

I am talking not only about the technical aspects such as where to put a microphone, or how to make the bass LOUD while not muddying up the mix overall, but also about generating the desired emotional responses in your listeners.

Recording studios certainly have mystique but it’s really not that mysterious once you get a few basics squared away.  If you follow my blog for the next two months you will find yourself gaining an understanding of the process from one end to the other, and adding lots of useful tips and tricks to your arsenal, and, I hope, making the best recordings you have ever made at home.

You’re probably wondering about my own background.  I have been recording in various studios professionally (and at home) since the late 1970’s and I have specialized in mastering records since the 1990’s.  I have worked on consoles of all sizes and shapes, such as SSL, Neve, Sony, Mitsubishi, Soundcraft, and others.

I have written, performed, sung, played, tracked, mixed, mastered and gigged in Canada and the UK and I have had the best and the worst of times in many recording studios, from very large and famous multi-room complexes (places like Abbey Road and Battery Studios and The Strongroom) to very small and smelly studios (places I would rather not name) and they all taught me something valuable.

These days, I am in West Vancouver, BC, Canada, and I work as both a mastering engineer and a performing songwriter, which neatly satisfies my love of music, words and science.

I will be covering a wide range of subjects including pre-production, headphone monitoring, microphone types, tracking various instruments, mixing and mastering.  Next week we will be discussing Songwriter Home Recording Workflows.

Click Here to visit Michael’s Songwriters’ Profile.

And the winner is…(Songwriting Course and Blogging Challenge)

northeastonSeveral weeks ago over 50 S.A.C. members signed on, not only to complete Berklee Professor Pat Pattison‘s online songwriting course offered by Coursera, but also to blog about their experience in the 2013 S.A.C. Songwriting Course & Blogging Challenge.  From the get go, the private Facebook group was a flurry of activity as people shared song snippets, inspiration and things they had learned from Pat.

Fast forward several weeks later, and not everyone made it to the finish line.  The course proved more intense than many people anticipated.  But everyone benefited from participating.  Unbeknownst to participants, a winner was selected to receive a FREE ONE YEAR S.A.C. MEMBERSHIP to be added to their existing membership.

It was difficult to choose because, those who did make it to the end, really put their heart and soul into the process.  In the end, North Easton was selected for his display of inventiveness, creativity, and personality.

Over the next few weeks we will be posting highlight blogs from each week, to give you an example of what people were learning along the way.

In the mean time, CONGRATULATIONS to North Easton.  And congratulations to all who took part and walked away with a new set of songwriting tools and skills.  Here is North Easton’s final song submission:

Special thanks to Debra Alexander for helping us to blog about the course along with facilitating the online discussion.  And here are some tracks from other participants that made it to the finish line. ENJOY!

Ember Swift

https://soundcloud.com/emberswift/stars-are-many-revised

Anastace

Ross Douglas

Michael Holland

Dawn Schumilas

Jennifer Potter

Singing Across the Great Canadian Language Divide

Arianeby Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire

In my family, we call it the “schizophrenia of the Francophone outside of Québec”. We carry multiple personalities. We live and breathe two cultures along with a third that only comes from being bilingual. In the past, I’ve never been fully accepted as a francophone by the Quebec population who barely knew of our existence, and even though I’ve grown up in Edmonton Alberta, an English ear will still detect a hint of a French accent. Growing up in Edmonton made me so bilingual that when I pick up a pen or sit in front of a computer to write a battle ensues over which language to choose to express the images in my mind. My rough drafts often end up with a bit of both.

The good news is that in a country where making a living solely with the arts, being able to work in either of Canada’s official languages has saved my wallet on a regular basis. I gave up waitressing about 4 years ago and have been happily living as an artist ever since. I’ve also been stubbornly striving to build a career in 2 languages at once.

There are as many differences as there are similarities between the French and the English music industries. They are both filled with people trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into the great machine, what they can get from it, and what they can bring to it. At conferences I always spot at least one person looking for somewhere to stand or someone to talk to that will make them feel a little less awkward…lets face it, I’ve often been that person.

The difficulty lies in that the two industries continue to be so segregated. No matter how much headway I make in one, I have to work just as hard to make that headway in the other, and then I have to find the energy to maintain it! The name of the most well known and important artists, booking agents, and placement agents of the French industry are rarely recognised by the English industry’s crowd and vice versa. Not only that, but tackling both industries at once doubles the bills. You can’t use the same radio-tracking agent, and finding an available bilingual publicist is like trying to win the jackpot on a scratch and win lottery ticket.  Then again, the entire music world seems to be an endless stream of trying to win the lottery.

Being a songwriter is strange. There are no scheduled performance reviews, no guarantees of wage increases or promotions… For years I’ve witnessed many of my friends become bitter and jaded trying to reach their definition of success. After watching the industry kick people’s ass’ my friend Chris, who works for a large broadcasting company and who has been a part of the industry for a solid 20 years, routinely tells musicians to quit. But that’s the problem isn’t it? Like many of you, I have the curse and the incredible gift of being a lifer.

En fin de compte, I’ve come to realise how important it is to remember to be happy, to make choices based on artistic integrity or artistic curiosity, and to make moves (strategic or not) out of inspiration rather than desperation. I have resolved to pursue subject matters that instantly make me feel something, using whatever musical sounds that inspire me at the moment or that the lyrics call for, have conversations with industry professionals because they fascinate me as people, and play concert sets that flit between languages because that’s who I am. Hopefully, if I’m lucky, someone will give me the gift of an open mind and an attentive ear, and if I’m really lucky, that scratch and win lotto ticket might be a winner and they’ll fall in love with what I do.

Click Here to visit  Ariane’s Songwriter Profile.