People are naturally curious about the creative process. Songs, and music in general, are a mystifying force impacting and reflecting the human experience to an inexplicable level. A Songwriters Circle offers a unique glimpse into the mind of song, the inspiration and meaning behind it and the craft of artistic expression. For songwriters, it’s about getting some perspective.
“The main reason I go, I think, is to see what inspires other songwriters,” says Angelo Spinazzola. “High status songwriters. And see if I can get inspired by them and get ideas from what they’re saying. And what they’re doing and try to write songs in a different way like on a different level by following some of their rules and mixing some of the rules up like say, something that Bruce (Guthro) said and something that Rita (MacNeil) said I’ll say, ‘oh, that was kinda neat, maybe I can mix the two of those together and I can try this as an idea of songwriting. Inspiration is the main thing and I go for the feeling that I get from some of the performers they make you tingle sometimes, you know, it’s that good.”
The performers on that Sunday afternoon included well known Maritime songwriters Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes, MacNeil, Guthro, and Terry Kelly as well as up and coming and coming writers like Tara MacLean, Julian Austin, Dave Carmichael and Wally MacAulay.
“They’re all so good but they’re all so different, so versatile,” describes Spinazzola, warming up to the subject. “Every performer had their own style. The way they arranged them was magical because everyone had a different style each so different from the person that played before them and that was really refreshing, instead of hearing the same kinda stuff all the way around. It was broken up so much that you had to pay attention, you weren’t focused on anything else you were so focused on the performances. They were all really really strong performances.”
“One of the highlights was Dave Carmichael of the Dave Carmichael Band. He played a tune about his brother who died in an accident. He told the story and he almost broke down when he was telling the story then he played the tune and it was really powerful. And everyone in the audience was like lumps in their throat and nobody said a word. It was very quiet.”
“Tara MacLean was another person who really really blew me away. Yeah. She has what it takes for sure. She’s got this magical voice, and she plays guitar quite well too, but her voice…oh man, it was very very incredible.”
“Julian Austin. I’ve never seen him perform before, but that was a pleasant surprise. I thought he was going to be your average country singer but he put a really neat twist on his tunes. A lot of them were upbeat. He was great. Really strong melodies and good stories and honky tonk kinda country, makes you wanna tap your feet and sing along with him.”
“Ron Hynes…of all the writers who were there, he would be my favourite, just because of the way he plays with his words and throws in something in the middle of the song that you think is so serious, all of a sudden he throws in this line that makes you wonder if you should laugh or is he serious. It’s just his clever way of songwriting. And I’ve always paid attention to that in his tunes. There’s always a neat thing that he has in there that’ll really spin your head for a loop. And you start to listen to the tune more to see if you can pick up on more of these lines. Some are almost like they’re subliminal, hidden in the tune. But sometimes they’re just blatant and they’re right in front of your face and you don’t know whether to laugh or not, you have to look at Ron Hynes in order to see if he has a smile on his face to say o.k., it’s fair to laugh, you know, ‘cause you wouldn’t want to insult him so there’s all kinds of funny little chuckles in the audience.”
Witnessing the songwriter’s expression just increases the impact. “I know how, when I perform, I go into a bit of a trance. And I know when other people are in that trance then they are conveying a powerful message just by the expressions on their face.”
And this is where the songwriters circle offers its richest experience; when the connection between the songwriter and the song is visible, revealed in the atmosphere created by the music itself. “There’s a line in one of Wally’s (MacAulay) songs, a powerful line… I knew it was coming up and was watching and you could see Ron Hynes kind of nod, with his eyes closed, and you could see, just by his look, that he could relate . . . it was really nice to see.” (photo: Murd Smith)