Pro Member Interview – Steve Smith

Steve Smith - SM

As a partner in the SA TrackWorks and Brkthbeat teams, Steve has co-written, produced and mixed songs for acts signed to the world’s leading labels, including J Records, Universal, Sony, Atlantic, Warner, Jive, Capitol/EMI, and Avex. 

With albums sales over 17 million world wide, he has had songs that have been recorded by such international artists as: Loverboy (Canada), Stacie Orrico (USA), Rouge (Brasil), Tohoshinki (Japan) and Namie Amuro (Asia) as well as having multiple top 10 hits in Canada. 

Their award winning #1 song “Surrender” by Altantic Recording Artist, Laura Pausini was at the time the most radio played song written by Canadians and performed by a foreign artist and reached U.S. Billboard Number One. They have had their songs featured in films and TV including: YTV – The Next Star, Disney’s – Austin And Ally, and American Idol. SA Trackworks also wrote and produced a single for the mega U.S. group Smash Mouth of “All Star” fame and most recently; Meghan Patrick recorded their co-written song, “Forever Ain’t Enough Time”, with guest vocals by the legend Vince Gill. 

This year, Steve, known as Steve In The Mix on his social networks, has started a YouTube channel to guide up and coming songwriters, singers, rappers, and producers on the come up. We have created our very own Youtube playlist featuring all of Steve’s videos. Go check it out!

 

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Writing and producing for other recording artist is mostly what I do. You wouldn’t want to hear me sing. I do know what an excellent performance sounds like and I feel like I can recognize when a song is unique and compelling. Working with an artist who is able to make a song come alive is a privilege. 

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

It was a mix of both. I started as a musician, went to college to study music performance and had my eyes opened to the high level of musicianship that makes a world-class performer. My informal training, but perhaps higher level training, happened as I found myself in the room when master producers and songwriters were at work. The recording studio always fascinated me, and I was lucky enough to learn the craft of songwriting from people who were professionals. I learned about the apparent things like structure, chord changes, approach to lyric writing, but the magic happened when great songwriters used the tools to create emotion. I’m still a student of songwriting, producing and mixing. I love that aspect of it. 

  • Do you have any advice for upcoming songwriters and creators who are looking to break further into the creative scene?

Collaboration is key. Learning to collaborate is a skill in itself. It’s a great recipe for staying fresh. So many times a crazy idea is just one adjustment away from being a brilliant idea. Be brave enough to throw all ideas into the room. Sometimes they bounce back in ways that are incredible.

 

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #MusicCreatorsUnite 

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Pro Member Interview – Tara MacLean

Tara MacLean - SM.png

Tara MacLean is a singer, songwriter, and award winning recording and touring artist. From break-out pop hits (“If I Fall”) to country-crossover (“Happy Baby”) her style is reflective of her deep roots in Gospel and the Folk Music of her East Coast Canadian upbringing. She has been signed with Nettwerk, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Capitol Records and EMI Canada (with her band Shaye). Her three solo albums were released to high acclaim, garnering extensive film and television placements, as well international touring and radio play. 

Tara shares her time between her home on the West Coast of Canada on Salt Spring Island, BC, and her home province of Prince Edward Island, on the East Coast. During the summer months, she brings her family to PEI to perform in her hit show, Atlantic Blue- A Celebration of East Coast Songwriters, which she wrote, produces, directs and stars in. Look for her new album release Spring of 2019. 

  • What inspires you to create music?

Life, heart ache, love, acts of kindness, sorrow.

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

Just feeling and then turning it into a tune.

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

I was discovered in 1995 by Sony Music Publishing and Nettwerk Records.

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

Absolutely! It’s been 25 years so I def have evolved!

  • Do you write for other recording/performing artists?

Sometimes I go to Nashville/LA to write for my publishing company.

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

Writing definitely crosses genres.

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

Yes. Being a songwriter in Canada is not the easiest way to make a living. Thank goodness for SOCAN!

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

Peter Gabriel, Dan Lanois, Leonard Cohen, Tori Amos, Sarah of course.

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

Dan Lanois.

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

 I am self-taught, though I grew up around songwriters so I watched carefully.

  • Do you have any advice for upcoming songwriters and creators who are looking to break further into the creative scene?

Write from your heart. It’s the only thing that will make you stand out.

  • What is your fondest musical memory or favourite piece of music you’ve written?

Writing with Gordie Sampson, a song called Star about my sister Shaye.

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

My guitar.

  • Do you ever compose for film/tv/video games? What’s that like? 

It’s fun!

  • How can S.A.C. help you?

I’m not sure! I am proud to be apart of Canada’s thriving songwriter’s scene! Let’s see where this goes. Looking forward to the newsletter.

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

Help musicians write government grants.

  • What do you see in the future for songwriting and music creators like yourself? 

I plan to write music all my life, whether it is heard by millions, or by a few loyal fans, I just have to keep sharing the art. That makes it complete.

Pro Member Interview – Troy Kokol

 

Troy Kokol - SM

I’m a SOCAN award winner, 2 time CCMA songwriter of the year nominee and I JUST completed my 2nd studio album, “Lonely Ghost”, chalk full of new songs (produced and mixed by yours truly)…ready for some hungry ears!! 

As a songwriter, I’ve had 200+ cuts, with a bunch of very talented folks, including Warner Music’s Brett Kissel, Tenille Townes, Leaving Thomas, Chris Henderson, Ryan Laird and Shane Yellowbird….whose single, “Pick Up Truck” (written w/ Joni Delaurier) was recently listed #6 all time on Canadian country radio by Billboard! 

As a producer, I’ve been proud to work with some amazing artists at our studio in Calgary including Jerry Sereda, James Daniel Burke, Brad Saunders and Invictus/Universal music artist Beamer Wigley….I’m loving life!! 🙂 

I try to follow 3 simple rules: 

1. Be true to yourself 
2. Only walk through open doors 
3. When in doubt, “love is the answer”

Below is our interview with Troy:

  • Do you have any advice for upcoming songwriters and creators who are looking to break further into the creative scene?

Tip 1: 

I was lucky to learn early on that the 2 most important ingredients to success is 1) patience and 2) persistence….(talent being a very distant 3).

When I first started songwriting, I went to the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN (when you could actually get into the Bluebird) and saw a writer’s round where an older writer talked about coming to town 18 years ago (he was late 50’s)….and how he JUST got his first cut.  He wasn’t a terribly good singer….or guitar player.  I started to think, as he sang his song that Tim McGraw cut….18 years prior he would’ve been around 40….probably a terrible guitar player and singer.  His friend and family likely would’ve been rolling their eyes at the prospect of this man getting a US major label cut…..and yet here he was….singing an amazing song that Tim McGraw just recorded.  I realized in that moment, all he decided to do was not quit.  Despite his inabilities, weaknesses and fear. I thought to myself, “Well, heck…I can do that.”…..and so can you!

Tip 2:

As you start to unlock your songwriter mind, remember learning to tap into your creativity is like turning on the shower…..at first it’s too cold……so you turn it up…..a lot…..but then it’s too hot….so you turn it down, but not all the way.  At some point you find the right temperature….then you step in…..but even then, you’ll likely adjust it a couple times during the course of your shower.

Your creativity is exactly like that…and from the time you step into your creative “shower”, until you’ve achieved just the right temperature and found your sweet spot where people really start to take notice of your work is about 5-10 years (or sometimes 18 years).

So be patient….be persistent….and keep scrubbing those lyrics!

 

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

I’d love to see the Canadian music community invest more effort into supporting one another.

I watched an interview w/ Mel Brooks, a very successful actor and film maker.  They asked him what he attributed his success to, to which he more or less replied, “Helping people.”. I had a hard time understanding his answer at first, but I began to realize that helping other people in your chosen field is the easiest way to build connections, trust and long lasting, fruitful relationships.  

Since hearing this, I began dedicating a small amount of my time helping others.  Sometimes it’s bringing together an artist and songwriter….or perhaps an amazing artist to a potential label.  I don’t expect anything in return…and most of the time nothing really tangible comes back to me immediately.  However, I CAN tell you that many of the greatest opportunities I’ve had as a songwriter and producer have been via the relationships I’ve built through helping others.

Having said that, the vastly more important reason I try and follow in Mel Brooks footsteps, is to help build my community and do what I can to positively affect on the lives of my fellow artists….after all, what greater reward is there??

#thePROSofSAC #CreatorsCount #StayCreative