Music feature Matt Gerber was a delight. Accompanying himself on ukulele, tin can ukulele, kazoo he channeled the fun and politics of Pete Seeger, Jim Kweskin – made the 60’s folk style fresh for this decade. His spelling song about the difference between US & Canadian spelling was hilarious ‘there is no flavour without u.’ Even if he is Mr Furious he brought us a set of bright summer-perfect music.

SongStudio 2014′s Bumper Crop

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I remember once hearing Robbie Robertson saying of his hometown, Toronto, that music just seems to be in the air and come from the city's pores. I happen to agree with him. But it doesn't happen by accident. Being a songwriter or a musician – especially in Canada – can be a discouraging vocation. There are only so many people who make it and the competition is pretty tough for what may seem like a big audience in the big city but a surprisingly small one when you look at the whole country scattered across all that territory. Imagine having to build your audience by touring across it. You'd better have something very special to offer. Of course, it's exceedingly rare that someone emerges from nowhere fully formed as a songwriter. It's a craft and there's a lot to be learned and a lot that can be taught to help hone native inborn talent. And unless you have people and institutions that support developing artists and help nurture those talents, you're going to nip your music scene in the bud pretty quickly. SongStudio is a collective of amazing Toronto songwriters, musicians and music biz pros who provide that nourishing environment that helps up and coming talent to blossom. And for the past few years I've been very proud that SongStudio founders Bill McKetrick and Blair Packham have asked me to make Voyageur available to participants in the program at the performance showcase at Hugh's Room that is the culmination of a very intense week of songwriting, critiquing, insight, instruction and collaboration. I was honoured to be asked again this year and I have to say that it was a stellar year for songwriting talent among some new faces and some returning students.

 

One of the things that I think provides the biggest encouragement to the participants – no matter how developed they are as songwriters or how polished any given song might be – is that they are all backed up by the most amazing band of musicians and mentors. I can just imagine what it must be like to have a song that you've put a lot of effort into as a budding songwriter and you've got master writer/arranger/producer Allister Bradley doing piano and keyboard accompaniments, League of Rock mastermind Topher Stott on drums and Steve Goldberger on bass effortlessly handling whatever groove you want them to create, and legendary guitar hero Rik Emmett comping your song and stepping up with a tasty solo with a nod from you. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't feel supported and capable and encouraged with that kind of established talent ready to give their best to what might be your second draught of ten?

 

And that's just one reason why I'm glad to take part in these showcase events. Bill thought it would be nice – while some of these songwriters are stepping on the public stage for the first time – to give everyone the opportunity to include a cameo turn with Canada's most storied guitar as part of the experience. Not everyone on the bill uses that opportunity: some play piano or keyboards, some play electric, some need the comfort of their own guitars... and all that is just fine. But I was thrilled this year that so many of the participants took advantage of Voyageur's availability – from first-timers to returning participants to guest faculty members taking a turn at the mic: first up was Elena Hudgins Lyle; next up was Matt Hersack (and my apologies to Matt as somehow the iMix wheels at the top of the sound hole got changed after Elena's performance and the guitar sounded a bit quiet and brittle for him – we can try again, Matt!); Jordan Smith (pictured) who really has an extraordinary voice and a really unique songwriting style that was a bit of a highlight for me; Spoons founder and SongStudio instructor Gordon Deppe who gave me a real thrill by using Voyageur for a rendition of his '80s hit "Romantic Traffic"; SongStudio returnee Matt Gerber with a new song, "Caledonia" (which managed to finally displace his uber-catchy "Mr. Furious" that he performed at last year's showcase...until he reprised it for the show finale and stuck it right back in my head. DAMN YOU MATT GERBER!!!!!); Brian Volke with Sherry Jacoby with a new co-write; Steve Postill, who gave Voyageur its most rigorous workout complete with rock-ready vocals and accompaniment from Darren Akai; young Sean Bertram who proved a very capable chip off the songwriting block accompanied on keys by his dad, Allister Bradley on a Brazilian-inflected gem; and the final act on the bill, Manny Manolo, who did an evocative song in remembrance of his father – complete with synchronized dance moves from Rik Emmett!

 

There were lots of other great performances that didn't use Voyageur and taken all together it was probably the strongest collection of songwriting talent I've seen over the course of my association with SongStudio. Whether you're a budding bedroom songwriter or a more seasoned talent, the reviews for this program attended by folks from around the world are phenomenal and I can't think of a better way to take your songs to the next level. Follow the SongStudio link to find out about next year's session.

 

Thanks as always to Bill McKetrick, Blair Packham and the folks at Hugh's Room. - See more at: http://www.sixstringnation.com/?p=2170783#sthash.GaunDTFA.dpuf

Link to CBC Radio Artists Page

http://music.cbc.ca/#/artists/Matt-Gerber