Grammy Winner Gordie Sampson – High School Graduate

Gordie Sampson

Some news out of Nova Scotia reported the (30-years late) high school graduation of Gordie Sampson (keeping with the theme of Nashville Canadian songwriters today). Here’s a quote from the Journal Pioneer article that also includes a video of Gordie celebrating with his fellow 2020 graduates:

Sampson said he’s “honoured” to be getting his diploma 30 years after he left school.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to complete but didn’t get the chance,” he said. 

“I took one night school class after high school with the intent to take another one but when you’re traveling, it’s hard to do it because you can’t make class. It wasn’t very feasible.”

The pandemic, which forced much of the world to shut down, also had positive gain for songwriters, according to Sampson. Because they had no choice but to learn how to virtually write together, he said artists now can easily work together from cities around the world because they know the software to use and how to deal with issues like delays 

The last 10 summers, Sampson has been hosting young, up-and-coming songwriters for his workshop called Songcamp. Held in Ingonish, the artists are teamed up into groups of three, given a coach who is an established recording artist and taught how to co-write. 

Gordie is a very successful songwriter – co-writing tunes for the likes of Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert and winning a Grammy while doing it. And as the quote shows, he has given back to Nova Scotia songwriters with his Songcamp for the past 10 years now. May the Muse stay with Gordie and all his camp attendees/songwriters… Here’s a mini-doc on his Songcamp:

Behind “Scenes” with Billy Joel

artwork

One of my all-time favourites and right up there as one of my favourite Billy Joel songs. American Songwriter recently went behind the song Scenes from an Italian Restaurant off The Stranger album.

The song is a 3-in-1 mash up that simply works. After reviewing the background of the song, the article looks to Billy’s recounting of the lyric:

“When we were in high school, there were the people we thought who were so cool,” he continued. “I thought, ‘Man, I wish I was that guy. He had the perfect pompadour. He always had great clothes, the coolest shoes. He always went out with the coolest girl, and he was always the most popular guy. Then, I saw him at the 10-year union, and this guy was like a caved in ashtray…”

In piecing together the story, Joel questioned if the songwriting was “too preachy” in tone and soon came up with the “bottle of white” intro, which didn’t feel like a song in and of itself. “It’s a prelude to something,” he noted. He then took a cue from The Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road record, referencing “Golden Slumbers” from side two, specifically. Particular chords and other bits and pieces slowly came together to eventually culminate in one of Joel’s most enduring classics, produced by Phil Ramone.

Kudos to American Songwriter for reviewing this gem and for linking to a 1994 Billy Joel Masterclass given at Princeton that is embedded below that discusses this song. May the Muse stay with Billy, Brenda and Eddie, and you and me in our Italian Restaurant…

The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel

Colorado College

Colorado College hosted a symposium this past weekend.  I wish I had known about it before, I would have participated as it was open to the public… as per the symposium’s website:

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is a scholarly symposium on the music and lyrics of Billy Joel, the consummate singer-songwriter whose compositions translate larger cultural concerns into accessible and compelling musical narratives. In the spirit of Joel’s music, this public musicology conference aims to share academically oriented insights on this popular figure and his output in an accessible and approachable manner.

Thankfully, someone (Pianomanross) recorded the keynote event, which was actually a phone call with Billy Joel himself!  Here’s the content of the call with Mr. Joel and it adds a heap of colour to the art and craft of songwriting… enjoy the listen and may the muse be with you…

What A Tale My Thoughts Could Tell

Press Release:

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, two of Canada’s most celebrated songwriters, Ian Tyson and Jim Cuddy, will be live in performance and in conversation for the second episode of the innovative new master series, “If You Could Read My Mind” created by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Through conversation and music “If You Could Read My Mind” contemplates the continuation of the Lightfoot lyric, “what a tale my thoughts could tell” and digs deep to unearth why Canada is such a hot bed for songwriting talent. The series got off to a phenomenal start this past February with its inaugural sold-out show, featuring the Canadian legends Gordon Lightfoot and Gord Downie.

Hosted by CBC Radio’s Laurie Brown, the October 21st event will also feature emerging Canadian artist Wayne Petti from Cuff The Duke, who will bring his unique blend of alt-country singing-songwriting to the stage for a special performance.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Jim Cuddy and Ian Tyson in an intimate setting at the world class, acoustically spectacular George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Contact TicketMaster today!

If You Could Read My Mind” featuring Ian Tyson & Jim Cuddy
Thursday, October 21, 2010 – Showtime 8:00 p.m.
The George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre of the Arts, 5040 Yonge Street
Tickets: $30, $40, $50 – On Sale Now
Available on TicketMaster.com or by calling 416-872-1111.
www.cansong.ca

Canadian Music Week: Songwriting Summit

Canadian Music Week ended last weekend with Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart talking about songwriting.

Stewart, appeared on Saturday, March 13 with Toronto singer Cindy Gomez to talk about songwriting. Stewart told the audience that the split in his romantic relationship with singer Annie Lennox led to a majority of the band’s best-known songs. Broken hearts (or agitated ones at least) can inspire…

The session also included American singer Paul Williams, the songwriter behind hits for the Carpenters and others, as well as Canadian Dan Hill, a prolific songwriter who co-wrote “Sometimes When We Touch.”

May the Muse be with you…

Paul Williams Announced as Keynote Speaker for CMW 2010

From the CMW news release:

Paul Williams (songwriter) - Wikipedia

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 www.cmw.net 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 www.cmw.net.

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 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!

SongStudio ’09

Kudos to Blair Packham et al (which “al” includes Rik EmmettEmber SwiftSteven PageZack 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!

The Musical Brain

A Day in the Life" with Toronto producer Vanessa Dylyn

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…

Professor George Michael?

Okay, this article speaks for itself, so I’ll only preface it with – Huh, what are they thinking? The concept is good (breaking street violence through encouragement of artistic endeavours) but I don’t know if the practice works if George Michael is to be relied upon for seeing this through. No offence to Mr. Michael, but I don’t believe that he has a reputation of being particularly reliable:

Anne Lu – Celebrity News Service News Writer

London, England (BANG) – George Michael’s neighbors want him to fight knife crime. Residents and school officials in Highgate, north London, wrote to the “Faith” singer asking him to support a scheme designed to reduce knife crime in the area where he lives.

A source said: “In the interests on discouraging knife crime, a safer neighborhood group in Highgate has written to ask George for help.”

The former “Wham!” star – who sponsored this year’s Highgate Summer Festival – has been asked to get involved with a program that encourages children to express themselves through music instead of violent behavior.

The source added to Britain’s Daily Star newspaper: “They’re trying to get local children to focus on the challenges they face living in the area and express it in creative songwriting instead of violence. They’ve asked George to use his contacts ideally in organizing a songwriting competition in schools.”

Since January, 65 British teenagers have died as a result of violent crime. Almost 60 percent were stabbed to death.

The 45-year-old singer – whose fans can download his festive single “I Dreamed of Christmas” for free on Christmas Day – is yet to respond to the request.