A summer of songwriting has yielded some stellar successes for nine emerging songwriters from Manitoba. The multi-genre group has been hard at work for the 2020 edition of the Canadian Songwriter Challenge, a songwriter development series run by Manitoba Music with the help of a Bell Media national songwriter initiative.
This year’s session brought together creatives spanning folk and roots, indie rock, hip hop, R&B, pop, and more. Taking the top spots were Cassidy Mann, Matthew Monias (MattMac), Sebastian Gaskin, and Super Duty Tough Work’s Brendan Kinley.
Running throughout July and August, the Manitoba edition of the Challenge included creative mentorship and songwriter development to strengthen skills and opportunities for a career in songwriting, composition, and production.
The songwriters worked one-on-one with mentors in songwriting, production, publishing, radio, music supervision, and A&R, including State of Sound’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 participated in three songwriting challenges, each with a different creative brief, and were awarded points for their creations. At the end of all three challenges, the writers who accumulated the most points over the course of the summer received a cash contribution towards their creative development.
“This was my favourite creative program I've ever been a part of,” says Mann, who is working on new material in her home studio for a 2021 release. “It challenged me so much as a writer and a producer, motivating me to finish writing and fully demo new songs as well as share what I create on a regular basis. The mentorship aspect was so valuable and I’ve made business and musical connections I never would have otherwise, that I believe will be instrumental throughout my career.”
“The songwriter challenge really opened me up to new forms of songwriting,” says Monias, who is releasing a new video at the end of the month for his latest single, "Paradise", which is currently charting on the Indigenous Music Countdown. “The mentorships sessions provided a lot of valuable information and conversations that I probably wouldn't have had access to, otherwise. It was really cool to connect and hear other Manitoba-based artists as well. I really appreciate the positive feedback on my music and also the constructiveness.”
“The Canadian Songwriting challenge was very eye-opening for me,” says Gaskin, who recently released his latest single and video for “Snakehold” and special merch collab with Friday Knights. “It allowed me to see into the sync side of the music industry and allowed me to expand my abilities, both as a songwriter, and a business person. All of the mentors proved to be extremely helpful in all facets of the challenge.”
“This program really inspired me to think outside the box, and work more outside of my comfort zone. In doing so, I've created more fun, engaging music, something that I hope will be apparent on future releases,” says Kinley, who is doing a live stream broadcast for POP Montreal on September 25 and 27 with Super Duty Tough Work, and an upcoming CBC radio documentary airing on The Doc Project.
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 roadblocks in the way of traditional programming, it also offered the chance to think of creative approaches that offer connections with mentors from across Canada and the U.S.
This iteration of the Summer Songwriter Retreat is part of a multi-year partnership between the Canadian Council of Music Industry Associations (CCMIA) and Bell Media, CCMIA's member music industry associations have been organizing songwriter-focused events across the country this summer.