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SAW Notes

  • 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

  • 11/02/2017 6:09 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    SAW is partnering with the City of Gaithersburg and Domenic Cicala to present a music business workshop with Charlie Faye & Concert with her group, Charlie Faye & the Fayettes on November 18.

    Charlie Faye is known for having an innovative way of doing things. She put herself on the map back in 2010 when she did a 10-month residency tour living in a different city each month, putting together a new band of local musicians, and recording a new song in each city. Charlie Faye & The Fayettes
    (YouTube video) has garnered major media attention and critical praise, rising into the top 20 on the Americana Radio Chart and getting songs placed in major network television shows. 

    Charlie often does consulting for other independent artists, using her knowledge to help other musicians get their projects off the ground. She works with newbies who are releasing a record for the first time, and experienced artists who have been in the business for decades. Charlie will answer questions about recording and releasing an album, marketing, publicity, radio promo, sync licensing, self-management, and efficient touring, among other topics. 

    SAW president, Jay Keating will interview Charlie as part of this workshop. There will be a Q&A session following the interview, and participants. Sign up for both the workshop and concert and receive a 20% discount (use code "SAW20" to get the discount). See Facebook event.

  • 11/02/2017 6:07 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
    Last week, students at Magruder (Gaithersburg, MD) and Centreville (VA) High Schools were treated to a special presentation (sponsored by SAW and Focus Music) from Rick Udler, an amazing Brazilian guitarist who played several other local gigs while he was in town. Rick shared some of his music to packed rooms and answered questions about his experience as a musician and songwriter. Thanks to Ron Goad and Jay Keating for setting up this great outreach program, and to Ron, who also acted as Rick’s agent, host, chauffeur, and percussionist during his visit. 
  • 10/20/2017 12:15 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    2016 NPR Tiny Desk Contest Winner, Gaelynn Lea, is a unique and transformative folk musician. Steeped in a Celtic sensibility, she creates a world of music like no other. Along with Dave Mehling she will perform a concert in support of SAW Serves & in partnership with Focus Music (focusmusic.org) on Monday, November 20 at Bethesda United Methodist Church. See Gaelynn Lea's website and watch her performance for the Tiny Desk Concert here.

    Tickets are $15 advance; $18 at the door. Purchase tickets here.

  • 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, Jay@know1else.com. Feel free to contact him with any questions or to get involved.

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


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