Shelly Peiken- Life After Songwriting

Shelly Peiken is a multi-platinum Grammy nominated songwriter who is best known for her #1 hits “What a Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby”. She earned a Grammy nomination for the song “Bitch” recorded by Meredith Brooks. 

Shelly is a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is well known in the music industry as mentor, panelist, consultant and guest speaker and a fierce advocate of creators’ rights as a founding member of SONA (Songwriters Of North America).
We’d like to share Shelly’s most recent missive from her Serial Songwriter Blog.
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.
Life After Songwriting
October 3, 2017
By Shelly Peiken
Checkout her article here!

You can also checkout her book available on Amazon and Audible.

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You can follow her on her social media

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Shelly Peiken- Song Splits

Shelly Peiken is a multi-platinum Grammy nominated songwriter who is best known for her #1 hits “What a Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby”. She earned a Grammy nomination for the song “Bitch” recorded by Meredith Brooks. 

Shelly is a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is well known in the music industry as mentor, panelist, consultant and guest speaker and a fierce advocate of creators’ rights as a founding member of SONA (Songwriters Of North America).
We’d like to share Shelly’s most recent missive from her Serial Songwriter Blog.
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.
Song Splits
September 26, 2017
By Shelly Peiken
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In this article, Shelly Peiken talks about the struggles of splitting song royalties between multiple songwriters and gives helpful advice on what to do.
Checkout her article here.
You can follow her on her social media

fb-artScreen Shot 2017-10-04 at 6.04.51 PMTwitter_bird_logo_2012.svg

You can also checkout her book available on Amazon and Audible.

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Canadians open for Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame Award Induction Ceremony at the 12th Annual Austin Songwriters Symposium.

(from Left-Right) Bob McKitrick. Jordan Paul, Ron Beer, Denis Bastarache, Francine Leclair, Lisa Birt, Kait Howard



The Austin Songwriters Group (ASG) and the Texas Songwriters Association hold an Annual Symposium yearly, in fact, this year saw its 12th symposium. The ASG have recognized Canadian talent and organize a showcase of Canadian music. Canadians have always been given a big Texan welcome and this year the Canadian Showcase was placed on the first night opening for the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame Awards Induction Ceremony. The showcase followed an “In The Round” format with Ron Beer finishing the showcase off with a full band, a mix of Canadian and Texan artists.
The showcase was then followed by 3 days of pitch session opportunities with the music industry’s top Nashville and LA publishers looking for songs and songwriters. In addition to meeting with publishers, other songwriters and music industry professionals, there were songwriting workshops, panels with music industry professionals and other songwriters, concerts, showcases, and late night pickin’ circles. Ron Beer is the organizer of the Canadian Showcase and showcase participants were selected through the Empty Chairs campaign that was put on by the S.A.C.


For more information on next years symposium, see


Written by Francine Leclair

Leamington Regional Writer’s Group co-ordinator

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“Shine As One” S.A.C. SongWorks Writes Pan Am/Parapan Am Medal Song

Pan Am 2015 Men's Bantam Weight 56Kg Medal Round. Photo by Harvey K. Creative Commons License.
Pan Am 2015 Men’s Bantam Weight 56Kg Medal Round. Photo by Harvey K. Creative Commons License.

As the sound of cheering crowds from the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games fade and the largest ever Parapan Am Games begin, there is a song that will continue to play until the games are finished, that is “Shine As One.” Written at a 3-day S.A.C. SongWorks songwriting camp, It’s the song that was chosen to be played while athletes receive their medals.  Originally written in 15 and 45 second parts, the song was later extended to versions up to 10 minutes long to make sure it could cover up to 20 athletes walking to the podium.  We interviewed Montreal songstress/songwriter Sally Folk, PEI Singer/Songwriter Dennis Ellsworth and Toronto based producer/songwriter Karen Kosowski about their experience writing this anthemic song.

1.  What is a highlight moment for you in writing the song?
Sally:  The first 5 minutes!  I think that meeting and greeting with new collaborators is always an awkward moment because, being used to write and compose alone, you really want to be easy going for this “one” time J  It’s like starting a new relationship, you want to stay yourself but also make sure the others are meeting their own standards. 
Dennis:  The collaboration was really fun. we worked really hard to be on point and it paid off.

2.  Have you attended any medal ceremonies to hear your song fill the stadium?
Sally:  Sad but no.  I’ve been touring out here in Québec.
Dennis:  Sadly, no.
Karen:  I attended one of the medal ceremonies at Sugar Beach, for an outdoor sailing event.  It was really cool to see.  I also checked out a lot of videos on Youtube and got to see the big stadium ceremonies… made me do a little ugly cry!

3.  What was the inspiration in writing this song at SongWorks?
Sally:  We were asked to write specifically for the PANAM Games so the song had to be very cheerful and bring everybody together.  Karen, who also produced the song, suggested a great beat and we started from there.
Dennis:  Sports. weird for me, but true. all the emotions that go hand in hand with competitive sports, but most importantly, that we are all winners.
Karen:  As the producer/writer in the room I like to come in with some possible starter material, so the song started from a track I had started the day before the camp.  I knew what we were going to be going for (loosely) so from a production standpoint I started out wanting to do something that had a multicultural flavor, and also something with high energy.  I started out with some big drums and some latin-american percussion and guitars.  Then writing the song with Dennis and Sophia was easy because we had a direction already.

4.  Have you ever collaborated with these writers before?
Sally:  No, that’s the fun about it.  You never know what to expect working with new collaborators as well as the final product.  It can totally bring you out of your comfort zone and that is why it is so important to do these kinds of works.  You grow as an artist.  I would definitely work with Karen and Dennis again.
Dennis:  No. I definitely hope so. It’s always nice to write with great writers, especially if we already have a rapport and a successful track record.
Karen:  That camp was our first time, but hopefully we will again soon!

5.  Any plans for the song after the games?
Sally:  You can purchase the original version of “SHINE AS ONE” on ITunes!
Dennis:  Not sure. I’d love to see it gets some more love.
Karen:  Nothing at the moment, although I suppose it could work for a lot of other similar types of events.

6.  How would you describe your experience of SongWorks to another songwriter considering participating in a future camp?
Sally:  Just do the work.  Be open to new ideas and have fun!
Dennis:  I adore the songworks camps. i meet great writers and have a blast. i’m always treated like gold and i always learn something that adds to my own skill set….something that i can bring to future writing camps or sessions. i’ve had nothing but gold from the camps i’ve attended.
Karen:  Writing camps like SongWorks are very much like a new blind date every day… it’s intense, fun, and it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers and producers. Try to get a lot of sleep to keep your energy up!!

7. What’s your favourite lyric in “Shine As One”?
Sally:  I love the pre-chorus:
     “Love and hope
     Hear our call
     All for one
     and one for all
     Everybody feel it now
     Sing  – it –  loud!”
I had a lot of fun singing it and I think it fits the purpose of the song perfectly.
Dennis:  Either – We love, we fight, we shine as one. OR we may look different, but we’re all the same
Karen:  “Let’s shine together bright as stars”

Valdy’s “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song” inducted into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

Valdy & Justin Rutledge
CSHF Inductee Valdy and Juno Award Winner Justin Rutledge

In celebration of its induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CHSF) this week, the song “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song,” was covered by Juno Award winner Justin Rutledge as part of the CSHF and CBC/Radio-Canada’s Covered Classics series.  Written by Canadian singer-songwriter Valdy, “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song,” is a 1970s folk classic about his experience getting jeered by an audience for playing his folk music at a rock festival. The song spent 12 weeks on RPM’s Top 40 singles chart for Canada and went gold by 1975.

“It’s a huge honour to have my song ‘Play Me a Rock and Roll Song’ inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame,” says Valdy from his West Coast home. “I’m grateful to all involved, and hugely proud to have one of my songs included as a part of Canada’s musical legacy.”

“Valdy is an iconic songwriter and performer, and one of Canada’s great storytellers,” says Justin. “It’s an honour to perform ‘Play Me a Rock and Roll Song’ as part of the Covered Classics series, and to have the opportunity to celebrate Canada’s great songwriting heritage.”

Click Here for more information on the induction.
Click Here for more information on Covered Classics.

The story behind the song – 40 Emails and 4 Skype Sessions

Every song’s creation is a story, particularly when there is collaboration involved.  Here is another “story behind” blog by Rosanne Baker Thornley whose participation in last year’s S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging challenge resulted in the song “A Little Too Late to Pray” written with Scott MacKay.

by Rosanne Baker Thornley

During the 2014 Songwriting Challenge I discovered Scott MacKay, originally from PEI, and currently residing in Calgary. An emerging singer / songwriter, I was extremely impressed with his tender, stirring and dark songs. And his voice – undeniably Scott, buttery, gravelly, smoky – I was quick to dub him “Bublé of the Bayou”. And like North Easton, Scott’s was a voice I was inspired to write for.

We had messaged each other during the Challenge expressing an interest in each others work, discussing a plan to collaborate on a song after the challenge. And so, a few months after the challenge ended, a message appeared on my phone “interested in writing a song?”.

Scott sent me a list of possible song ideas and a note that he liked songs that are clear / clever – that his goal was to write songs that are real speak so listeners are quick to understand – but at the same time songs that carried a highly original concept. Hank Williams, Loudan Wainwright the third, and Johnny Cash were examples he sited.

After perusing Scott’s titles and one-line descriptors – I emailed back that I had quickly gravitated to a few ideas, but in particular, his concept “Hearse. A humorous account of a hearse bringing someone to the grave. Tire goes flat, they run out of gas, etc.”. And as with anyone I’m writing with / for, I immersed myself in whatever music of his I could to get a better feel for his delivery and a deeper insight into his songwriting.

With Scott in Calgary and me in Toronto, distance meant that email and Skype would enable our collaboration. I do find this a bit of a cold aspect to long distance co-writing as I much prefer that once into the nose-to-nose work that my co-writers, their heartbeat and their energy, are right in the room with me. But given some my previous experience with North, I was better acclimatized to working via Skype.

I can’t emphasize how important it is to just take time to talk to each other. Not about the song or the work – just things – life. Learning about each other is so crucial to working together. This is especially important when you’re on the other side of a monitor and a mouse.

Scott sent me some rough lyric thoughts to get the process moving along. Entitled “Long Road to My Grave / Scenic Route to the Grave” – Scott’s lyric rough was written from the deceased’s perspective and the trials and tribulations of getting to the graveyard. My question to Scott after receiving his lyric was – “Yes, but WHO is in the coffin?” Percolating on the idea, I rolled it over and over in my head – until the idea of a less than perfect preacher came to me. Yes! I responded to Scott with – Possible Title : “A little late to Pray”, with a first round of lyric and a note setting the scene – “A good looking, über friendly preacher, clearly popular (particularly with the women, but not overtly so in public), has died. There seems to be a challenge in getting him to his grave. Gee that’s odd. He’s a preacher. He was so young and healthy. How did he die? Ah yes, that is the question.”

Sometimes lyrics are a line-by-line soul wrenching process – and then other times they land easy. Once I had the image of where I wanted to go and a chorus I felt was at the heart of the song, I just flew. So quickly in fact that Scott was quite taken back by how fast and how finessed my first version was. Scott was extremely enthused and inspired with the storyline and the lyric. Excited I searched online for backwoods banjo music and played it over and over in the background as I transported myself into the scene – onto the road with the hearse, the driver and the preacher. Hand off to Scott to start the music. When I’m writing lyrics I almost always have an idea of how the music will sit, which is how I build the lyric and structure of the song. However, I didn’t share the music I had with Scott, as we had determined that Scott would drive the music with the intention of him singing. So I wanted him to reach in and find what worked for him. Ironically, when Scott played me the song for the first time – it was pretty much the same melody I had been working with – which we were both a bit dumbfounded by.

There were about 40 emails back and forth and about 4 Skype sessions to finesse and complete the song. The chorus stayed much the same from the first version throughout our finessing the lyric together. We decided to eliminate portions of the song that delved too much into the preacher’s story and decidedly simplified and focused on the ride to the gravesite. In the end this served the song better. We spent time discussing the music structure as in “did we really need a bridge or would an instrumental and two lyric lines out to the final chorus do the trick”? I have a producer / engineer that I work with in Toronto (Ted Onyszczak), so it made sense to have Ted produce / engineer the song. With the beauty and convenience of technology, Scott laid down vocal and banjo tracks in Calgary and emailed them to Ted. Ted provided a rough concept, which included proposed instrumentation based on music / mood/ style examples Scott and I had provided him with. With the three of us in agreement on the direction, final tracks were coordinated and recorded. Mark Kelso (drums) having his own studio, provided and emailed tracks and Pat Rush (slide dobro, bass) came into the studio. Mixed and mastered, 3:52 minutes grown out of an inspired collaboration.

Rather an odd irony is the Preacher image I sourced to support the song on my website. Coincidently entitled “Preacher”, the existing image was shot by photographer Steven Ferguson, from Ireland. I was initially informed that there could be a 6-week delay in obtaining the rights to the image due to a requirement to have a signed model release before the agency could release the image. However, only days later I was informed that the shot was available to use, and that a release was not necessary. This, due to the fact that the subject in the image was, recently deceased.

It was a great experience working with Scott and we’re both truly happy with the outcome of this collaboration. Scott’s open demeanor and enthusiasm were key to the success of this song. And so we’re now moving onto our next song collaboration. The song at the middle, we will continue to learn more about each other and perfect our songwriting process. All good.

Click Here to visit Rosanne Baker Thornley‘s Songwriters Profile.
Click Here to visit Scott MacKay‘s Songwriters Profile.

Tips on DIY Music Videos

Angela Saini

by Angela Saini

Making music videos has become a necessity for the indie musician. Music is consumed much differently in the online age, and most often people will come across your music first on a platform such as YouTube. Increasingly people are “hearing with their eyes” so you want to make sure there is a visual medium to enjoy your music readily available. That being said, you don’t need to have label-backing or be a big artist with a huge budget in order to make a music video.

I’ve done several music videos, all DIY (do-it-yourself, ie. Without a grant or third party funding) and there are many ways to go about it. As with every aspect of an indie artist’s career, you can start with people that you know who already support you in your craft. Maybe you have a friend who has a camera and/or knows how to use editing software. . I know an artist that shot an entire video by herself on an iPhone: for no cost. If you have the skills or know someone who does, you can do a lot yourself.

Another option is to find people in film school who need to create a film reel or final project. My video for “Stay Here with Me” was done entirely by a small group of people who were doing a final project for a film program. You might find a young director who is hungry for experience, and is willing to do a video for free or a reduced rate. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive to make a video if you know how to plan and utilize your resources. Regardless of budget, the planning and production of a video is the same general process.

The first major consideration for a video is the director. Who is going to create and execute the “concept” of the video? A director should be the one who presents a “treatment,” which is a general outline of how the video will flow, from start to end. It doesn’t have to be an exact shot list, but should entail how the video is going to start and generally progress, within a concept. A lot to consider in terms of style: Is the singer going to sing to the camera for some shots? Are there actors? What about location? What kind of wardrobe? Is there a live performance scene? Will there be an audience? How many days do you need to shoot? Your costs are going to reflect the duration of filming. The director may charge a per day fee and you might need a crew for lights, additional cameras etc. and you need to feed them. Renting gear might be a reality for your shoot, and that can add up fast; all the more reason to try to utilize your resources and do as much as you can with little or no cost. I have been able to pull strings and get locations to film in for free for all my videos. Start with who you know, and don’t be afraid to go “guerilla-style” in shooting scenes in public spaces. A side note on this: technically you need a permit to film on streets in Toronto, and probably most cities. The moment a tripod hits the pavement you can be asked for one (apparently handheld cameras don’t break the rules.) I am not advocating doing anything illegal, but permits and fines can get expensive so you might want to get creative.

Here is where planning is the most important factor in shooting your video. I have had whole projects fail because of a lack of planning. “Doing it as you go” is going to cost everyone time, money, mental sanity and will probably add days to your shoot. Have a shot list and make sure your director/director of photography knows what is being shot, where, and how long it should take, BEFORE you start. They might make a “Story Board” which will visually show each scene in order, although you might not shoot it in chronological order. Include set up time and meals in your planning, and remember things always take longer than you think! Having extras is always more difficult than you think it will be, at least in numbers. You might love to have a crowd of screaming fans in front, but the day of only 3 people show up. Have a back-up plan for shooting and be flexible when depending on other people, especially if you aren’t hiring professional actors.

My most successful shoots considering time and money have been small scale; maybe a handful of “actors,” and a small film crew, or just me and the Director and that’s it. Making a video doesn’t have to be a huge daunting project that costs you a small fortune. If you have a clear vision and plan everything ahead of time, you will save time and money. Factor in the time it will take to edit the video, and don’t be afraid to ask for a rough cut to make sure you and the editor/director are on the same page. Editing is just as important as shooting, so don’t rush the process just to get it done. I always make sure before I commit to a project that it’s clear that I will be part of the process. Make sure you are proud of your product because you want to share it with the world for years to come. Right?

The sky is the limit. We are creative people and it is exciting that a visual representation of our music is attainable as indie artists. Happy Shooting!

Angela Saini

Click Here Angela’s Songwriters’ Profile.

Here is Angela’s video for her song “U-Turn,” recently featured on the S.A.C. website: