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October, 2008:

Elvis Costello and Nick Jonas Discuss Songwriting and Crazy Fans

From the recent edition of Rolling Stone:

In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Elvis Costello superfan Nick Jonas sits down with his idol to talk about writing habits and handling fame. “As far as fans go: The only difficult thing is when they go in our house,” says Jonas. “That’s kind of odd for anybody, I think.” Costello sympathizes, as he spent his early days as a pop sensation. “Around 1978, every single we released in England was a hit,” he says. “It was hard to take seriously when it was happening, because I just thought it was so absurd. I was suspicious of the success.” Check out the new issue for more on Costello and Jonas, including what pop records they’ve loved in the last ten years.

Maybe one day I can meet Costello… till then…

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Brandy Alexander, Ron Sexsmith & Feist

John Lennon and Harry Nilsson and a night of Brandy Alexanders in 1974 led to Leslie Feist and Ron Sexsmith co-writing Brandy Alexander some 30 years later… Ah, gotta love your music history and songwriting stories… This is from a recent interview found in the Montreal Gazette:

Ron Sexsmith’s songwriting collaboration with Feist would never have happened if John Lennon and Harry Nilsson hadn’t had way too much to drink at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles in 1974.

The ex-Beatle and his raucous songwriting pal were downing brandy Alexanders that much-documented night, resulting in behaviour that led to their forcible ejection from the club.

When Leslie Feist saw Sexsmith drinking one of those cocktails at a party in Ottawa, she asked what it was. Sexsmith told her the story of the historic Lennon-Nilsson debacle.

“Three days later, I received anemail from her with this lyric in it,” Sexsmith said in a recent telephone interview.

“And I was, like, ‘Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?’ ”

He took it to the piano, and a quick session later, Brandy Alexander had music.

“I’m a Luddite,” Sexsmith said. “I don’t have anything to record on, so I never had a tape of it to give her.

“About a year later, when I was in Los Angeles recording Time Being, I saw that Leslie was playing across town. So I took a cab and I played it for her in her dressing room. She recorded it on to a dictaphone.”

Feist’s hushed, sultry version came out last year on her platinum-selling disc The Reminder. Sexsmith recorded a more upbeat interpretation on his latest album, Exit Strategy of the Soul.

“I had no intention of recording it,” Sexsmith said. “It wasn’t until after I heard her version, which I loved, that I got to thinking that, in my head, I heard it as more of a party song.”

There are significant differences in the lyrics, too.

“They feel, almost, like two different songs,” Sexsmith said.

“But I did stick more faithfully to her original lyrics than she did.”

Here’s to finding your Brandy Alexander somewhere (wherever inspiration finds you), oh, and here’s the recipe:

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 oz dark creme de cacao
1 oz half-and-half
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the brandy, creme de cacao, and half-and-half. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the nutmeg. And May the Muse be with you…

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John Hiatt’s Race Car Garage Studio

John Hiatt has turned his race-car garage into a recording studio. There’s a wonderful article in the Alabama Scene Blog that captures Hiatt’s humour in discussing his recording process and in his friendship with Lyle Lovett:

The great thing about having a recording studio at his house, John Hiatt says, is he gets to work at his own pace. And on his own time.

“You can get up at nine o’clock in the morning and go out in your underwear and fiddle around with the mix that you left up,” the journeyman singer-songwriter says from his home outside Nashville. “It doesn’t matter. It’s your place. I guess the down side is you can get overindulgent, I suppose, but so what?”

Although he’s gotten rid of his race cars, the recording studio has given the 55-year-old Hiatt a new toy to putter around with.

“The one thing that keeps me honest in this particular situation is that my recording medium here is only eight tracks,” he says. “It’s a digital recording machine, so you can do a lot with the eight tracks. You can bounce them around without any loss of sound, but still it’s functionally only an eight-track machine.

“So it’s kind of like old-school recording in a way, where you have to make decisions and combine things early on in the process much like you had to do in the early ’60s. I like that. I like that approach.”

Hiatt’s pretty cool and the Muse is with him…

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James Sherwood – Rules of Songwriting

Enjoy this comedy video by comedian James Sherwood on his “Rules of Songwriting”… From a review:

Sherwood sings a series of brilliant songs, and outlines his “rules of songwriting” by brilliantly spoofing everyone from Paul Simon to Guns ‘N’ Roses. He indulges in some brilliant pedantry concerning David Cameron’s “appalling” use of grammar, and then he goes on to talk about how difficult it is to put hecklers down in song, before giving some brilliant examples of how he might go about it.

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And the winner of the Anthem Challenge is…

Click and have a listen to this bagpiping anthem… May the Muse be with us all for sending in entries to this contest to keep the faith alive… in hockey and in song…

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Hockey Night in Canada Anthem Challenge – Final 2!

Well, the Anthem Challenge to find a new theme song for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada is down to the Final Two selections this morning… No, I’m not one of them (go figure) but you can still here my “hockey song” in my ReverbNation Jukebox on this blog – see We’re In The Game (Hockey Night).

Anywho, the final two are Canadian Gold by Colin Oberst and Sticks to the Ice by Robert Fraser Burke, all of 13 years old. You can vote here if you’re so inclined (today only) and the winner will be announced on tomorrow night’s HNIC telecast…

May the Hockey Muse (?) be with you…

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Let It Be – Beatles Songs By Canada’s Finest

Let It Be is the new production of Beatles songs brought to life by a “crackerjack” Canadian band including singer Damhnait Doyle, Prairie Oyster’s Russell deCarle, Triumph frontman Rik Emmett and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Craig. The show ran twice, once in Toronto and once in Ottawa and now it will be “wait and see” if it will become a full-time production.

Not that Rik Emmett needs the work. Some quotes from an Ottawa Citizen article follow:

Emmett, still best known as the frontman of Canadian hard-rock power trio Triumph, says he was interested as soon as he heard the other artists’ names. “I thought this thing can’t possibly be bad if it’s got Russell’s cool, calm presence,” he said, also describing Doyle as enormously talented.

As for the material, virtually every musician enjoys playing Beatles songs, and Emmett is no exception.

“It’s so great to hear all the Beatles harmonies fleshed out with all these people,” he says. “Of course, we’ve all been in garage bands over the years when we were kids, and done Beatles covers in rehearsal or whatever, but it never sounds any good. But now, every part you want is there and it sounds great.”

For Emmett, the project represents another tasty dish piled onto a plate already jammed with musical endeavours. After Triumph disbanded in 1988, Emmett went on to carve out a career as a solo artist, recording a half dozen or so discs of his own compositions, the styles ranging from jazz to singer-songwriter fare. A father of four children, now grown, the 55-year-old also teaches songwriting at Humber College and is active in the songwriting community.

Emmett is very active in the songwriting community, much to that community’s benefit. May the Muse be with them all… and with the Beatles’ songbook to work with, that shouldn’t be a problem…

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Night Windows = 2008 ECHO Songwriting Prize!

The winner of the 2008 ECHO Songwriting Prize, sponsored by SOCAN, is Night Windows written by Stephen Carroll, John Samson, Greg Smith and Jason Tait and performed by The Weakerthans. Congrats to the band… it’s well-deserved, well-written and performed, and certainly has it’s hooks… May the Muse continue to be with them…

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Local Songwriting Brothers – Blueprint Songs

Jeff and Don Breithaupt are accomplished songwriters who had a selection of their songbook performed this past weekend in Toronto at the Canwest Cabaret Festival. The brothers, who grew up in nearby Mississauga (though originally from Sault Ste. Marie), were featured in this local Mississauga News article:

“We have been blessed to date – and we’ve only been writing songs together for about five years – with an amazing group of interpreters, here and in New York. (They are) singers who are at the very top of the jazz, pop, and theatre worlds,” Jeff told The News. “The greatest thrill for a couple of old-fashioned song pluggers like us is to hear our work interpreted by others.

“In a sense, a song as it exists on paper is just the blueprint for a performance of it,” Don continued. “It’s like the relationship between a script and a live play. A good singer breathes life into a song, literally. Jeff and I have an embarrassment of vocal riches at our disposal and it feels great.”

Jeff writes the lyrics while Don provides the music.

I like the quote about songs being the “blueprint” for the performance… Time to get cracking on “drafting” some plans of my own… May the Muse be with you…

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Music Computer Stolen – Important Works Lost

In Illinois, Lake Forest College’s Department of Music suffered a serious blow when it’s one and only laptop was stolen – read the full article here and a small selection follows:

Associate Professor of Music Donald Meyer, who chairs the department and specializes in use of the studio, called the incident “a devastating loss.” Besides taking away important work by his students and himself, the theft has disrupted his ability to teach Songwriting this semester. Productivity in the class came to a halt, since the stolen computer was the only one students could use to record and compose in the department.

I don’t know… I suffered the same fate once when my laptop was stolen, but I had most of my songs backed up (though not all). It seems to me that some precautions should have been taken – stolen or not, even a hard drive failure could have led to this outcome… but who am I to judge…

May the laptop be returned and may the Muse be with this songwriting program, professor and students…

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