S.A.C. Black History Songwriters Series: Dan Hill

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www.danhill.com
How does one describe the creative force driving Dan Hill? Nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Vocal, winner of a Grammy (as co-producer of “Seduces Me” on Celine Dion’s 30 plus million-selling “Falling Into You” album), winner of five Juno Awards and the Harold Moon Award (Canadian Lifetime Songwriting Achievement Award), Dan has recorded and released multiple gold and platinum albums.

Imagine this; you’re in your early twenties, you wrote and performed one of the biggest songs of the year. Not even Canada – big, but a monster seller in America, where artists would cover the song within a year and more cover versions would be released over the coming decades. To your father, you’ll never be Bruce Cockburn, and your success doesn’t mean much to the author and renowned Black Canadian civil rights activist. In about 30 years, you will come to terms with your relationship by releasing the record and the book “I Am My Father’s Son.” Bittersweet?

Dan Hill, best known for “Sometimes When We Touch,” grew up in one of Toronto’s inner suburbs, the son of American social activists and brother to two future authors. Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes) and his late sister Karen were both prominent Canadians, and Dan’s father Daniel G. Hill’s activism brought him to serve as the first full time Director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1962. He married fellow civil rights campaigner Donna Bender in 1953, becoming one of Toronto’s first few mixed race couples. Needless to say, expectations were high when it came to the Hill children.

Born in 1954, Daniel Grafton Hill IV started playing guitar as a kid and was playing Yorkville coffeehouses while still a high school student. RCA Records signed him as a songwriter for a few years until Hill managed to leave RCA and release his first album on the Canadian GRT label in 1975. The eponymous debut yielded a Canadian hit, “You Make Me Want To Be.”

A couple of years later, Hill recorded a ballad he wrote at 17, when he felt insecure in a relationship with an older woman. “Sometimes When We Touch” was, of course, a massive success. It reached #3 in Billboard’s American charts, #1 in Canada and cover versions came quickly, from Tina Turner in 1978 and Cleo Laine in 1979, with many more versions to come.

Dan Hill went on to record more hits, including “It’s A Long Road” from Rambo’s debut, “First Blood” (recorded for the movie). “Can’t We Try?” was Billboard’s Adult Contemporary song of the year in 1987, and another big hit came the following year with “Never Thought (That I Could Love).”

Hill’s flair for composing epic songs led him to work with stars like Celine Dion (for which he won a Grammy). He has worked with many other modern hit-makers, such as Britney Spears, 98 Degrees, Michael Bolton and The Backstreet Boys.

Despite his five Junos, other awards and millions of records sold, Daniel Sr. seemed unimpressed with Dan’s achievements. After some success with country music, his father gave him grief for working in a racist genre. Rebelling against this, Hill described feeling indifferent about his own mixed race as a kid, and perhaps even postponing contemplation on this aspect of his identity, as a response to his always race-conscious father.

Oddly, Dan found himself in the throes of writer’s block in 2003 following the death of his father. He has described how sad times had previously inspired him to pick up a guitar and write, compounding the frustration of not composing.

In early 2009, Hill published I Am My Father’s Son; A Memoir of Love and Forgiveness. He has written for Macleans and elsewhere about other struggles in recent years; with his own son, the deaths of his father, mother, and sister, as well as prostate cancer, diagnosed shortly before a concert.

2010 saw the departure of lifelong friend and sometime musical collaborator Paul Quarrington. Hill also released his c.d. “Intimate” that year.

While he is best known for sweeping ballads, Hill’s folk / coffeehouse background led him to a variety of collaborations. He has worked with Nova Scotian Joe Sealy on “The Road” from the latter artist’s “Africville Suite” c.d.

Dan Hill keeps busy with performing (he was at Hugh’s Room in January) and he announced a deal with Ole (sic) Publishing in mid 2018. Hill also offers songwriting mentoring via Skype, if you contact him through his website, http://www.danhill.com.

Blog post by Erik Twight

Erik Twight is, at present, a Freelance Writer, maintaining a web presence specializing in current affairs, history, photography and music and producing a weekly podcast/radio show arranged thematically and with commentary for fun. Click here to read more.

Spotify Ep.5

Playlist:

Song: Sometimes When We Touch
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics written by: Dan Hill
Music written by: Mann

Song: I Am My Father’s Son
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics and music written by: Dan Hill

Song: You Make Me Want To Be
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics and music written by: Dan Hill

Song: I Fall All Over Again
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics and music written by: Dan Hill

 

Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members. Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

Pro Member Interview – Steve Smith

Steve Smith - SM

As a partner in the SA TrackWorks and Brkthbeat teams, Steve has co-written, produced and mixed songs for acts signed to the world’s leading labels, including J Records, Universal, Sony, Atlantic, Warner, Jive, Capitol/EMI, and Avex. 

With albums sales over 17 million world wide, he has had songs that have been recorded by such international artists as: Loverboy (Canada), Stacie Orrico (USA), Rouge (Brasil), Tohoshinki (Japan) and Namie Amuro (Asia) as well as having multiple top 10 hits in Canada. 

Their award winning #1 song “Surrender” by Altantic Recording Artist, Laura Pausini was at the time the most radio played song written by Canadians and performed by a foreign artist and reached U.S. Billboard Number One. They have had their songs featured in films and TV including: YTV – The Next Star, Disney’s – Austin And Ally, and American Idol. SA Trackworks also wrote and produced a single for the mega U.S. group Smash Mouth of “All Star” fame and most recently; Meghan Patrick recorded their co-written song, “Forever Ain’t Enough Time”, with guest vocals by the legend Vince Gill. 

This year, Steve, known as Steve In The Mix on his social networks, has started a YouTube channel to guide up and coming songwriters, singers, rappers, and producers on the come up. We have created our very own Youtube playlist featuring all of Steve’s videos. Go check it out!

 

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Writing and producing for other recording artist is mostly what I do. You wouldn’t want to hear me sing. I do know what an excellent performance sounds like and I feel like I can recognize when a song is unique and compelling. Working with an artist who is able to make a song come alive is a privilege. 

  • How did you learn your craft – was it “formal” or “informal” music education?

It was a mix of both. I started as a musician, went to college to study music performance and had my eyes opened to the high level of musicianship that makes a world-class performer. My informal training, but perhaps higher level training, happened as I found myself in the room when master producers and songwriters were at work. The recording studio always fascinated me, and I was lucky enough to learn the craft of songwriting from people who were professionals. I learned about the apparent things like structure, chord changes, approach to lyric writing, but the magic happened when great songwriters used the tools to create emotion. I’m still a student of songwriting, producing and mixing. I love that aspect of it. 

  • Do you have any advice for upcoming songwriters and creators who are looking to break further into the creative scene?

Collaboration is key. Learning to collaborate is a skill in itself. It’s a great recipe for staying fresh. So many times a crazy idea is just one adjustment away from being a brilliant idea. Be brave enough to throw all ideas into the room. Sometimes they bounce back in ways that are incredible.

 

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #MusicCreatorsUnite 

Pro Member Interview – Treasa Levasseur

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Treasa trained in both classical piano and musical theatre before finding her calling as a singer songwriter.  Her songs are witty, heartfelt and often sassy, just like Treasa.  She has released 3 full length albums and 2 EPS, with her rhythm and blues influenced Low Fidelity garnering her a Juno nomination.  She is also a successful community arts facilitator, Canadian Representative for Folk Alliance International, pop up choir leader, and proudly writes songs with kids every week as part of her Jam 101 program for An Instrument For Every Child in Hamilton.  Her favourite side hustle is a tie between playing accordion in Corin Raymond’s band and being a columnist on CBC’s flagship book show, The Next Chapter.

Below is our interview with Treasa, enjoy!

 

  • What inspires you to create music?

The world around me, the connection I can make with other people, and the high of making something from nothing.

  • How did you get your start as a creator in the industry?

I started out as a backing musician, but once I got out on the road I realized I wanted to share my own perspective with audiences.

  • If you could collaborate with any other music creator, who would that be?

I could list so many folks, but a short list of amazing Canadian Women includes Erin Costello, Amelia Curran, Tanika Charles, Rose Cousins, Irish Mythen, Shakura S’Aida, Hill Kourkoutis, Lydia Persaud…

  • What is the most important “tool” you need when creating, eg. GarageBand, google docs, your cell phone, Pro Tools, or a pad of paper?

88 keys and a journal.

 

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #MusicCreatorsUnite

S.A.C. Black History Songwriters Series: Lillian Allen

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Writer; Poet; Performer; dub poetry embodies these three characteristics, distinguishing it from singers or poets. As a pioneer in the dub poetry world, Lillian Allen has written, recorded and performed for decades. The Juno award winner has published books, advised community advocacy groups and the government alike on various social issues and now teaches at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD University).

“Black History Month reminds me of the soulfulness of my ancestors whose vestiges of heritage and culture we carry with us as a people everywhere we go; what an amazing connection this gives us. We are like our own worldwide web. Black History Month calls on not just Black people but our entire country to reflect on and celebrate the resistance, hopes, sacrifices and achievements of Black people & our culture and our vital contribution to human enterprise, both tangible and intangible. It should also be a reminder that unequal societal conditions, marginalization, lack of opportunities especially among a section of our youth, was not always so and can and must be countered with culture, economic upliftment and participation in society’s processes.”

Lillian Allen grew up in Spanish Town, Jamaica and emigrated to Kitchener/Waterloo Canada in 1969 and later moved to New York City to pursue her studies and back to Canada where she settled in Toronto in the mid 1970’s.

Reading and performing her brand of poetry at community events to much accolades, her first of many books, Rhythm an’ Hard Times was published in 1982. Her first recording came out the following year. Active in Toronto’s arts & culture scenes, she collaborated with many musicians and artists.

Allen’s interest in writing and performing dub poetry received a jolt when she encountered the original dub poet Oku Onuora at a 1978 writers’ conference in Cuba. Onuora recorded the first dub poetry album, “Reflections in Red,” in 1979. Music is a fundamental component of dub poetry; the beat, usually reggae, is meant to add momentum to the uttered verses.

Lillian Allen was part of the first wave of dub poets including Mutabaraka and Linton Kwesi Johnson, credited with coining the term in a 1976 article. Johnson later explained he was referring to the rise of “toasting” among Jamaican deejays which developed into chattering or even singing along with extant songs and instrumentals. Dub Poetry is not toasting or “singjaying” though; there is a gravitas to the words which is not a requirement in reggae singing or toasting.

She explains in De Dub Poets her desire “to work within a form whose aim was to increase the dynamism of poetry, to increase it’s impact and immediacy, a poetic form that could incorporate many aspects of other art forms: performance, drama, fiction, theatre” and other elements. Her records “Revolutionary Tea Party” (1986) and “Conditions Critical” (1988) won Juno awards.

Allen co-founded the Dub Poetry Collective in between publishing books and performing live before assuming a new role, as a professor, at OCAD University.

Allen is currently developing a new BFA program in creative writing. The program will include performing, digital art forms and other elements integral to creative expression in 2019.

 

Blog post by Erik Twight

Erik Twight is, at present, a Freelance Writer, maintaining a web presence specializing in current affairs, history, photography and music and producing a weekly podcast/radio show arranged thematically and with commentary for fun. Click here to read more.

 

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Click here to listen to Lillian Allen’s new single on S.A.C.’s Spotify playlist Ep. 5 Black History Songwriters Series

 

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Playlist:

Song: Revolutionary Tea Party

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Discogs

 

Song: Rub A Dub Style Inna Regent Park

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Discogs

 

Song: Conditions Critical

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Discogs

 

Song: I Dream a Redwood

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: AllMusic

 

Song: Woken & Unbroken

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Spotify

 

Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members. Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

Pro Member Interview – Andrew Allen

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Allen’s DIY ability and optimistic attitude have served him well. He’s scored five Top 10 hits in Canada, 2009’s “I Wanna Be Your Christmas”, 2010’s “Loving You Tonight” which was lodged in the upper reaches of the charts for more than 22 weeks. 2011’s “I Want You”, 2015’s “What You Wanted” and 2016’s “Favourite Christmas Song”! 

His benchmark single “Loving You Tonight” was a lilting, sunny tune about an ideal romance, “Loving You Tonight” helped put Andrew on tour with acts like Bruno Mars, One Republic, Andy Grammer, The Script, Train, Joshua Radin and The Barenaked Ladies… with the official music video garnering more than 4 million views and over 100,000 copies sold worldwide. 

As a songwriter, Andrew’s written with some incredible writers and artists, including Meghan Trainor, Rachel Platten, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tyler Shaw, and Toby Gad (writer of ‘All of Me’ – John Legend, ‘If I Were a Boy’ – Beyonce, ‘Bigs Girls Don’t Cry’ – Fergie etc) to name a few… and is credited with writing songs for Nick Howard (winner of the Voice Germany), Germany pop icon Mario Novembre and EDM singles for Project 46, Ilan Bluestone and the song ‘Last Chance’ that can be found on Kaskade’s Grammy Nominated album as well as the Quadruple Platinum Italian smash “Ad Occhi Chiusi” which was co-written by Matt Simons for Italian Superstar Marco Mengoni and Latin America’s boy band CD9’s Gold selling song ‘Dime’. 

In addition, you may have heard his songs featured in various TV Shows and Movies, including the blockbuster Taylor Lautner film ‘Abduction’, reality show ‘The Bachelor’, UP Networks ‘Bringing up Bates’ and the most recent Folger’s Coffee commercial! 

Radio play and songwriting aside, Andrew is a true live performer with an exceptional voice, incredible songs, some serious live looping chops and limitless energy… not too mention a spatter of comic wit and story-telling ability that helps create a dynamic and interactive live show. He’s definitely an artist that embodies the term ‘live’.

Below is our interview with Andrew Allen:

  • How has your music evolved since you first became a recording/performing artists?

When I started writing I was just writing off the cuff, just spit balling it thinking of whatever I could think of. And, after working with a lot of other writers and collaborating (which can be awkward at first I recognized how important it is to be poignant in what you’re saying to keep away a lot of the extras bits and pieces and to really hone in to what exactly you’re trying to say in the lyric and also to pair it well melodically. And so, I think that the evolution of my own writing has become much more refined and I recognize that it’s definitely a muscle you need to continue work on and if you don’t it gets weak. So a lot of people are like “I’m not inspired to write today” and I disagree with that. I think that you need to write as often as you possible can to keep that muscle active. 

  • What is your fondest musical memory?

So, this is probably about 2 1/2 years ago maybe more. I had flown a friend out to LA where I was living at the time and I said lets write some songs. So the first song we wrote was terrible (haha). And then then second (the next morning) – I had gone to bed the night before and my wife had said to me “I’m very, very confident that I’m pregnant and I’m having a baby girl.” And we hadn’t figured it out for sure yet, but she was very convinced and I believed her. So the next morning I didn’t want to tell him that but I felt very inspired to write sort of a life song. And I all of sudden realized “Wow, I never thought about being a dad and the fact that maybe one day I could also be a Grandfather.” So him and I wrote a song called “Time” and it took us about 45 minutes and it just came out and it was all about the times that you would want to teach to that little human. The neat thing for me was that we recorded a demo of it and I sent it to my publisher and about a year later they contacted me and said they wanted to use it in a Folgers commercial and I thought “that sounds amazing!”. But you never know what those commercials are going to be. So when I saw the commercial, there’s a little girl sitting at breakfast bar and she’s colouring and her Dad comes down and pours coffee into a to-go mug and then he’s about to leave the house and realizes “No, I think I’m going to stay” and he pours his coffee into a #1 stay at home mug and sits down beside his little girl. So the fact that they used a song that was inspired by the birth of my daughter to represent this moment was really special to me.

  • What would be your advice to other creators?

I think .. always challenge yourself. I think if you are writing a song and you’re like “this is the best song I’ve ever written” or whatever – Y’know, Rachel Platten – She’s a great inspiration on this front where before she released “fight song” she wrote a hundred songs before it. And if you talk to other Artists, they just keep churning it out. And not to say your first song isn’t your best song but I think that a lot of new writers will say to me “How do I get a publishing deal? How do I get a record deal?” And my advice to them is always that people want to get onboard a moving train and you have to be moving and challenge yourself. If you’re trying to write songs for the radio, listen to the radio and see what’s coming out and compare your songs against them. And if they’re not good enough write harder, write better, and collaborate. Challenge yourself – that’s my advice. 

#MusicCreatorsUnite #CreatorsCount #thePROSofSAC

Pro Member Interview – Winston Hauschild

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Winston Hauschild is a Canadian songwriter and record producer with an ear for new talent. Producing breakthrough recordings for emerging artists, he’s helped launch the careers of everyone from two-time Juno Award nominee Hannah Georgas and folk artist Mike Edel to indie pop artist Nat Jay, nominated for Pop Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2015. 

Winston also produced Wanting, the first Chinese artist to be signed to Nettwerk Music Group. Their collaboration, her debut album, Everything in the World, went multi- platinum and won numerous awards, including Album of the Year at the Chinese version of the Grammy Awards. Soon after, Wanting received 15 Best New Artist Awards across Asia and performed to 700 million people during Mainland China’s televised New Year’s Gala (CCTV) in 2012. 

Dedicated to helping diverse artists navigate a tough industry, Winston is an artist’s producer. A songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and former recording artist signed to Aquarius Records, Winston grew up in the Canadian music scene – whether playing small towns as the teenage frontman of his first band or as a touring musician playing hockey arenas. 

A vocal supporter of arts funding and education, Winston sits on the Board of Directors for Music BC, a non-profit industry association dedicated to the growth and sustainability of British Columbia’s music community. He’s also served as a producer/mentor for the Peak Performance Project’s Boot Camp, an artist development program with career-changing cash prizes for top performers sponsored by Vancouver radio station, The Peak 102.7 FM. 

Always searching for the best new sounds for his various projects, Winston splits his time between some of Vancouver’s top commercial studios and his private studio in the woods on Bowen Island. Below is our interview with Winston:

  • How did you get your start as a creator in the industry?

 I’ve been writing songs and making records for 28 years now.  I started by playing in numerous bands and touring the country many times.  Around 2005 I was producing records for other groups and singer-songwriters.  This inevitably led to lots of co-writes and opportunities to help build artists’ careers from the ground up.

  • How did you learn your craft – was it “formal” or “informal” music education?

 I was taught guitar by my parents at a young age and took a handful of piano lessons.  I always learned by ear and gave up on the theory side of things.  When it came to producing, I just watched the producers I was working with from all my early years in bands.  A lot!  I skipped going to audio school and learned everything by trial and error.  

  • What is your fondest musical memory or favourite piece of music you’ve written?

A few years ago I had one of my songs cut by an artist from Hong Kong.  It was really interesting to hear my lyrics re-written in Cantonese and hear how the producers interpreted the sound and vibe of the tune.   So cool!

#CreatorsCount #thePROSofSAC #MusicCreatorsUnite

Pro Member Interview – Jenn Grant

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Jenn Grant is a multi award-winning artist. Her latest record Paradise was
the third highest selling and streamed new album in Canada week of
release. Paradise is the follow up to her 2015 Compostela, which earned
Jenn two Juno nominations for both Songwriter as well as Contemporary
Album of the Year.

Below is our interview with Jenn Grant:

  • What inspires you to create music?

My inspiration comes from Discovery. Whether it’s music I hear from other bands or songwriters, going to see a live show, or having the opportunity to dig into dig into an album on our record player. If I didn’t have access to other people’s art I think I would still make music, but it would be a very different experience. Hearing music that I find exciting or moving in some way just makes me want to write until I get a similar kind of feeling. the potential to make something that will resonate with peoples hearts is what I am all about. 

  • Do you tend to write for one genre, or do you find your music crosses genre lines?

I don’t like to confine myself to genres. I never felt the need to be put into a certain box, and in that way I think it was hard for people to categorize me. But as an artist it has given me a real sense of freedom, and become part of my story. If music is good and authentic it’s worth exploring. For me music is often about taking artistic risks and I would really miss that element of the creative process if I felt confined to one genre. I do like to dip into elements of folk, pop, rock and country and I feel comfortable floating between all of those ‘genres’ to create my own type of sound. 

  • How did you learn your craft – was it “formal” or “informal” music education?

I started writing songs when I was a kid. From about age 8 onwards I would write songs in my diary and just sing them out loud by myself somewhere outside where and when I knew I’d be completely alone. I took a few guitar lessons at the age of 12 which really gave me a sense of freedom and discovery, however there wasn’t a lot of guitar training as the teacher liked my voice and kept asking me to sign Anne Murray songs as he played guitar. I eventually just learned the basic chords and did it on my own. I started writing lots of songs on the guitar but kept it hidden for a decade. I felt shy and nervous about it and that stage fright was a really daunting thing for me until I was ready to perform for an audience. 

I never had any formal education in music except for a few voice lessons, which was about vocal health, and not about style at all. My teacher knew I was concerned about losing my voice as I had pre vocal modules and we worked together for one year alongside an ENT Doctor to get me back in good health. I think every singer should learn about vocal health and the techniques to keep them singing without harm. 

I still want to take piano lessons as I’ve been writing a lot on the piano over the last few years, but formal teaching and schools never really worked for me. I have always been very eager to learn, and very visual, and have found my own path to being able to create without training. But I still have a lot to learn and someday maybe I’ll find the right teacher!

#MusicCreatorsUnite #CreatorsCount #thePROSofSAC