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 

Getting Paid and Getting Protected as a Songwriter

I recently attended the Registering Your Music – Copyrights & Royalties Information Session” in Edmonton and Calgary and met up with Singer/ songwriter Erica Viegas, who I had previously met at the CCMAs last year.   Here is her take on the evening’s discussions. (Don Quarles)

On March 1st, 2011, the Alberta Music Industry Association treated its Edmonton members to a session on Copyrights & Royalties lead by Wayne Saunders, Industry Relations Executive of SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada), and Don Quarles, Executive Director of the Songwriters Association of Canada.

While most of the musicians in the crowd were already members of SOCAN, the evening proved to be a great information piece, and introduction for many on the benefits provided by the SAC.

Once you put music to lyrics, you are a songwriter…whether you play an instrument or record a rough vocal line into your phone. As a songwriter, protecting your creation, and getting proper compensation for your art is important. Don told the story of an artist who finished a gig at a club and was asked to pay the bill for the food he ate that night. The artist retaliated that he wouldn’t pay anything until he was compensated for his music, which spurred on the movement to support songwriters in getting due royalties for their work.

While most independent artists would struggle to pay their bills through radio royalties, the majority of our efforts lie in live performances.  Many are unaware that we can claim performance royalties through SOCAN for every live show we do at a licensed facility. Membership to SOCAN is free, and a minimum of $100 in royalties is given out for every show with tickets over $6 each. Make sure to keep your posters or proofs of performance and fill your royalty forms out online. You could be missing out on some extra funding available to you. Wayne’s advice was to submit for all the shows that you play and let SOCAN investigate the venue for licensing on your behalf in order to keep the relationships you have in these venues as strong as possible.  The same goes for performances on television or radio, as stations do not always send in their cue sheets.

What about making sure your music is copyrighted? Technically the minute you have a record of something, written or recorded, the piece is yours. To make things more official, most of us have been mailing the song to ourselves through dated registered mail and not opening it.  However, Don advised against this technique and using online vaults, as both may have troubles standing up in court. The SAC has a Song Vault service, which seals and copyrights your songs with a barcode and proof of registration certificate. While SAC membership runs at about $60 a year, it also includes opportunities for song assessment by industry professionals, chances to pitch your music to Film/ TV, an online member community, regional writer groups, workshops, and more. Looking for ways to provide the most service to their members, the SAC does their best to find ways to compensate you for creating your songs.

Though every musician has their career struggles and triumphs, it’s always good to be reminded that there are agencies passionate about helping us along our way!

Erica Viegas, a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, AB, released her first EP, Where My Heart Goes, last year. She has been performing at festivals, theatres, and venues across western Canada and continues to enjoy the feeling of connection that comes from sharing her music.