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! 


Tips for aspiring singer-songwriters from Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson
Bill Henderson

Music styles come and go through the years but songwriting will never die. The urge to sing is deeper and more lasting than any style. So if you’re a songwriter, don’t worry, as long as you write songs that people like to sing, you’ll never be laid off. Of course people prefer great songs over good ones so that’s what writers try to create. It takes lots of craft and a little bit of magic.

The craft can be learned. In fact, excellent songwriters have learned it so well that it can seem almost forgotten. They don’t have to think about it.

But also, for most hit song writers, the songs of theirs that really connect with a massive audience come from somewhere beyond craft. Call it the muse, call it inspiration, or maybe just call it magic. This magic is the difference between a good song and a great one. And believe it or not, it is something that can be nurtured.

Both aspects of writing are essential and in the most intuitive writing sessions they work together like one thing. And even though both aspects are present, the writer isn’t thinking about either of them, they’re just writing.

Here are some ways the aspiring songwriter can develop their craft and nurture magic:

1) Get up – Get out of bed and write down that great idea you’re having or sing it into your iPhone RIGHT NOW, while it’s happening – that just may be where the magic is.

2) Get going – Set some time aside everyday for new ideas and to finish old ones. They say it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. That work is the real teacher, so just get going!

3) Get informed – Explore the fundamentals – harmony, song structure, Lyric writing, melody, groove, arranging etc.. Then, when you listen to songs, you will be more aware of how they function and integrating what you learn into your own writing will be perfectly natural.

4) Get connected – Find opportunities to collaborate and network with songwriters, musicians, publishers, and managers. Immerse yourself in the music industry by going to seminars and workshops and joining various associations. Some of the connections you make will become very valuable to you in your career.

5) Get gear – Learn an instrument. You don’t need to be a hot-shot. Just develop a good working relationship with it. Musicians and songwriters are two different things. Get a computer music program and learn to make demos with your computer, but keep ‘em simple and effective, learn to do decent mixes.

6) Get groovin’ – Play and sing your songs. Take every opportunity – in front of an audience, for your friends, or for your co-writers; and make it fun. Even when the song is serious, groove with it. Remember, you sing the blues to lose the blues. If the audience is paying no attention, and they miss your songs, it’s their loss. Don’t let it bother you. Stick with your muse, look for fun opportunities to play, and keep groovin’.

Finding a forum to learn, connect, and perform can be challenging so to guide singer- songwriters through fundamentals of the craft and help channel artistic development the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music (VSOSoM) has recently launched a Singer-Songwriter’s Workshop that will kick-off for the first time this August. The first of it’s kind in Canada, the workshop combines individual coaching, song circles, and instruction in all aspects of lyrics, song structure, melody and harmony, arrangement, performance and the business of music, providing students the formal and informal training necessary to find success.

For more information about the VSOSoM’s Singer-Songwriter’s Workshop, visit:

Bill Henderson is best known for his work with ‘Chilliwack’ one of Canada’s top recording acts in the 1970’s and 80’s and has been honored with a Juno award. Joined by fellow Juno award-winning songwriter, Shari Ulrich, Bill will lead this summer’s VSOSoM Singer-Songwriter workshop.