Pro Member Interview – Nat Jay

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Nat Jay took her first steps in her parents’ music school and continues to land on her feet in the world of music today. Her songs have been placed on networks around the world, including ABC, MTV, The CW, Nickelodeon, Freeform, Hallmark, CBC, Syfy, Showcase, and Lifetime. Her debut full-length, All I Think When I Wake Up, was nominated for Pop Album of the Year at the 2015 Western Canadian Music Awards, named in the Top 10 Pop Albums of 2014 on PopDose, and awarded $10,000 for the lead single, “Can’t Getcha Out,” which was named Best of BC by Shore 104. She then released a follow-up EP, Quiet Dreams, and was awarded second place in LG 104.3FM’s VanCOVER contest for her cover of Sting’s “Every Breath You Take.” In December 2016, she collaborated with electronic production duo, Cookie Cartel, to release the highly acclaimed EP, Stoke the Fire, which Exclaim! described as “what it might sound like if the Postal Service were to make a Christmas EP,” and CBC Music added to its coveted holiday playlist. Nat Jay has earned a nomination for SOCAN Songwriter of the Year at the BCCMAs, been a featured songwriter at the Vancouver Folk Festival, and a guest on CBC Radio 2’s Canada Live. The songstress is currently in the studio recording her next full-length album with multi-
award-winning European producer, Ovi Bistriceanu.

After studying music at the University of British Columbia, Nat Jay released her debut EP, Lights Across the Sky, to a sold out room. Since then, she has been compared with powerful performers like Joni Mitchell, Patsy Cline, Alanis Morissette, and the Dixie Chicks. She has shared the stage with such esteemed songwriters as Canada’s own Juno award winner Dan Mangan, Matthew Barber, Oh Susanna, and Justin Rutledge, as well as NYC’s Jay Brannan and Australia’s Angus & Julia Stone.

Besides the success she’s had with her own music, in 2014 Nat Jay scored a co-writing credit with the legendary Stephen Bishop for the song “Loveless” from his album Be Here Then. An advocate of her industry, she sat on the Board of Directors of the Music BC Industry Association for four years and was a committee member for six. She is also a private consultant through one-on-one and group mentoring, facilitating seminars on sync licensing, grant writing, and album release for her peers. Nat Jay has been
asked to speak on panels for Canadian Music Week, BreakOut West, SOCAN, and Music BC, and is a guest lecturer at Nimbus School of Recording & Media, the Pacific Audio Visual Institute, and Langara College.

Complimented by a strong business head on her shoulders, Nat Jay’s compelling and highly accomplished vocal delivery will certainly turn heads in a noisy club, but it is her emotive songwriting ability that will steal the hearts of each and every audience member. What does she have to say? Check below:

  • If you could collaborate with any other music creator, who would that be? 

Chris Martin from Coldplay because he has a really great way of combining popular styles with more meaningful lyrics that really move people. He combines those poppy elements with really emotional, personal topics that people can relate to. And it comes through in his live performances, as he’s a very engaging performer. Also Ryan Tedder, the lead singer of One Republic. He writes amazing stuff for himself and others. He has his finger on the pulse of today’s music and always sounds unique, but still makes great songs for radio. He’s a modern day songwriting genius.

  • Do you ever compose for film/tv/video games? 

I haven’t specifically written for TV or film, but I have had a lot of success with songs I’ve created being placed in films and TV shows over the last 10 years. It’s one of the most amazing feelings and it never gets old. It’s cool that something you’ve created in your apartment and made into a piece of art can fit into someone else’s piece of art and compliment it so well. The success I’ve had in licensing has been very important to me as an artist as it’s been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to make a career in music. And because of that success, I’ve been able to develop a seminar where I teach other artists how to license their music to film and TV. So it’s been great for me on a creative level and in bringing in an income as an artist, but also has allowed me to engage with my community and become recognized within the music industry.

  • If the music community could do one thing better what would it be/What do see in the future of Song writing and music creators like yourself?

The music community could better at accepting less traditional careers paths. There’s always been a traditional trajectory of getting signed and having a marketing plan involving traditional publicity and radio. But these days, with the internet and technologies like streaming, there are so many different opportunities for artists to gain recognition. I think the music industry should embrace different kinds of artists and who have different career paths instead of trying to fit a square peg into a tired round hole.

Leading into the future – I see that more for new artists. I see some artists excelling at live performance, some getting tons of sync placements, others doing really well with playlisting on YouTube and Spotify, and they’re all building a brand and generating an income in different ways.  I’ve been fortunate enough that I love performing live and I’ve been successful at it, but I’ve also been successful getting sync placements while staying home and building an international fan base through that. There’s room in the future for songwriters and music creators to find a niche that works for them, generate an income, and build a career in music in a way that is unique and fitting to what they do.

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! 


“I Quit My Day Job And…” (A Songwriter’s Adventure)

Have you ever thought about quitting your job and pursuing your songwriting with reckless abandon like an uncharted road trip?  While many of us try to balance day jobs with our creative pursuits, Ryan Nolan took a leap of faith and took to the road. His adventures took him to Europe and across North America.  Along the way, he professes he went from simply “writing songs to becoming a Songwriter.”  Here’s a first person account of his incredible journey and what he learned along the way.

In Ryan’s Words

I was working a secure and predictable job.  Writing songs when I couldn’t keep them in and had a second to put them on paper. What I really wanted was to write something reactionary – and I need an action to find that reaction.   Last year I quit that secure, predictable job and sold my house. I made sure to buy a new lens for my camera, then I went to the airport and walked from desk to desk asking for a cheap flight to Paris like a high school kid looking for a prom date. I wanted it to feel as though it were a natural progression. Crepes and a bottle of wine to end/start my day at 5am, recreating The Beatles’ infamous “Abbey Road” crossing in London, naps on Amsterdam’s canals while someone more qualified navigated the local water traffic, and absinthe from what I imagined to be the same dirty corner in Barcelona that Hemingway enjoyed it. I bought a guitar in Paris and made it my only piece of luggage, playing open mic’s wherever they served beer. This was my adventure. It was a test run – in a life exactly opposite to what I had known.

It wasn’t long before the adventure needed new life. This manifested itself in the form of a 1968 Ford Galaxy 500 convertible and a road trip from Toronto to New Orleans to Los Angeles. Brief, sun drenched days and the loud, unhealthy grumbling of an old muscle car that just doesn’t know any better. It was my nine to five; my routine. The days were like this, one after another for several months, but the repetition was underscored by obtuse and growing cultural differences as I made my way below the bible belt and across the open country.

It was a trip that decidedly lacked structure, but more importantly, was temperamental. The trip itself was subject to my mood and whim. Stay in one place longer if it suited me, or skip a town altogether. Sleep in my car, my tent, or get a hotel room. Make friends with someone and sleep on their couch.

In my most base state of honesty, I wanted complete control. I wanted to remember what it was like to wake up every morning and make my own decisions. I wanted to play my songs in cities I’d never been to, and record them in places where better songwriters chain-smoked through an entire album.

I’ll admit that I did have a small checklist of things to see and do. a) Eat a Chicago deep dish pizza; b) record something in Nashville; c) catch a show at the Bluebird Cafe; d) get drunk while listening to blues on Beale street in Memphis; e) get even more drunk and listen to as much jazz in New Orleans as my ears could handle; f) see a show at Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles; g) and several other entries that are either irrelevant to this post or inappropriate. Everything in between was a bonus.

I’ve been writing songs since the time I realized I wanted to hold a girl’s hand or tell my parent’s that they were unjust tyrants for not letting me go to the late show at the movies. It doesn’t mean I’m a good, clear or talented songwriter, but it is a part of my life regardless. And while I left everything behind in order to find something new, the one thing I couldn’t let go was the desire to take my experiences, thoughts and reactions and write them down. Maybe it’s because I want other people to relate. Maybe it’s the only way for me to hold onto the part of the experience that falls between the pictures and the stories; the postcards and the emails.  Writing a song is how I package up that intangible element that only comes to life when I recount tales to good friends over a cold beer or find myself uninhibited with people I trust.

At the end of the trip, it was clear that making out-of-character decisions, and changing my patterns wouldn’t be the catalyst for a better song. As songwriters, people discover a particular method of translating what they see and feel into a universal medium. For me, the things I focus on are the people in my life. The rest of the world is easy, but relationships – they require time and effort to navigate and manage. It wasn’t about where I went, it was about the people I met when I got there.

Over the course of the trip I accumulated a few good recordings and assembled an EP, had it printed and put it on iTunes. I play shows wherever I can get them and I take any chance I can get to write with other artists. I never discard a song idea, and I make it a point to write everything down I can.

After seeing so many other songwriters and producers from different parts of the continent, I began to understand that while writing songs by yourself in your spare time is cathartic, even the most extreme folk artists need to write a whole, honest and true song, with their eyes wide open, to feel satisfied as a songwriter. And that’s all I’m trying to do.

Visit Ryan’s Songwriter Profile (and hear some of his songs)