Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Chantal Kreviazuk – Performer, Songwriter, Mother

One of my favourites is this beautiful singer-songwriter… now calling L.A. home and writing for others while writing for herself and taking care of her children… she certainly does it all and does it all well… Kudos and May the Muse stay with you Chantal… and listen to her new album Plain Jane at her website.

Here are some quotes from an interview yesterday published in the Metro newspaper:

Being plain and ordinary doesn’t come easy to someone who has been a staple on Canadian charts since her 1996 debut Under These Rocks and Stones. A long-standing marriage to Raine Maida, frontman of Toronto band Our Lady Peace, isn’t exactly a recipe for anonymity either, nor is a home in the Big Smoke a secluded retreat for a Canuck pop couple. But what allows Kreviazuk to step out of the spotlight is her life in Los Angeles, where she can remain in the background crafting hits for artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani.

“We’re focused on family … and our second jobs as songwriters in a totally different market place, different nation. It’s been a brilliant thing. I like me way better than I would have if I had been just the girl in Canada with the microscope on myself,” she says.

Her self-effacing approach works well when it comes to family. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she allows herself to get dwarfed by the million-selling singers she collaborates with in L.A.

“I realize that they came to me because there was something about me  the artist that they wanted. So I should be building that into the songwriting process with them,” she says.

And if there’s something of her that the self-proclaimed “live performance junkie” wants to get across in the music is authenticity and humility.
“I feel like being more of an artist that people can relate to. I never wanted to be BeyoncĂ©, I never wanted to be Madonna. I wanted to be a singer-songwriter on a life journey  … I wanted to be relatable on a very realistic level.”

Bruce Springsteen - Prolific

Billboard has uploaded their new cover story with Bruce Springsteen, who just wrapped up another epic tour behind his latest album, Working On A Dream. In it, Springsteen discusses the ritual of taking requests from the audience, his decision to play full albums from Born To Run to The E Street Shuffle, and the longevity of the E Street Band.

“I’ve been prolific with my songwriting,” says Springsteen, “so I’ve been able to just get more music out there, which is something I always wanted to do. I found my 50s to be very, very fruitful. The songs came — I don’t want to say easily, but they came in a continuous flow. I had a lot of things I wanted to write about, so it allowed us to record quite a bit, and then back it up with the touring.”

Read the whole thing here. And watch Bruce live in Philadelphia below… May the Muse continue to stay with you Bruce…

Finally, the Kennedy Center honoured Bruce as a singer and a songwriter last Sunday… read about that here.

Young Guelph musician wins Toronto carol songwriting competition

Kudos to Sarah Buisman, a high-school student who recently won a Christmas carol songwriting contest in her age group that will be performed by the Amadeus Choir in Toronto.  Here is a sample of a recent Guelph Mercury article on Ms. Buisman (click the link to read it all):

GUELPH — At 16 years old, Sarah Buisman is already an accomplished musician. The Grade 11 student sings high second soprano with the Guelph Youth Singers’ chamber choir, is a pianist with her school’s band, and plays the djembe drum and saxophone—when she can find the spare time.

Another skill in her musical repertoire is songwriting. Last week, a Christmas carol she composed called Jesus is Here won the Toronto-based Amadeus Children’s Choir competition for the best original Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs.

“I was really happy to hear I’d won,” Buisman said, tucking a strand of hair behind an ear. “But I was also a little surprised. I had sort of given it in and forgotten about it.”

Well, the Muse is with you Sarah, and may it continue to be going forward…

Best Wishes To Alexa Ray Joel

I won’t speculate as to what or who caused Ms. Joel’s recent hospitalization, but I do want to send prayers and best wishes to her and her family in this trying time…  May the Muse stay with you Joel Family…  Watch the making of Alexa Ray’s Invisible below and visit her website to download it for free

Ci vedimes and all the best…

McCartney wins Gershwin songwriter prize

Paul McCartney will be honoured with a fledgling but prestigious musical honour, after being named Monday as the latest recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

The U.S. Library of Congress, which administers the honour, announced the 67-year-old British musician and former Beatle as its third winner of the songwriting prize on Monday.

"It is hard to think of another performer and composer who has had a more indelible and transformative effect on popular song and music of several different genres than Paul McCartney," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement.

Billington selected McCartney after discussion with entertainment industry leaders.

The Library of Congress houses the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, a vast resource of musical manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, other documents and memorabilia that originally belonged to the famed songwriting brothers.

"As a great admirer of the Gershwins' songs, I am highly honoured to be given the Gershwin Prize by such a great institution," McCartney said.

Organizers will celebrate McCartney with a star-studded tribute concert being planned for spring 2010, with a line-up of performers to be announced later.

First awarded in 2007, the Gershwin Prize was created by Bob Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr — who also created the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The first two Gershwin Prize recipients were musical icons Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Haydain Neale – A Personal Thanks

I just want to write a simple note of personal thanks to Haydain Neale, frontman for jacksoul and a great supporter of songwriters through SAC and other endeavours.  I posted in the past about Haydain’s participation in the SAC Date With A Demo nights (see here and here) and the amazing night that saw him perform a songwriting circle with other songwriters just weeks before the tragic scooter accident that sidelined him until his sorrowful passing this past week from lung cancer at 39.  The CP story follows:

TORONTO — Jacksoul frontman Haydain Neale was remembered as an "amazing individual" and a "joyful presence" as stunned colleagues learned of his death from cancer on Monday.

Neale, the frontman for the Juno Award-winning group, died Sunday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto at age 39, after a seven-month battle with lung cancer, the family said in a release Monday.

Neale had also been recovering from serious injuries after being hit by a car while driving his Vespa motor scooter in Toronto on Aug. 3, 2007.

His friends and fellow musicians were shocked by the news, particularly since many of them thought that he was over the worst part of his illness and was recovering.

"That guy just exuded what it is to be a really cool, down to earth, just amazing individual," Toronto hip-hop MC Kardinal Offishall told The Canadian Press backstage at the SOCAN awards on Monday.

"Wow. Canada really lost something special."

Family members and friends were by his side when he died.

"Through all these challenges, Haydain's sense of humour and love of music were ever-present," his wife Michaela said in the statement.

He constantly brightened the room with his singing and his smile. His joyful presence and beautiful voice will be missed by us all."

Jacksoul was to release "SOULmate," on Dec. 1 with 10 new tracks, their first album since the accident.

The first single, "Lonesome Highway," was co-produced and co-written by Neale, and touches on his recovery, supported by his wife, daughter Yasmin and numerous others.

Former Treble Charger frontman Greg Nori considered Neale a close friend since the two men worked side by side in studio space at the Sony offices.

"This guy was an extremely, extremely generous person," Nori said backstage at the SOCAN event. "(He) was always 120 per cent to me, as an individual, he really was. I always had a really great friendship with him and we had a great respect for each other.

"I never saw the guy get mad. He only had positive energy about him. That's my recollection of him. Never, ever did I see any kind of jealousy out of him, or negativity."

Kardinal Offishall, likewise, said Neale was a special human being.

"People who never had the chance to meet him were able to see that not just through his music, but just in how he carried himself, just the type of dude that he was," said the rapper, who says he had checked in on Neale's status by sending a text message to a mutual friend just days before his death.

Jacksoul's previous hits include "Can't Stop" and "Still Believe in Love."

Neale was known for his soulful, elastic croon, for a voice that was faithfully smooth but organic and expressive.

"Hopefully his music will live on," said Hedley guitarist Dave Rosin. That's all any artist can hope. ... It's a sad thing."

Nori, meanwhile, praised Neale's integrity, versatility and commitment to his artistic ideals.

"I think he was always tackling something that wasn't the flavour of the moment," Nori said. "I think it was always a struggle to him because it wasn't flavour of the moment, and it didn't sell as much.

"He always had the ability to go do that if he wanted to, but he stuck to his guns and stayed with what he knew was in his heart, and I commend him for that."

An interment with a private family gathering will take place later this week.

All proceeds from the sale of "SOULmate" will go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust.

The Muse is with you Haydain… Rest peacefully, watch over your family and make music forever…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Songwriters Hall of Fame Announces 2010 Nominations


The nominations for the 2010 Songwriters Hall of Fame (SongHall) induction ceremony have been announced, with ballots in the mail to the SongHall voting membership.

Songwriter nominees are in two categories—Non-Performing and Performing.

The nominees in the Non-Performing Songwriter category--with two representative song credits—are:

  • Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart--The Monkees’ hits “Last Train To Clarksville” and “Valleri”
  • Jackie DeShannon--“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” and Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes”
  • Luther Dixon--The Crests’ “Sixteen Candles” and The Shirelles’ “Soldier Boy”
  • David Foster--Chicago’s "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" and Peter Cetera’s "The Glory of Love"
  • Mark James--Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and B.J. Thomas’s “Hooked On A Feeling”
  • Robert John “Mutt” Lange--Def Leppard’s “Photograph” and Bryan Adams' “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”
  • Johnny Mandel--“Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H*)” and Tony Bennett’s “The Shadow Of Your Smile”
  • Jerry Ragovy & Bert Berns--Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” and Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata”
  • Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones--Ed Ames’ “My Cup Runneth Over” and “Try To Remember” from The Fantasticks
  • Billy Sherrill--Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” and David Houston’s “Almost Persuaded”
  • Joe South--“Games People Play” and Lynn Anderson’s “ I Never Promised You A Rose Garden”
  • Paul Vance & Lee Pockriss--Perry Como’s “Catch A Falling Star” and Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini."

Nominees in the Performing Songwriter category are:

  • Bono (Paul Hewson)/The Edge (David Evans)/Adam Clayton/Larry Mullen (U2)--“Beautiful Day” and “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For”
  • Garth Brooks--“If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Thunder Rolls”
  • Leonard Cohen--“Bird On A Wire” and “Suzanne”
  • Elvis Costello--“Alison” and “Pump It Up”
  • Dion DiMucci--“Donna The Prima Donna” and “Runaround Sue”
  • David Gates (Bread)--“Baby I'm-a Want You” and “Everything I Own”
  • Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)--“Moonshadow” and “Peace Train”
  • Tommy James--“Crimson And Clover” and “Mony, Mony”
  • John Mellencamp--“Jack And Diane” and “Pink Houses”
  • Lou Reed--“Sweet Jane” and “Walk On The Wild Side”
  • Leon Russell--“Superstar” and “Tight Rope”
  • Maurice White/Philip Bailey/Verdine White/Larry Dunn/Al McKay (Earth, Wind and Fire)--“September” and “Shining Star."

SongHall voting members will now select three nominees from the Non-Performing category, and two from the Performing category. Ballots are due back by Dec. 11, with the new slate of inductees to be announced next year.

Last year’s songwriter inductees were Eddie Brigati, Gerome Ragni, Stephen Schwartz, James Rado, Galt Mac Dermot, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook, Felix Cavaliere, Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi.

Founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond, The Songwriters Hall of Fame celebrates songwriters, educates the public with regard to their achievements, and produces professional programs devoted to the development of new songwriting talent through workshops, showcases and scholarships.

Inductees have included such Tin Pan Alley era legends as Mercer and Irving Berlin, rock icons like Bob Dylan and John Fogerty, rhythm-and-blues greats such as James Brown and Curtis Mayfield, country stars including Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton, and contemporary pop tunesmiths like Jimmy Webb and Hal David and Burt Bacharach.

David also serves as the SongHall’s Chairman/CEO.

Each year, a Nominating Committee selects candidates for induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Only writers who have actually been engaged in the profession for a minimum of 20 years--and who have written an extensive catalogue of hits--are eligible.

May the Muse remain with all these worthy nominees…

Monday, October 26, 2009 To Launch Soon


The Songwriters Association of Canada and Astral Media Inc. recently announced the launch of a brand new Web portal for songwriters and composers across Canada.

The portal will revolutionize the music industry. It enables songwriters across the country to share their compositions, receive advice from industry professionals and offer their creations for sale to music buyers for television, film and other media. The new portal will also make it possible to replace the traditional practice of mailing CD demos to songwriters, musicians, agents and distributors.

Songwriters Eddie Schwartz, Jim Vallance, Greg Johnston and Marc Jordan, known for their songs performed by artists such as Pat Benatar, Diana Ross, Hilary Duff, Backstreet Boys, Bryan Adams and Olivia Newton John, are just some of the prominent industry members who will provide free, personalized feedback to songwriters who upload their songs to the platform.

"The launch of this new portal is in keeping with Astral Media's creative and innovative spirit. Thanks to our work over the past few years with the Songwriters Association of Canada, we can have an immediate and significant impact on the careers of thousands of songwriters, aspiring and emerging artists and music program students across the country," said Jacques Parisien, Group President, Astral Media Radio and Astral Media Outdoor.

"When aiming to have a significant and immediate impact on emerging talent, aspiring and established artists, you must start at the bottom of the Canadian radio industry's food chain. That is, to start with the songwriters. The Songwriters Association of Canada and Astral Media both know that it all starts with a song. Thanks to this partnership with Astral Media, a songwriter from any region of the country will have access to the industry's senior decision makers as well as the advice of Canada's most prolific songwriters," added Don Quarles, Executive Director of the Songwriters Association of Canada.

To learn more about the new portal and how it works, visit

The Songwriters Association of Canada is dedicated to the advocacy and education of Canadian songwriters and devoted to developing and nurturing songwriting communities across the country. Astral Media is one of Canada's leading media companies, active in specialty and pay television, radio, outdoor advertising and interactive media.

When it’s live and I try it… I’ll let you know how the Muse works within this site, but I am looking forward to it… may the Muse be with you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Echo Prize 2009 - More Canadian Songwriting Awards


There is still time to vote for one of the five Canadian songwriters nominated for SOCAN's fourth annual ECHO Songwriting Prize. ECHO celebrates the songwriting talents of some of the best independent and innovative songwriters in Canada.

The five nominated songs, as selected by an independent panel of music community tastemakers, are:

o "Lay Down In the Grass" written by Taylor Kirk, performed by Timber Timbre
o "Love Can Be So Mean" written by Sebastien Grainger, performed by Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains
o "Nobody With a Notepad" written by Derek Christoff and Robert Bakker, performed by D-Sisive
o "Some Are Lakes" written by Elizabeth Powell, performed by Land of Talk
o "Through and Through and Through" written and performed by Joel Plaskett

The writer(s) of the song that receives the most votes will receive a $5,000 CDN cash prize. SOCAN invites the public to cast votes for their favourite song at The contest runs until 4:59 p.m. EST, September 29, 2009.

The Prix de la chanson ECHO, celebrating the songwriting talents of some of the best independent Francophone songwriters in Canada, is running concurrently.
Visit for more details.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

John Fogerty Honoured With Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting

The Americana Music Association awarded John Fogerty with a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting last week. As the 2009 honoree, Fogerty joins an elite list of previous recipients which includes John Hiatt, Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, Cowboy Jack Clement, John Prine and Billy Joe Shaver.

Throughout his prolific career, John Fogerty has celebrated and shaped American roots music.

He is a quintuple threat: songwriter, singer, lead guitarist, arranger, and producer. A roots classicist in love with Memphis-style rockabilly, New Orleans-drenched rhythm-and-blues, and classic country styles, Fogerty was ahead of his time in forging a hybrid of these genres before it was common or stylish to do so. He was more than prescient: As Springsteen said upon Creedence Clearwater Revival's induction into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, "Creedence wasn't the hippest band in the world, but they were the best." Also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Grammy Award-winner, Fogerty began his work four decades ago, and thankfully, he never finished.

While his 60s contemporaries stretched into lavish musical experimentation, Fogerty wrote songs with defiant concision. Rarely has one songwriter been able to write about fun times and ominous times with equal power and clarity. Such self-confidence and panoramic awareness resulted in music that is timeless: "Proud Mary," "Fortunate Son," "Bad Moon Rising," "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Green River," "Travelin' Band," "Lodi," "Run Through the Jungle," "Centerfield," "Looking Out My Back Door" and "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" shift between head-banging escapism, subtly poetic self-reflection, and trenchant political analysis, all while remaining essentially and unrepentantly American.

But it's also universal... and for that the Muse will continue to be with Mr. Fogerty...

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Paul Williams Announced as Keynote Speaker for CMW 2010

From the CMW news release:

Canadian Music Week announces Songwriter/Performer/Actor, Paul Williams, as a 2010 Keynote Speaker. Presented by the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), he will be speaking on Saturday, March 13 as well as performing on the "Kings of Songwriting" panel as part of the Songwriters' Summit. The conference runs from March 10th - 14th at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Paul Williams is an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winning Hall of Fame songwriter. He has composed such timeless musical standards that have been recorded by diverse musical icons as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie, Ray Charles, R.E.M., Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, Luther Vandross and Kermit the Frog. He is a recipient of The National Music Publishers President's Award and is President and Chairman of the Board of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

Publicly lauded for his work as a singer/songwriter, he has created classics such as "We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days and Mondays," "You and Me Against the World" and "An Old Fashioned Love Song". He has scored the films Bugsy Malone and Phantom of the Paradise and his songs "The Rainbow Connection" (The Muppet Movie) and "Evergreen" (A Star is Born) grace the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie songs of all times.

Williams predicts he will be best known for his lyrics to "The Love Boat" and his appearances as 'Little Enos' in the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy, however he has made numerous appearances in movies and television throughout his career. His recent work in theatre and television includes creating the story and writing the songs for Disney's A Muppets Christmas: Letters To Santa for which he received an Emmy nomination, Garry Marshall's touring sensation of Happy Days, and a stage version of Jim Henson's Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas.

Incredible talents such as Paul Williams inspire Canadian Music Week to explore the world of songwriting with a daylong summit…

The Canadian Music Week Songwriters Summit is a series of workshops specifically designed for songwriters with participation from esteemed industry professionals. Occurring on Saturday, March 13, 2009, attendees can experience session topics that include 'Kings of Songwriting', 'Xtreme Performance Makeover', 'Can Artists Afford to Give Away Their Music for Free', 'The Screen As Jukebox: Song Placement for Film and TV' and many more. To attend the Songwriters Summit, one-day event tickets are available for $150.00 and can be purchased by visiting or by calling 905-858-4747.

Canadian Music Week is Canada's leading annual entertainment event dedicated to the expression and growth of the country's music, media and entertainment industries. Combining four information-intensive conferences; a trade exposition; a film festival; four awards shows and the nation's largest New Music Festival - Canadian Music Fest - CMW spans a five-day period from March 10 to March 14, 2010 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and various downtown Toronto venues, attracting participants from across the globe. For more information, visit

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And The 2009 Polaris Music Prize Winner Is...

Click on the pic to open the player and here all the 2009 Polaris Music Nominees...

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Polaris Music Awards live on CBC Radio 3

CBC Radio 3 (webradio) today announced that it would broadcast live the 2009 Polaris Music Prize Gala at 9:00 pm ET tonight (September 21, 2009). If you have Sirius Canada Satellite radio, you can catch the program on CBC Radio 3 channel 86.

The prize, which is modeled after the UK's Mercury Music Prize, is a Canadian music award annually given to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label.

The award, picked by a jury of Canadian music industry insiders, was established in 2006 by Sirius and includes a C$20,000 cash prize. The winner will be announced during the broadcast.

This years event will be hosted by CBC Radio 3 Host Grant Lawrence and will feature live performances from all ten short-list nominees Great Lake Swimmers, Hey Rosetta!, K'NAAN, Malajube, Metric, and Joel Plaskett.

Last years winner was Caribou for Andorra.

This years nominees include:

* Metric - Fantasies
* Elliot BROOD - Mountain Meadows
* Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life
* Hey Rosetta! - Into your Lungs
* Malajube - Labyrinthes
* Joel Plaskett- Three
* Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms
* K-NAAN - Troubadour
* Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
* Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane

Listen to them here... (choose the flash player in the right hand margin) and may the Muse stay with all the nominees...

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Leiber & Stoller on Music Legacy

Jerry Leiber (lyrics) and Mike Stoller (music) have written so many standards that one simply cannot choose a favourite... So I won't even try...

I will reproduce for you some thoughts on songwriting and their musical legacy that the pair shared with the San Francisco Chronicle in a recent article here:

"With all the great pop songs, nothing can be added or subtracted on either an emotional or musical level," [Leiber] says. "They're absolutes. The most automatic efforts come from a spring that has the earmarks of time and meaning to them. If you can translate those into a tune and marry that to something that can be easily deduced, you have a chance for a standard.

"Of course, we thought all the standards had been written already," he adds. "How could there be more standards when you had Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin?"

He closes his eyes and hums to himself, fixing the tune in his head, and softly starts to sing.

"The old wolf sniffs the summer breeze and dreams about his youth," he whispers, the opening lines to Leiber and Stoller's "The Girls I Never Kissed," a song recorded by Frank Sinatra.

Leiber went to see Sinatra sing the song at Carnegie Hall, a richly rewarding moment for the songwriter. Sinatra introduced the song. "This was written by a couple of kids who write nothing but that rock 'n' roll crap," he said.

It's not something Leiber hasn't heard before. After he wrote "Is That All There Is?" Johnny Mercer invited Leiber to sit beside him at the head of the table at the Songwriter's Hall of Fame dinner. "You know why you're here?" he asked Leiber. "Because you finally wrote a good song."

Good song? I wish I had written some of the "bad" Leiber & Stoller songs ("Jailhouse Rock" or "Hound Dog" or "Fools Fall in Love")... May the Muse be with you.

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Special Songbook Collection - Songwriters Hall of Fame + Hal Leonard Publishing

The Songwriters Hall of Fame (SongHall) has announced a partnership with Hal Leonard Publishing, a world leader in the music print industry. The partnership with the legendary music publisher includes the creation of a series of branded songbooks for the Hall of Fame, and and innovative link between the Hall of Fame's digital Virtual Museum and Hal Leonard's vast library of song sheets and folios.

"We are excited about this new partnership," said Hal David, "because it permits us to extend our mission of honoring the world's great songwriters, by offering sheet music, both in print and online, to the public. The partnership also will result in direct financial support for the Hall of Fame by Hal Leonard, permitting us to continue our many educational activities."

Hal Leonard has created the first in a forthcoming series of Songwriters Hall of Fame songbooks highlighting the songwriting gems of 38 inductees from 2003 - 2009, including Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora ("You Give Love A Bad Name"); Desmond Child ("Livin' On A Prayer"); Loretta Lynn ("Coal Miner's Daughter"); David Bowie ("Fame"); Queen ("We Are The Champions"); Van Morrison ("Brown Eyed Girl") and many more. This premier Songwriters Hall of Fame Songbook features bios and photos of each artist, along with an introduction by SongHall Chairman/CEO Hal David, and is being sold at music and bookstores nationwide.

Hal Leonard's has now been made available as a SongHall online affiliate. Options to download sheet music from Hal Leonard's SMD are available on hundreds of inductee web pages within the Virtual Museum. This new feature enables links to hundreds of thousands of pages of digital sheet music and song folios by everyone from Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Hal David and Burt Bacharach. The Hal Leonard SMD program is easily accessible and user-friendly, loads quickly, and takes customer service to a new level, customize viewing experiences with a variety of options on every page.

About Hal Leonard Corporation
Founded in 1947, Hal Leonard Corporation is the world's largest music print publisher, producing songbooks, sheet music, educational publications, reference books, DVDs, CD-ROMs, children's music products and more. In its more than 120,000 available publications, the company represents in print some of the world's best known and most respected publishers, artists, songwriters and arrangers. The Hal Leonard Corporation has been a formidable presence on the Web since 1997, the year it launched (SMD), a worldwide website for downloading legal and accurate sheet music. For more than a decade, SMD has been and remains a leading online destination for musicians seeking printed music.

About The Songwriters Hall of Fame:
The Songwriters Hall of Fame celebrates songwriters, educates the public with regard to their achievements, and produces a spectrum of professional programs devoted to the development of new songwriting talent through workshops, showcases and scholarships. Over the course of the past 40 years, some key Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees have included Desmond Child, Dolly Parton, John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Steve Cropper, Richard and Robert Sherman, Bill Withers, Carole King, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison and Cy Coleman among many, many others. The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond.

Full biographies and a complete list of inductees are available at the Songwriters Hall of Fame's Virtual Museum at

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Billy Joel on Songwriting

Hey, he's one of my all-time favourites... I think of Billy Joel as a tunesmith... He can write wonderful melodies with fantastic hooks and that's why he's written the "hits" but also the wonderful gems that aren't hits and that listeners feel they aren't sharing with the whole world and that only they know about them (Where's The Orchestra? or And So It Goes spring to mind as a couple of my favourites in that category). Anywho, here's an article from the Chicago Sun-Times that captures Billy Joel on songwriting:

Those who know Billy Joel say he's in a good place now, although that may not always have been the case.

"It's a different Billy I'm seeing on this tour, a very happy and contented one," says Elton John, whose Face 2 Face tour with Joel comes to Wrigley Field for shows tonight and Tuesday. "He's always been funny, always been razor-sharp, but this is a very happy and contented Billy, and I'm very happy that he's found that space to be in."

John is a longtime admirer of Joel's compositions, especially "Just the Way You Are."

"It's a standard people will be singing long after Billy and I are dead and buried," John says. "He's a proper songwriter in the old tradition of songwriting. And he writes about issues that are very close to his heart, like 'Allentown,' and that's why I really admire him. If he believes in something, he'll write about it."

Joel grew up in New York's Long Island suburbs and turned 60 in May.

Q.When did you start writing songs?

A. I was writing songs since I was a little kid. They were kind of like ersatz Beatles tunes, kind of Merseybeat British pop tunes. Then when I was in [the band] the Hassles I was writing stuff that was more R&B-influenced, more like soul music, like Sam & Dave songs, stuff like what the Rascals were doing, that was a big influence on me. I wrote all the stuff for Attila [a short-lived duo], then I got the rock 'n' roll star stuff out of me. I just wanted to be a songwriter and have other people do my stuff. But the advice I got from the music industry was, "Make your own album." This is the beginning of the era of the singer-songwriter.

Q.It's been a while since you went into the studio. Are you writing or planning on recording?

A. Well, I never stopped writing music. I'm just writing a different kind of music now. I'm writing instrumental music and thematic music. To what end, I really don't know. It may end up being a movie score, some of it could be symphonic, it could end up being songs. I'm writing themes. I'm just not writing songs like I used to.

Q.When you wrote songs, did you write the music first?

A. Always. I think the one time I didn't write the music first was "We Didn't Start the Fire" and I think it shows, because it's terrible musically. It's like a mosquito buzzing around your head.

Q.What do you take the most pride in: singer, songwriter, performer, musician?

A. The hardest part of the job is to write. That's what it all comes down to as far as taking the most pride in, the composing of the music. And then the next thing would be as a piano player. I think being a good musician is very important. As a singer, I've never thought much of my own voice.

And as a performer I take a great amount of professional pride in delivering a good performance. I still can't believe I'm 60 years old this year and I'm still able to do this crazy-ass job. I thought there was a mandatory retirement: When you're 40, get out.

Q.Dating to the '70s, you always ended shows saying, "Don't take any s---from anybody." What does that say about you?

A. I don't know, maybe I got a chip on my shoulder or something. That may be a Long Island thing, too, because people in the city always tend to look down on Long Island. We're the country bumpkins. So you sort of have a defensive attitude. And sometimes that's OK, it's a motivator. It kind of keeps you going, keeps you edgy. "Don't take any s--- from anybody." I still believe that.

Q.Do you see a time when you'll quit?

A. I don't think there will ever be a time when I stop being a musician. Possibly not being a performer, possibly not recording anymore, but I will always be a musician.

May the Muse be with you Billy... thanks for all the great tunes and more to come...

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Friday, May 29, 2009

101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them

101 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right Them

I recommend this book for songwriters looking for commercial success because it stresses:

  • building solid, marketable song structures
  • creating lyrics/melodies
  • forming productive and profitable collaboration ventures
  • producing effective demos, and
  • tracking your royalty collection (I'd like that problem!)

Pat and Pete Luboff, the authors of 101 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right Them, are platinum-selling hit songwriters, who also teach workshops for NSAI (Nashville Songwrites Association International). They have lots of insgight into what they're writing about and write in an accessible manner to cover the 101 areas they do...

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Songwriters Hall of Fame - 2009 Ceremony

The Songwriters Hall of Fame will be having its induction ceremony on June 18, 2009 (not yet sure if it will be televised). From the press release:

Jack Ingram, Joe Nichols and American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi are among the singers, songwriters and musicians scheduled to appear at the Songwriters Hall of Fame's 40th anniversary gala taking place June 18 at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. This year's Hall of Fame inductees include Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati of the Rascals, Crosby, Stills & Nash; Galt MacDermot, Stephen Schwartz and James Rado and the late Gerome Ragni. Also being inducted is the songwriting duo of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. Cook, already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, is the father of CMT host Katie Cook. His songwriting credits Don Williams' "I Believe in You" and Crystal Gayle's "Talking in Your Sleep." Others performing or presenting awards at the gala include Daughtry, Berry Gordy, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., John Ondrasik, James Taylor, Ryan Tedder, Rob Thomas and Paul Williams.

Should be some shindig I suppose...

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OCFF - Songs from the Heart Competition

Only a few days left (June 1, 2009 deadline) if you want to enter the Songs from the Heart Songwriting Competition of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (OCFF).

This competition highlights the talents of Ontario songwriters and provides an opportunity for the winners to showcase their work to festival presenters at the annual OCFF conference. Overall, one English and one French winner will be selected. In addition, fifteen nominations from the Songs From the Heart competition (not including the winners of the Galaxie Rising Stars of the CBC Award) are put forward by the OCFF to an Ontario Arts Council (OAC) selection panel, for consideration for the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award.

Good luck to those who enter and may the Muse be with you...

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Gamble and Huff Honoured

Last month I wrote about the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland being honoured, and now it's time for Gamble and Huff.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff recently received the Icon Award for lifetime achievement from BMI.

Gamble and Huff embodied the "Philly Soul" sound of the early 1970's that followed the Motown era and preceeded the Disco era... From Reuters:

They wrote or co-wrote about 3,000 songs during their heyday, still own the masters and copyrights, and keep busy licensing the tunes for use in movies, TV and commercials.

"Every time I turn around, my wife is hollerin' 'One of your songs is in the movies,'" Huff, 67, said in a recent interview with Reuters, sitting alongside Gamble.

One would have to try pretty hard to go through a week without hearing a Gamble and Huff tune on the radio or the screen. The catalog includes "Love Train" by the O'Jays, "When Will I See You Again" by the Three Degrees, Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones," Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," and Jerry Butler's "Only the Strong Survive" (which Butler co-wrote).

And then there are the covers, whether it be Simply Red's take on Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now," for which Gamble and Huff won a songwriting Grammy; Third World's update of the O'Jays' "Now That We've Found Love"; or the Rolling Stones performing "Love Train" during their recent tour.

What was the Gamble & Huff formula?

"We were looking at standard classic music that you would hear 30 years later," Huff said. "The quality was what we were into. The artists that we signed had to have a certain quality of voice and talent."

The duo's emphasis was on the arrangement of songs, establishing an undeniable rhythm with lots of strings and horns. They helped lay the foundation for disco.

Certainly a great songwriting team, and certainly worthy of the recognition... May the Muse remain with you both, Mssrs. Gamble and Huff...

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Lightfoot on Dylan

I just wanted to share some songwriting quotes from the illustrious Gordon Lightfoot as set out in a recent Huntsville (Alabama) Times article:

"Prior to the Woodstock Festival, there was a colony of artists working in the Woodstock area," Lightfoot during a phone interview from Toronto, Canada.

"Bob Dylan lived there and used to type out his lyrics on a typewriter. I think he got my engine turned onto songwriting. We have a mutual respect toward one another. He would be my all-time favorite."

Indeed, the respect is mutual. Lightfoot recorded one of Dylan's songs, "Ring them Bells," and Dylan recorded Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain." Dylan has also been quoted as saying that when he heard a Gordon Lightfoot song "he wished it would last forever."

Many people feel the same way about Lightfoot, the legendary, 70-year-old songwriter who during his 40-plus year career has written more than 200 songs on 20 albums and performed timeless hits like "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," "Early Morning Rain," "Carefree Highway," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and many more. He was a big influence on folk music of the 1960s and '70s, including songwriters like Dylan, Dan Fogelberg others.

"That's what I've been told," Lightfoot said of influencing others. "I've always been about pressing the work ethic. You've got to get the job done."

Lightfoot's songwriting talent has earned him five Grammy nominations and 17 Canadian Juno Awards, Canada's equivalent of the Grammys. Many talented musicians have recorded his songs, including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Peter, Paul & Mary, Barbara Streisand, and even present-day musicians like Jane's Addiction.

"I just got lucky with Elvis," Lightfoot said. "He recorded two ('For Loving Me' and 'Early Morning Rain'). Elvis always had scouts looking for tunes, and he was getting his nightclub act together and getting ready for Las Vegas.

"I actually never met him. I was supposed to meet him and it didn't work out."

Well, at least he got to meet Dylan... May the Muse continue to be with you Gordon!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Terri Clark - Return to Songwriting

From a Sun Media article by Mike Ross, here are some thoughts on the Nashville system by country music star, Terri Clark:

Terri Clark is trying to pull herself out of the tar pit that is the commercial Nashville country scene - where young singer-songwriters are discouraged from writing their own material, image is everything and nothing beats a hit.

The 40-year-old Medicine Hat star was hip deep in the status quo for a decade, so she's got her work cut out.

Happily, a big change in her career could help: She's no longer on a major label. She's an indie now. She writes all her own songs - which fans can hear when she plays Sunday at the River Cree Casino.

Clark declares, "If you're a songwriter, you should write your own songs."

Sounds obvious. Doesn't happen much in Nashville, which is as dependent on its professional songwriting corps as Alberta is on oil.

The stars will generally shop for a song to express their deepest feelings, rather than write it. The same can be said for the R&B scene of yore, of course, whose biggest hits came from largely unknown tunesmiths toiling in the Brill Building of New York City.

That bubble burst with the advent of rock 'n' rollers speaking their minds and writing their own hits - from the heart. Blame the Beatles.

(Editor's note: this vastly oversimplified history of R n' B songwriting is meant to be illustrative, not educational.)

Clark recalls a slippery slide, "I wrote almost all the songs on my first two records, but as the career progressed I wrote less and less. Got busy, plus got caught up in 'we need the hits, we need the hits, we need the hits.' We were chasing rather than just going with what was natural, coming out of me, which is what fans bought into in the first place."

Good for Ms. Clark... as she returns to songwriting, may the Muse return to her...

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Songwriting Does Not Equal Poetry... even for Bono

Neil McCormick of the Telegraph recently provided the following insights in songwriting lyrics versus poetry... Visit the blog post to see the "poem" by Bono first-hand and then read the scathing review of Bono, with empathy to the man as an outstanding songwriter:

All you can really say in Bono's defence is he is not the first good songwriter to be unveiled as a bad poet. Step forward Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. Indeed, the problem is moonlighting rock stars, who think because they are good at one thing they must be good at everything, and don't have anyone around in the inner circle (usually comprised of people who owe their livings to the star) to persuade them otherwise. I really don't want to see Madonna's acting (or Prince's, Bowie's or Jagger's), Ronnie Wood's painting (I will make an exception for Bob Dylan, who seems to have some small talent in this field, and doesn't push it on his public), and, to be perfectly honest, I don't even have much time for Leonard Cohen's poetry, which often lacks the discipline he brings to songwriting.

Indeed, much is made of the difference between poetry and lyrics, with the intellectual presumption being that the former are usually in some way superior, but I think the discipline of scanning, rhyming and metre, the challenge of vocal comprehensibility and the absolutely crucial interaction with melody (synchronising with the rich emotional language of music, which often renders words redundant) makes lyric writing a special art form, the greatest field of lyrical communication in our times, capable of striking people deeper and harder than almost any poem. Bono (and Dylan and McCartney and even Cohen) should stick proudly to writing songs. But probably not about Elvis.

Ah, the chasm between lyrics and poetry... certainly not one and the same, and most always the offspring, related though they are, of different Muses...

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Comox Valley Songwriters Circle

Just a plug for a local B.C. Songwriters Circle site I came across... The Comox Valley Songwriters Circle is a group of songwriters of all abilities who get together on the first Wednesday of each month to show off their songs... Check out their website for more info and may the Muse continue to be with them...

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Songwriting through celibacy?

From Celebuzz...

Lily Allen is truly willing to suffer for the sake of her art.

She's taking a vow of celibacy in hopes of improving her songwriting skills.

"It's good to get out of your comfort zone and test yourself," Allen says. "I'm just going to see how it goes for a bit. I haven't set a time limit or anything."

"I've actually broken up with boyfriends for inspiration. When I hit a period of not being able to write music, I get up and I walk away," Allen fesses up. "It's pretty mean-but it's true."

Sounds like Lily Allen isn't the only person who's suffered for her art.

And may the Muse be with her for it...

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SongDoor 2009 - Open for Competition

From its promotional materials:

SongDoor is still the only songwriting competition where nobody loses. All entrants receive a free DIY songwriting course and free melody-writing software, valuable tools worth $70. The entry fee is $10.

Entrants are eligible to win the Grand Award, valued at approximately USD $7,745 in music merchandise and services, including a single-song publishing contract with Hard Twist Music-BMI (owned by mega-hit songwriter Bill Shore), a full-band private session demo at 16 Ton Studios, Music Row's hottest recording facility, a one-year full-access membership to, a copy of MasterWriter songwriting software, a suite of songwriting software from Tanager Audioworks, a Primo MoB membership to Broadjam, a leather gear bag and an autographed copy of two of hitmaker Jason Blume's best-selling songwriting books. Six Category Winners each receive a valuable package of awards valued at almost $4,670 including a first-rate guitar or vocal production demo and memberships to both and Broadjam.

Songs may be entered in six different categories: Christian, Country, Pop, Rock/Alt, Soft Rock and Instrumental. Entries are accepted online or by mail through November 15, 2009.

The SongDoor International Songwriting Competition is an annual event, open to amateur and professional songwriters worldwide. Entries are accepted online or by mail from April 15 through November 15. The entry fee is just $10.

Good Luck and may the Muse be with you...

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Holland-Dozier-Holland Honoured

From a recent American Songwriter Blog post by Evan Schlansky, here is an article about one of my favourite songwriting teams and the award they'll be receiving in June:

Legendary Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland will receive the coveted Johnny Mercer Award at the 2009 Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards dinner on June 18th at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The trio, who wrote indelible hits for the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye are considered key architects in the Motown sound. Together they penned Where Did Our Love Go?, Baby, I Need Your Loving, You Can't Hurry Love, Stop In The Name Of Love, Baby Love, Can't Hurry Love, You Keep Me Hanging On, Nowhere To Run, Same Old Song, and Can't Help Myself, to name just a few. In total, the team wrote 70 Top 10 songs from 1962 to 1967, including 50 #1 hits.

"Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland's massive stream of classic songs changed the face of popular music in a way that has endured, creating a style that is highly influential and relevant today," said Songwriters Hall of Fame chairman/CEO Hal David in a statement. "The Songwriters Hall of Fame is proud to bestow our prestigious Johnny Mercer Award upon this groundbreaking team."

The Johnny Mercer Award is exclusively reserved for a songwriter who has already been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a prior year, and whose body of work is of such high quality and impact, that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer (who's songs include "Stardust" and "Moon River"). Past recipients of the award include Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Jimmy Webb, and Paul Simon.

Holland-Dozier-Holland... May the Muse stay with you...

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Songwriting - Pay It Forward

I enjoyed reading this article from a Nova Scotia local newspaper about songwriting as an art that can be passed along. Kudos to songwriter Steven Bowers (pictured) who is working with youth and passing along the craft/art of songwriting:

Equipped with good information and persistence, young musicians can forge a path as a songwriter - even if it's not the career that a guidance counsellor would typically suggest.
Singer/songwriter Steven Bowers has been at the trade for about a decade, and still he says it's a continual learning process. But at this point, he's comfortable imparting some of the experience he's earned at a songwriter's workshop for several high school students this Saturday at Glasgow Square.

"We want to teach them about the business of songwriting. It's not really something that's focused on around here - basically how to connect with other songwriters, how to get your stuff heard," he says.

He remembers back at the very beginning - writing music but not really having any idea of how to get people to listen to it. In high school he had an outlet through school programs, but without knowing anywhere else to look for performing, there was little opportunity.

"When you're in high school, you can't play a lot of the pubs. So, with the exception of local groups that put on coffee houses, you don't really know many avenues to get your stuff out there," he said. "The open-mic circuit was really big for me in Halifax. A lot of kids, if they are going off to university or to college, most will have open-mics at the local campus bars they can take advantage of."

But even with the local notoriety that comes with frequenting an open-mic - or hosting one, as Bowers did - there's still a distance to travel between pub staple and marketable songwriter. That involves networking with other musicians and knowing organizations which exist to put people in the music business in touch with funding opportunities and information. And it's those angles Bowers, along with fellow musician Christina Martin are hoping to impart.
"Now that you've established yourself as a performer, you have to have some kind of product. If you want to sell your music - and if you want to be a professional songwriter versus someone who's a hobbyist, you might not be interested in recording your stuff," he said.

"But, from there, you need a venue to sell your music, people aren't going to buy it sight unseen. And even if you want to go the radio route and not perform in your life, you still need to connect with the organization."

The Muse is with you Steven... Inspirational! Keep the faith!

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Toronto is 175!

From the Contest website:

Have you got the music in you? Have you got a song in your heart?

In honour of the City's 175th anniversary, the City of Toronto is hosting the Toronto SongContest. We're looking for an original song that is evocative of our wonderful city, a song that will pay homage to Toronto's amazing spirit and its unparalleled diversity.

How to enter

The contest officially opens on Monday, March 30, 2009 and submissions will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, 2009.The contest is open to any Canadian resident 13 years of age or older.

Compose your song using any lyrical music genre, e.g., pop, rock, folk, roots, hip hop, rap, jazz, world. Songs must be less than four minutes in length. You must submit your song in MP3 format, the lyrics to your song and a short biography (200 words or less) to Sonicbids - the official website of the Toronto Song Contest.

Winners and prizes

Judges selected by the City will evaluate all of the song submissions and will select up to 10 finalists and the winner of the contest from among those finalists. The process for announcing and promoting both the finalists and the contest winner will be determined at a later date. Judges will base their evaluation of the songs on the following criteria

* Creativity
* Originality
* Lyrics
* Melody
* Arrangement

The winner will receive a prize of $5,000 Canadian, payable by cheque, and will retain all rights to any SOCAN royalties payable for the use of the song.

May the Muse be with you and best of luck if you enter!

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SongStudio '09

Kudos to Blair Packham et al (which "al" includes Rik Emmett, Ember Swift, Steven Page, Zack Werner and more!) for setting up SongStudio '09, described as a "week-long adventure in songwriting at Toronto's Ryerson University" and scheduled to take place this summer: July 18 - 24, 2009.

Just a bit from the website (which you should visit for yourself):

The week will focus on learning how to write your best songs ever. Best of all, you will get many chances to perform your songs, for supportive, attentive audiences in a warm, nurturing environment.

SongStudio's format is designed to help you acquire strategies and tools to help turn your ideas into real, finished songs. Good songs that speak to your audience. If you have something to express through song, we can help. Maybe you only write lyrics. At SongStudio, chances are you'll meet someone who needs help with their words, or who only writes music. And in the meantime, we can help you make your lyrics communicate more effectively, and help you learn how to write effective, compelling melodies and chord changes.

Something else happens at our workshops. Some might call it networking. We prefer to think of it as making friends, and if the last four years are any indication, many of the friendships made at our past workshops will be for life. This is a beautiful thing. So often, songwriting is a solitary art. When the experience can be shared, a community builds.

At SongStudio you will sing, you will laugh, you will listen, you'll "talk shop", but most of all, you will grow as a writer and as an artist.

Sounds like a wonderful, creative environment... May the Muse be with them all!

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Back with Elvis Costello

It's been too long since I've posted... just busy work-wise and sad personal-wise to deal with my blogs but I'm excited about Elvis Costello's Spectacle show finally being shown in Canada on CTV!

I first posted about this a while back and more recently here...

I won't repeat what was said in my past posts, only to add that the National Post carried this article today on the show.

I enjoyed the article and am really looking forward to the show. I hope you'll watch it too... Some quotes from the article follow:

"They try to compare it to a talk show, but [David] Letterman goes on five times a week with three people every night," Costello, 54, says. "I could never go on that often -- there aren't that many witty people in the world."

"Any host, really, just has to set the scene," says Costello, who writes every show and draws upon his huge musical knowledge in talking with guests such as Herbie Hancock and Elton John. "I steer the conversation toward a subject I'm interested in -- that's really all I'm suited to do."

Costello's onstage familiarity with jamming gives his show an improvised feel. What began with a dependence on a teleprompter gave way to playing with his guests by ear.

"The show really changed with Bill Clinton," says Costello, explaining how the former U. S. president's people informed him he'd only have 45 minutes to shoot. However, the famed raconteur and, according to Costello, quite able saxophonist made it clear he was in no hurry to leave.

"I'd only written about 20 minutes of questions, but found the last part of our program was the best bit," he says. "I still spend loads of time researching, but perhaps I'm not the weak conversationalist I thought I was."

May the Muse be with you... this Friday at 10:00 p.m. on CTV (and for 13 shows in total!)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Musical Brain

I read an article in our local weekly about producer Vanessa Dylyn (pictured left with Sting at McGill University) and her latest project, "which mixes neuroscience and music [and] examines what music can tell us about the human brain and the what the brain can tell us about music."

Dylyn came across the book This is Your Brain on Music by Dr. Daniel Levitin (see my previous posts). She knew it would make the basis for a wonderful documentary straight away and I have to agree (and can't wait to watch it).

CTV will be airing the documentary, The Musical Brain, this weekend (January 31, 2009 at 7 p.m.). Here is CTV's description:

Using the research findings of leading medical experts, including Dr. Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music), the documentary examines the physical, psychological and emotional responses to music through a variety of tests on children and adults. 'The Musical Brain' also features candid interviews with Michael Bublé, Feist, Wyclef Jean and Sting who share what they have learned about the power of music in their lives.

In addition to discussing his passion for music, Sting puts his own musical mind to the test when he enters an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine to have his brain scanned. Inspired by Dr. Daniel Levitin's book, Sting undergoes tests to find out how music affects him on a physical and emotional level. Using state-of-the-art technology, 'The Musical Brain' demonstrates how Sting responds to various types of music - complex and simple - and what his musical brain reveals about him.

"Music is a gateway to emotion and memory, pleasure and intellectual stimulation throughout our lives," says writer and director Christina Pochmursky. "'The Musical Brain'follows Sting on his journey of discovery into his own musical brain, and also explores how music can define each stage of our lives."

"This riveting documentary sheds light on the human musical experience and how science is teaching us more about it," says Bob Culbert, Vice-President of CTV Documentaries. "The stories shared by the participating artists will resonate with viewers who understand the power of music in their own lives."

May the Muse (and your brain) be with you...

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Akbar to Springsteen?

I read an interesting article involving a "guest" of a federal medical facility in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, who hijacked a plane and forced it to Cuba almost 30 years ago... He then discovered that he didn't like Cuba and raised a ruckus there so the Cubans shipped him off to Miami in 1981 where he stood trial for air piracy and was sentenced to 50 years...

Muhammad Akbar, born Gerald Leland Marity, was an honourably discharged soldier who served two tours of duty in Vietnam (1966-67). He joined the Black Muslim movement upon returning to the U.S. but fell off the rails... he sought asylum at the Irani and Iraqi embassies in Mexico prior to his hijacking crime... they both turned him down...

Why is this in my blog... Akbar is suing (he does this a lot) the government and his caregivers for stifling his songwriting career. His claim?

"I'm a damn good Black Songwriter who happens to be a Muslim and an airplane hi-jacker (sic) serving a 50 year sentence," he wrote. "I've decided to direct my Lyrics to Ms. Britney Spears, Pink, Bruce Springstein (sic) the best in the world of pop music. This has infuriated the staff here at the prison into breaking the law.

"So far," he continues, "30 of my letters and songs have been delayed, tampered, and opened for the obstruction of justice by the defendants and not reached Ms. Spears, Pink, or Springstrein (sic) and I want it to stop immediately."

"And I want these three entertainers notified as to what's going on by the courts," he demands in his petition. He says that when he complained to the warden's office and others, "I was told that I was paranoid and having dilusions (sic)."

Akbar wants a judge to investigate his claims, and he also says he wants $50,000 for pain and suffering, although it appears from his filing that he initially valued his pain and suffering at $30,000, then upped the value and wrote a "5" over the "3."

Enough said... sometimes the Muse is NOT with us...

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Musicshake... and Musicshare!

The Musicshake website declares "Music for Everyone, Created by YOU". TechCrunch featured the site in an article published earlier today.

The free Musicshake mixing program (Windows platform only, see interface screenshot below) "lets users create personalized, professional sounding music using a variety of modules and pattern-combination methods, which is quite addictive once you get the hang of it (takes about 10 minutes and there are templates to help get you started). You can convert music you make to mp3 and download them to your computer, or convert them into a personalized ringtone. You can also show off music you create to your friends and place it in charts to promote your work to others."

Musicshake then lets you monetize that creation on its website and share the proceeds with you 50/50. So budding composers, why not check it out. Here's a video of the proggie in action:

May the Muse-icshake be with you... now go create...

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HitLab Dynamic Hit Scoring

A Canadian company, out of Montreal, was featured in an article by Roberto Rocha of the National Post yesterday discussing the DHS (Dynamic Hit Scoring) software featured on its website:

From the article:

"We see this as the future of music," said Eddie Wenrick, chief executive of,a Montreal startup that aims to be the big new platform for farming musical talent. The company is a blend of MySpace-- the social networking site popular among bands --and Canadian Idol. Members create profiles and add their songs for all to hear and buy. But for $30, they can get Hitlab's software, called Dynamic Hit Scoring, to analyze their music's hit potential. If they score highly, they increase their chance of signing a record contract.

Every three months, the four Hitlab users with the highest DHS score are invited to a talent show before a panel of industry honchos. The winners get coupled with managers and hopefully ink album contracts.

Hitlab would get a cut of the deal and publishing rights, and fame-seeking virtuosos get the exposure, Wenrick said.

"It'll be a springboard to kick-start their careers," he said. "We like to say we're a baseball farm team before they go to the major leagues."

Wenrick, a veteran of the music industry -- he was an executive at Columbia Records and Epic Records and ran several talent management firms -- understands that letting a robot pick new talent is exceptionally inhuman in a human-driven enterprise. This is why he also invites another top four members, as voted by other users, to the showcase.

"This is for users who don't have a hit song, but have a large following and show potential," he said.

And from the website on how DHS works:

To analyze music, the system breaks down the sound frequencies of a song into 78 variables such as tone, pitch, tempo, etc. If a song has very similar patterns to a song that was at the top of the billboard for a long period of time, the DHS score will be high. On the other hand, if the song has a moderately similar pattern to a song that was low on the billboard charts for a short period of time, the DHS score will be lower. By comparing a song to the database that holds the recent trends in music, we can evaluate how appealing the mathematical patterns of the sound frequencies are to the human ear, thereby evaluating a song's hit potential.

Step by step:

  • Each MP3 song is digitized and parceled into tens of hundreds of short audio files.
  • A set of unique features (78 isolated variables) of the audio contents is extracted from each segment.
  • A full set of identifying features is created for each piece of MP3 content.
  • The complete set is then stored in the database.
  • Each MP3 is ranked according to its peak position in the Billboard compilation using the algorithms and stored in the database for future analysis.

I don't know if something like this actually works. I guess it would for "pop" songs that may have many similar characteristics. My concern is whether a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, who didn't sound like the prevailing pop at the time, would make it threw this type of screening...

May the Muse (and technology) be with you...

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