2015 S.A.C. Blogging & Songwriting Challenge Wrap Up

Creative Commons License.  Photo by Andrew Hurley
Creative Commons License. Photo by Andrew Hurley

The 2015 S.A.C. Blogging and Songwriting Challenge was the first of its kind.  Every week industry professionals issued challenges that allowed our 121 participants a taste of life as a professional songwriter.  Those who committed themselves 100% to the task found that songwriting took over their lives, consuming their thoughts and time.  For many it was a taste of the life they aspire to live.

We are grateful to each of our professional mentors, Rob Wells, Heather Gardner, Ron Irving, Jordan Howard, Vincent Degiorgio and Cara Heath, who not only issued challenges but also provided personal feedback to a handful of submissions vetted by our songwriting coaches.  The response from the industry was so positive we were able to give participants a choice of taking on two challenges in the final week.  It is generous of them to have taken the time to nurture the next generation of songwriters.

We are also grateful to our songwriting coaches, Debra Alexander and James Linderman who lived in the trenches with our songwriters.  Our coaches shared advice on lyrics, chord structures and collaboration, going far above and beyond what was expected, fuelled by their genuine desire to see our participants succeed.  For many of our songwriters, the help these coaches provided defined their experience of this challenge, opening up new tools and techniques to apply to their craft.

We would also like to thank Barb Sedun for arranging a real life pitch to Matt Dusk (to be posted below), along with Matt himself and his management team for their willingness to give our emerging songwriters a chance to present him songs that would expand his sound for his next album.  Having a real opportunity like this has been a game-changer, increasing the intensity in a way no other challenge could.

Lastly, we must thank all of our passionate participants.  Everyday the Facebook group was full of positive feedback and constructive criticism as many songwriters shared their work in progress, often times in genres far outside their comfort zones.  So much zeal. So much love.  By the end of the first week, the group began to feel like a summer camp of sorts, with new friendships forming that we hope will continue long after this challenge is history.

So, we end with where we began.  It is time to submit your song for Challenge No. 1 issued by Matt Dusk. Please post the following below by Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59pm:

1.  Your Name
2.  What was the hardest challenge or hardest part of the challenge for you and why?
3.  What did you enjoy most about participating in this experience?
4.  What is something significant that you learned from taking on this challenge? (It can be about yourself or about the challenge)
5.  Would you do this type of challenge again?  Why or why not?
6.  Your link to your Matt Dusk submission.  Please include lyrics on your SoundCloud page.  If one of your collaborating partners is submitting the link to your song, you can refer to their posting (ie. See link from ____________).

Who Wrote a Pop Hit? – Week 2 Challenge Feedback by Rob Wells

Rob-WellsBased on Hit Songwriter/Producer Rob Well’s songwriting challenge issued in Week 2 – over 100 tracks were submitted and vetted by our coaches to a handful submitted to Rob himself for feedback.  

Braeden Mitchell – Music on my Body
Rob’s Feedback
Hey Braeden – great job on this song – very catchy with lots of hooks.  My two comments would be that it’s a little sexual… there’s always a fine line as to how far you can go… it just feels a little out of the age range I’m going for.  Second comment is that the chorus should introduce something else other than “Music on my body”… lines 1, 2, and 4 are great for that, but line 3 should have something new introduced with a catchy melody.  Other than that, this is a great song and a great performance from you!  Looking forward to hearing more…. thank you, Rob.

Kathryn Berry – Kiss my Lips
Rob’s Feedback
I really really like this!  Great job!  I can hear this with killer production already – you’ve really painted a great picture of youth and young love.  My only comment is that the 2nd verse is a little awkwardly written.  The part where you’re alone again… could be better… feels a little sad… maybe work on that part to make it 100%!  Other than that, great work!!!

Katy Carswell – Should Have Known
Rob’s Feedback
WOW… blown away… great song… great voice… great vibe… EXACTLY what I’m looking for.  I want to hear more of what you have!  I’d go to town on the production on this song… it’s a winner!

Tea Petrovic – Couldn’t Let You Walk Away
Rob’s Feedback
Ummmmm…. holy crap!  I LOVE THIS SONG.  Great job on all aspects!!!  This is a great great song and I’d love to hear it fully produced.  Wow… kinda blown away!  Sorry that I have no comments to make this song any better, because it’s already perfect.

Bernadette Saquibal – Life Education
Rob’s Feedback
Hey Bernadette – thank you for submitting this song – I think this song has amazing legs in a Synch setting… meaning I think this would go great on a show like Degrassi or any other Nickelodeon type show… maybe even a younger kids movie… something that goes along with a story line.  Is it a global universal smash?  I don’t think so, because, it’s very specifically about being in school, and the frustration of being there.  Will a 40 year old office worker be able to get into this song?  Probably not… the trick is to write something that is great for a 15 year old girl to associate with, but also make it so that the entire population will be able to get into it as well… hope that makes sense??  Thank you for sending!!!  I would LOVE to hear more!  Sincerely, Rob.

Gordon Wong –  Sour Taste
Rob’s Feedback
Hey Gordon – cool song!!  I think it’s got a really unique vibe – I have a couple of comments – I think the 2nd half of Verse1 should be the 1st half… switch them around to make it stronger.  Also, the chorus doesn’t hit me as hard as it should… think Gwen Stefani for the chorus… maybe take the words you have and the same timing, but rather than singing the words, why not chant/shout them out a la “Hollaback Girl” – but then sing the 4th line.  So, three lines chant, 4th line sung.  I love how this song just sits nicely on the border of edgy… it’s a great place to ride in this vibe that we’re going for.  Great job!  Let me know if you do more with it!  Thanks, Rob

And the winner is…
It’s a tie between Katy Carswell and Tea Petrovic.  Those submissions have BLOWN ME AWAY!!!

Please do not be discouraged if your song was not listed.  Our Challenge Mentors are extremely busy and cannot provide feedback on all tunes submitted – which is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of your songwriting.

S.A.C. Challenge – Week 2 – Issued by Rob Wells – Write an explosive pop hit!

Rob Wells has a challenge for you!
Rob Wells has a challenge for you!

Rob Wells is a multi-platinum, award-winning producer/songwriter based in Toronto & Los Angeles. He has worked with numerous multi-platinum selling artists, with songs landing on millions of award winning records. His work has appeared in major release films, network TV shows and video games worldwide.  Awards include first place in numerous songwriting competitions, SOCAN #1 awards, gold, platinum & multi-platinum certifications.

Our week 2 challenge is as follows:

I’m looking for strong female based Pop/Top 40 songs.  Think Selena Gomez.  Think Demi Lovato.  Think big.  Think hits.  Think target audience of 13-18 years old.  If you’re writing a global, universal, and (a little bit) quirky smash song with an interesting title, I’m interested.  If you can sing your explosive chorus a thousand times and not be sick of it, I’m interested.  Trim the fat.  No unnecessary sections or long intros.  Take me on a journey.  Make every lyric count and funnel towards a great chorus payoff.  Maximum 3:30 in length.  Good luck!

Your song is due February 23 by midnight. Share a link to your song and a link to your blog post in the comments below.

SongWorks Edmonton: Classic country meets euro-dance

SongWorks Edmonton 2013 Participants.  Clockwise from Top Left:  Cecil Frena, Bryan Finlay, Rachel Woznow, Olivia Wik, Sophie Serafino, Jimmy Whiffen, Ari Rhodes,Dan Davidson, Rob Wells
SongWorks Edmonton 2013 Participants. Clockwise from Top Left: Cecil Frena, Bryan Finlay, Rachel Woznow, Olivia Wik, Sophie Serafino, Jimmy Whiffen, Ari Rhodes,Dan Davidson, Rob Wells

Seasoned country singer/songwriter Jimmy Whiffen found himself in a brand new songwriting situation when he landed in the recent SongWorks Edmonton, his first ever songwriting camp experience.  Although the first moments of meeting with co-writers he’d never worked with before were somewhat challenging, he overcame any awkwardness and found new synergy beyond his usual writing styles.

Whiffen believes SongWorks is an important part of the creative landscape of Canadian songwriting because it brings songwriters together and the resulting collaborations makes everyone a better writer, while also improving the chances of writing a hit song.  While others may dismiss writing a hit as a goal, Whiffen acknowledges that “getting a hit would be very cool.”

We asked Whiffen to share his SongWorks experience with us in a mini-journal entry.  Here is what he shared.

In Jimmy Whiffen’s Words…

Jimmy Whiffen jamming out a song at SongWorks Edmonton.
Jimmy Whiffen jamming out a song at SongWorks Edmonton.

The writing experiences all three days totally stretched my imagination as a writer. The group of writers varying in styles and genres that were invited to this camp made it very exciting for me and opened my mind to further possibilities as a writer.

Day 1, I wrote with Dan Davidson, lead singer from Tupelo Honey, an Edmonton based rock band and a concert violinist named Sophie Seraphino. We wrote what I believe to be a modern day, radio ready, pop rock song, with a powerful melody and great lyric.  This song screams and I can’t get the hook out of my head. Dan’s great vocals and an added touch of class from Sophie really brought it home.

Day 2, Things started to warm up for me as I got to be the lyric guy with Rob Wells a very established hit songwriter with an impressive resume and a 17 year old artist/ songwriter from Edmonton with a powerful vocal range named Rachel Woznow.  We wrote a very melodically and lyrically catchy pop song. I love this song!  Rob was very quick bringing this piece together; making it sound like I could be listening to this on the radio as we speak and Rachel nailed the vocal on the demo. Very Cool!

Day 3, As mostly a country writer I didn’t know what to expect going in to write with Ari Rhodes who writes all forms of dance and electronica. Although my friend and co-writer Olivia Wik was on this session, also an Edmonton country singer song writer, I felt this was going to be an experience and it certainly was. What a blast!!!  It was like classic country meets euro-dance. Yippie!!  I think we got a hit, at least for me anyway.

This whole experience was a hit!
I would do this again anytime.

I was so happy to be invited to participate in the Edmonton song writing camp hosted by the Songwriters Association of Canada. Thank you Vince Degiorgio for hosting a great camp, it was top-notch!