Pro Member Interview – Caroline Brooks

Caroline - Social Media.jpg

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! 

 

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.

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.

S.A.C. Challenge 2015 – Week 1 Blog – Writing for Matt Dusk

by Debra Alexander

Writers across Canada are working on writing a song to pitch for Matt's next album!
Writers across Canada are working on writing a song to pitch for Matt’s next album!

The S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge 2015 got underway unofficially a few days before the official launch, with an e-mail welcome to participants and an invitation to join a special Facebook Group. The Challenge blogging community quickly coalesced online, posting greetings, best wishes, encouragement, and brief introductions about themselves and their songwriting. Many posted links to their song samples, while some have had to set up their blogs and song streaming accounts and make their very first posts. Most are dealing with a new onslaught of social media and learning how to balance life, work, and songwriting with new demands on their time. A few industrious writers are even simultaneously enrolled in Pat Pattison’s Berklee songwriting course on Coursera (the focus of a previous year’s SAC Challenge). Returning Challenge veterans welcomed newcomers and reacquainted themselves with friends from previous Challenges, and initiates jumped in fearlessly—or maybe not so much! The walls of comfort zones are tumbling down, and as brave souls inspire others to step out and step up, there’s been a chain-reaction of empathy. Everyone feels the heightening of the raised bar that a legitimate pitch possibility brings.

With the official Monday morning launch on February 9th, 117 participating songwriters were greeted with an inspiring video by artist Matt Dusk, calling on untapped Canadian songwriting talent to help him expand the musical landscape for his new record. Matt cited several reference songs, and much discussion swirled on the Facebook page as Challengers began analyzing the tracks and charting their approach to writing a song Matt would want to place on the record. Tempo, groove, BPM, chord progressions, arrangements, Matt’s vocal range, subject material for lyrics—all are finding their own way into the task, and many new co-writing relationships are being forged as well.

Canadian songwriters from coast to coast, along with some discerning U.S. music-city songwriters, recognize the value of coming together as a community under the umbrella of the annual SAC Challenge Event. We have guitar and keyboard players, producers and lyricists, vocalists and business-savvy music-pros, all reaching out to each other to lend a hand and make creative partnerships. The degree of support is amazing, ranging from offers of phone calls to help with technical, gear-related issues, to invitations to live regional events where writers can connect face-to-face. My fellow Challenge songwriting coach James Linderman has been instructing and encouraging between the lines of the Facebook communiqués, and has generously posted some much appreciated how-to videos on guitar techniques and on timing, tempo, and groove. He keeps us all laughing, and makes even the most challenging Challenge fun!

As participants engage in the creative process for the next 6 weeks, they are asked to write a weekly blog post about their experiences. Already the blog and Facebook posts bear witness to the benefits of taking part in SAC Challenges of years past. Writers have made contacts they never would’ve made, both locally and long-distance; written songs they never would’ve written, recorded songs for an upcoming record, and received a FACTOR grant for songs that came out of a Challenge. I know I speak for the whole community when I say we are grateful to Lily Cheng and The Songwriters Association of Canada, Barb Sedun and SOCAN, and Matt Dusk for this year’s Challenge. We are all excited to be involved in building a wonderful songwriting community as we develop our songwriting craft and embrace each new assignment.

Please post a link to your blog post for Week 1 in the comments section below.  Your song for week 1 will be due at the same time as your song for week 6 is due.

Challenge No. 1 – The S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge

We are excited to announce this year’s challenge is being launched by a REAL PITCH REQUEST!  As such, you will have 6 weeks to submit a demo for this first challenge.  Although you will not be submitting a song in 7 days, you will be required to submit a blog about your experience of the challenge thus far, the progress you have made, any collaborations you may have initiated, and challenges you have encountered in working towards this challenge.

We would like to thank Barb Sedun and SOCAN for helping us to issue this challenge.

Matt Dusk is an established Canadian artist who has a challenge for you.  Take a look…

Good luck everyone!

Songwriting Camps: Expanding Creative Connections for Commercial Success

2012SongworksVancouver.WebBannerBy: Vincent Degiorgio

Writing camps have become an increasingly important forum for songwriters to collaborate. In Canada, Justin Gray’s Creative Collective, and SonyMusic Canada’s Idol camps were among the first, both receiving support from the Songwriters Association of Canada. President of Tanjola Entertainment, Daniel Mekinda, remembers how the initial idea to stage a camp for Canadian idol turned out to be a great platform for launching the inaugural winner, Ryan Malcom.

“The first Canadian Idol Writing Camp was an amazing success. Every song on the album came out of that camp. It was an amazing experience to get more than 20 amazing songwriters congregating in one place for a week,” recalled Mekinda, who ran the camp while working for Sony BMG. While large-scale camps such as the Idol nine room extravaganza were common in Scandinavia, it was something new in Canada.

D-Pop is one of Europe’s most successful camps hosted by TG Management in Aalborg, Denmark. Held at various venues just an hour by plane from Copenhagen, the company that gave the world global superstars like Aqua has camped it up for more than 10 years now.

“I believe in doing what you love, and we love doing D-Pop” says organizer and partner Lotte Aagard. “We’re excited to hear every new song that’s been written. I truly believe as long as you have heart and passion in it, it stays fresh. For that reason, so has D-Pop.”

Thomas Wallen, the A&R head for Malmo, Sweden’s hyperactive Roasting House Music Publishing which has landed the No. 1 single in Japan, offered some advice on how collaborations should be put together. Spearheading a crazy roster of writers that has already conquered the Japanese market, he noted that it’s much more than throwing a few people in a room and saying “write!”

“I’d say you have to find a way of being both safe and bold at the same time”, says Wallen. “If you’re just one or the other, it gets boring and you don’t get the big songs you’re looking for. People need to get along, but the best result sometimes comes from when writers get together with skeptical minds and get overwhelmed by the skills of others. That’s when the magic happens.”

For the past seven years, the SAC has held its own professional camp called Songworks which has evolved from simply a “writer in the round” into one of our premier networking events. Held four times annually, Songworks has been introduced in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Edmonton, and Vancouver to date.

Songworks is a professional invitation-only songwriting camp hosted by the Songwriters Association of Canada. The three-day intensive songwriting retreat is designed to offer writers the opportunity to collaborate on artist driven projects, allowing writers to develop long-term relationships with other songwriters and performing artists. S.A.C. members have the opportunity to submit for open chairs at a select number of SongWorks camps. Click Here for more information.

Vince DiGiorgio is an accomplished songwriter with sales that have exceeded 30 million units. He is currently President of Chapter 2 Productions. www.chapter2prod.com

The Challenge – Week 6 – Collaboration

Congratulations you’ve made it to the sixth challenge.   Most of you know that no songwriter is an island.  Collaboration is not just a buzzword.  You would have a hard time finding any top 10 songs with only one songwriter.  In fact, some songs have over 10 names attached to its creation.  Furthermore, collaborating is also an important part of building your network.  Please watch the video below to find out the collaboration story behind a song that was eventually recorded by the Backstreet Boys.

This week’s challenge:
By now you’ve gotten the opportunity to listen to songs from the other participants in the challenge.  Connect with those whom you feel compliment your skills and style.  In groups of 2 or more, collaborate on a song.   You can decide if you will do it in real time via Skype or by sending tracks and lyrics to each other via email.  Please blog about your experience, the highlights and the challenges.
Deadline:  April 1st (it’s not a joke).
Please post the following:
1.  The names of the people with whom you collaborated.
2.  A link to a blog about your experience.
3.  SoundCloud link to your song.

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!

Songwriting for Survival – Inviting Your Audience to “Follow the Lion”

by Debra Alexander

The Final, Sixth Week of the SAC Songwriting & Blogging Challenge 2013 is upon us. Our relatively small (50/65,000) but extremely dedicated and talented group of Coursera Songwriting Class Participants has braved jungle-like entanglements of song form, plot development, point of view, number of lines, lengths of lines, rhyme schemes, rhyme types, melodic and harmonic rhythms, and song structure. In short, we’ve been asked to climb the highest tree in the forest and have a look around in order to make decisions on how to support our lyrics with prosodic choices for every syllable, word, phrase, line, and section contained in our songs. And we have emerged from the jungle a new and upright-walking species of survivors.

Berklee College Professor of Songwriting Pat Pattison brings us full circle in the last lesson and reminds us that the reason we set out on this journey was because we, as songwriters, have ideas that we want to express. Our ability to translate to an audience how we feel about our subject will either bring our audience closer and intensify the feeling, or distance our audience and dissipate the feeling. The tools we have developed during this course are now at our disposal to aid us in our endeavour to create emotional resonance.

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the development of one of Pat’s songs, starting from the initial idea to a fully realized lyric and melody. The final decisions required in writing the song concern phrasing, which Pat calls the “body language” of communication. In every day communication, it turns out that our actual words account for much less meaning than our tone of voice and our body language. So phrasing, in songwriting, is an extremely important skill to cultivate. We learn how to write front heavy vs. back heavy, and strong bar vs. weak bar phrasing to create stability or instability. Additionally, tone of voice can be equated to certain melodic intervals, and our awareness of these relationships can help us intensify the feelings we’re trying to express.

One of the most fascinating segments of Lesson Six was, for this writer, the part where Pat describes the work done by ethno/evolutionary musicologist by Joseph Jordania in his book, Why Do People Sing? Music In Evolution. Jordania posits that our tree-dwelling hominid ancestors, over the millennia, learned how to drive lions off their kill by making noise together, and that this skill fed the entire tribe. For 2.5 million years, we were scavengers who followed the lion; we were coming down from the trees, learning to raise our voices together, “singing” to get our supper! Singing is actually linked to survival, and predates language. So remember, Pat says, “when you write a song…invite your audience in, let them sing with you, let them bond with you. Let them be your tribe.” He goes on to say that songwriting “is really a lifetime of fun, a lifetime of exploration, a lifetime of growth…”

I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Songwriters Association of Canada for inviting me to participate in the SAC Blogging Challenge 2013 as mentor and guest blogger. And now, I have to go after a few of those lions I’ve been trailing.

All ye hunters, please post:

1. How you feel you have used front heavy, back heavy, and/or weak bar phrasing tools to assist the expression of your stable and unstable ideas.

2. The URL to your Week 6 blog. (NOTE:  please post the exact URL to the entry and not just the general URL to your blog)