Pro Member Interview – Tara MacLean

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Tara MacLean is a singer, songwriter, and award winning recording and touring artist. From break-out pop hits (“If I Fall”) to country-crossover (“Happy Baby”) her style is reflective of her deep roots in Gospel and the Folk Music of her East Coast Canadian upbringing. She has been signed with Nettwerk, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Capitol Records and EMI Canada (with her band Shaye). Her three solo albums were released to high acclaim, garnering extensive film and television placements, as well international touring and radio play. 

Tara shares her time between her home on the West Coast of Canada on Salt Spring Island, BC, and her home province of Prince Edward Island, on the East Coast. During the summer months, she brings her family to PEI to perform in her hit show, Atlantic Blue- A Celebration of East Coast Songwriters, which she wrote, produces, directs and stars in. Look for her new album release Spring of 2019. 

  • What inspires you to create music?

Life, heart ache, love, acts of kindness, sorrow.

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

Just feeling and then turning it into a tune.

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

I was discovered in 1995 by Sony Music Publishing and Nettwerk Records.

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

Absolutely! It’s been 25 years so I def have evolved!

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Sometimes I go to Nashville/LA to write for my publishing company.

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

Writing definitely crosses genres.

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

Yes. Being a songwriter in Canada is not the easiest way to make a living. Thank goodness for SOCAN!

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

Peter Gabriel, Dan Lanois, Leonard Cohen, Tori Amos, Sarah of course.

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

Dan Lanois.

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

 I am self-taught, though I grew up around songwriters so I watched carefully.

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

Write from your heart. It’s the only thing that will make you stand out.

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

Writing with Gordie Sampson, a song called Star about my sister Shaye.

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

My guitar.

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

It’s fun!

  • How can S.A.C. help you?

I’m not sure! I am proud to be apart of Canada’s thriving songwriter’s scene! Let’s see where this goes. Looking forward to the newsletter.

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

Help musicians write government grants.

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

I plan to write music all my life, whether it is heard by millions, or by a few loyal fans, I just have to keep sharing the art. That makes it complete.

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Pro Member Interview – Troy Kokol

 

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I’m a SOCAN award winner, 2 time CCMA songwriter of the year nominee and I JUST completed my 2nd studio album, “Lonely Ghost”, chalk full of new songs (produced and mixed by yours truly)…ready for some hungry ears!! 

As a songwriter, I’ve had 200+ cuts, with a bunch of very talented folks, including Warner Music’s Brett Kissel, Tenille Townes, Leaving Thomas, Chris Henderson, Ryan Laird and Shane Yellowbird….whose single, “Pick Up Truck” (written w/ Joni Delaurier) was recently listed #6 all time on Canadian country radio by Billboard! 

As a producer, I’ve been proud to work with some amazing artists at our studio in Calgary including Jerry Sereda, James Daniel Burke, Brad Saunders and Invictus/Universal music artist Beamer Wigley….I’m loving life!! 🙂 

I try to follow 3 simple rules: 

1. Be true to yourself 
2. Only walk through open doors 
3. When in doubt, “love is the answer”

Below is our interview with Troy:

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

Tip 1: 

I was lucky to learn early on that the 2 most important ingredients to success is 1) patience and 2) persistence….(talent being a very distant 3).

When I first started songwriting, I went to the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN (when you could actually get into the Bluebird) and saw a writer’s round where an older writer talked about coming to town 18 years ago (he was late 50’s)….and how he JUST got his first cut.  He wasn’t a terribly good singer….or guitar player.  I started to think, as he sang his song that Tim McGraw cut….18 years prior he would’ve been around 40….probably a terrible guitar player and singer.  His friend and family likely would’ve been rolling their eyes at the prospect of this man getting a US major label cut…..and yet here he was….singing an amazing song that Tim McGraw just recorded.  I realized in that moment, all he decided to do was not quit.  Despite his inabilities, weaknesses and fear. I thought to myself, “Well, heck…I can do that.”…..and so can you!

Tip 2:

As you start to unlock your songwriter mind, remember learning to tap into your creativity is like turning on the shower…..at first it’s too cold……so you turn it up…..a lot…..but then it’s too hot….so you turn it down, but not all the way.  At some point you find the right temperature….then you step in…..but even then, you’ll likely adjust it a couple times during the course of your shower.

Your creativity is exactly like that…and from the time you step into your creative “shower”, until you’ve achieved just the right temperature and found your sweet spot where people really start to take notice of your work is about 5-10 years (or sometimes 18 years).

So be patient….be persistent….and keep scrubbing those lyrics!

 

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

I’d love to see the Canadian music community invest more effort into supporting one another.

I watched an interview w/ Mel Brooks, a very successful actor and film maker.  They asked him what he attributed his success to, to which he more or less replied, “Helping people.”. I had a hard time understanding his answer at first, but I began to realize that helping other people in your chosen field is the easiest way to build connections, trust and long lasting, fruitful relationships.  

Since hearing this, I began dedicating a small amount of my time helping others.  Sometimes it’s bringing together an artist and songwriter….or perhaps an amazing artist to a potential label.  I don’t expect anything in return…and most of the time nothing really tangible comes back to me immediately.  However, I CAN tell you that many of the greatest opportunities I’ve had as a songwriter and producer have been via the relationships I’ve built through helping others.

Having said that, the vastly more important reason I try and follow in Mel Brooks footsteps, is to help build my community and do what I can to positively affect on the lives of my fellow artists….after all, what greater reward is there??

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #StayCreative 

Pro Member Interview – Tyler Shaw

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Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Tyler Shaw’s sophomore album presents an all new Tyler to the world. Now 24, and newly engaged, his first single “Cautious,” with its darker, sexier Timberlake-style vibe, will be serviced to radio Jan. 26; the full album will follow in early fall.

Originally a small town boy from Coquitlam, BC, the Chinese-Canadian Shaw now calls Toronto home. He has earned national appeal with an incredible six singles off his 2015 full-length debut, ¬Yesterday. He also co-wrote all but one of the 13 songs, and several of them hit the top 10 at radio; most notably, the certified platinum track “Kiss Goodnight” and gold singles “House of Cards” and “Wicked.” 

Tyler’s new material was written and conceptualized in London, England, and recorded and produced in Toronto with Alex “Pilz” Vujic. Pilz, his long-time collaborator, co-wrote and produced three of the hit songs on Yesterday. 

New songs — co-written with Pilz and various collaborators for an album later in fall 2018— include the full sounds of “Help Me,” which deals with depression and isolation, and the haunting duet “Anybody Out There” featuring Toronto’s Amaal Nuux, about the lack of true human connection. The song “With You,” pens the love story between Tyler and his fiancé, and is brought to life with the help of Neil Ormandy (James Arthur). On all tracks, Tyler has assisted with production and plays electric, acoustic, and bass guitar. 

Tyler was always into creating original music. Influenced by his older brother, his first instrument was the drums at age six and piano was always in the house, because his mother played. Then, fatefully, he picked up guitar in his early teens and started playing and writing songs for himself. 

In 2012, after winning a national singing contest, Tyler penned a singles deal with Sony Music Entertainment Canada. In 2014, he was recognized by the music industry with a JUNO Award nomination for ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year.’ Then came gold single “House of Cards” in 2015, followed by Yesterday in September of that year. With all this success, Tyler was flown between Toronto and Los Angeles to record a debut album, working with many top writers and producers. During these formative years as a young man, combined with the pressures of a recording deal, he struggled to find his authentic artistry and develop as an artist. 

“I was looking for guidance and direction because I was so new in the industry when I first started, but now I have a way better understanding of how everything works and of how to guide the art. My art,” Tyler says. “This is my career, my music, my platform. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. I had an eye opening a year and half, and was like ‘if it feels right to me, then it’s right.’” 

Since the debut of Yesterday, Tyler has been busy with big events such as, hosting and headlining We Day events nationwide, performing for HRH Prince Harry and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Invictus Games launch in Toronto, and starring as lead actor in a feature film The Meaning of Life, which premiered in summer 2017. He has opened for massive artists such as Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara, as well as toured with Selena Gomez. 

With a refined perspective and approach towards his music, Tyler is now prepared to present his most authentic self with his sophomore album. A compilation of classic pop songs, introspective ballads and contemporary production, this artist now has a sound he identifies with and asserts is truly him.

Below is our interview with Tyler!

  • What inspires you to create music?

 Everything. People watching, noises on the street, my mind in constantly creating melodies, rythyms and chord progressions.

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

Do what feels right.

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Yes and I love lending my artistic style to others. I wish i could do it more actually!

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #StayCreative 

Pro Member Interview – Luke McMaster

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Formerly one half of Gold selling Canadian duo McMaster & James, Luke McMaster cut his teeth on some of the biggest acts of the day, including sharing the stage with Randy Bachman, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and more.  An in-demand songwriter with multiple credits and collaborations with such global superstars as Rihanna and soul music icons like Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals, Luke’s first love has always been singing, performing and connecting with his audience.  

In the early spring 2016, Luke released his sophomore album TRENDING. A modern collection of original tracks inspired by classic soul and early Motown, in the vein of throwback artists like Michael Bublé and neo-soul group, Maroon 5.  

Luke is currently working on his next project ICONS OF SOUL which features co-writes with some of the most celebrated songwriters of the early soul era including Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals and Lamont Dozier who has over 80 top 10 hits to his name, including 13 in a row for the Supremes.  To find out more about ICONS OF SOUL, follow Luke on facebook and instagram or you can follow the project development on Luke’s ICONS OF SOUL blog. Below is our interview with Luke McMaster.

 

  • What inspires you to create music?

A love of the craft of songwriting. The high you get from creating something that didn’t previously exist out of thin air. Music is a universal language and it’s incredibly satisfying to share, communicate and hopefully elevate.

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

Legends of Motown like Lamont Dozier. They created the fabric of pop music from early blues and gospel and transformed it in a way that is sometimes taken for granted.

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

Stevie Wonder.

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

Create your own opportunities. Don’t wait for the industry to find you, be creative not just with your music but with the projects that will drive your music.

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

Further what SAC is working on. Become more unified.

 

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #StayCreative 

Pro Member Interview – Matty Galaxy

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Rhythm is the thread that has woven the path for DJ and Producer, Matthieu Bohemier a.k.a Matty Galaxy. What started as a fascination with rhythm as a child has grown into a rising career, having already shared stages with international DJs, such as Grand Theft, Ryan Hemsworth, Zedds Dead and more. Matty is part of the next generation of up coming producers and is currently in L.A working alongside producer “Bongo” By The Way. Below is his interview with S.A.C.:

 

  • What inspires you to create music?

Anything and Everything. I could be sitting anywhere, mid conversation and hear a song in the distance that has a awesome sounding section I would love to sample. It could be a rhythm of a bird chirp, a cup of coffee or even something visual like art or a movie. I make a point to always have my ears open ALWAYS and let the inspiration flow to me. The sense of freedom while creating is also something that will always inspire me to create more music.

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

Danja is hands down my favourite producer. I spent a lot of time in Highschool studying his instrumentals while walking the halls. When the time came for me to decide what I wanted to spend my life doing, his music made it easy for me to decide that production is for me. I soak in a lot of different styles in my beats, I always try to pull from different genres and not be stagnant. I definitely learned a lot from listening to Danja and given the chance I would have to thank him for inspiring me to chase my dream and to be fearless while creating.

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

Okay.. There is a ton but to narrow it down I would love to work with other producers such as Danjahandz, Max Martin or Cirkut. These guys are sooo creative and keep me inspired.

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

One thing I have learned is that, face to face songwriting sessions are soooo Important! Of course the internet is huge and you can send music back and forth with someone. There is something so different about the energy exchange when your in the same room with someone, you learn so much about each other and get to play off each others energies. I would also say to go to one of the bigger Cities. Risk it all.. go to a place like Los Angeles and stay there as long as you can. I’ve found the universe knows when you are making sacrifice and will reward you. I spent a whole summer DJ’ing weddings and working at a pizza shop full time to save up to move to LA for 4 months. I sacrificed all my time to put myself in the best position possible and it paid off. I met my mentor Bongo By The Way the FIRST month I was there and I recently had my first professional music placement with him. Take the Risk, Always..

#MusicCreatorsUnite #CreatorsCount #StayCreative 

Pro Member Interview – Wolf Castle

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21 year old Wolf Castle is a two-time ECMA Nominated Mi’kmaq Rapper, Singer, Producer and Songwriter from Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick.

Fresh out of University with a degree in Theatre – Wolf Castle is a natural showman and emcee making waves in the rap world with his unique style of music. Seamlessly blending traditional hip-hop with modern pop swagger. His vision and creative mind doesn’t follow the ordinary and delivers a message and perspective that is honest and original. Always writing music and striving to evolve, he tackles a wide range of musical styles from fun pop-party tracks to dark and brutally honest stories.

Growing up, Wolf Castle was surrounded by a family of artists and creators, his mother and uncle were both Rappers performing under the names “M03” and “Red Suga”. Inspired by the self-made artists in his family, Castle followed in their footsteps and continue the family business of music and artistry. At the age of 17 he decided to start taking music seriously and self-released his first commercial album “TG17” under the name Tristan Grant which was nominated for the “Aboriginal Artist of the Year” award at the East Coast Music Awards. Since then he’s been working under the name Wolf Castle and has released two more albums, 2016’s “Exit Cranium” and 2017’s “The Artificial to Original”.

Wolf Castle’s music can be found on iTunes, Spotify, TIDAL and Soundcloud. Read Wolf Castle’s interview with the S.A.C. below:

  • How did you learn your craft? 

Basically the most informal training you can imagine, zero informal training. The most I ever got was that I took 1 or 2 music classes in high school. It was important, I learned my major and minor skills on piano but that was about it. Other then that, when I started making music I didn’t know how to do anything, I didn’t know how to structure a song, I didn’t know how to play any instruments, I didn’t know how to record myself or write anything. I basically just did it so much that I learned, just from doing it. I got addicted to song writing through the process of just becoming obsessed with it and not willing to be a perfectionist at all. 

  • Do you have a process to songwriting?

My songwriting, instrumentation, and composing method is extremely sporadic and insane and definitely doesn’t have a lot of planning before hand. It’s more of a “figure it out as I go kind of thing”. So basically, most of the time I start writing a song I don’t even know what it’s about yet, I just figure it out. I guess you could compare it to free styling. I’ll listen to music that I really like, that inspires me, and I’ll get a vibe from that and words will just start coming to me. I’ll start free styling over it and sometimes it works and I’ll get a bunch of lines out of it and when I read it over again I’m like “Oh, this could be something”. And then I develop a song from that point. I don’t necessarily sit down and say “Okay, I’m going to write a song about love and the key is going to be “A” and it’s going be this tempo.”  I mostly just write lyrics and create something out of whatever shows up. I write songs sporadically and very quickly. I can’t stop, it’s like an obsession. I write a lot on my phone too, so if I’m waiting somewhere, or if I’m driving I’ll park (and write), basically anytime lyrics pop in my head. Thank god I have a phone with a notepad I can write in, I write in the tub, I write in my car, I write everywhere.

My family is also very musical. My Uncle for a long time a rapper, he went by Red Suga. He operated on the East Coast and he showed me how to make music also. We used to get together over the Christmas break at my Grandparents house and we would make a song every night over the Christmas holidays. He taught me how to not be a perfectionist, just got for it, get in the vibe it, and just create. We would come up with a hook, we’d make a beat, we’d write, we’d rap it, mix it, and put it on SoundCloud that night. 

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

If I could pick anybody on planet earth .. I would totally pick Tyler, The Creator for sure. He’s definitely someone who has influenced my sound. Him, Odd Future, or Mac Miller, anyone who came up independently or from there own clout really inspired me and showed me “Oh, I should do it too!” right. His sound is so awesome, I just love anything he puts out. He’s definitely one of those creators that influences a lot the way I want to approach music, being a rapper, and putting music out as an art form in terms of presentation, cool pictures, good outfits, and all the artistic direction surrounding the music as well as good music. 

#MusicCreatorsUnite #CreatorsCount #thePROSofSAC 

Pro Member Interview – Aileen de la Cruz

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Aileen de la Cruz is one of Canada’s most prolific songwriters. She has launched one of the most talked about careers as a writer, session vocalist, performer and vocal coach. A classically trained musician who began playing the piano by ear at the tender age of 2. At 10 years old, her dream of singing at Carnegie Hall with the highly touted Amadeus Children’s Choir and the Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra was fulfilled.

Formerly Signed to Cymba Music Publishing, Vince Degiorgio (Caro Emerald, N-SYNC), Aileen has worked with many Multi- Platinum award winning producers/writers who in turn have worked with the likes of Kelly Rowland, Justin Bieber, Backstreet Boys. Recent collaborations have also seen Aileen working alongside ‘X-Factor’ and ‘The Voice’ winner in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Mexico.

Traveling the world on writing tours, Aileen’s trips have delivered multiple cuts landing worldwide hit songs with artists signed to Sony, Universal, EMI, THE VOICE and X factor Finalists, and Japanese and Korean artists such as Sexy K-pop Group ‘4 Minute’, fronted by megastar Hyuna – who was featured in a version of Psy’s global smash “Gangnam Style”. Recently Aileen is also a Juno nominated songwriter for Canadian “Adult Contemporary Album of the year “ for artist Nuela Charles.

She has also had songs featured on TV Networks BBC, ABC, FOX, HBO, featured on blockbuster movies such as ‘Bad Moms’ and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’. Her songs have also appeared on TV shows such as ‘The Voice’ (UK), ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (US), ‘Desperate Housewives’, Keeping with the Kardashians and charted on Japan’s itunes Top 10 along with features on numerous commercials for globally iconic brands like ‘Reebok’ and T-Mobile USA.

In addition to her songwriting career, Aileen’s start in the music industry goes back to her roots as a first call session vocalist, vocal arranger and live performer. She has contributed her voice globally on records with international Hip-Hop superstars such as Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy who have had their tracks graced by Aileen’s harmonies. Aileen is also a first call musician for Disney Cruise Line and a winner of “Best Musician/Band ” for the prestigious fleet. She also tours as backup vocalist for international recording artist Joey Albert.

Enjoy Aileen’s interview with the S.A.C. below:

  • What inspires you to create music?

The feeling you get when you hear a song finished that came from one single idea – inspired by real life situations or the people around you.

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

Yes. I usually start with melody ideas or sit in front of the piano and play around with chord progressions. I then proceed to lyric writing once I have a basic melody structure in place.

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

I was mentored by an up and coming producer named Ron Laxamana in my early teens. I recorded my first originals and Demos with him. I knew after a few sessions in the studio that working in the music industry was going to be my career. A few years later I began doing session work with more established producers and writers and carried on from there.

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

When I was first starting off I really only performed and created Pop/R&B Music. Now I appreciate and write for all genres. It was certainly a learning curve but very important as a writer to explore all kinds of music.

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Yes. I write for established artists or writers that are passionate about what they do. If they are willing to learn and are motivated and persistent to pursue a serious career in the business than I am willing to work with them.

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

I write all Genres.

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

I’ve been fully working in the music industry for the last 15 years so the challenge of being a self employed musician and writer has its pros and cons. I’ve had to work and wear many hats being a teacher, musician and writer to make ends meet. Also being female has it’s challenges with the way you are treated. But at the end of the day work ethic always speaks for itself and constantly thinking ahead about how you can source new opportunities is key. I think its also important to always think like an entrepreneur. After all, it’s called the music business for a reason.

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

I’m influenced by all styles of music really. If I can hear emotion in an instrument or a voice, thats what really moves me to emulate that in my music.

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

Andrea Bocelli or Beyonce’.

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

It was both. I began playing the piano by ear and my first song played was Chariots of fire after hearing it on TV. At 5 I began learning classical piano and it continued from there.

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

Learn to network. But also learn people. The business is all about building relationships. Opportunities don’t also come right away so it’s important to reach out and be involved in the community and in the meantime keep paying your dues and improve your craft.

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

My fondest memory is performing at Carnegie Hall with the Manhattan Philharmonic. I was only 10 and completely clueless about life. But the energy and sounds on that stage was something else.

  • 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 keyboard, my laptop, apogee and mic and compact audio booth. Virtually a compact studio that I take everywhere or use at home.

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

Yes I have. In a lot of cases you just get a brief of what the agent is looking for. Sometimes the descriptions are very vague and you have no idea what they want. Sometimes it’s hit or miss. I try to pay attention to what I hear on TV so that I know what’s currently being placed.

  • How can S.A.C. help you?

The S.A.C has already been very helpful to me and the community. I’ ve been very fortunate to be involved with One on one mentoring, Panels and the Pro Songwriting Camps. I would love to see this continue on all platforms.

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

Work on improving Gender equality and diversifying who we have on panels and conferences etc.

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

I think it’s a matter of educating yourself and keeping in line with technology and the trends. Some people write through FaceTime or Skype now days. You can record your own music at home without having an expensive studio.

#MusicCreatorsUnite #CreatorsCount #thePROSofSAC