Pro Member Interview – Colin MacDonald


Colin MacDonald - SM

Bursting onto the scene in 2004 with their hit single “Not Ready To Go”, which became the most played song on Canadian rock radio that year, highly acclaimed, east coast bred rockers the Trews – consisting of founding members Colin MacDonald, John-Angus MacDonald & Jack Syperek – have since become a staple of the Canadian music scene and abroad. With 17 top ten rock singles to their name (two of which reached number one), 4 gold certifications and support slots for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant, KISS, Guns’n’Roses, Aerosmith, Kid Rock and Weezer, the veteran rockers are showing no signs of slowing down with the release of their 2018 single “the New US” which takes on the current state of politics and the media. Widely considered one of Canada’s best live bands, the Trews are not to be missed in a concert hall near you!

  • What inspires you to create music?

Life, love, books, music.

  • Do you have a process to your songwriting or when creating music?

Writing all the time. I keep a journal and I always look over them for good starting points for tunes. I often find great song titles in newspapers and magazines.

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

High school cover band that became my real band for the last 21 years.

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

I think it’s gotten better as I got more interested in the process of writing and recording music. I’ve become better and more patient in the studio. My lyric writing has gotten better and I wrote most of the words on my own now, in the past I’ve had a couple of co writers.

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Yes I’ve written with many artists. Sun k, T Thomason, Brett from the glorious suns to name a few. I love co writing!

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

I don’t think I’m terms of genres when I write but it can be interesting to set some.

  • Have you faced any major economic, social or political hurdles as a music creator?

I’ve been fortunate to make a living off of songwriting and touring. I’m very grateful for that, the obvious hurdle has been making head way south of the border. My career in Canada has been really great!

  • Do you have any musical influences who have influenced your style, or who you give a “nod” to whenever possible?

Yes! I’m influenced by everything I hear and see. I love great music so any chance I get to hear or see it I go for it. It always rubs off in great ways! It’s important to stay inspired and excited!

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

I’m not sure. I’d be too freaked out to write with my heroes, I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything. I really like writing with young artists who are just finding their way, often times they come up with the most interesting and out of the box ideas.

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

Totally self-taught with a group of fearless freaks and misfits.

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

Write and work! It’s all about the work. You can do all the networking in the world but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the goods. You have to devote your whole life to it, because you’re up against people who have given up everything to do this job. Good luck and surround yourself with good people who believe in you.

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

Highway of heroes. I wrote it over the phone in 15 minutes with Gordie Johnson. It’s had more impact on people than anything else I’ve written. It’s got some kind of magic to it.

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

A mind and a point of view.

  • Do you ever compose for film/tv/video games? What’s that like?

A few trews songs have ended up in tv and on video games. I don’t try to do that but I love when it happens. If it’s organic it’s cool.

  • How can S.A.C. help you?

Any initiative that supports creators and protects intellectual property helps me immensely.

  • If the music community could do one thing better what would it be?

Make sure talented people are compensated for their efforts. Great singers and songwriters should be able to afford a good life, they bring a lot of good into the world. I don’t think the general public understands to toll it takes on the psyche and the finances.

  • What do you see in the future for songwriting and music creators like yourself?

Writing and collaboration. We need to figure out how to make the work more valuable again. If artists can’t afford to make their art then culture suffers. It’ll be a race to the bottom chasing fleeting and ephemeral chart success and YouTube hits. I mean some songs get billions of views on YouTube but so does guy’s body slamming each other off their garage roof and cute videos of kittens. It’s no gage of artistic merit or success. Surely we can do better.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC 

Why Music Theory is like Boating

by Guest Blogger:  Thomas Kovacs

I have to get my boating license next summer.

I bought a book to study for the boating license test. Inside the book is one of the most perfectly worded paragraphs I have ever read that makes a compelling case for the study of music theory!

“Many of the terms used in boating are not common in everyday speech. These specialized words can save time. They can tell in one or two words ideas that might take many words to express. For example, boaters would not refer to another boat as being ‘straight out from the middle of the left side of our boat, and at right angles to our centre line’. They would describe the other boat as being ‘abeam to port’.”

Like boaters, musicians have their own set of “specialized words” that can “tell in one or two words ideas that might take many words to express”. Imagine how awkward it would be if during a jam session you had to tell another musician, “Play an A note, a C note, and an E note all at the same time”! Hopefully, just saying, “Play an A minor” should be enough.

In the early 90s, I studied jazz vocals at Humber College where I obtained a good working knowledge of music theory. Since then, I have been a student of many songwriting workshops and brought my songs to many songwriting evaluations. My knowledge of music theory proved extremely valuable in helping me better understand the workshop instructors and song evaluators whenever they used a “specialized word” from music theory; words like “tonic”, “resolve”, “fifth”, “sub-dominant” and “tension”.

In a classroom setting, an instructor will most likely explain some aspects of basic music theory for those students who need it. Understandably, such explanations are usually done fairly quickly since most of the class time has to be spent on the course material. And of course, outside a classroom, people in the music business simply do not have time to hold an aspiring musician/songwriter’s hand.

Not only has my knowledge of music theory helped me in songwriting workshops but it is also proving very beneficial when working alongside other musicians. I do a lot of solo gigs where I’m free to present a song to my audiences in whatever way I wish. But when I’m playing with other musicians, we all have to agree on how a song will be presented. Doing so requires rehearsal and a lot of communication between band members. I’m currently in weekly rehearsals with a band as the lead singer and acoustic rhythm guitarist. When we work on how to present a song, the other musicians use a lot of musical theory terms with each other. I can far more readily understand and communicate with them because of my background in music theory. In the end, our common language of musical terms makes working on a song a lot easier.

So if another musician suddenly asks me to play the first inversion of the tonic, I’ll know exactly what to do. Just like if next summer another boater asks me to bring my boat “abeam to port” … I’ll know exactly what to do!

Thomas Kovacs will be presenting a Music Theory for Beginners course at Ryerson University on Saturday, April 16.

Click Here for details.