Pro Member Interview – Quake Matthews

Quake - SM

Quake Matthews is a hip-hop artist who first made a name for himself in the underground battle rap scene in his early teens. Harnessing the raw energy and competitive spirit found in that arena, he was able to transcend into the multi-layered artist he is today. His raspy voice and unfiltered emotion have given him a signature sound, creating a captivating listening experience for his audience. At the age of 28, with the knowledge of a veteran, the ambition of a rookie, and a career that has been on a steady incline, Quake shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

Here is our exclusive interview with this energetic music creator:

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

In the early 2000’s a friend of mine taught me the art of freestyle rapping. I enjoyed the fact that you had to be quick on your feet, creative and spontaneous. I worked on my craft for a couple years, then caught wind of Freestyle battles happening in clubs in my city. I was only 16 at the time, so often times I had to sneak in to these events or get special written permission from the liquor commission. I ended up winning a number of battles and my name started buzzing around the city. That led to me wanting to get into a studio and translate my battling skills to songwriting. I got hooked up with a few people that owned studios, and now I’m on my 6th album and haven’t looked back since.

  • How can S.A.C. help you?

I would definitely like to be apart of more songwriting camps. I find them very beneficial to my career. I love building relationships with new artists.

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

I can mostly only speak on the hip hop community but I’m sure what I’m about to say applies to all genres across the board. I think we have to focus on building each other up and working together more. We have to learn to pull each other up instead of trying to walk over people to get ahead. If we work together and support each other more it would push the culture forward, and evolution is key to survival.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC 

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Pro Member Interview – Nat Jay

Nat Jay - SM post

Nat Jay took her first steps in her parents’ music school and continues to land on her feet in the world of music today. Her songs have been placed on networks around the world, including ABC, MTV, The CW, Nickelodeon, Freeform, Hallmark, CBC, Syfy, Showcase, and Lifetime. Her debut full-length, All I Think When I Wake Up, was nominated for Pop Album of the Year at the 2015 Western Canadian Music Awards, named in the Top 10 Pop Albums of 2014 on PopDose, and awarded $10,000 for the lead single, “Can’t Getcha Out,” which was named Best of BC by Shore 104. She then released a follow-up EP, Quiet Dreams, and was awarded second place in LG 104.3FM’s VanCOVER contest for her cover of Sting’s “Every Breath You Take.” In December 2016, she collaborated with electronic production duo, Cookie Cartel, to release the highly acclaimed EP, Stoke the Fire, which Exclaim! described as “what it might sound like if the Postal Service were to make a Christmas EP,” and CBC Music added to its coveted holiday playlist. Nat Jay has earned a nomination for SOCAN Songwriter of the Year at the BCCMAs, been a featured songwriter at the Vancouver Folk Festival, and a guest on CBC Radio 2’s Canada Live. The songstress is currently in the studio recording her next full-length album with multi-
award-winning European producer, Ovi Bistriceanu.

After studying music at the University of British Columbia, Nat Jay released her debut EP, Lights Across the Sky, to a sold out room. Since then, she has been compared with powerful performers like Joni Mitchell, Patsy Cline, Alanis Morissette, and the Dixie Chicks. She has shared the stage with such esteemed songwriters as Canada’s own Juno award winner Dan Mangan, Matthew Barber, Oh Susanna, and Justin Rutledge, as well as NYC’s Jay Brannan and Australia’s Angus & Julia Stone.

Besides the success she’s had with her own music, in 2014 Nat Jay scored a co-writing credit with the legendary Stephen Bishop for the song “Loveless” from his album Be Here Then. An advocate of her industry, she sat on the Board of Directors of the Music BC Industry Association for four years and was a committee member for six. She is also a private consultant through one-on-one and group mentoring, facilitating seminars on sync licensing, grant writing, and album release for her peers. Nat Jay has been
asked to speak on panels for Canadian Music Week, BreakOut West, SOCAN, and Music BC, and is a guest lecturer at Nimbus School of Recording & Media, the Pacific Audio Visual Institute, and Langara College.

Complimented by a strong business head on her shoulders, Nat Jay’s compelling and highly accomplished vocal delivery will certainly turn heads in a noisy club, but it is her emotive songwriting ability that will steal the hearts of each and every audience member. What does she have to say? Check below:

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

Chris Martin from Coldplay because he has a really great way of combining popular styles with more meaningful lyrics that really move people. He combines those poppy elements with really emotional, personal topics that people can relate to. And it comes through in his live performances, as he’s a very engaging performer. Also Ryan Tedder, the lead singer of One Republic. He writes amazing stuff for himself and others. He has his finger on the pulse of today’s music and always sounds unique, but still makes great songs for radio. He’s a modern day songwriting genius.

  • Do you ever compose for film/tv/video games? 

I haven’t specifically written for TV or film, but I have had a lot of success with songs I’ve created being placed in films and TV shows over the last 10 years. It’s one of the most amazing feelings and it never gets old. It’s cool that something you’ve created in your apartment and made into a piece of art can fit into someone else’s piece of art and compliment it so well. The success I’ve had in licensing has been very important to me as an artist as it’s been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to make a career in music. And because of that success, I’ve been able to develop a seminar where I teach other artists how to license their music to film and TV. So it’s been great for me on a creative level and in bringing in an income as an artist, but also has allowed me to engage with my community and become recognized within the music industry.

  • If the music community could do one thing better what would it be/What do see in the future of Song writing and music creators like yourself?

The music community could better at accepting less traditional careers paths. There’s always been a traditional trajectory of getting signed and having a marketing plan involving traditional publicity and radio. But these days, with the internet and technologies like streaming, there are so many different opportunities for artists to gain recognition. I think the music industry should embrace different kinds of artists and who have different career paths instead of trying to fit a square peg into a tired round hole.

Leading into the future – I see that more for new artists. I see some artists excelling at live performance, some getting tons of sync placements, others doing really well with playlisting on YouTube and Spotify, and they’re all building a brand and generating an income in different ways.  I’ve been fortunate enough that I love performing live and I’ve been successful at it, but I’ve also been successful getting sync placements while staying home and building an international fan base through that. There’s room in the future for songwriters and music creators to find a niche that works for them, generate an income, and build a career in music in a way that is unique and fitting to what they do.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC 

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 

Protecting your Creative Voice: Tools to staying focused, motivated and optimistic while creating.

Image by John Liu courtesy of Creative Commons licence.
Image by John Liu courtesy of Creative Commons licence.

by Gail Packwood

One of the challenges of a career in the creative arts is that there’s no right or wrong. There’s no definitive road map or method of determining success. Keep this in mind on days when creating feels more difficult than others, when the inner critic is loud and persistently gnawing away at your self-esteem. The songwriter’s creative voice is just as important to nurture and support as is the physical voice. It takes the same focus, time and commitment.

Check your physicality

A singer would not consider performing without a vocal warm-up. The physical and mental demands of performing are similar to those
of a songwriter’s off-stage creative period. It’s therefore important to regularly ‘check in’ with yourself. How do you feel physically? If you don’t ask yourself this question, you may overlook something that’s inhibiting your work simply because you haven’t acknowledged it. Physical aches can affect concentration as much as loud noises can distract you. Take a moment to stop and just breathe before turning back to your work. Have you created a physical environment that enhances your creative process?

Visualize, declutter and breathe

Visualization is one way to help manage thoughts and emotions. It can help calm you, and declutter the to-do lists and the life pressures that interrupt the creative process. For the brain, imagining something and actually doing it have the same positive effect. By taking a moment to pause, breathe and mentally take yourself through your next creative steps, you can receive the same mental benefits as you do from actually completing the task. This should help you feel more focused and confi- dent. Taking a walk can have an equally positive effect by removing your- self from the work at hand but not spending that time ‘doing’ something else.

Be kind to yourself

We are all our own worst critic. Silencing negative inner-voices is a key step in maintaining healthy creativity. A slight change in how we ac- knowledge an event can make a huge difference. Recognize and replace self-defeating thoughts by analyzing how the event made you feel. What was your initial response? What would be the reasonable response (imagining that it involved someone else and not yourself )? Give your- self the same kindness that you’d give others. You’re worth it!

Gail Packwood was previously the Executive Director of the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation (ahcf.ca).

Originally published in the 2011/12 edition of Songwriters Magazine.

200 shows and counting…

Amanda CottreauBy Amanda Cottreau

I’m no expert on the matter but, after having playing over 200 shows in the last four years, there are a number of things I have learned:

1.  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
My voice is a most precious and delicate instrument; it took nearly losing it to come to that realization. Investing in vocal lessons literally saved my voice. Now, before any show, I take the time to warm up and stretch my vocal muscles with the guidance of one of my mentors and industry go-to-girls, Cari Cole.  I also learned to practice finger exercises that minimize the repetitive strain brought on by guitar playing for hours on end each day.  Of course, exercising your whole body, keeping hydrated and taking time to rest are super important too!

2.  MATCH YOUR VENUES WITH YOUR VALUES
In the beginning, I played just about anywhere I could get a gig.  That said, as great as bars are for well paying cover gigs, they are not well suited for sharing intimate moments with the audience, which is very important to me.  I now veer toward cafes, galleries, and private homes, venues that better facilitate one-on-one connections with my listeners.

3.  CONNECT WITH COMMUNITY
Getting people to want to come out to your shows requires more than just putting up posters and having an online presence.  Connecting one-on-one with people in a genuine and meaning full way is the most effective advertising in the world; it takes time and boundless energy but is priceless.  Whether it is in person or online, it is important to build sustainable relationships and engage community.  As a single mother of one, with a full time day job, in addition to managing a music career, I have found the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Reverbnation to be invaluable assets.  They have allowed me to establish and cultivate relationships with a diverse range of people in both my local and global communities.

4.  KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WORTH (AND ASK FOR IT)
As much as I love sharing music, and would continue to create it whether or not I was paid, I have come to realize that my time and skills are valuable and gear costs money!  All of the peripheral things required to make my music accessible – rentals, gas, guitar strings, rehearsal time, business cards, posters, website costs, membership fees, etc. – really add up.  I quickly learned that it was necessary and warranted to ask for payment.  Be mindful of what you ask for, though; if you ask for change, you’ll most likely get just that. I always make a point, now, to ask for listeners’ gratitude in the form of attention AND dollar bills.

5.  BEFORE YOU TOUR – DO YOUR RESEARCH
As an independent artist, touring can be a really expensive and overwhelming venture.  I wish I had done more research and planning before hitting the road!  I made sure to registered all my songs with SOCAN and submitted for all my live performances but I wish I had read these two articles first: How to make the best of a Canadian Tour & Booking Your Canadian Tour – Tips by Ann Vriend.   Did you know that there’s even funding available for touring through FACTOR!?  Like I said, do your research.

Honestly, of everything I’ve learned, success really isn’t about money, it’s about people.  For me, taking things to the next level has always been more about achieving greater depth with my audience rather than higher ranks on the charts.  Music has always been a way to centre myself, allowing me to become aware and fully grounded in the moment.  It has been a way for me to communicate my experiences, build relationships, and engage like-minded individuals in my community. If I were to measure success by the quality of my relationships, well then, I think I’m one of the most successful people I know!

Click Here to visit Amanda’s Songwriters’ Profile.

Taking Your Music to Live Theatre

Kat Leonard launched her first solo show at the Toronto Fringe Festival this year garnering critical acclaim and an invitation to remount the show.  It’s one thing to write and record your own album (which is already a remarkable achievement to most), it’s quite another to mount an entire live theatre show with synced video that showcases your music.  The only other person I’ve seen dancing alongside videotaped dancers is Beyonce!  Kat generously offered to pull back the curtain to give us a speak peak at the process of taking on a project of this scale.  Thanks Kat!

In Kat’s Words…

Being a performer is to constantly strive to express what’s in your heart in an accessible manner.  As a live performer, the challenge is to navigate your artistic vision within the practical conventions of time, space and technology.  And in a live performance, you only get one shot.  You are in a moment that you cannot take back.  There are no edits or second-takes.  In a perfect world, our performance goes off without a hitch and the message is translated as intended.  In a perfect world, no speakers or light bulbs blow, the power doesn’t go out, we don’t forget our own lyrics, we don’t lose our breath, and we don’t slip in our own sweat.  Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world.  In the end, it is up to the performer under that faulty light, on that slippery stage, in that moment, to make the most of the moment– whatever it may bring.

November 2010 I got into The Toronto Fringe Festival for July 2011.  It was a dream came true and A Depper Kind Of Love (my multimedia one-woman musical comedy extravaganza) was fueled.  For 7 months I toiled in preparation.  I released a CD of 10 original songs along with a 52-minute video to run alongside the live performance.  I started regular cardio exercise so I’d be in shape to deliver the spectacle.  7 months of planning, writing, recording, editing, choreographing, promoting, rehearsing, laughing, doubting, sweating and fretting, tantrumming and computer boxing.  (Computer boxing: the act of punching the lights out of your computer for inexplicably and insensitively losing your masterpiece and/or refusing to follow straightforward commands.) And finally THE MOMENT had come.

Show #1: We opened to a glorious and enthusiastic audience… and halfway through, the video zonked out.

Show #2: We were received by an exuberant sing-along audience… and halfway through, I strained my hamstring jumping into un-choreographed splits I curiously found necessary at the time.

Shows #3-7: I struggled physically with pain and exhaustion and a forced change in choreography.  I struggled emotionally to put my ego aside and accept the fact that I was unable to present the show as I had designed and rehearsed for 7 months.

Due to technical breakdown and injury, I never performed the second part of the show as planned.  The execution of the show had changed, but I realized that it was still a string of moments that I as the performer was responsible to make the most of.  At the end of the day, even in a big-budget exhibition, a live show always comes down to the performer.  The performer is the show.  I keep this in mind as I prepare for the remount of Depper Love this November.  And I extend this lesson to my life.  I try to remember to always live in the moment and make the most of that moment, ‘cause you only get one shot, you ARE the show, and the show must go on.

Visit Kat Leonard’s Songwriters’ Profile.

More music, videos and events at: www.DepperLove.com