SAW Notes

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  • 10/17/2017 8:02 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Congratulations to SAW member, toolbox regular, and songwriter extraordinaire Eryn Michel! Her song "Old Habits", which she first presented at the MD Songwriters' Toolbox just a month or two ago, has been awarded first place in the American Songwriter Nov/Dec lyric contest. From Eryn:

    At my first SAW writer’s workshop in Rockville, Jay Keating challenged us to write something every single day, no matter how little. I don’t know what happened, but something just clicked. I’ve written every single day since. Because I was already in the habit of writing every day, I was ready when the opening lines of “Old Habits” popped into my head in early September. I attribute that directly to the support I’ve found and what I’ve learned about songcraft through SAW’s workshops and events. I’ve learned discipline and accountability without losing any of the fun of why I write songs. 

    To any SAW members who are sitting on the sidelines, worried about going to an event or workshop by yourself, don’t fret! The hardest part is just showing up. Bring a supportive friend or come and make new friends—heck, come find me and I’ll be your friend. I joined SAW last autumn, but I wasn’t able to attend any events until the June 2017 Community Day. I was admittedly scared because I didn’t know a soul there, and I hadn’t played in front of anyone but family for half a decade. I was pleasantly surprised to meet so many instantly supportive musicians and lyricists at all different stages and genres. Whatever your goals with your songwriting, you’ll get out what you put into your membership, and that starts by coming out to a workshop, a SAW open mic, or any of the wonderful showcases or events SAW puts on. See you there!

    Read Eryn's interview with American Songwriter and visit her website.

  • 01/03/2017 5:40 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Playing out more, maybe? And supporting local music? SAW offers lots of opportunities to do both, including these monthly events happening this week:

    New Deal Cafe open mic (1st Thursday)
    Singer-Songwriter Showcase at Outta the Way cafe (1st Thursday) - with Know1Else, Rob Gould, and Barry Fantle
    Open Mic at Rockville Legion Hall (1st Friday)
    Friday Nights Live Music (1st Friday)

  • 10/11/2016 8:37 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Stardust Melodies, A Biography of 12 of America’s Most Popular Songs, by Will Friedwald, gives the background and subsequent interpretations of a number of song standards. Of course, almost all of discussed interpretations are available on YouTube, so you can listen as you read. One of the songs, “Old Man River,” has a tenuous Washington DC connection. It was the last song added to the musical “Show Boat.” Oscar Hammerstein, who wrote the lyrics, thought that the show needed a song to bring out the river theme which had been so much of the Edna Ferber novel, on which the show was based. Jerome Kern, who wrote the melody, did not have time to work on it but Hammerstein reworked parts of melodies Kern had already written for the show. The melodies of “Old Man River” ended up running through the show like a leitmotiv and like a river. Florence Zeigfeld, the producer, was well known for his women-focused shows and “Old Man River” had to be sung by a man. In the midst of many changes to show, Ziegfeld told Evelyn Walsh McLean, the famous District socialite, that he was considering cutting the song. McLean who had seen the show in Washington previews told him that she would give him the Hope Diamond if “Old Man River” was not the instant hit of the show. The song stayed in and McLean kept her diamond.

  • 09/06/2016 12:57 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    In Reckless, My Life as a Pretender, Double Day (2015), Chrissie Hyndes describes how she always loved music and wanted to be in a band. She actually had a chance to record as a solo artist and turned it down. She especially loved hard masculine rock and reveled in Punk Rock London. The Pretenders don’t begin until Chapter 27. The first 26 chapters contain a lot of drugs, sex and missed opportunities. None of the few bands she was in before the Pretenders lasts more than a chapter. It is not clear when she started writing songs or how many she wrote. She never followed classic song structure and attributes her quirky time signatures to her inability to keep time. Every time she wrote a song she was afraid she would never write another. She feels her songs finally came alive when she got together with James Honeyman -Scott the future lead guitarist of the Pretenders. He is in love with melody and hates the punk rock movement she has been a part of. The Pretenders were immediately extremely successful. Unfortunately, Honeyman-Scott died a few years later.


  • 07/26/2016 11:22 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Bob Dylan called Liam Clancy the best ballad singer he’d ever heard. In his memoir  The Mountain of the Women, Doubleday (2002), Clancy describes his life as an actor and Irish troubadour. He and his brothers, “The Clancy Brothers,” became successful during the late 50’s folk boom.  His two careers fed each other.  He says he transformed his singing performances by seeing them as acting roles, trying to make the results conform to his inner voice. He also says, “Plays, like songs, show their worth very quickly to an actor involved in a run of any length. There are songs I have been singing for decades, through thousands of performances, that still move me, that continue to show new facets and layers.” 

  • 06/07/2016 8:33 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Songwriters on songwriting. Gleanings from Grace Matuszeski

    I recently read The Song Machine, Inside the Hit Factory, by John Seabrook, W.W. Norton & Co., Ltd. (2015). It is an interesting and important book about how hit songs are written now. They originate in rhythmic tracks that are sent out to various  “top liners” who write the melody and the lyrics. The content of the lyrics is often secondary to the words fitting into the groove of the track. The system for writing songs this way originated in Stockholm in the early 1990’s and has spread everywhere. The only commercial area where hit songs are consistently written the traditional way is country music. Note that the one collaborator that Taylor Swift specifically thanked in her Grammy acceptance speech for Album of the Year in 2016 was Max Martin, one of the early members of the Stockholm group. The book also gives valuable information on the workings of the current music industry.

  • 04/26/2016 9:47 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Last Saturday morning, about 20 SAW members gathered for a fascinating grammar lesson in songwriting, by Matt Holsen.

    "This was a brilliant session, titled "Chord Grammar." Matt began by saying that just like the English grammar we grew up with, there's a musical chord grammar that we've internalized as well. It's different from that in other cultures, but ingrained in us - we don't need theory to know what's right for our ears. And then he did an overview of the theory about what's inside us - circle of fifths, relative minor substitution, tritone substitution - with examples that brought it in focus and a thoroughly engaging conversational style. I helped run these sessions 10 years ago, and this was among the best I've seen. Jay Keating and Paige Powell, great job organizing!" - Dan Grove

    Handouts from Matt's session:
    SAWtoolbox1outline.docx
    SAW Toolbox1 Examples.pdf

    SAW's Songwriters Toolbox meets the 4th Saturday of the month, at The Surge in McLean, at 10am. Don't miss May's Toolbox, hosted by Mike Ryan!
  • 02/11/2016 8:34 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Our recent membership survey showed an active interest in many existing SAW programs. With a scale of 1 (not interested) to 5 (very interested), here are the weighted averages:

    Open Mics & Showcases 3.93
    Workshops & Critiques: 3.44
    SAW Buzz (weekly email): 3.86
    Mid-Atlantic Song Contest: 3.78
    SAW Serves: 3.22
    Opportunities to promote my music through Member Notes and networking
    : 3.80

    To address a couple of questions that were submitted along with this question:


    How can I promote my music and upcoming gigs?
    We encourage all members to post in the Member Notes section of the website and on the SAW Facebook group page. These are for blatant self-promotion, and also a great place to post articles, resources, or other items that would be of interest to the local songwriting community.

    These are not to be confused with the SAW Notes page of the website and the Official SAW Facebook page, which are both maintained by board members and are for SAW-sponsored events and news.  Our online events calendar likewise is intended for SAW events, and not gigs that are specific to one member.  If you would like your event to be considered for the calendar, please contact us.

    What is SAW Serves?
    SAW Serves
    is a community service program in which members offer free music concerts for people with limited access to the arts or to raise money for a worthy cause. See the SAW Serves webpage for more information and upcoming events.

    And thanks for your positive feedback that you included when filling out the survey: “Thanks for all the good work that you are doing!” and "doing a good job for the members"
  • 02/09/2016 11:35 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Ok, so we know that you want to network with other musicians: in our recent membership survey, 80% of you listed it as one of the reasons you joined SAW.  Yet, only 18% of members attend SAW events (a.k.a. great networking opportunities) frequently or fairly often, while 26% did not attend an event all year.

    So what would encourage you to get out more? Aside from time and health, (legitimate) excuses given by many for not going to more events, here are some suggestions from the survey:

    - ability for advance sign-ups
    - different locations (requests for VA, MD, Baltimore, and DC)
    - more opportunities to get feedback at events
    - feature performer showcase opportunities
    - more co-writing workshops, more song publishing/placement workshops
    - more diverse styles than typical SAW event
    - safe, encouraging open mic
    - more ways to network and connect online
    -
    having a good way to sit in with performers who don't know me

    All good ideas! As the SAW board and event coordinators continue to encourage songwriting and performances, we invite all members to get involved as well. How?
    Talk to our fabulous event coordinators (contact info is listed on event pages of SAW website) with your ideas and suggestions. They are there to answer your questions and give you the support you need. (And many allow for advance sign-ups)
    Want to see another open mic opportunity in your area? Help to start one! You don’t have to do it alone – other SAW members can support you by offering advice, a venue, equipment, sharing hosting duties, or in other ways.
    Connect and network – online (through SAW Notes on the website, facebook page) or in person – to share your songs and ideas with the SAW community.
    Get out there! See you at an open mic or showcase soon!
  • 01/20/2016 8:58 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
    On Sunday January 17, the  32nd MASC Awards Gala brought together the DC area’s finest musicians and songwriters to a packed house at Jammin’ Java.  This special night included presentations to winning songwriters in 12 different categories, performances by many of our Gold and Silver winners, and announcements of the Grand Prize, 2nd Place Overall, 3rd Place Overall winners, and other Special Awards (see list of MASC winners

    Beyond the talented winners listed in the link above, there are so many people who labored to make the contest and the gala such a success; let’s start with two special thank you mentions:

    -   To all the talented songwriters who submitted songs, and especially to those who did not win. While the winners are certainly to be congratulated, the backbone of the SAW community is made up of all songwriters who write for all the right reasons, share their talents with others and spotlight the area’s creative community in doing so. By connecting with others at open mics, sharing talents and ideas, and encouraging and working with fellow musicians, you all help create a vibrant and supportive community. 

    - To the all those inside and outside the SAW membership who worked - behind the scenes and on stage - to make MASC possible, Thank you. There were judges, sponsors, volunteers, too many to list here who made the entire contest work so well.  But to name a few, we owe special thanks to Loralyn Coles (Director), Ron Goad & Diana Quinn (hosts), and Caren Dale (backstage manager). The work of keeping a show as full and busy as ours, moving smoothly between the many acts and presenters and to finish on time.  You all deserve your own award category.

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