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SAW Notes

  • 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.

  • 10/05/2017 9:41 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    GoodDeedSeats (a national ticketing agency) recently selected the New Deal as one of The 35 Best Folk Music Venues in the U.S. No doubt this honor was made possible thanks to the outstanding monthly open mics (held 1st and 4th Thursdays of the month) run by Paige Powell and Lynn Hollyfield (pictured here), respectively. Many SAW members have performed at this Greenbelt institution over the years, often with the well-balanced Frank Kayser running sound. If you haven't been to the New Deal, you owe it to yourself.

  • 10/03/2017 8:04 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    The Songwriters' Toolbox sessions expand into the District with a monthly time slot on the first Saturday of the month. Please join us at Takoma Park Neighborhood Library on Saturday, November 4, starting at noon. Our Toolbox sessions continue to be very successful and are a great way to connect with your fellow songwriters and get some thoughtful feedback in a respectful, positive environment. Remember to bring copies of your lyrics, as it really helps the discussion. The next Maryland Songwriters' Toolbox is Saturday, Oct 14. The Songwriters' Toolbox sessions are organized by Jay Keating, Feel free to contact him with any questions or to get involved.

  • 09/20/2017 7:58 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    SAW will once again be hosting a late night “guerrilla showcase” at the North East Regional Folk Alliance in Stamford, CT on November 9 -12, 2017. If you are planning on attending the NERFA music conference, and would like a showcase slot, please email Loralyn Coles at

  • 06/28/2017 8:02 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Our annual Community Day (held Saturday June 24) brought songwriters from Frederick to Fredericksburg together for a fabulous day of, about, and for song. Many songs were sung, instruments were played (including the saw!), techniques and critiques were shared, old friends reconnected, new relationships began, and much fun was had. See the SAW facebook page for many more photos (thanks to Jay Keating).

    For anyone that missed Saturday and may be curious about how Community Day's critique sessionswork, Jim Thorne provides a recap:

    First Impressions:  A group of six panelists from various parts of the music business listened to the first 60 seconds of all the original songs submitted by the attendees. There was quite a diverse range of music styles and arrangements, and the panelists reacted by offering helpful suggestions. After the feedback, the song creators identified themselves and offered their own explanations of the recordings.

    Performance Critiques: Three music reviewers from SAW filled out detailed score sheets as they listened to several live performances. The performance categories included things like stage presence, microphone technique and instrument tuning. The audience got to enjoy a showcase of many songs, and the performers collected their score sheets afterward for reference. 

  • 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.

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