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Your SummerSongs Questions, Answered

It was August of 2003 when I showed up at songwriting “camp” for the first time. A good friend had been talking about SummerSongs for months — the classes, the teachers, the community, the beautiful location  — and it sounded just up my alley after months of dealing with a divorce and sitting home alone writing sad songs. It was one of the best decisions I ever made: Over the next year, I wrote dozens of new tunes, debuted a new album and never looked back. And, I’ve been to SummerSongs, many, many times since, both in New York and California. I literally have hundreds of friends and comrades from around the US and the globe through

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Songwriting Tips: The Evocative Power of Melody

  Want to improve your songwriting in 2017? Start by creating great melodies that support your song! That’s what SummerSongs founder Penny Nichols can help you do this year at WinterSongs West (January 26-30) in Cambria, CA in her brand-new workshop, the Evocative Power of Melody. We asked Penny about that and more: Q: Can you talk about your new workshop, the Evocative Power of Melody? Penny: We hear so many songs these days and the melodies are mostly groove melodies which are great if you want to dance but the may not support the emotional landscape of a story song all that well.  So we will be looking at how a melody enhances and can

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Jeff Berkley & Calman Hart

Berkley Hart have found something that works. The combination of Kerrville New Folk Songwriter Award winner, Jeff Berkley, and stand-out wordsmith, Calman Hart, creates a pairing that has become one of the premier acoustic duos touring the country. Every Berkley Hart show is packed with entertainment as the duo combines their natural down-home humor with poignant, delicate, masterfully crafted lyrics delivered with stunning harmony and musicianship. Between songs, the obvious camaraderie between these two top songwriters shines as they effortlessly play off each other in what can only be called genuine comedy. Add in virtuoso playing from both Jeff Berkley (guitar) and Calman Hart (guitar, harmonica) and it’s easy to see why the two have

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Mining the Gold Within: WinterSongs’ Susan Marie Reeves

WinterSongs and SummerSongs are all about encouraging the creative soul within us to be free! So, we’re thrilled that multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Susan Marie Reeves will be part of our teaching staff at WinterSongs this year in beautiful Cambria, California (January 26-30, 2017)! She’ll lead a songwriting class on mining those beautiful gold nuggets of writing creativity; and also teaching a harmony singing class with her musical partner Rebecca Troon. Susan has some serious bonafides as a songwriter and performer: She won the Silverton Jubilee and the Kauai Music Festival songwriting contests. She toured for 6 years with her bluegrass band, Wild Sage, playing Telluride & Strawberry music festivals. She tours with her daughter, Sierra Reeves, and also

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Jump-start your creative ideas: A Q&A with Brooks Williams

We’re so excited that the amazing guitarist, songwriter and teacher Brooks Williams is joining us at WinterSongs West 2017, January 26-30! Brooks has worked stages worldwide for over twenty-five years, touring constantly in the US, UK and Europe from his current home in England. Over the course of his career Brooks has amassed a staggering back-catalogue of songs, recordings and tales. His massive repertoire spans classic roots and blues, compelling covers (from the likes of Dave Alvin, Mose Allison and Kris Kristofferson), and his own songs, which are rooted in blues and old country but are thoroughly alive with clearly-drawn ironic characters and rich blues pathos. Here’s what he had to say about his classes and his background!

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Sharpen Your Songwriting Tools: Q&A with Jud Caswell

Jud Caswell, an award singer-songwriter from Brunswick, Maine, is returning to teach at SummerSongs East this year! We’re so excited to have him back! He’ll be teaching two classes: The first, is “Sharpening Your Tools: Whole Brain Songwriting,” focused on taking your craft to the next level. The next is a class focused on workshopping your new song and getting feedback. Q: How did you get your start as a songwriter? What was your jumping-off point? A: I fell in love with songwriting as a freshman in college. It was the first time I had ever been around people my age who wrote songs, and it blew me away. Everyone was learning how to play

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Get ready to record at camp! A Q&A with engineer Mark Dann

[Editor’s note: Ed Tree will offer recording sessions at WinterSongs West in 2017. Mark will be there sharing in other great areas: 1. Bass Accompaniment; 2. Basic Guitar Setup; and 3. Basic Chart Writing.] Got a song you want to record, either as a quick demo towards a bigger future production or as an example of your art to last forever? Want to learn how to do great recordings in your own home on GarageBand? You can do all this at WinterSongs! Recording engineer Mark Dann, one of SummerSongs’ most popular and long-time teachers, will be at WinterSongs in Cambria, California this year, recording demos for students who sign up for a session and sharing his best GarageBand

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Songwriting Made Easy: A Q&A with Jana Stanfield

SummerSongs West (June 3-7 in Cambria, California) is chock-full of amazing songwriting teachers this year! We’re thrilled to have Jana Stanfield joining us this time around. Jana is a multi-platinum songwriter whose compositions have sold millions of copies for other artists, have been used on radio, television, and movies, and have won many awards. As a recording artist, she’s sold over a quarter of a million CDs worldwide on her own label, Relatively Famous Records. She’ll be teaching two classes at SummerSongs West: One, called “Keep it Simple,” is all about getting back to basics and making your songwriting process as seamless as possible. The other one hones in on “ear worms” — how to write

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Playing Well with Others: SummerSongs’ Nathen Aswell

Part of becoming a better songwriter and musician is making great music with others — SummerSongs West (June 3-7 in Cambria, CA) is thrilled to welcome Nathan Aswell to our teaching roster this year, where he’ll be teaching a class called “Play Well with Others” and another “Chart Writing 101.” Both classes will get you playing with other musicians easily and joyfully in no time! Here’s what Nathen has to say about his SummerSongs West classes: Q: Why do you think it is important for musicians and songwriters to learn how to play together as opposed to just being a solo artist? A: Whether a musician and/or songwriter is a solo artist, part of a band,

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The Power of Song: Q&A with Johnsmith

For the past thirty-plus years, Johnsmith has been sharing his music all across America and abroad. He has become a favorite at festivals, clubs, and house concerts alike. In addition to being a Kerrville New Folk Winner, Johnsmith has released seven solo albums to rave reviews, leads musical tours to Ireland, teaches songwriting, and has served as a staff songwriter in Nashville. Fresh off teaching at SummerSongs West last June and at David Roth’s Cape Cod Songwriting Retreat in January, John will be teaching two classes at SummerSongs East, July 23-29: one on performance, called “Singing Through the Fear,” and one on songwriting, called “What’s in Your Songwriting Toolbox” —which explores everything in the songwriting craft from

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