singer-songwriter

Phil, Vanessa, Neel, Etain, and Bruce

Leonard Cohen, the late great Canadian troubadour

What can you say about the exceptionally talented poet, novelist, and prolific singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.that hasn’t already been said? Well, the Song Talk Radio action team didn’t worry about that. Bruce, Neel, and Phil simply dove into their memories and had a close look at three of his many, many songs. Bruce brought the poetic Bird on a Wire (1969), Neel shared the dark and foreboding Everybody Knows (1980’s), and Phil had us pay attention to one of Cohen’s last recordings, the prescient Leaving the Table (2016).

Have a listen!

Dan Edmonds making it up in the moment

The Song Talk Team had the distinct pleasure of spending an hour with the very talented and original singer/songwriter Dan Edmonds. His fresh takes on music and how it’s made were both illuminating and engaging. He played two of his intriguing recordings – “Love Can Be a Tunnel” and “To Be That Needle”. We talked about:

  • improvising lyrics in the recording studio
  • letting the listener make their own meaning from the words
  • the two-chord song
  • the fun and challenge of touring
  • finding management

Here’s the show. Have a listen!

 

Songwriting Humour & Hiring Someone to Demo your song with Robert Davis

Singer/songwriter Robert Davis stopped by with some great fun songs and we talked about the following:

 

Listen to the episode:

 

 

Where’s Bob Dylan?

Okay, so we couldn’t get Bob to come to the studio for the show. Not surprising considering how the Nobel Prize people can’t find him either. On this show about Bob Dylan we discussed:

  • The new film from Ron Howard  – The Beatles, Eight Days a Week
  • How the Beatles wrote songs
  • Should the Nobel Prize for Literature have been given to Bob Dylan?
  • What was Bob Dylan’s contribution to the music world?
  • Bob’s lyrics and melodies
  • How much his early career was influenced by the times (early sixties)
  • His long career
  • Two of his songs: “Shelter from the Storm” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
Neel, Alyssa, Bruce, Janice, Phil, and Nicole

How to master multiple career streams + songwriting with Alyssa Baker

The Multi-Talented songwriter/actor Alyssa Baker stopped by with a couple of great songs and an even better discussion on creating songs and managing multiple career streams.

Some Stuff We Talked About:

This week’s twitter contributors:

  • @roseandselena
  • @Christie_Baker
  • @SharonRsoe2012
  • @ynotburns
  • @timothyjlim
  • @garbaker_gary

Listen to the show:

Watch the live performance:

 

Neel, Phil, Jacob, Bruce, Nicole, and Janice

Jacob Moon a song writing star

With 10 albums over a 20-year career, Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Jacob Moon dropped into the studio to share a wealth of helpful tips and clear insights. “Live a Little” is a truly exceptional tune, a perfect marriage of lyrics, melody, theme and variation.  “Is That All You Got” is a gutsy rocker that looks at calamity with defiance and a “bring it on” attitude. The hour just flew by as we discussed –

  • live performance looping
  • putting cover songs on YouTube
  • social media
  • how to reharmonize your chords using the same melody
  • the influence on Jacob of songwriters Paul Simon, Ron Sexsmith, Joni Mitchell, and Jackson Brown
  • the benefits of writing a song using only a bass guitar (or the bass notes on piano)
  • open (alternate) tunings including the ever-popular DADGAD
  • how a great song requires hard work and lots of rewrites

Listen to the whole show

Check out Jacob Moon’s engaging and heartfelt performances

Making an Emotional Impact as a Performer: Part 2

 

If you read Part 1 of this three-part series, you’ll also have listened to three different performances of the song “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

What you may have learned is that the way you interpret a song makes a difference in the way people will react to your performance.  This means the way you choose to sing each phrase, emphasize key words, and bring in dynamics and emotional expression are important in making an emotional impact.

So, now I want to get into the Song Interpretation Exercise that I mentioned, which can help you think more intentionally about all of these elements.

Just a note: I’d like to think I’m brilliant, but I didn’t make this all up. A huge thanks goes to my former vocal teacher, Véronik Fournier (a.k.a. V), who passed on this incredibly helpful exercise to me.

First things first, choose a song you want to work on. Then download the Song Interpretation Exercise template here and get going with Step 1!

Step 1: Character, Objective, Moment Before, Win or Loss?

My Character

It may seem obvious that the “Character” in question – i.e. the person singing the song – is, well, you.

Technically, yes. However, is every story that you communicate through the songs you perform actually about you?

Maybe you are singing a song that you wrote completely based on your own personal life story. In that case, when you do the rest of this exercise, you’ll probably be drawing from the exact events and emotions you experienced.

However, sometimes we perform songs that aren’t based on our real life history. For example, one of my songwriting collaborations involved me having to sing about how my now-ex-lover just ran off to Havana. Well, I assure you that this has never happened – but I needed to convince everyone that it had!

So, I created a character in my mind who I could embody when singing Havana”: a young woman who had gotten in deep with her Cuban lover and brought him back to her homeland. Yet, after a tumultuous time together, he packed up and left her high and dry.

Although creating this made-up character may have seemed a bit disingenuous at first, I was able to own the performance by drawing from my own, very real experiences of having felt the emotions of longing, bitterness and despair that are expressed in the song.

Singing To

If you are performing at a show, you will, of course, be singing to your audience.  But, again, let’s get to the heart of the story behind the song.

Who are you, as the character of the song, singing to? Are you singing to your cheating, ex-boyfriend who is now trying to win you back? A group of angry protestors who are demanding change? Your first, newborn baby?

There’s something kind of freeing about approaching a performance in this way. Rather than getting the jitters about singing to a sea of faces watching you from their seats, you are simply communicating a story that is really about, and being directed at, someone else.

Objective

What is your objective, or reason, for singing these words to the person (or people) you are singing to? Is it to assure them that they are going to make it through their challenging situation? To convince yourself to take the leap into a new romance?

Clarifying this for yourself from the outset can help in shaping the rest of the exercise. Read more

Bruce, Patrick, Phil, and Neel

“A song is good if you like it,” says Patrick Ballantyne

Bruce, Neel and Phil were all happy to have Patrick Ballantyne back in the Song Talk Radio studio for the third time. He always brings great songs (listen to “Make Believe” and “Sky” for proof) and lots of experience to share about the songwriting process for our listeners. When writing a song, he starts with the music – almost always on the guitar. For contrast, he has started writing on the piano where he has less competency and is forced to “keep it simple.” After writing solo for many years, he recently joined a group of collaborators and enjoyed the process.

Listen to the whole show:

See the live performance:

Man holding guitar in front of crowd

Protest Songs: What makes a good one?

For our latest theme show, we take a look at some of our favorite Protest Songs and try to figure out what makes an effective one. We looked at River Runs Red by Midnight Oil, Eve of Destruction by P.F. Sloan, and Phil talks about how his band The Parkdale Hookers, went about writing their punk-anthem Multi-Media Word and talked about how not to date a protest song.

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Stuff we talked about:

Jeff Greenway finds his own way

Jeff Greenway returned to the Song Talk Radio studio to share his thoughts on song writing. His approach to writing is through a feeling, not a theory. This was amply demonstrated in the two songs he shared with us. The first, Cavalry, evoked the sadness and confusion you feel when a relationship just isn’t working any more. No one is coming to save the day and there’s nowhere to hide. The second tune, I Need describes the two opposing sides of possible reconciliation. Notice the lyric shift from “don’t come home” to “please come home”. We discussed:

  • collaboration
  • home recording with a good microphone and Logic
  • modulation
  • background vocals
  • the use of silence in a song
  • chord substitution
  • teaching music to children

Listen to the entire show here: