Nashville, Tenn. -- Hello everyone, and welcome to the crazy, hazy, lazy days of you know what! Even in sunny and breezy Toronto, Ontario, recently it suddenly became real hot and muggy. I didn't think I'd have that to contend with in mid-June in T.O., but it was a bit too much like Nashville or Louisville weather. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Rodney Crowell, David Ball, and myself were all in Toronto at the same time. Guess we brought all that southern heat with us. We were there taping a most wonderful radio show called "Today's Country" which is carried on seventy stations across Canada. There's a hot house band to back the guests up and they are all Class A musicians. This was the second time I had appeared on the show, which has a studio audience and is taped in a state-of-the-art facility called Electricimage. The first time I performed on the show, I was backed up by the band. This time around, I did it solo and more from a singer/songwriter perspective.
It was one stop on a two-week road trip I completed near the end of June, which included Chicago as well as other parts of Ontario. After nine days of radio shows and gigs in Ontario, I realized how much things have changed since I left my residence there in the late seventies.
There is the good and the bad, as in most of these instances. The bad includes something most Canadians are not used to and I hope, God willing, will not have to get used to: guns and drug wars. I promise not to dwell on it, but it breaks my heart to know it has become a daily news item in a place where shootings, etc., never used to be a part of the "usual" that we Americans are, sadly, conditioned to through the constant bombardment of the media.
The good part is that violent crime is on the decrease in Canada, a country where handguns are strictly prohibited. The other good news is that Canadian musical acts are given more attention than they used to get by U.S. music industry folks as well as U.S. audiences. Make no mistake, the industry in Canada is still dominated and mesmerized by U.S. acts on the charts as well as on the record shelves, but Canadian acts have made great headway in recent years. This is evidenced by people like Michelle Wright, George Fox, and newcomer Charlie Floyd.
As a writer I have noticed that a lot more Canadian songwriters are coming to Nashville to write with Music City craftsmen as well as many artists coming in search of great new songs or to break into the market. Folk enthusiasts on both sides of the border are aware of Bruce Cockburn, who, after twenty years of being a star in Canada, has finally been touring and making huge progress in America as a folk-pop artist for the intellectual and musically unlimited. There are numerous other examples such as Alana Myles ("Black Velvet").
I have co-written with three Canadian writer/artists in the last year and a half. Bruce Good, of The Goods (formerly The Good Bros.), and I wrote a song that has yet to be demoed and exposed, but the Goods included "I Really Dug Myself A Hole This Time" (which I wrote with Rory Bourke) on their new CD titled "So Many Roads." Another Canadian, Ron Hynes, was introduced to me through publisher Frank Davies of TMP. The result of that writing session was "The Answer Is Yes" which has been recorded twice and also has been performed in a musical play in Newfoundland. The third, Murray McLauchlan, and I have written five songs together. Two of them were performed on Murray's CBC radio show "Wingin' On A Star," and two others are being considered for Murray's next album. I also have Frank Davies to thank for introducing me to Murray. Thanks, Frank!
The Canadian music industry has a bit of a nationalist twist to it. The Canadian government gives its artists, writers and publishers a bit of an advantage to get played on Canadian radio in spite of the influence of their neighbors to the south. It's called Canadian Content, and means that forty percent of what gets played on radio must contain at least two of the following four parts created by Canadians: music, lyric, artist (residence permanently in Canada), and production (must be produced in Canada by a Canadian).
This has created a lot of controversy over the years by people who think it lowers the quality of what's on radio. It would seem easy enough to be wide open as far as what radio played in Canada, but with the population and over-all market being about one-tenth the size of the U.S., I can understand their concern. After all, when hype plays the large role it does in the music industry, what chance would so many Canadian acts have? Also, even though U.S. corporate giants like Warner Bros., CBS (okay, global giants) Sony, EMI, BMG, Capitol, and PolyGram have Canadian arms of their labels and publishing companies, they are strictly Canadian operations for Canadian audiences. You would think that a successful artist in Canada would have little problem convincing his or her major label to just release and promote them on the U.S. label of the same name. It just doesn't work that way. Thus many Canadians leave their homeland to seek success south of the border. This includes managers, small labels and agents as well as artists and writers.
It just never gets any easier, does it? To end on a different note, I'd like to invite all you writers out there to my five-day workshop which is part of Kentucky Music Week, August 1-5, in Bardstown, Ky. Last year was the frst and was a great success!
There will be a one-hour workshop during Kentucky Music Weekend at Iroquois Park on Saturday aftemoon, July 30. I'll also be on the Friday-night KMW concert, July 29, at Iroquois, as well as two one-hour shows at The Rudyard Kipling, 422 West Oak St., later that evening. See you there! For further information about KMW contact Nancy Barker at P.O. Box 86, Bardstown, KY 40004; or by phone, 502-348-5237.
Alan Rhody is a Louisville native and hit songwriter who has resided in Nashville, Term, for the last I6 years. He can be reached for concerts and workshops at P.0. Box 121231, Nashville, TN 37212, or phone 615-251 -3325 (Double J Music Group).