Write an edgy country pop song – Week 4 Challenge – Feedback from Ron Irving

countrymusicHere is feedback for Week 4 of the 2015 S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge provided by Ron Irving. Participants were asked to write an edgy country pop song for a male artist, early 20s. No mention of marriage or kids.  No references to “partying at the lake”, “trucks and tailgates” and no “bro country” vibe.

Katy Carswell – Don’t Go

First of all, the challenge was to write an edgy Country song for a young male artist – this song is for a female artist. The other part of the challenge was that if you normally write solo, to try writing with a co-writer or if you always co-write, then write solo.

The song has a very nice melody, but the lyrics are confusing. The first verse is written in the present tense, talking about how the guy is looking at another woman. The bridge indicates that the guy has already left town. Listener is confused. One of the benefits of co-writing is the editing and clarification process. Your vocal is captivating! You have a very good talent for writing which may be enhanced by working with a co-writer.

Rosanne Baker Thornley – Do Not Disturb

Really like this! Very edgy, very Jason Aldean, right on the money! The bad news is the lyrics don’t paint the artist in a very good light which may be the thing that prevents it from getting recorded. On the other hand, a courageous artist might just do it. One suggestion would be to shorten the bridge and just use the first 2 lines. Great song & feel!!

Heather Meori – It’s a Free Country

Good rockin’ edgy groove! Nice to hear a full song demo. Demo really drives the song. However, the song feels long because you have two verses and then an 8 line chorus. One thing to consider is if you have long verses, have a short chorus and the opposite also applies. Musically, the verse & the chorus are very similar. It is really important to make the chorus stand out melodically from the verses. It helps hold the listener’s attention. The lyric is definitely edgy, but perhaps a little too risqué for country radio.

Scott MacKay – Viper in a Velvet Dress

The first 4 lines draw the listener in – very visual. However, it’s very unclear after that which part of the song is verse and which part is the chorus. Those first 4 lines get over used. Throughout the song, you are repeating the lyrics but not introducing any new ideas/visuals to keep the listener engaged. You also repeat a 2 line refrain, which confuses the listener further as to what the title is. Have a look at the structure of a few top 10 hit country songs.

Allister Bradley – Goodbye to a Great Friend

Amazing job!! Extremely heartfelt, very visual and very well written. The Van Morrison type of vocal really suits the song and demo well. This is kind of song that an artist would record for an album cut, but might not be released as a single due to the subject matter. However it could be a great placement in a film.(i.e. Bruce Springsteen’s song “Philadelphia”)

Sean Bertram – The Closest Thing

Demo and vocal has a nice Bruce Cockburn easy to listen to vibe, but not edgy country.   Song structure and particularly the rhyme scheme are important components in crafting a hit song. If you like to write story songs, consider next time using and A B C B rhyme scheme in your verses instead of A A A A (which you have in verse 1). Then be consistent in all verses and change up the rhyme scheme for the chorus.

Judy Marshak and Braeden Taylor-Mitchell – Somewhere Loving Me

From your blog it appears you are familiar with co-writing. However, part of the “challenge” was to change it up and write solo.

In reading your verses, verse 2 & 3 are more visual than the first verse. Remember that the opening line(s) and first verse are the only chance we have to get the lisetener engaged and in the picture. Musically, the melody needs to be more dynamic to support the passionate lyric and to ensure the chorus stands out from the verse.

Michael Holland – Outlaw Songs

Your note says “this is not and edgy Country song but I like it”. You’re right, but I like it too – I think it’s clever. It harkens back to Waylon & Willie. The other part of the challenge was to co-write if you don’t usually do that and I think that your considerable lyrical ability could be a great asset to a co-writer who is a strong melody writer.

Stacey Dowswell – Memphis City Lights
This is a very nice moody Pop song. However the only thing remotely country about it, is the title.

Shauna Specht – Black Coffee

This is a good effort, nice punchy feel on the demo! First verse hangs together quite well but chorus needs work both lyrically and musically. Just repeating BLACK COFFEE will not hold the listeners interest, the other chorus lines need to offer something more about the guy’s life. Musically/ rhythmically the chorus and the verse are too similar. Another small point to keep in mind , it is very effective to change the rhyme sound from verse to verse. Eg. if verse one has AY sounds then verse two should change to another vowel sound EE or OO, etc.

Tea Petrovic – This Is Our House
Nice feel, sounds kinda southern. Not sure a guy could sing this and in fact before anyone sings it I think the song needs some clarification. Who is saying what to who? Verse one is “SHE “ so singer is telling a story about someone else, but in the chorus it becomes “OUR” the pre chorus lyric does not quite connect the dots.

Chorus sounds pretty good BUT try not to throw in curves musically or lyrically that detract from the main theme. Eg. the line about “2 cents in your pocket” comes out of left field and the music behind it interrupts the flow.

DC James – Best of the Worst

Excellent job DC! All the moving parts of the song work just fine, liked the triple A rhyme in the pre. Good hook, good song. Maybe the Bridge could have been half as long, just a personal thing but I like short Bridges, seems radio does as well. Speaking of radio, when it comes to country a good amigo of mine, a hit writer/publisher in Nashville says “it’s all about the woman, make the woman feel good” This song does not paint the woman in a very good light, that might not be helpful in placing it, go easy on the blame factor. Just sayin’ cause you are dang close. Well done!

The Winners of Week 4:
Thanks to Ron Irving for taking the time to provide this insightful feedback to our participants.  He selected two winners:  GOODBYE TO A GREAT FRIEND by Allister Bradley and DO NOT DISTURB by Roseanne Baker Thornley.  Great work guys!

S.A.C. Challenge – Week 4 – Issued by Ron Irving – Write an EDGY country pop song

Ron IrvingRon Irving is no stranger to writing hits for the stars.  His songs have been recorded by over 100 artists worldwide in seven languages including cuts with Anne Murray, Michael Buble, Jennifer Rush, Asian stars Jacky Cheung and MINK, One More Girl, Lisa Brokop, Terri Clark, Lee Greenwood and many others with awards for Song of the Year from both SOCAN and the CMPA.  Here is his challenge to you:

Write an EDGY Country Pop Song
Target:  Male artist, early 20s. No mention of marriage or kids.  No references to “partying at the lake”, “trucks and tailgates” and no “bro country” vibe.
Method:  If you have been collaborating for the previous 3 challenges, change it up and write this one by yourself.  If you have been writing alone for the most of the past 3 challenges, write this one with a co-writer or two.
Tempo:  Stretch yourself by writing opposite of your comfort zone.  If you usually stay with up-tempo tracks – chill out and write a ballad.  If you usually write ballads, set the tempo for at least 120 on this one.
Please submit the following by Monday, March 9, 11:59 EST.
1.  Link to a blog post about your experience with this challenge.
2.  Link to your song (preferably on SoundCloud) with lyrics posted in SoundCloud.

Memories from the beginning of the S.A.C.

by:  Terry McManus

One of the more interesting and important parts of any profession is the representation of that profession to the public and to those who work with those professionals. From the middle ages when “guilds” became the representatives of those who worked on the churches and castles to present day society, such groupings have played an important part in the progress of such groupings. It was with this thought in mind that I approached Stephen Stohn in 1987 and asked him about the ability to copyright a song in Canada and if there was a professional organization representing songwriters in Canada. I knew that there were songwriters participating on many of the boards of related associations, but I was not aware of one that served only songwriters.

Stephen told me of one, the Canadian Songwriters Association, that had been started in the early 80’s but had never really gotten off the ground. (Like many new enterprises, professional associations have a high failure rate because of the time and money commitment to make them work.) He referred me to Donna Murphy who was an executive at CIMA (then CIRPA), who had some knowledge of and had helped the fledgling group of songwriters some years before. Donna and I spoke on the phone several times and then we decided to meet with Greg Marshall, one of the principals for the original organization. Stephen arranged for us to use one of the smaller boardrooms of McCarthy Tetrault in the TD Centre and we had our first meeting with the four of us present. Although Greg was enthusiastic about re-energizing the original idea, his time was limited and so he agreed to lend his name but he could not participate. Stephen also generously lent his name to the enterprise and he was happy to attend board meetings and to counsel us but his own very busy practice precluded any “hands on” work in building up the association.

So Donna Murphy and I embarked on a several month mission to present the idea to the rest of the music industry through a series of informal lunches that not only helped us define some of the more pressing issues for songwriters but also gave us great insight into the need to bring in some of the “name” writers who were interested and who were earning. Enter Eddie Schwartz and Rich Dodson. Eddie’s very positive and literary influence was immediately felt by his reasoning for renaming the group and the Songwriter’s Association of Canada instead of the Canadian Songwriter’s Association. “With all due respect to Canada, we are songwriters working in Canada not Canadians who happen to be songwriters!” And of course, he was right.  I came up to Toronto from London weekly and we held board meetings monthly.

With Eddie and Rich and Stephen’s blessing and encouragement, Donna and I continued to “lobby” the industry and Donna was able to help generate some income for the organization through some grants for research on songwriters for the Ontario government.( In the days of typewriters and regular mail, Donna put in many many hours digging up facts and numbers while I wrote more broad generalized papers about what was needed by our profession.) Both Donna and I wrote many papers during those first couple of years to keep the money flowing so that we could get the word out. Everything was new and everything was possible!

I think the turning point for the organization came with the plans for PROCAN and CAPAC to merge. (Up until that time Canada followed the US model of two performing rights societies, one which favored ASCAP and one which favored BMI.) When Nancy Gyokeres of SOCAN told us about the plan I was immediately on board because I had seen the east / west divide in songwriters and I knew that in order to have a national organization, we had to have songwriters from across the country. I saw the opportunity to not only bring the performing rights organizations together, but to grow our association. We were able to get  a financial commitment from SOCAN  to hold a national meeting and so the phone calls began.

I had lived in Vancouver for a couple of years where PROCAN ruled the roost and the West Coast writers were fiercely loyal to that performing rights society. I got on the phone and I started to call some of the top writers and ask them to join SAC and to get behind the amalgamation of the two societies. I talked for hours to many of them but it was Bill Henderson who really cracked the ice out there. We had a spirited conversation about the fact that the west coast already had a songwriters association and why was there a need for another. I offered to make him a vice-president of SAC in order to assure him that the west would be represented and I still remember him laughing and saying “You want to make me a vice-president of a society that I am not even a member of?” But thanks to his open mind and ultimately his brilliant leadership, not only did he join with us, he went on to lead the association to bigger and better things and even serving on the SOCAN board.

Eddie Schwartz, Bill Henderson and Donna Murphy were all critical to the establishment and success of the SAC. As we brought on more board members besides Rich Dodson such as  Ron Hynes, Roy Forbes, Shari Ulrich, Ron Irving Joan Bessen and others,and as we reached out to our Quebec counterparts the organization took hold and we found a place at the table.

As to my question to Stephen about the ability for songwriters in Canada to protect their own works in this country, that is now the Song Vault. Along with the Song Vault are a myriad number of services to help, guide and promote the young songwriters career and all of those are ideas born in those days.

It is very gratifying to look back today at the establishment of SAC and all of those services to its members and to remember that first conversation over 25 years ago that has brought all of this to fruition. You, as songwriters who live and work in Canada, are so fortunate to have such a strong and vibrant society to help you climb the ladder and to make sure that your place is recognized culturally and financially.  Many thanks to those people who were so important in making this happen!

Great memories!