Manitoba Music Grows Creative Connections with Online Songwriter Challenge

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Shad K
Samantha Crain
Ron Lopata
Nikhil Seetharam
Kim Temple
Donovan Woods
Cheryl Link
Brian West
Adele Ho
Brandon Post
Brendan Kinley (Super Duty Tough Work)
Cassidy Mann
Lana Winterhalt
Lindsay Rae
Matthew Monias (Mattmac)
Rusty Matyas
Sebastian Gaskin
Sierra Noble
Tyler Del Pino

Canadian Songwriter Challenge Offers Career-Building Opportunities via Music Industry Mentorship

Manitoba Music is gearing up for a new edition in its songwriter development series with the help of a Bell Media national songwriting initiative. Running throughout July and August, the Manitoba edition of the Canadian Songwriter Challenge will include creative mentorship and songwriter development to strengthen skills and opportunities for a career in songwriting, composition, and production.

This year’s session brings together creatives spanning folk and roots, indie rock, hip hop, R&B, pop, and more. Participants include Brandon Post, Brendan Kinley (Super Duty Tough Work), Cassidy Mann, Lana Winterhalt, Lindsay Rae, Matthew Monias (Mattmac), Sebastian GaskinSierra Noble with Rusty Matyas, and Tyler Del Pino.

The songwriters will work one-on-one with mentors in songwriting, production, publishing, radio, music supervision, and A&R, including Supergroup Sonic Branding Co.’s Adèle Ho, producer Brian West, peermusic’s Cheryl Link, singer/songwriter Donovan Woods, Kim Temple of High Priestess Publishing/Six Shooter Records, composer/producer Nikhil Seetharam, Warner Music Canada’s Ron Lopata, singer/songwriter and producer Samantha Crain, and hip hop artist and radio broadcaster Shad K.

Writers will participate in three songwriting challenges, each providing a different creative brief. At the end of all three challenges, writers of the top three songs will receive a cash contribution towards creative development activities like studio time or a writing trip.

Earlier songwriter challenges have come in the form of multi-day co-writing retreats which simply aren't possible due to COVID-19. While the situation placed road blocks in the way of traditional programming, it has also offered the chance to think of creative approaches and offer connections with mentors from across Canada and the U.S. 

This iteration of the Summer Songwriter Retreat is part of a national project, dubbed the Canadian Songwriter Challenge. A multi-year partnership between the Canadian Council of Music Industry Associations (CCMIA) and Bell Media, CCMIA's member music industry associations will be organizing songwriter-focused events across the country this summer.


Adèle Ho is a Music Supervisor with Supergroup Sonic Branding Co., a full music supervision company working in film, TV, ads and branding located in Toronto and Los Angeles. Adèle  began her music supervision career by interning at Neophonic Music & Media with Evyen Klean and PJ Bloom, followed by four years working with Joel C. High at creative control. Adèle has also worked as talent coordinator for the Guild of Music Supervisor Awards, the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles Grammy Party as well as Canada House at SXSW and Supergroup Secret Sessions in LA working with artists such as Andra Day, Kenny Loggins, Son Little, Meghan Trainor, Aurora, Jacob Banks and Andy Shauf to name a few. Credits Include: Yellow Rose (Sony Pictures),  Utopia Falls (Hulu), JT LeRoy (Universal Pictures), G-Funk (YouTube Premium), Tyler Perry's Acrimony (Lionsgate), 1999- Wish You Were Here (Telefilm Canada), Honey: Rise Up And Dance (Universal Pictures), Dean (CBS Films) and more. Adèle is a proud member of the Guild of Music Supervisors and Women in Film.

The Grammy Award winning Music Producer Brian West first gained notoriety in 2001 when he took the Pop music world by storm with the "I'm Like a Bird" song by Nelly Furtado. In 2010 he received the Latin Grammy for "Mi Plan" and the 55th Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance for Maroon 5 Overexposed Album song "Man Who Never Lied". The list of artists West has worked with reads like a passport of the musical landscape. Spanning nearly 20 years and beginning with Nelly Furtado, Steve Perry, Rachel Platten, Andy Grammer, Sia, AWOLNATION, K'NAAN, Alexander Jean, Savage Garden, Maroon Five and the Arkells. He wrote “Desperation” for L.A. songstress Judith Hill (of Michael Jackson’s This Is It), featured in the Spike Lee movie, Red Hook Summer and Twenty Feet from Stardom.  Brian West, a member of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada has received the SOCAN award for his number one hit songs "Try", "Powerless" and "Forca" by artist Nelly Furtado, "Take a Minute"by K'NAAN, and was recently awarded for "Private School" by the Arkells. Brian West has received seven Juno awards throughout his career. It all began with his band the Philosopher Kings prior to the Pop sensation Nelly Furtado and Somalian rapper K'NAAN.

Cheryl Link has worked administratively and creatively in almost every aspect of the music business for more than 23 years. Beginning at FACTOR, and then holding positions at Page Music (music label/distributor), Lacquer Channel (music mastering), BMG Music Publishing, and Casablanca Media, she moved to peermusic in 2005. Cheryl has actively worked to promote the careers of songwriters and artists for her entire professional life. She’s also held positions on the Board of Directors of NDN Talent Collective (bridging the gap between the Indigenous arts community and the mainstream industry), The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, CARAS, and on the Programming Committee at the Canadian Music Publishers Association.

Donovan Woods was raised in the small city of Sarnia, Ontario, to the sounds of country music, with a healthy dose of folk and pop. While the award-winning singer-songwriter has been amassing a catalogue of rousing and well-received music of his own, he has become an in-demand songwriter across folk and country music, nimble enough to collaborate with both vanguard artists (Tim McGraw, Lori McKenna) and rising ones (Tenille Townes, Katie Pruitt) To date, his work has been recorded by McGraw (“Portland, Maine”), Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley (“Leaving Nashville”) and Billy Currington (“Sweet Love”), while racking up over 200 million streams.

Kim Temple is Head of Licensing & Publishing at Six Shooter Records, and President of High Priestess Publishing. She is also Senior Manager of Member & Industry Relations at Music Publishers Canada, and was recently appointed to the City of Toronto’s Music Advisory Committee. Kim is a Juno-nominated drummer with over 20 years of experience managing royalties for film & TV score copyrights, and advocating for fair compensation for artists. Label roster: The Dead South, Tanya Tagaq, Whitehorse, Zaki Ibrahim, Riit, The Deep Dark Woods, The Wet Secrets, Elliott Brood / High Priestess Publishing roster: Zaki Ibrahim, Witch Prophet, James Baley, Sun Sun, Lyle Bell

Nikhil Seetharam is a multi-platinum Grammy winning Canadian composer and producer. He has sold over 8 million singles thus far in his career. Nikhil is recognized for his work with six Grammy nominations and one Grammy award, seven SESAC Inspiration awards and four SOCAN awards. Nikhil scores orchestral music for films, trailers and video-games. He composed the score for ‘Utopia Falls’, a Hulu Original show. His film credits include the feature-film 'Searching for Angels' (starring Vivica Fox), the international Bollywood-film 'Idu Namma Alu', and several short films including 'Sinner' and 'Every Door Every Floor'. Several of his tracks have been used on major television-network programs such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show.

Ron Lopata has been the VP of A&R at Warner Music Canada for 9 years. He’s in charge of overseeing the A&R department, finding and developing new artists, as well as maintaining and evolving the existing roster. This includes being a direct point of contact with artists and ensuring proper creative direction of the music/vision including music production, visuals, branding, business, live shows, etc. Ron is responsible for signing several artists with domestic and global success including Platinum & Gold record certified sales, Juno & CCMA awards, and large fan-bases across the touring market. Artists he’s signed to Warner include Scott Helman, Brett Kissel, Meghan Patrick, Washboard Union, Carys, 6ixbuzz, LB SPIFFY, and many more. Ron has also produced and/or co-written several hits for radio with a number of different artists as well as composed music for TV in Canada, the US, and worldwide. At Warner, Ron collaborated on the writing side in several Gold & Platinum singles. As a member of 3-time-Juno winning RNB/soul band JACKSOUL (BMG) for 12 years, he toured several times across North America, highlighted by nationwide tours with greats such as James Brown and Al Green. Prior to working at Warner, Ron was an artist developer and had a hand in signing artists to Canadian and American record deals. Some of these artists include Tomi Swick, Lindi Ortega, Alysha Brillinger, and Simon Wilcox.

Samantha Crain is a Choctaw singer, songwriter, poet, producer, and musician from Oklahoma. She is a two-time Native American Music Award winner and winner of an Indigenous Music Award. Her genre spanning discography has been critically acclaimed by media outlets such as Rolling Stone, SPIN, Paste, No Depression, NPR, PRI, The Guardian, NME, Uncut, and others. She has toured extensively over the past 12 years nationally and internationally, presenting ambitious orchestrated shows with a band and intimate folk leaning solo performances. She has toured with First Aid Kit, Neutral Milk Hotel, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Avett Brothers, The Mountain Goats, Brandi Carlile, Langhorne Slim and many other bands and artists. With her new album, A Small Death, she continues her tradition of keeping things close to the heart and the ground by leaning into the fulfillment of affinity with an audience and the satisfaction of a song with a memorable melody and an honest story.

Shad is a Canadian rapper with four solo albums under his belt, one retro pop-rock side-project, a Master’s degree and numerous accolades. On October 26, 2018, he released his highly-anticipated concept album entitled A Short Story About A War. In addition to four of his records being nominated on the Short List of the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, TSOL won the 2011 Rap Recording of the Year at the Juno Awards. Since then, Shad has elevated his practice by emerging as a vital broadcaster. After hosting CBC Radio’s q, he went on to host the Hip-Hop Evolution docuseries, whose 2016 season on HBO Canada earned both a Peabody Award and an International Emmy Award. A Short Story About A War tells the story of a fictional world consumed by war, with various factions and philosophies clashing, and in the middle of it all, one character who doesn’t believe in the power of bullets. The poetic storytelling weaves its way through themes of migration, environment, economics, politics, and most critically, the deepest parts of our spirit. This music was created in collaboration with dozens of musicians and engineers: From genre-less luminaries like Kaytranada, 2oolman of A Tribe Called Red, and Lido Pimienta, to crafty indie rockers Yukon Blonde, and Toronto rap vets Ian Kamau, Eternia, and DJ T Lo. Their contributions bring multiple textures and colours to the singular vision Shad created. In the end, this serious record is a joy to listen to, full as it is of pop craftsmanship that doesn’t turn a blind eye to human nature.


"Brandon Post is a guitarist, songwriter, and singer. His new EP, Good Intentions in the Big Smoke, released October 4, 2019, shows a mature, confident, songwriter and musician. Blending rock, blues, and folk music Post has outdone himself with songs that make you feel every range of emotion in just six tracks. Having previously toured Belarus, Switzerland, Germany, Canada and the United States, he's got experience and the drive to take it to the next level. With a spring/summer tour in the works, some new live footage, some more singles and videos, 2020 is panning out to be a huge year for Post, and we can't wait to see where it will take him.” - Sound, Phrase & Fury Magazine

Golden era taste, current era based. Above the clouds, below surface. Six musicians, one MC. Inspired by the dirty jazz loop sound of 90s east coast hip hop, Super Duty Tough Work are the live incarnation of hip hop culture's quintessential time. Revered for their methodically curated sets, SDTW mixes laid back with high energy, for a satisfaction-guaranteed journey through culture where loops are slayed and jewels are the tools of the trade. Since forming in early 2015, Super Duty Tough Work has quickly established itself as the region’s premier live hip hop outfit. Fronted by Brendan Grey (aka Giant #3 of Sleeping Giants) and backed by a well-curated ensemble of highly skilled local and international musicians, SDTW is a seven-piece powerhouse. Heavily influenced by the jazz-inspired vibe of early ‘90s east coast hip-hop, SDTW mixes live instrumentation with an array of vocal styles, combining laid-back and high-energy into a satisfaction-guaranteed performance for hip hop heads and music lovers alike.

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, twenty two year old singer-songwriter Cassidy Mann makes emotionally driven indie pop music. First emerging as an artist in her early teens, Mann garnered a national audience with her single “Don’t Give Up On Me” reaching number one on NCI FM’s Top 40 Countdown and later being performed on Parliament Hill for Canada Day celebrations in 2015, broadcast live on CBC. Her second independent release found her showcasing at JUNOFest and being nominated for “Aboriginal Recording of the Year” at the Western Canadian Music Awards, spotlighting her as an artist to watch. Following final show dates in support of that album, titled “Blue Skies and Bright Eyes” Mann retreated to begin working on a new sound, honing her songwriting skills and fully delving into the world of pop. The result is her new single “Encore”, a minimalistic pop triumph about the repetitive nature that often comes with ending a toxic relationship.

Lana Winterhalt from Winnipeg, MB, is an indie-pop artist whose sound is influenced by junky breakups, insomnia, and true love, all wrapped up into simple guitar and haunting harmonies in an attempt to make you feel sparkly and weightless. Lana has released 5 projects in the past 5 years, having recently released a full-length studio album “If & When” to streaming platforms everywhere October 12, 2018. Mixing both electronic and organic sounds, “If & When” is rich in new melodies, dreamy lyrics, and powerful vocals. Since her move back to Winnipeg in May of 2017 after a few years in Saskatchewan, Lana has focused on growing her local following. Within this time-frame she has played Culture Days Manitoba, was featured in Manitoba Music’s “New Music Night”, played Rainbow Trout Music Festival in St. Malo, MB, and toured across western Canada for two weeks to promote her latest album “If & When”. Lana has also been featured in many local and national media, press, and radio including Global Winnipeg and CBC Radio 2. Winterhalt's latest project, a holiday album entitled "Diamonds", features 8 tracks-6 of which are original works-to be released December 6, 2019. Lana is currently writing, recording, and self-producing new music set to be released in the spring of 2020. 

Lindsay Rae is a Country Pop artist from Southern Manitoba who has frequented many prairie festival stages such as the Carman Country Fair, Harvest Festival, Altona Sunflower Festival, Plum Fest, and Morden Corn and Apple Festival with the Lindsay Rae Band. Lindsay's fun loving spirit, her love of story-telling and passion for inspiring people resonates through her lyrics and beautiful melodies. In 2015, she was nominated for two Manitoba Country Music Awards, and released her first Country/Pop EP as well as a music video for her song, "Beneath the Stars". Lindsay wrote and recorded the single, 'Love Like Katie' which helps to raise money for the Katie Cares Charity. Lindsay Rae can also be found performing at numerous coffee houses, house concerts and more intimate stages throughout Southern Manitoba as a solo artist.

Producer and recording artist Matthew Monias A.K.A Mattmac has quickly established himself as one to watch on the national music scene in Canada. Monias has taken his melodic pop trap beats and inspiring story across the nation performing with Nelly Furtado at Indigenous Day Live and We Day Canada Day on Parliament Hill in 2017 and keynoting at We Day Winnipeg 2019. Hailing from Garden Hill First Nation, Manitoba Monias has been blind from birth. He grew up surrounded by music both on the radio and singing in his community’s gospel choir. Monias began to struggle with depression at a young age and credits music for helping him cope. A fully self-taught artist, he first began to make beats and write songs when he was 13 years old, and later taught himself how to play piano and guitar. Monias also has impressive skills with beat production software and equipment, and has been self-releasing music since 2009. Monias was first launched into the music scene in 2016 when N’we Jinan, a travelling music studio visited his community and invited him to collaborate with them. Pulling inspiration from his personal story, they created a song and video titled “Help You See” that has since been watched nearly 200,000 times on YouTube and Facebook. Monias has since received a significant amount of press and performance opportunities across the country, including a short documentary done by AMI-TV and a feature on CBC. Monias attributes his success to the support of the Blind & Famous group, a USA based collective of blind music artists who collaborate and connect with one another. In addition to the success he has seen as a performer and producer, Monias has also developed himself as a speaker. In 2017 he was invited to speak at the First Nations School Association of British Columbia on behalf of the N’we Jinan. Currently Mattmac is working on his debut album set for release in 2020. He hopes to continue to use his platform to inspire others to know that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

Sebastian Gaskin released his debut EP Contradictions in May 2019 on his own independent label imprint LieBoy Concepts, and followed up the album with a cross-Canada tour. In 2019, Sebastian has made appearances at established festivals throughout Canada like Festival du Voyageur, Canadian Music Week in Toronto, sākihiwē festival in Winnipeg, Interstellar Rodeo in Edmonton, Harvest Moon Festival, BreakOut West in Whitehorse, and M for Montreal. He performed at APTN’s massive Indigenous Day Live event, and opened for legendary rapper Common at this year's TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. Sebastian also toured Western Canada supporting legendary songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie in fall 2019, and frequently collaborates with DJ/producer Boogey the Beat. He signed with award-winning booking agency Paquin Artists Agency and started working with Winnipeg-based artist management company Mighty Cypress Talent.

Sierra Noble is a well-known singer-songwriter, fiddle player, and philanthropist from Winnipeg, Canada. She released her first album - a traditional Metis fiddle album - at the age of 13, followed by a well received EP "Possibilities" which debuted her talent as a young songwriter. She has performed around the world including as an opening act for Paul McCartney, Kid Rock, and Bon Jovi, and was also a featured performer in the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Her original music has been featured in TV shows such as One Tree Hill, Switched at Birth, and Parenthood, and in films such as CBC's Humboldt: The New Season, 40 Weeks, and Fostering Hope. Sierra's seamless ability to transition from high energy to intimate, Canadiana songwriter to traditional fiddle, leaves everyone in attendance having witnessed something unique and unforgettable.

He may look like your tatted up boy-next-door, but Manitoba’s Tyler Del Pino has always found it a little difficult to fit in. Perhaps it was growing up in different cities across Canada as the son of a constantly relocating police officer. or his tendency to overanalyze and unapologetically reveal his beliefs. Perhaps it's the polarizing effects of obtaining a music degree, then working full-time as a middle school teacher to pay for the obsession of perfecting his craft and articulating his love for the song to the masses - whatever the reason, there is something special that separates Tyler Del Pino from his counterparts. With a ripping guitar and a pure passion for songwriting, Tyler Del Pino’s sound is infused with optimism, a hybrid of alt-folk and Canadiana-pop, blurring the lines and breaking genre moulds, while staying true to the roots of timeless tunes. File him beside Sheryl Crow for his Americana-meets-anti-country attitude, Keith Urban for his polished precision, and Sam Roberts for thoughtful themes from a born and bred Canadian boy. Jam-packed with unforgettable hooks and anthemic sing-alongs, The Great Unknown marked TDP’s solo debut in 2018 earning him an abundance of festival, touring, and performance opportunities throughout North America. His upward climb continues as he removes his teacher hat to reinvent his art, release a collection of tunes, and capture hearts with thought-provoking subjects and rosy melodies. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for this charming, Canadian troubadour.

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