S.A.C. Black History Songwriters Series: Dan Hill

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www.danhill.com
How does one describe the creative force driving Dan Hill? Nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Vocal, winner of a Grammy (as co-producer of “Seduces Me” on Celine Dion’s 30 plus million-selling “Falling Into You” album), winner of five Juno Awards and the Harold Moon Award (Canadian Lifetime Songwriting Achievement Award), Dan has recorded and released multiple gold and platinum albums.

Imagine this; you’re in your early twenties, you wrote and performed one of the biggest songs of the year. Not even Canada – big, but a monster seller in America, where artists would cover the song within a year and more cover versions would be released over the coming decades. To your father, you’ll never be Bruce Cockburn, and your success doesn’t mean much to the author and renowned Black Canadian civil rights activist. In about 30 years, you will come to terms with your relationship by releasing the record and the book “I Am My Father’s Son.” Bittersweet?

Dan Hill, best known for “Sometimes When We Touch,” grew up in one of Toronto’s inner suburbs, the son of American social activists and brother to two future authors. Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes) and his late sister Karen were both prominent Canadians, and Dan’s father Daniel G. Hill’s activism brought him to serve as the first full time Director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1962. He married fellow civil rights campaigner Donna Bender in 1953, becoming one of Toronto’s first few mixed race couples. Needless to say, expectations were high when it came to the Hill children.

Born in 1954, Daniel Grafton Hill IV started playing guitar as a kid and was playing Yorkville coffeehouses while still a high school student. RCA Records signed him as a songwriter for a few years until Hill managed to leave RCA and release his first album on the Canadian GRT label in 1975. The eponymous debut yielded a Canadian hit, “You Make Me Want To Be.”

A couple of years later, Hill recorded a ballad he wrote at 17, when he felt insecure in a relationship with an older woman. “Sometimes When We Touch” was, of course, a massive success. It reached #3 in Billboard’s American charts, #1 in Canada and cover versions came quickly, from Tina Turner in 1978 and Cleo Laine in 1979, with many more versions to come.

Dan Hill went on to record more hits, including “It’s A Long Road” from Rambo’s debut, “First Blood” (recorded for the movie). “Can’t We Try?” was Billboard’s Adult Contemporary song of the year in 1987, and another big hit came the following year with “Never Thought (That I Could Love).”

Hill’s flair for composing epic songs led him to work with stars like Celine Dion (for which he won a Grammy). He has worked with many other modern hit-makers, such as Britney Spears, 98 Degrees, Michael Bolton and The Backstreet Boys.

Despite his five Junos, other awards and millions of records sold, Daniel Sr. seemed unimpressed with Dan’s achievements. After some success with country music, his father gave him grief for working in a racist genre. Rebelling against this, Hill described feeling indifferent about his own mixed race as a kid, and perhaps even postponing contemplation on this aspect of his identity, as a response to his always race-conscious father.

Oddly, Dan found himself in the throes of writer’s block in 2003 following the death of his father. He has described how sad times had previously inspired him to pick up a guitar and write, compounding the frustration of not composing.

In early 2009, Hill published I Am My Father’s Son; A Memoir of Love and Forgiveness. He has written for Macleans and elsewhere about other struggles in recent years; with his own son, the deaths of his father, mother, and sister, as well as prostate cancer, diagnosed shortly before a concert.

2010 saw the departure of lifelong friend and sometime musical collaborator Paul Quarrington. Hill also released his c.d. “Intimate” that year.

While he is best known for sweeping ballads, Hill’s folk / coffeehouse background led him to a variety of collaborations. He has worked with Nova Scotian Joe Sealy on “The Road” from the latter artist’s “Africville Suite” c.d.

Dan Hill keeps busy with performing (he was at Hugh’s Room in January) and he announced a deal with Ole (sic) Publishing in mid 2018. Hill also offers songwriting mentoring via Skype, if you contact him through his website, http://www.danhill.com.

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: Sometimes When We Touch
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics written by: Dan Hill
Music written by: Mann

Song: I Am My Father’s Son
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics and music written by: Dan Hill

Song: You Make Me Want To Be
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics and music written by: Dan Hill

Song: I Fall All Over Again
Performed by: Dan Hill
Lyrics and music written by: Dan Hill

 

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.

S.A.C. Black History Songwriters Series: Lillian Allen

LillianAllen

Writer; Poet; Performer; dub poetry embodies these three characteristics, distinguishing it from singers or poets. As a pioneer in the dub poetry world, Lillian Allen has written, recorded and performed for decades. The Juno award winner has published books, advised community advocacy groups and the government alike on various social issues and now teaches at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD University).

“Black History Month reminds me of the soulfulness of my ancestors whose vestiges of heritage and culture we carry with us as a people everywhere we go; what an amazing connection this gives us. We are like our own worldwide web. Black History Month calls on not just Black people but our entire country to reflect on and celebrate the resistance, hopes, sacrifices and achievements of Black people & our culture and our vital contribution to human enterprise, both tangible and intangible. It should also be a reminder that unequal societal conditions, marginalization, lack of opportunities especially among a section of our youth, was not always so and can and must be countered with culture, economic upliftment and participation in society’s processes.”

Lillian Allen grew up in Spanish Town, Jamaica and emigrated to Kitchener/Waterloo Canada in 1969 and later moved to New York City to pursue her studies and back to Canada where she settled in Toronto in the mid 1970’s.

Reading and performing her brand of poetry at community events to much accolades, her first of many books, Rhythm an’ Hard Times was published in 1982. Her first recording came out the following year. Active in Toronto’s arts & culture scenes, she collaborated with many musicians and artists.

Allen’s interest in writing and performing dub poetry received a jolt when she encountered the original dub poet Oku Onuora at a 1978 writers’ conference in Cuba. Onuora recorded the first dub poetry album, “Reflections in Red,” in 1979. Music is a fundamental component of dub poetry; the beat, usually reggae, is meant to add momentum to the uttered verses.

Lillian Allen was part of the first wave of dub poets including Mutabaraka and Linton Kwesi Johnson, credited with coining the term in a 1976 article. Johnson later explained he was referring to the rise of “toasting” among Jamaican deejays which developed into chattering or even singing along with extant songs and instrumentals. Dub Poetry is not toasting or “singjaying” though; there is a gravitas to the words which is not a requirement in reggae singing or toasting.

She explains in De Dub Poets her desire “to work within a form whose aim was to increase the dynamism of poetry, to increase it’s impact and immediacy, a poetic form that could incorporate many aspects of other art forms: performance, drama, fiction, theatre” and other elements. Her records “Revolutionary Tea Party” (1986) and “Conditions Critical” (1988) won Juno awards.

Allen co-founded the Dub Poetry Collective in between publishing books and performing live before assuming a new role, as a professor, at OCAD University.

Allen is currently developing a new BFA program in creative writing. The program will include performing, digital art forms and other elements integral to creative expression in 2019.

 

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.

 

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Click here to listen to Lillian Allen’s new single on S.A.C.’s Spotify playlist Ep. 5 Black History Songwriters Series

 

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Playlist:

Song: Revolutionary Tea Party

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Discogs

 

Song: Rub A Dub Style Inna Regent Park

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Discogs

 

Song: Conditions Critical

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Discogs

 

Song: I Dream a Redwood

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: AllMusic

 

Song: Woken & Unbroken

Performed by: Lillian Allen

Written by: Lillian Allen

Source: Spotify

 

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.

Spotify: Ep. 3. Happy Holidays.

10.28.18 - 10.30.18 (5)

For the third and final instalment of our playlist for 2018 we have combined member submissions and festive songs to get you in the mood for the holidays! We can’t wait for you to hear the songs featured below. Don’t forget to check back regularly and hit that follow button on Spotify to keep up-to-date with everything.

To hear Episode 3, click Here

The featured songs and artists are below:

 

Maya Rae – I’m Still Waiting for Christmas

Performed by: Maya Rae

Written by: Steven Hardy

Produced by: Steven Hardy

Source: Maya Rae Music

 

Megan Schroder – If I Don’t Make It Through This Christmas

Performed by: Megan Schroder

Written by: Steven Hardy, Gwen Swick

Produced by: Steven Hardy

Source: Gerrard Street Records

 

Francine Honey, Beth Neilsen Chapman – Snowflakes on My Eyelashes

Performed by: Beth Neilsen Chapman, Francine Honey

Written by: Francine Marie Honey

Source: Francine Honey

 

Steven Hardy – Nothing out There but Snow

Performed by: Steven Hardy

Written by: Steven Hardy

Source: Gerrard Street Records

 

Sonja Gustafson – I’m Still Waiting for Christmas

Performed by: Sonja Gustafson

Written by: Steven Hardy

Source: Gerrard Street Records

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.

Pro Member Interview – Victoria Banks

Victoria Banks - SM

 

Victoria Banks has been nominated for 11 Canadian Country Music Association 
(CCMA) Awards and was named CCMA Female Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year in 2010. She has been labeled “one of the best songwriters in the business” by Nashville’s MusicRow magazine. 

In addition to releasing three albums and touring with artists from Reba to 
Wynonna, Banks – who hails from Muskoka, Ontario – has written ASCAP, SOCAN, CCMA and Covenant-award-winning songs for more than 50 artists. 

Her cuts include Jessica Simpson’sBillboard record- breaking single “Come On 
Over,” Sara Evans’ solo-written hit “Saints & Angels” and duet “Can’t Stop Loving You” (featuring Isaac Slade of The Fray), Lauren Alaina’s “Queen of Hearts,” Johnny Reid’s CCMA Song of the Year “Dance With Me”, Doc Walker’s chart-topping “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, One More Girl’s BCCMA Song of the Year “When it Ain’t Raining”, and many more. In 2016, Banks performed with the Nashville Ballet as part of their Attitude program, for which several of her songs were choreographed including the program’s title song, “City of Dreams.” 

“This is an artist you absolutely need to pay attention to. Recommended without reservation.” – Robert Oermann,MusicRow.

“A powerful singer…a very impressive songwriter…definitely a name to look out for.” -Maverick Magazine (UK).

Read her interview with the S.A.C. below:
  • How did you get your start as a creator in the industry?

I’ve been a staff songwriter based in Nashville for over twenty years now. I moved south in 1997 after finishing a degree in Zoology at University of Toronto, and after performing at a ton of writers nights around town, was connected with my ASCAP rep, Ralph Murphy. Ralph set me up with some publisher meetings, and from those I was offered my first deal writing for Rick Hall at Fame Music’s Nashville office (affiliated with Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals). Since then I’ve signed with several other companies and have always maintained a writing deal over the years, even when I was touring heavily to support my Canadian record deals. 

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

I studied classical voice and piano until I graduated high school, but pursued science in university. As a teenager I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play and write contemporary music, but I never had any formal training in songwriting. I just read books on the subject, listened to a zillion songs, and tried to figure out how the writers crafted them to affect the listener the way they do. 

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

I feel a bit like a survivor who is holding on somehow despite the odds. When I signed my first deal in 1998, royalty streams were alive and well. I have seen the decline of record sales and the rise of streaming basically obliterate all other income streams except radio play for commercial songwriters. There are now only 400 people doing what I do professionally in Nashville when there were 4000 twenty years ago. I’ve also had to deal with the lack of radio play for female artists in the country genre. Even though I naturally gravitate toward writing from a female perspective, I have had to learn to focus primarily on writing with and for male artists in order to stay marketable.

Music creators count! #thePROsofSAC 

Pro Member Interview – Kayo

Kayo - SM

Kayo (né Filbert Salton) was born and raised in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Inspired by the likes of Bob Marley, The Fugees, Kardinal Offishall, 2Pac, and Jay-Z, Kayo’s sound is a fusion of hip-hop, reggae, and R&B. 

Kayo moved to Canada to study marketing at Saint Mary’s University. While in Halifax, Kayo immersed himself into the local hip-hop scene. It was at this time that Kayo met Classified and after working together under Half Life Records & with EMI Music Canada, Kayo branched off to pursue his love for music independently. He has since released 9 projects, and most recently in April released ‘Winter in St Lucia: An Extended Play By Kayo’. 

Kayo’s music is all about creating a uniquely aggressive and penetrating sound, songs filled with substance and purpose, a little sugar with the medicine.

Below is our interview with Pro Member Kayo:
  • What inspires you to create music?

Life and experiences inspire me the most, whether my own personal experiences or the experiences of those around me. A spark for a song idea can come from anything, from having a conversation with someone, overhearing a conversation on the bus, to seeing a cool meme on instagram. I try to be a vessel and allow even the most seemingly trivial things to have value in my life through the inspiration it brings.

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

My process varies. I jot down lines or phrases during the course of the day in a note on my phone called ‘Random Barz’. Some mornings I ‘free-write’. It doesn’t matter the topic, it doesn’t even matter if it rhymes. I put those in a different note called ‘Free Shmoke’. These notes are the ammo I take into my sessions. When in a session, I like to start by letting the music move me. It doesn’t have to be a fully produced beat. It can be a simple as some chords on a guitar or piano. I then freestyle and mumble different flows and melodies until I find something that moves me. I’d run a voicenote to record this process as to capture any idea that I come up with. I’d also skim through my ‘Random Barz’ and ‘Free Shmoke’ notes in hopes that something in there works or sparks more ideas. Or sometimes, I would record me freestyling over the beat about 2 or 3 times. Most of it would be jibberish but I usually get some good ideas from this process. I’d then go through those records and pick the melodies, flows or lines that I like. I’d then start cutting the parts I like and sequencing it all in the way I think sounds good. I would then take that reference track and ‘trace’ it by writing the lyrics to the jibberish.

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

I moved to Canada from St Lucia in 2008. I studied Marketing at St Mary’s University in Halifax. School was a means to an end. It was my way of moving legitimately to Canada to pursue my career in music. It was there in Halifax that I really got my start in the industry. I would perform at Open Mic at the pub on my Campus. Through that, I met Quake Matthews, and it was through the nurturing of that relationship, I eventually linked up with Classified. Class helped me take things to another level through touring with him and working on music with him through his imprint, Halflife Records.

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

I think I have managed to find my voice. One of my greatest gifts as well as curses has always been my versatility. I think I’ve developed ways of making it all come together. My music is just a diverse and multifaceted as it was before, but there is more balance and cohesion.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC 

Pro Member Interview – Caroline Brooks

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Caroline Brooks is a singer-songwriter, vocalist and guitar player from Toronto and one third of Juno award-winning touring band Good Lovelies. She has performed as a session vocalist with a wide range of artists, including Kathleen Edwards, Peter Katz, Jim Bryson and Lily Frost. Recently, her song “I See Gold” (co-written with Robyn Dell’Unto) was awarded a #1 Song award from SOCAN, for reaching the top spot on CBC Music’s Top 20. Outside of performing, Caroline is currently a sitting board member with the longest running folk festival in Canada, Mariposa Folk Festival, as well as Muskoka-based advocacy group Safe Quiet Lakes. She and her partner also co-founded Secondhand Sunday, a community reuse and waste reduction program based in Toronto. Enjoy some helpful insights from Caroline:

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

I started writing music at a young age, inspired by my Dad, who was constantly writing and creating at home. It was just like learning to ride a bike, or hanging from the monkey bars; we learned three chords and got to it. Since then, I’ve been honing my songwriting skills with solo writing, co-writes and with my long-term writing partners Kerri Ough and Susan Passmore (Good Lovelies).

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

My greatest musical influences are likely Sarah Harmer, and Paul Simon. Those two stick out in my mind as writers who have influenced my songwriting cadence, melodies, and song structure.

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

Though I spent a lot of my youth in classical guitar lessons, my singing and songwriting craft has been nurtured in informal settings. As I grow older, and mature as a singer-songwriter, I have been finding joy in more formal education, through singing lessons and songwriting workshops. It’s been a fun circuitous way to approach learning my craft.

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

I rely heavily on my cellphone to remember interesting lyric ideas and melodies.

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

Value creators! We need to fight for fair compensation. Miranda Mulholland has been a great voice for we songwriters and performers – we have a long way to make this work sustainable, both financially and for the sake of our mental health. Our product is not sufficiently valued (from a monetary standpoint), and we need to get $$ into the hands of creators so that they can continue to create.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC 

Pro Member Interview – Ian Thornley

Ian Thornley - SM

Born and raised in Toronto, Ian Thornley studied jazz music at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the 1990s, and formed the band Big Wreck in 1993 with classmates David Henning, Brian Doherty, and Forrest Williams. They soon relocated from Boston to Toronto and eventually signed a US record deal with Atlantic Records. Their 1997 debut album, In Loving Memory Of…, was a significant hit that year on rock radio in both Canada and the United States. His album “Albatross” debuted at No.5 on the Canadian Albums chart and “Ghosts” debuted at #4 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Here is our interview with this outstanding music creator:

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

 I tend to just write songs to be good songs overall, instead of writing for a genre specifically. However it comes out is however it comes out, it could have a bit more of this flavour or that flavour, but I’d rather have the song tell me what it wants. I avoid trying to force the song into a specific box. If the song impacts you, it will likely impact others as well.

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

 I try to give a nod to all of my influences whenever possible, and I never think of it as plagiarism or stealing; I think of it as a cheeky tip of the hat. Hopefully the listener will get that I am getting that I am saying “here is an obvious Led Zeppelin-ism” or “here is an obvious Tom Petty-ism”.

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

I actually use an app on my cellphone to record all of my ideas on the fly, and it probably has about 400 new ideas sitting on it. It’s what I go to when recording a new record to tap into all my ideas and riffs.

 

Thank you for being a member of the Songwriters Association of Canada, Ian!