S.A.C. Black History Songwriters Series: Molly Johnson

Molly Johnson press photo
http://www.mollyjohnson.com
Known as one of Canada’s greatest voices, award-winning jazz vocalist Molly Johnson is a mother, singer-songwriter, artist and philanthropist, who has just released her highly anticipated new album, “Meaning To Tell Ya”. Produced by multiple GRAMMY Award winning Producer, Larry Klein.

Approaching 60 years on Earth and almost as many on stage, Molly Johnson has been active in Toronto music since appearing in 1960’s stage musicals in her native Toronto.

The six time JUNO nominee has recorded interpretations of everyone from Billie Holiday to Marvin Gaye, as well as writing her own songs. Johnson’s latest release, “Meaning to Tell Ya” has recently been nominated for a JUNO.

Studying ballet in her teens improved her singing ability and she found herself singing with local disco act Chocolate Affair. Little else is known about this group, but a following endeavour with Billy Reed and the Street People yielded Johnson’s first recorded out put. “Doin’ The Best We Can” is this band’s only album. There are solid funky blues cuts and soul covers on this record, which was partly recorded at the famous El Mocambo, which is pictured on the front cover.

As the decade closed, Johnson formed Alta Moda. She spent the next decade and change with this band, and later The Infidels, which had most of the same band members as Alta Moda. Johnson moonlighted in the mid 1980’s as a back-up singer for the alternative rock act Breeding Ground. This band made a couple of videos which were broadcast on MuchMusic.

At the time Alta Moda started, Johnson lived above Queen West haunt The Cameron House where she also played weekly “Blue Monday” jams. By 1992, The Infidels folded and Johnson decided to take a break from music. Voice-overs and ads paid the bills but she didn’t stay away from music for too long.

The next decade (millennium, in fact) saw a return to making music, and Johnson’s first self-titled C.D. came out in 2000.

She toured Europe, released “Another Day” in 2002, and “Messing Around” in 2006. “Lucky” garnered a JUNO for Vocal Jazz Album of 2009.

2019 finds Johnson back in the JUNO spotlight, with a nomination for last year’s release, “Meaning To Tell Ya.” There is even a vinyl edition of this release, almost certainly the first wax pressed with Johnson’s voice since the Alta Moda era. The C.D. includes mostly Johnson originals, along with a few covers, including Marvin Gaye’s sublime “Inner City Blues.”

As an activist, Johnson has involved herself in education and Black History Month, petitioning to have Lawrence Hill’s The Book Of Negroes turned into a television series, and for it’s inclusion on high school reading lists. The only Canadian high school curriculum book addressing racism, Johnson pointed out in an interview, continues to be To Kill A Mockingbird.

In 2007, she became an Officer of the Order of Canada, partly for her work with the Kumbaya AIDS charity.

More recently, Johnson started the KMJF in 2016. With a few ducats of arts funding, nothing from the city, and no corporate sponsorship, the Kensington Market Jazz Festival has put hundreds of bands on dozens of stages, in clubs, on the streets, and even in some alleyways, annually, for a glorious September weekend in the market.

Johnson has a few Ontario concerts scheduled in March, including in London, host city of this year’s JUNOs.

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: Meaning To Tell Ya
Album: Meaning To Tell Ya
Performed and written by: Molly Johnson

Song: Another Day
Album: Another Day
Performed by: Molly Johnson
Written by: Molly Johnson and Mark McLean

Song: Lucky
Album: Lucky
Performed by: Molly Johnson
Written by: Molly Johnson and Steve MacKinnon

Song: L.O.V.E
Album: Meaning To Tell Ya
Performed and written by: Molly Johnson

Song: Melody
Album: Another Day
Performed by: Molly Johnson
Written by: Molly Johnson and Craig Ross

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.

 

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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

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.

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 – 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