Tag: songwriters (Page 2 of 7)

SAC Regional Writers Group – Guelph ON

sac_logoUp until this week I have stayed away from the songwriting groups that some of my musical friends frequent. My justification: I generally work on a song until I am happy with it and once I’m happy with it, I don’t want well-meaning suggestions about how to change it. It would be like suggesting another name for my child. And if I’m not happy with it, why would I perform it for others when it is clearly not ready?

I think participating in the SAC songwriting challenge shifted this mindset. First – instead of songs that came from a very intimate place of experience and emotion, the songs were assignments. “Write this style of song, with this tone, for this audience, for this voice.” That made it easier to step back from songwriting and look at it as a craft, not just a vehicle for personal expression. Second – writing a song a week for six weeks did not leave me time to edit lyrics or improve the song structure as much as was needed. So, I was left with six songs that need attention. (Actually just five – I wrote one that I like just the way it is.)

Prepared with a song in just the right state (not too rough, but not a fait accompli) I set off for the SAC regional writers group in Guelph with a few copies of lyrics. The group (facilitated by Peter Light) seemed a good size; large enough for some variety, small enough for every songwriter to be heard. After each song was played we went around the circle and heard feedback from every person. Sometimes listeners contradicted each other with their advice, other times there was agreement about what did or didn’t work in the song.

I liked the feedback I received. Most of the suggestions were great and I could see how even small changes could improve the song. One big surprise: almost every person wanted my poignant little uke song about heartache and loneliness to have a happy ending. There was one other female songwriter in the group – she and I were the only ones who wanted to preserve the longing, unresolved theme. Different target audience? Or did the ukulele bring out the romantic in those men?

I found this to be a great learning experience. To search for a SAC regional writers group in your area visit http://songwriters.ca/regionalgroups.aspx  I would suggest it particularly to musicians who tend to write alone. You never know, an exercise like this could be a gateway experience to co-writing!

[SAC Guelph Regional Writers Group, West End Rec Centre in the Parkwood Gardens Community Room, 21 Imperial Road South, Guelph; 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7-9pm]

Songwriting Challenge – That’s All Folks!

Six songs in six weeks – I did it! And I even like some of them.
Here are a few observations in response to Lily Cheng’s (SAC Communications & Social Media person) questions about our Songwriting Challenge experience.

I do think I needed to be better prepared with respect to the technology I’d need to participate fully. A large chunk of time I had set aside for songwriting was spent surmounting technological obstacles, due either to lack of proper gear or lack of knowledge. I wasn’t expecting that and found it frustrating. I did get some good advice from fellow songwriters in the challenge that helped me (almost) catch up.

I started off trying to read everyone’s posts and listen to everyone’s songs. I soon realized that there was not enough time to do this each week so I listened to excerpts here and there. Maybe 100+ songwriters is too big a group to really interact with everyone.

As much as each new challenge seemed like a shock – What?! I’ve never written a [fill in the blank] song before! – it was also freeing to be able to write for someone else’s voice, try on someone else’s perspective, imagine songs in different settings. It allowed me to stray from my usual earnest folk song style. Instead of drawing from personal experience, I could play make-believe, be a different persona and see where that game lead me.

Listening to other participants’ songs was both stimulating and intimidating. Such talent! And so many interpretations of the same challenge. Meeting fellow songwriters – both virtually and in person – was a big bonus for me. Thanks for the long-distance collaboration, Todd Wandio, and thanks for visiting Elora, Mikalyn & Michael. I have appreciated the words of advice & encouragement from both James and Debra, our songwriting coaches, as well as other participants.

Would I do it again? I found it more time consuming than I expected and had trouble keeping up with the challenges alongside my work schedule. I might do a similar challenge if I had an arrangement with a friend who could do the recording/mixing for me and I’d be able to focus on the songwriting and performing.

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last song was posted and yet people are still connecting on the song challenge FB page. As much as it was time consuming, demanding & challenging folks aren’t quite ready to let go of the virtual community created in the past few weeks.

I wish my fellow songwriters many visits from the “song fairy” and continued creative success. I’ll watch for your names in liner notes, movie credits, Juno nominations…


Venue: The Brew House, Fergus ON

IMG_7615I have visited the Brew House in Fergus for live music on the patio and for Robbie Hancock’s songwriting competition. In keeping with the Brew House support of live music, songwriter & performer Noah Solomon is getting an open mic started on Thursday nights.



All set up for a nice acoustic sound in the main room, friendly host – all that’s needed is a few more players. If your regular open mic is so busy it is not always possible to get your turn at the mic, drop by the Brew House where your songs will be welcome. Since it is every second Thursday you might want to check the FB page to confirm dates.


[The Brew House, 170 St. David Street South, Fergus; every second Thursday, 8 pm sign-up, no cover]

Songwriter Night @ Bar Radio, Toronto

IMG_7097Although Toronto boasts a large number of open mics, not many are devoted to the songwriter. Samantha Martin, a songwriter and performer herself, started Manic Monday Songwriter Night  at Bar Radio to remedy this unfortunate gap in the live music scene. Samantha opens with some of her own originals, hosts the evening, serves as the dedicated sound person, and closes with a jam. The Songwriter Night is a relaxed, supportive venue for writers who want to share their songs or try out new material. Spontaneous musical collaboration is welcome!

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Manic Monday started in March with a weekly songwriter night but, as of now, is moving to a monthly format since Samantha and the other hosts are busy working musicians.  The next two Manic Mondays will be August 4th and September 8th. They will usually fall on the first Monday of the month but check the FB page to confirm before heading there with your guitar. In the meantime you can catch Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar at Hillside Festival this weekend.

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[Bar Radio 615 College Street, Toronto, first Monday of the month – usually 8-11pm]


Venue: Lazy Cat Café, Toronto

Another long standing musical gathering, the Lazy Cat Café has been welcoming people to this east end open mic for 20 years. The format:

IMG_6970two songs (10 minute) sets for open mic-ers with a 25 minute feature set about half way through.

Hosts (and songwriters) Linda Lavender and David Shilman run the event in a lovely space boasting natural light andgreat acoustics. There seem to be a lot of regulars in attendance but the afternoon I visited had two first time father-daughter acts. In fact, there was a duet theme to the day, including the delightful feature set by Jack & Anita. There was a range of ages, abilities and musical styles – new performers are welcomed and encouraged.

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Although I haven’t been there myself, Linda & David would like you to know about their other venture in the open mic world: the Woodshed Open Mic (@Lazy Daisy’s Café, 1515 Gerrard St E) 8:00-10:30 pm on the second Saturday of the month.


[Lazy Cat Café, Bain Co-op Community Centre, Riverdale, Toronto, last Sunday of the month 3:00-5:30, no cover]


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