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  • 07/03/2018 5:59 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    While 8 SAW acts played as part of the anchor Make Music DC event, board member John Trupp participated in this worldwide celebration where it all started...Paris. He shares his experience below...

    I was very excited to learn that my family trip to Paris would coincide with Make Music Day, or as it is known in France, Fête de la Musique. It started in Paris in 1982 and has grown into a worldwide music celebration for amateurs and pros alike. A day before the event, I asked the concierge where the best places were to go to take in the music. She said that there would be music being played all over the place. Just walk and follow your ears. With visions of a music wonderland spinning in my head, I went to sleep dreaming of strolling accordion players and killer bands sending beautiful music throughout the cobblestone streets of Paris. Then reality set in.

    The next evening, the weather was perfect and my wife Kathy and I eagerly set out to find some great music. I did not have an instrument with me and it was going to take a little convincing to join in with an act. My French is not good but I know the basic pleasantries. Luckily, if you ask, parlez-vous anglais, the answer among Parisiens is almost always “a leetle.” The first live act we found was a group of middle-aged Parisens hammering out American and British classic rock standards. As John Lennon famously quipped, “French rock is like British wine” - and these guys were cranking out some serious British wine. I figured I’ll have these guys on standby but was hoping to find something more euro and authentic. It took a while.

    We strolled the streets and came across many DJs pounding out current euro dance hits. The DJs were actually quite accomplished and were doing some fancy mixing and crossfades. But we were looking for live musicians. I was astonished and a bit disappointed to find so little live music on the streets of Paris. Finally, we came across a fun punky female fronted French band playing at Au Taquet, a lively spot on rue bleue. They were squeezed into the back and the crowd was pushing into the band drawing them to drive harder into their upbeat repertoire. I would have liked to play with them but I didn’t ask as they had their crowd in the palm of their hands.

    We then found an instrumental trio called Earth Vibes performing a unique style of euro jam on a lovely side street between two cafe bars. This is my kind of scene. We ordered a bouteille de vin rouge and settled in for some truly French music. They used unusual instruments to paint their musical landscape. After a little bit of liquid courage, I asked the guitar player if I could sit in on a tune. I defensively rattled off a list of credentials. The answer was oui and I had the honor of playing drums on a very enjoyable song. The jam wrapped up and I said merci. I was about to leave but then the guitarist held his guitar out to me with an outstretched arm. “One more?” Well, don’t mind if I do. Coming from a jam band background, throwing down a groove these French cats would lock onto was a piece of cake. These were accomplished musicians that worked right along with me and we had a blast. The vibrant crowd danced and cheered us on and made me feel right at home. It was a dream come true.

    I feel very fortunate to have had this wonderful experience in Paris. If there’s one thing I can take away from this adventure, music is truly the universal language.

    - by John Trupp

  • 05/22/2018 5:24 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
    From Jay Keating: Earlier this year at a SAW Serves event, I got to meet Doug Gilbert. Doug played some songs and helped out at our event and told me about “Doors of Change” a non-profit effort in California that he and his wife, Susan are part of. I asked them to write a story about this as inspiration for our SAW Serves effort. Below is the article and some pics. I hope it inspires a few ideas in SAW. Thanks to Doug and Susan, for the service they do and for thinking of SAW.    

    “Doors of Change”

     By Susan Pace Gilbert

    In her book, The Monastery of the Heart Author Joan Chittister states “We must give ourselves to the task of bringing about God’s peaceable kingdom, wherever we are, in whatever we do.”  She continues on to say we have a responsibility to see the needs of the world around us, hear the cry of the poor and act to help those who cannot help themselves.

    Jeffrey Sitcov, President and Founder the charity “Doors of Change” has been working to assist homeless youth in the Greater San Diego, California area for 17 years.  Our family attended the gala dinner and auction held in Carlsbad, California on Cinco de Mayo. It was a festive benefit, with a sunny outdoor patio featuring mariachi musicians during the cocktail hour (see scanned photo for story insert).   Indoors, guests placed auction bids in a light-filled corridor.  Auction items included 12 musical instruments signed by stars, such as: a Rolling Stone signed Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, an Elton John signed “With Love” Kurzweil KME 61 keyboard and two Steve Martin signed Deering Goodtime banjos.  There were also excursions and other items in the auction selection.  Jewelry, art and art cards created by homeless youth were available for purchase.

    (Photo by Susan Gilbert)

    Originally known as Photocharity, “Doors of Change” declares its mission to be “breaking the cycle of youth homelessness through empowerment and self-sufficiency”.  Their outreach programs are geared towards homeless and disadvantaged youth aged 12-24.  Their award-winning outreach program “Taking Music and Arts to the Streets” has been having a positive impact upon young lives.  We witnessed this outreach firsthand on Sunday afternoon, when we walked Ocean Beach areas with Program Director Joanne Newgard, placing colorful program literature at strategic locations like small markets and public restrooms.  We spoke with members of the youth homeless gathered for music and art lessons in a cheerful community room, at the Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach. The church has donated space for the music and arts program for five years, serving hundreds of homeless youth in the community.  The music lessons can be for many different instruments, including: guitar, ukulele, keyboard, drums, violin, mandolin and harmonica.  Participants can earn instruments or art supplies after attending six lessons.

    There is also a related Thursday outreach program, “Taking Art to the Streets”.  This program features expressive arts, yoga and computer training.  These creative programs empower homeless youth through their art, music and jewelry projects.  The goal is for them to become more self-sufficient, by earning money from their productive output.  The overall hope is to lessen the number of homeless youth.  There are over 2,000 in San Diego alone and the national figure is estimated to be around two million, according to Jeffrey Sitcov.  These figures are staggering and a prosperous nation like America should be doing better to help its own people.  The recent benefit raised $161,000 after expenses, thanks to patrons of the “Doors of Change” arts and music programs, as well as good donations from professional musicians.    

  • 05/22/2018 4:10 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    One of SAW’s most accomplished members is just 17 years old. In the last 15 months, Calista Garcia has been named “Outstanding Teenage Artist, Vocals Singer Songwriter” by the national YoungArts Foundation, was named a Strathmore Artist in Residence, won the Berklee Performing Songwriter Showcase, and was named the Bernard/Ebb 2017 Young Songwriter of the Year. Most recently, Calista wrote and music-directed a full-length musical—book, lyrics, and music—called Crystal Skies, which recently premiered at H.B. Woodlawn HS in Arlington, where she is a junior. 

    As an aspiring musical writer myself, I had to check out Crystal Skies and its preternaturally talented writer, so I scored a ticket to opening night. I found the writing to be remarkably mature and the play completely entertaining. A few days later, I found Ms. Garcia, relaxed, voluble, and confident, at an Arlington coffee shop.

    SRC: So you’ve written a musical. How cool is that?

    CG: Actually I also wrote the music for another musical, but that was in middle school.

    SRC: Middle school?!

    CG: Yeah, actually the drama teacher asked me to come up with some music in between scenes or something, but it was like a disconnect and I thought he wanted me to write songs for the show. And so I just did it, and he was like “oh what?!” and he made it a musical. I’ve written a few songs for other shows.

    SRC: But this show was your idea?

    CG: Yeah it was all me.

    SRC: I know a lot of people in SAW who have said “I’d like to write a musical someday,” but few have actually done it. And just for the record, you’re how old?

    CG: I’m 17. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. I think in the future I wouldn’t try to music-direct it because it’s really hard to direct your own content. I was like organizing harmonies and teaching it to the band—

    SRC: And leading the band

    CG: And leading the band. It’s a crazy process. I was honestly really involved in the entire process. I was like “they have to be 70s clothes, they have to be bell bottoms.”

    SRC: What is your connection to the 70s? That was a very successful element of the show. It wasn’t just the look and the story, it was the theatrical style itself, the types of songs, and the group scenes especially had very 70s feel.

    CG: That’s what I was going for. I was kind of raised on that stuff, the Beatles and everything. My dad was a big classic rock fan. In sixth grade I was Janis Joplin for Halloween. In seventh grade I was Stevie Nicks.

    SRC: Did anyone know who you were?

    CG: Not really. I told people I was a witch. But I was in a band that did covers—and it’s really more late 60 and early 70s rock. It’s just something I connect with, and even the “artist” stuff that I write and play out is kind of 70s inspired. So I figured, if I’m going to write a show with 17 songs, the way I’m going to connect it all, as a design concept, that seemed like the way to go.

    SRC: So what’s the capsule description for Crystal Skies?

    CG: Oh God! I‘ve had a hard time with this. I guess… “a 1970s supernatural love story centered in a hippie witch coven.” We’ll go with that. “Supernatural” because the whole invisibility element is hard to explain.

    SRC: Yeah, you do kind of have to make that leap right at the beginning. So what was it like to actually see it happen? Or were you too busy to even pay attention?

    CG: No, I was paying a lot of attention. I was facing the cast I was facing the band. I saw it all. I even gave the cast some cues. It was honestly amazing. It was so worth all the struggle. 

    SRC: What do you think is the key to finishing something big like this?

    CG: You know I think the reason people don’t finish a musical or something like that is because of all the choices. You think “I guess I could do that, maybe” and then you chicken out. It’s sort of like committing to it—and then letting go of it. So I’d make a choice, like “in the first number they’re going to say ‘Jimmy’ a lot of times in the chorus, okay that sounds cool, okay let’s just record it for now,” and then I sent it in. I tried to stop myself from thinking too much about it. And suddenly this song I wrote in my room, I’m seeing this huge cast doing it, and the whole thing that was “I think I could do this” becomes kind of real, and it actually kind of works.

    SRC: So you were satisfied with it in the end?

    CG: Yeah, well there are definitely things I would change. But it turned out well, I believe.

    SRC: What was your relationship like with the directors? Was it hard to give up control? Did they run with it?

    CG: At first they were skeptical, because the show wasn’t written when I pitched it. They were like “okay, what is this? It’s gonna be about this invisible guy, and what?” But we went with it together. There’s a lot of respect between all of us.

    SRC: So is it a done project now? Are you ready to move onto the next big achievement?

    CG: Well, I’m not writing a new one any time soon. Right now I’m recording the soundtrack, working with some session vocalists. Then I can release it and put it out on Spotify and people can hear it. And if someone wants to do it…

    SRC: So you’d like to see another production someday.

    CG: Yeah! With rock vocalists, and a band led by better guitar players than me.

    SRC: So how long did it take to write, start to finish?

    CG: Well, I said I was going to start in June, but I went to Berklee over the summer and didn’t really start working on it in August. I had a complete draft by about October first.

    SRC: Wow! The first draft of the songs or the whole thing?

    CG: The whole thing. 

    SRC: Wow!

    CG: Of course there were rewrites, and some songs came in later. I changed the ending. It’s really completely different from the first draft. But it was done by December, and we started auditions.

    SRC: So are your friends totally amazed by this, or is Woodlawn just so full of amazing people that you don’t really stand out?

    CG: I don’t know. I’m not a very outgoing person. My friends that I spend a lot of time with have known me from the very beginning when I was just learning guitar, so they’ve seen the growth as a slow process.

    SRC: You clearly have talent, but you also have clearly had support over the years. So let’s ask the question we always ask songwriters: How and when did you begin?

    CG: I started taking piano when I was six. I started learning guitar when I was eight, with my dad teaching me. I began taking lessons when I was ten when I had sort of exhausted what he knew. I took lessons at Bach to Rock, I was in a band there, an all-girl cover band, we won the battle of the bands a couple of times. I started writing when I was ten or eleven. Started playing out when I was ten.

    SRC: At that time, early on, who were the people in your universe that you thought of as ‘songwriters’?

    CG: Songwriters? When I first started playing guitar, I was a big fan of Taylor Swift, to be honest. I lived in Texas. She was the only one I was enough of a fan of to look at her biography and see how she came up. And she was saying “I’m a songwriter. I write songs” and I didn’t understand that was something unique about her, that all those other pop girls didn’t write. But other than that I was listening to rock, and it was like, if you want to be in the business, you have to write songs. 

    SRC: So when people ask who were your major influences…

    CG: It’s interesting to think of my influences, because there are things I didn’t realize influenced me that I just listened to all the time and I hear in my writing so much now. Like I grew up listening to the “Once” soundtrack, the musical by Glen Hansard, and if I listen to my writing now, it’s very inspired by that. And classic rock, Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, what my dad listened to basically.

    SRC: What instruments are you most comfortable on?

    CG: Guitar, and kinda keys. I play ukulele, I play harmonica, but guitar is my main thing.

    SRC: Has the school music program been important for you, or has most of your development been outside of school?

    CG: Chorus experience helped me music-direct my show, because I had to learn how to teach choirs to sing harmonies. That was a big thing I would not have gotten outside of school. Also getting started with classical voice before doing rock stuff, so you can stay healthy, so I’m not doing the Joplin thing and shredding my vocal chords.

    SRC: So how do you see music fitting into your life as you become an “adult”? Do you see it as a sideline or is it the thing?

    CG: It’s the forefront now. It’s going to continue being the forefront. I mean there are so many things I want to do with it. 

    SRC: Do you see yourself being a singer-songwriter? Do you want to be in a band, do you want to do more shows?

    CG: I want to do all those things. I think it’s a misconception that you have to do one thing with your life. I love writing. I love performing. I did this show and could do more stuff like that. I like doing the artist stuff right now the best. I already have a borderline professional musician thing, with paid gigs and session singing.

    SRC: So what is this benefit you’re doing in California?

    CG: Oh yeah, that’s this weekend! My dad is former Navy, and he is involved with this organization that helps wounded warriors and veterans with PTSD through surf therapy. So they’re having a benefit, and they’re friends with the guy from Third Eye Blind, so I’m technically doing a show with Stephan Jenkins. It’s kind of a crazy month for me. I’m recording an EP, and I’m working on recording the Crystal Skies soundtrack.

    SRC: So is that going to keep you busy all summer?

    CG: All that will have to be put on hold because I’m going to Berklee again. 

    SRC: What’s that all about?

    CG: I’m studying voice and I’ll audition for the songwriting showcase, which I was in last year. But it’s more about meeting people, because the high school students who are going to Berklee now and are serious about music are going to be the ones in the business later. And they’re from all over the world, so it’s not like just going to open mics in DC.

    SRC: Speaking of DC, do you have anything nice to say about SAW?

    CG: SAW’s great! I’ve been to a lot of SAW events; I know a lot of people from SAW. Every city needs an organization like SAW.

    SRC: Is there anything SAW could do better to reach out to a younger crowd?

    CG: I think you need younger people to do the reaching out. I think you have to find out where high schoolers go naturally. At my school there’s a songwriting club that was started by a history teacher. So there is interest out there. And open mics are important for them.

    SRC: Are you getting a lot of people saying “you know you can’t make a career out of music”?

    CG: No. People haven’t given me too much of a hard time about it.

    SRC: I think that’s a sign.

  • 04/10/2018 9:34 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    The SAW AV Club has not forgotten about those of you who signed up for video shoots a few months ago. It’s taken longer than expected to organize this project, but we’re almost ready to start booking recording sessions.

    We are working to line up venues in Maryland, Northern Virginia and DC and will be contacting those who’ve already submitted requests to arrange a schedule. In the meantime, we welcome suggestions for small, quiet rooms that can accommodate bands and solo artists on weeknights or weekend days.

    SAW is offering this service for members because we believe videos are the best way – other than performing in person – to introduce yourself to new fans and bookers locally and nationally. The better the video looks and sounds, the better impression you make. Instead of your friend’s shaky iPhone footage shot from the back of a murky club, we want you to have professionally recorded, multi-camera HD videos for an affordable price.

    The AV Club has spent the last few months testing a system that lets us do live switching of video from four or more cameras, plus additional audio feeds, for recording and/or online streaming. We worked out the kinks while livestreaming the MASC Awards from Jammin Java in January and the SAW Showcase featuring Scott Thorn from the Epicure Café last month. Here are some examples from the MASC show by Director’s Award winner Heather Aubrey Lloyd, Gold Award winner Laura Baron, and Silver Award winner Susan Rowe with Tiffany Shanta. These were done early in our testing, so the videos we make now will be even better.   

    Please fill out this form to request a video shoot of you or your band performing two songs. The cost is $100 for individuals and $150 for bands. If you have any questions about the SAW AV club, contact Steve Pendlebury.

  • 02/28/2018 1:12 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    The most painful songwriting I ever did was thanks to a toothbrush.

    Generally, I think of myself as a “craft” songwriter, an academic. Which means I spend a month researching a central idea, create a word bank and then hack into my carefully curated collection with an editing machete. But forget all that … Sometimes you just have to get something out, even though you don’t want to do it, even though you’ll feel better afterward. Writing autobiographical songs is a lot like throwing up. And if you make a living from your songs, it’s a lot like hanging your vomit in a gallery and hoping the critics appreciate the color composition of the carrots and corn.

    A fan once told me sad songs appeal to everyone because, though there are happy people, even the happiest person among us has been sad. That weepy playlist is an answer to our pain-drenched need: Tell me I am not alone. As listeners, they are our first map out of despair. As writers, they are a way to process and distribute the pain onto a community of shoulders, who ease the burden and witness our trauma. Until, one day, it’s just a song.

    It took months for me to trash his abandoned toothbrush. Then, still months later nursing my heartbreak, I walked into my bathroom to find a guest’s toothbrush sitting on the sink. Such a painful, simple symbol of all the company and intimacy that had been missing.

    I wanted somebody’s toothbrush
    On the sink next to mine
    I left yours there
    A long time

    Figuring out what is really bothering you brings you back to the craft of songwriting. How do I solidify all these emotions into the elevator pitch of my pain? What did all these symbols mean to me? Do I want another relationship? Do I want the one I had back? No, none of that was it. In fact, it was all summed up more accurately by: “I don’t know what I want.”

    Now there’s a universal feeling I could build on. Don’t we always want … something? It’s kind of terrifying. And I also thought … maybe I hadn’t heard that break-up song before.

    You broke my heart and my favorite dream
    Now I can’t promise anyone anything
    I used to want so much … now I don’t …
    I don’t know what I want …
    I don’t know what I want …

    That visceral gut reaction can be honed, edited, processed once it’s out of you and onto paper, at a more objective distance. I handwrite all my lyrics, and when I finally think I’ve done all the writing I’m going to do (whether I plan to use it all or not), I type them and treat them from there on out as an editor. In journalism they taught us: it’s easier to kill your babies when they are not staring back at you with your own hand. It was obvious some of it was dead weight. I was still too close to it to see what, so I asked another songwriter to look at it. He suggested eliminating a verse and a heavy-handed closing line about just “wanting to be happy.” It made the ending of the song a fragment, even more unresolved and even more in keeping with the theme of uncertainty. I could begin to appreciate it as art. It was one step further removed from me, becoming “the song” instead of “the pain.”

    For “I Don’t Know What I Want,” off my 2017 CD, “A Message in the Mess,” I used suspended, unresolved chords for obvious reasons – I, too, was in a state of suspension. I also wanted this thing to sound like the last dance at the prom. The end of the movie soundtrack. We got that feel with a gentle, driving percussion and a Leslie on the electric guitar. And I recorded vocal take after take, working to capture a vulnerability I don’t always get out of my famously big voice. I prevented the mixing engineer from pitch correcting two blue notes. I put the pain, removed as I got deeper into the editing process, back into the performance.

    The song ends on borrowed line from one of my best songwriting tools: the Eavesdropping Notebook. For years on tour, I’ve kept an ear out for the most unintentionally profound bits of wisdom and the human condition, caught in coffeeshops or side conversations. I collect them and save them for my songs. The rule is: I have to use them out of their original context. I feel like this keeps your writing fresh and gets you out of engrained patterns of  language. In this case, a visual artist friend, Amy Law, actually said it about her cat, falling off a table: “She hasn’t ever been graceful, but she recovers well.”

    Hopefully, I thought … so do I.

    It’s proven that people who share their pain suffer less and are healthier. And sometimes just talking about it isn’t enough. Sometimes it requires surgery. So too is it with our heartbreak songs. And here’s one way to look at it: Once you can stop judging an experience as bad … it’s all just good material. 

     (excerpted/edited from Heather’s 11-episode songwriting podcast series, available for free at her website: http://www.heatheraubreylloyd.com. “I Don’t Know What I Want” and the rest of “A Message in the Mess” is also available there, as well as Spotify and iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/a-message-in-the-mess/1210573590)

  • 02/01/2018 4:18 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Crys Matthews is one of the most exciting things to happen to local music recently. She was the grand prize winner for this year’s New Song contest, performing at Lincoln Center in NYC, won several MASC awards, and recently performed at the Sundance Film Festival. And she’s been winning the hearts of listeners locally and regionally. We asked Crys if she would be willing to share the story behind one of her songs with SAW members: 

    “Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers” has been very good to me this past year, so I thought it would be nice to share a bit of the story behind it.

    It was inspired by six very specific muses — my mom, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Rita Mae Brown, Julia Ward Howe, and Eva Cassidy (via Curtis Mayfield.)

    After the outcome of the 2016 election, I was floored. I am an out, black, lesbian woman living in the south. I was terrified, which made me angry. My mom reminded me that she has seen many presidents come and go in her lifetime and is still standing. Love and faith guide her and that, she reminded me, should guide me. 

    "An army of lovers shall not fail" is a Rita Mae Brown quote that has come to mean a great deal to me. It's really just an amazingly beautiful sentiment that doesn't really need much context beyond that. 

    "When they go low, we go high" — as was famously spoken by former First Lady Michelle Obama — was my mantra going in to 2017 and will be something I will try every day to embody during the next four years. 

    Nelson Mandela very eloquently said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

    The meaning of the 1965 song “People Get Ready” (written by Curtis Mayfield) was amplified by the climate in America during the civil rights movement. Eva Cassidy's cover of it has always resonated with me.

    And last, but not least, which leads me to the title of the song... Julia Ward Howe is the woman who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (aka “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”). Later she was a suffragette. She wrote, "let us live to make men free". 

    I thought if these few principles could guide our government and our citizens we might all make it to 2020 in one piece (and maybe even in peace). And so, out of those ideas, “Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers” was born.

    Visit Crys’s website and see her at the Pearl Street Warehouse on March 10.

  • 12/28/2017 2:12 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
    Ok, so you have survived the holidays, (so far) and are bracing for the new year.  Work, family,friends, loved ones all require your attention. So does songwriting, the loneliest struggle for mass attention ever invented.

    So where do I get off trying to tell you to volunteer?  For SAW? With other songwriters?

    There is a not so secret truth about songwriters. We are, put kindly, a solitary lot.  The best of us are often painfully shy and self-absorbed. It helps to whittle your way to the whip smart words if you have a rich interior life. Hyper social loners are a tough breed to herd and very hard but fun group to know.

    But there are stories, meaning and self-knowledge to be found in the simple act of volunteering. Ask anyone who does. To help run a show, to arrange a song circle,to serve a meal at SAW serves (Sat Jan 13th in Reston we serve dinner and sing…read about it here) to write with another songwriter, fundraise for SAW. To just show up at an open mic, toolbox or other event and participate well. All these things make you better at being a songwriter and understanding how to reach people with your words and music.

    Our goal for this year is to do more for, be more useful to and learn better from….you. Each of you collectively and individually have things to share and give.  More than you know. Less than your fear. SAW needs you to be a working part of things. And SAW plans on being a better part of your process, access and insight.

    So make this the year you give more than you take. Help SAW become the volunteer powerhouse that brings light and attention to the idea of songwriters, the reality of creativity in our midst as a way to make ourselves and our creative work…better.

    To find out how to volunteer and where, write to president@saw.org.
  • 12/20/2017 9:59 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
     Every songwriter has a different process for translating ideas into songs. In my case, I approach a song the way a director or a screen writer might approach a movie. Like a movie, I see my songs as vehicles to tell stories, and like all stories there should be a main character and a conflict to be resolved. As a songwriter, the challenge is to do in 4 minutes what a movie director does in 2 hours: to set the scene, develop the characters, and resolve the story…all while using words that rhyme. When I work in this mode, I use the first verse like a movie’s “establishing shot” by describing the setting as vividly as possible. For example, my song Fais Do Do (A Cajun Lullaby) opens with the lines: “An old shotgun cabin sits on concrete blocks where the cypress trees are thick with Spanish moss, and the black bayou water shines in the bright Cajun moon…” My goal with the first verse is to have the listener “feel” the setting versus simply having them follow the storyline.

    As far as subject matter, I tend to gravitate toward ideas or phrases that I think I can make a compelling story. I try to write about subjects I am passionate about—ones that will touch people’s emotions in a meaningful way. From a technique standpoint, I’m trying more these days to use single line “hooks” at the end of verses rather than writing long, drawn out choruses. I’ve become a big believer in brevity in songwriting—as such, I work very hard fine tuning my lyrics to say what I want to say in as few words as possible. The “less is more” approach creates “space” in the song and allows the listener to better process the lyrics. Finally, interaction with other songwriters is crucial to my creative processes. As such, I’m incredibly thankful to be member of SAW. Whether I’m teaching a Toolbox session, playing at a SAW showcase, or listening to my fellow SAW members perform, I always learn something from my peers that helps me mature and grow as a songwriter.   

    For more info about Mike Ryan, visit his website or facebook page.

  • 12/13/2017 12:01 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    StreamCatcher the sequel: At SAW, we are always looking for ways to give you the tools you need to promote your songs. And for selling yourself to venues, there is no better tool than great video.

    The all-new SAW AV Club, headed by Steve Pendlebury and Jay Keating, is offering to help you take your visual presentation layer to the next level with a high quality, switched camera shoot. We will provide the place, the sound, the lights and cameras, and video your live performance of two songs.  Musicians will get a finished copy for streaming, showcasing or auditioning purposes that belongs to them for only $100 (plus $50 extra for bands, generally).

    Sign up HERE to be guaranteed one of the early slots.  It’s first come first serve so reserve your space for no money down.

    If you know someone who loves music who would like to be part of our AV Club (sound, lights, camera, switching) tell them to write to president@saw.org.

  • 11/22/2017 9:08 AM | Jay Keating (Administrator)

    The first time I listened to Gaelynn Lea, it was with my eyes closed. I was letting videos cycle on the computer while I took a break and noticed this unique sound coming out of my speakers. A violin that seemed different. A voice unique, emotional and affecting. And the words struck me, “Our love’s a complex vintage wine, all rotted leaves and lemon rinds…”.  The effect on me was a mournful joy that Celtic music seems to convey so effortlessly.

    When I turned to the screen, I was greeted by the image of this amazing woman playing violin like a cello. The winner of NPR Tiny Desk Concert 2016 was the You Tube headline. She was small and in a wheelchair and I would be lying if I said that didn’t affect me. I watched with equal measures of respect and curiosity. She finished her song and began to talk. Her presence, the solid joy and confidence in her voice taught me some silent lessons that I am still trying to fathom. Her music, her infectious upbeat grateful presence. The way she sang with her eyes closed and her head lifted.  I became a fan. 

    Then I forgot about her until SAW luminary Michael Roth brought her to my attention.  Could SAW’s new president help her find a gig?  I jumped at the chance and she graciously agreed to do a SAW Serves fundraiser where we split the money. The concert we put together was a frenetic jumble of tasks, decisions, negotiations and deadlines. Some great folks in SAW and at Bethesda United Methodist Church did a lot of the heavy lifting to make things happen. I was my usual frenetic nervous wreck until that moment when she started to play for the small crowd we assembled.

    It happened again. Her music, her words, her presence all conspired to make me listen, let go, relax and as she says in one of her new pieces, just breathe. It was the best beginning to a thanksgiving Week I have had in a while. If you missed it, we will post a video or two but know that the 50 or so folks who were there were the lucky ones. Bob Boilen of NPR’s All Songs Considered came and stayed for the show and afterwards.  He thanked SAW for finding her a place to play.  

    Songwriters come from every and all places. And in that crowd, Gaelynn Lea sticks out for me. As Ron Goad opined, “More talent per pound than any other performer!” Thanksgiving can be a stress eating jumble of a holiday. This Thanksgiving I am better aware of my own gratitude and will hold that closely if I get into any political arguments with Uncle Ned.

    SAW will have her back again in May.  I would encourage you to find the time to see her then

Songwriters' Association of Washington is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


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