© 2002 by James Linderman
As I boarded the Toronto subway train, in the early morning of Saturday April 27, for my solitary journey down to the Songwriters of Canada event called Songposium I felt extra ordinarily… solitary.
This had been the lonely trip I had made to school, eventually to work, to gigs, girlfriends, concerts, ball games, or just to escape the suburbs.
It made me consider just how solitary and isolated the life of a songwriter really is. Oh no, I thought here comes the "life is like a subway ride" analogy.
It is true that much of our work is the product of self-reflection or isolated observation. For some of us, all this time alone is the direct result of an interpersonal deficiency and for others, the result of just being down-right strange.
An event like Songposium would bring together a whole group of us, for the day and as I "rode the rocket" (the subway, for those not from Toronto) I thought to myself that it was going to be interesting to see all these introspective souls pulled out for a whole day into a social setting.
The event was organized as a presentation of information, demonstration and critiquing of songs and the topic of song writing itself and The Songwriters Association of Canada brought out some of the crafts "best" to deliver the goods.
John Capek began the day by sharing his insights into what makes a great song so great, and he should know. With song writing credits on songs by Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, Cher, Toto, Natalie Cole, Olivia Newton John, Dianna Ross, Heart, and Amanda Marshell, he would be considered a genuine celebrity among songwriters.
It was particularly interesting to hear that he often relies on the opinion of his teenage daughter to determine the marketability of a song. Mr.Capek used a lot of audience participation and led a sort of open forum on song writing that was truly interesting.
Pat Pattison spoke next and, as the professor of the lyric writing course at Berklee College in Boston, is arguably the world's leading authority in this field. Pat is also the author of 3 books on the topic including "Writing Better Lyrics" which is THE book on lyric writing technique.
Pat absolutely mesmerized the delegates at Songposium by doing a line by line analysis of Paul Simons "Still Crazy After All These Years" and the Tim McGraw hit, "She Can't Be Really Gone", written by Gary Burr. Pat worked through these songs in stress syllables, line counts, metaphors and family rhymes and made it all really fun to learn.
Next was a feature called "Inside Co-Writing" which was an actual live co-writing session with John Capek, Pat Pattison and singer/songwriter Marc Jordon, who has written for Holly Cole, Cher, Natalie Cole, Rod Stewart and Amanda Marshall.
The three writers took topic suggestions from the delegates and built a song from one of them, in an amazingly short period of time and with remarkably marketable results. The chorus is still stuck in my head and if I could run out and buy the recording today I would.
It was interesting to watch each writer, very quickly pick up on the aspect of the song that they particularly specialize in. John Capek, the chord progression, as an accomplished piano player. Pat Pattison, obviously the lyric and Marc Jordon as a great singer and songwriter, the melody.
For many delegates, this was the highlight of the Songposium as we saw three writers with world-class skills, ply their craft in a reasonably informal setting.
This gave us all a great deal to talk about as we broke for lunch.
The afternoon program began with Paul Sanderson, author of "Musicians and the Law in Canada". He is the Sanderson of Sanderson Taylor and Associates, one of Canada's leading entertainment law firms.
Paul offered up "Publishing 101" which was a sort of primer on what publishing is and what it involves for songwriters from a contractual standpoint. He also covered the different kinds of rights enjoyed by song owners like, performing rights, syncronization, print, subsidiary rights and mechanicals and explained them in an understandable and illuminating way.
The President of The Songwriters Association of Canada, Stan Miesner spoke briefly yet very effectively, about the troubled politics surrounding the Blank Tape Levy. He also cautioned the delegates concerning present and future piracy issues involving new technologies. Stan Miesner has been a very strong voice for Songwriters in these issues.
The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to critiquing songs brought in by delegates for a panel of pro's. Capek, Pattison and Jordon were now joined by Robert Ott, VP of BMG Music Canada, and Ric Emmitt, international guitar wizard and former member of the group Triumph. The panel gave their expert advice, (usually unavailable and/ or extremely expensive) to a dozen or so songs and left us all with some fresh and very practical insights. A highlight to the deligates musical offerings was Lisa Patterson's Say Goodbye which was truly breathtaking. It sounded more like the music made by the panellists and not the other delegates. You can reach Lisa at email@example.com and she is worth checking out.
At the close of Songposium, Executive Director Sean Mulligan encouraged delegates to contact Socan and/or Shiela Copps who provided funding support for this event, and let them know how awesome it was.
If this sounds like something you would like to attend next year, I would encourage you to do the same and also contact the Songwriter Association of Canada office for more information at http://www.songwriters.ca/.
James Linderman lives and works at theharmonyhouse, a music lesson, songwriting and music pre-production facility in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He has worked as a collaborating songwriter and consultant for The Toronto Office of Catholic Youth and leads a music workshop program for Life 100.3 Christian radio. James writes songwriting articles for The Muse's News web magazine, Canadian Musician Magazine and Professional Musician Magazine.