Ryan Bingham – Oscar For “The Weary Kind”

Crazy Heart - Wikipedia

“Crazy Heart’s” Ryan Bingham continued to add to his awards season cache with his first Oscar for “The Weary Kind (Theme From ‘Crazy Heart’).” Backstage, where he addressed the press without fellow songwriter T Bone Burnett — who wasn’t feeling well and returned to his seat — Bingham said he has come a long way from living in a Suburban four years ago. Asked if writing sad music would be challenging now that he’s married, Bingham noted that the past is always with him. “We have stuff from the past that is always there. Songwriting is venting and getting the past off my chest.” Bingham also noted that co-star Colin Farrell originally performed the song with an Irish accent. “We were all rooting for him to be an Irish country singer in the movie, but it didn’t work out,” he said.

Enjoy the YouTube video below with Ryan’s performance… and may the Muse be with him (‘cos Oscar is…)

Neil Young and Elton John

Neil Young at Closing Ceremonies Vancouver 2010 - YouTube

Neil Young will be working on Elton John’s upcoming studio release.
Billboard reports that legendary Canadian singer songwriter will be one of a number of guests who’ll be featured on the album.

Sir Elton will be collaborating with fellow pianist/singer Leon Russell and adding other guest performers that will include organist Booker T Jones, guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Jim Keltner.

The “I’m Still Standing” hitmaker’s long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin has also been working on the record.

A statement on Taupin official website says, “It’s varied in scope and drenched in a rich tapestry of atmospherics. Don’t expect to hear the old EJ/BT sound; this is organic recording unlike anything you’ve heard from our duo before.”

A release date for the album has not been set.

Neil Young was honoured last month with a tribute at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and performed “Long May You Run” duringclosing ceremonies. Enjoy it below and long may the Muse be with you…

Gordon and Gord – Easter Day Broadcast

Lightfoot & Downie: Mysteries and muses - The Globe and Mail

Earlier this month in Toronto, a master class in songwriting was offered up by two of the greatest Gords in Canada – folk icon Gordon Lightfoot and Tragically Hip rocker Gord Downie in the inaugural concert of a new six-part series, If You Could Read My Mind, named for Lightfoot’s 1970 breakthrough song.

Sponsored by the Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, the two Gords perform stripped-down versions of some of their work and discuss their craft in an intimate setting that was perfect for the animated, funny, revelatory and – at times – touching discussion between the two men and host Laurie Brown.

It was hard not to notice Downie’s admiration of the 71-year-old Lightfoot – whose “austerity and economy of words” he praised – as The Hip’s lead singer got downright emotional early in the show which was being taped for later broadcast on CBC Radio 2 on Easter Sunday.

From a Canoe article on the concert, here are some quotes about songwriting provided by the Gords at their concert earlier this month:

[T]he Orillia, Ont-born Lightfoot said he first began writing songs in Grade 12 – his first ever was a novelty tune called The Hula Hoop Song which was inspired by a Life magazine cover – and was inspired more seriously later by Dylan but admitted that “recording was like going to the dentist.”

He said he still has a technical rehearsal with his band every Friday to keep his guitar skills up.

When Downie asked Lightfoot about dealing with writer’s block, the onetime drinker didn’t miss a beat: “Alcohol.”

Downie, who hails from Kingston, Ont., couldn’t remember the first tune he wrote but said he first sang at a house party – The Doors’ opus The End of all things – “trying to infuse it with 15-year-old angst.”

Later, he recalled, he and his Hip bandmates hung out at The Prince George Hotel catching travelling blues legends like John Lee Hooker in concert but Downie admitted he didn’t learn to play the acoustic guitar until he was twenty.

Both men agreed their songwriting had been hugely inspired by nature over the years, helping to forge the Canadian identity, with Lightfoot revealing he went on massive canoe trips in Northern Ontario and Quebec, sometimes a month at a time.

The only problem – and it’s a good one to have – the CSHF now faces is how to make the next five concerts as entertaining as Thursday night’s premiere deluxe edition.

Lightfoot and Downie’s natural chemistry set the bar high.

May the Muse stay with you Gords…

Springsteen to Guest on Spectacle

The Boss will be a guest on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle program this coming season on CTV in Canada (and on January 27 on Sundance in the U.S.).

From a New Jersey Star-Ledger article by Jay Lustig about the 2-hour season finale with Bruce and members of his E-Street Band:

Songs performed by the entire ensemble include urgent versions of Springsteen’s “The Rising” and “Seeds,” as well as a soul-shouting duet on the Sam and Dave hit “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” and a well-conceived medley of Springsteen’s “Radio Nowhere” and Costello’s “Radio Radio.”

Costello opens the first episode by singing Springsteen’s “She’s the One” and introducing him as the “past, present, future of rock ’n’ roll.” The artists’ respect and admiration for each other is obvious as they discuss Springsteen’s development as a musician and a person, and their musical philosophies.

“The greatest rock ’n’ roll musicians are desperate men,” Springsteen muses. “You’ve got to have something bothering you all the time.”

“You can’t always be a nice guy in the song, is what it is,” Costello responds.

The pair also zeros in on specific topics, such as Springsteen’s early years performing in Asbury Park (he calls it a “low-rent Fort Lauderdale” and says the town’s isolation from the recording industry meant “you were left in a bit of your own wilderness”), fatherhood, the influence of Bob Dylan and President Obama’s inauguration.

The most amusing segment comes when they talk about the way Springsteen’s songwriting changed between 1975’s “Born to Run” and 1978’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” becoming … well, darker.

“One reason it was different is there was some young English songwriter at the time who said the songs on ‘Born To Run’ were too romantic,” says Springsteen. “I can’t remember his name right now, but …”

Costello looks genuinely surprised. “Was it me?” he asks. “It wasn’t me.”

“I’ve been waiting 30 years for this moment,” says Springsteen, with delight. “What do you think? Of course it was.”

I’m looking forward to catching this episode for sure… The Muse is with these two and here’s a clip from the episode:

Singer-Songwriter Contest Kicks Off, Every Tuesday Night in Guelph

The Guelph Mercury recently reported on a weekly singer-songwriter contest taking place in Guelph at Frank and Steins every Tuesday night.

Kudos to Malachi Greenidge, a Guelph singer-songwriter, for putting the contest together.  As related in the article:

The singer/songwriter competition will allow local musicians to not only expose their music to the crowd, but get judged on their song. Every night, five judges will judge the talent on lyrics, song composition, melody, vocals and originality. The winner will walk away with $1,500 and all participants will receive a T-shirt and a CD of their performance.

“It’s not a singer contest,” Greenidge said. “It’s not who can come out and belt out songs like Whitney Houston.”

The judges have been asked to only judge vocals in relation to the songs and songwriting, Greenidge said, adding he didn’t want to mimic a Canadian Idol contest.

May the Muse be with Guelph… check it out if you’re in Guelph on a Tuesday night…

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 Beyoncé, 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.

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…

Billy Joel on Songwriting

Billy Joel official photo by Jesse Dittmar

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…

Back with Elvis Costello

Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... (TV Series 2008– ) - IMDb

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!)