Ahead of APRA AMCOS’ The Regional Sessions, a full-day songwriting event held at five locations across Victoria, we catch up with guest speakers and mentors Imogen Clark and Woodes.
WOODES: Regional songwriters of all experience levels would benefit from these Regional Sessions for a bunch of reasons - the first being the ability to network and find your musical community in your area. I'm finding that after years in isolation the in-person events have been a beautiful way of connecting and finding people you might like to collaborate with - or catch up with in the future. Songwriting can be a way of processing and viewing the world, so it's an awesome opportunity to group together and share experience and turn it into art. I grew up in Townsville, North Queensland and being from a regional area I'd say the second big reason is the wealth of experience the mentors bring in about industry, finishing up songs, and making a living off of your art. It's always a good exercise to get your work in front of people. Even if you're just new to songwriting, it's a great thing to do!
IMOGEN: I grew up in a regional community, and the idea of a career in songwriting was completely unheard of for most of the people in my town. I didn’t know anyone outside of my family who wrote songs, and I certainly didn’t know anyone making a living from music. They say that “you can’t be what you can’t see”, and it’s almost impossible to form a career with no connections within that world. An event like the APRA AMCOS Regional Sessions introduces songwriters from within remote communities who may not have had the chance to meet or work with one another otherwise, as well as teaching them skills which may help them grow their success beyond the opportunities available within their small town.
WOODES: I love the process and have always been very DIY with music technology and writing. As well as being a songwriter I am also a producer and engineer so I can help holistically to brainstorm how to get ideas from initial thoughts to a recording. We will chat through getting started, finding inspiration in times of writer's block, how to make connections to finish and record your work. For songwriters that have songs that are partially finished I can also offer feedback or ways of strengthening concepts, production or narrative. It's somewhat flexible around the applicants. The goal is for writers to leave the room with new inspiration, tools and friends.
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IMOGEN: My songwriting workshops are very casual in nature, and I love them to be an interactive experience. I certainly don’t want to just talk at you for an hour! I’ll be asking questions about everyone’s experience and goals within the songwriting space, and we’ll work together on how we can improve your skills and networks. I’ll also share some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, and probably use lots of Joni Mitchell quotes.
WOODES: I would bring a notebook, some pens and a water bottle as the basics. If you are a fan of technology like me - you could bring your laptop, and maybe a smartphone that is able to record voice memos, they can be helpful for capturing ideas on the fly.
IMOGEN: It would be great to prepare a few songs you’d love to share with the group, some finished and some unfinished. Write a list of what blockades you find yourself coming across within your songwriting career, and a list of questions you’d like to ask any of the mentors. Think hard about what you’d like to improve on and what goals you’d like to achieve at the workshops, and how you might work towards that.
WOODES: Collaborating with other artists has had a massive impact on me as a producer/writer and human! I find I learn the best when I can bounce off other people and problem-solve together. I do enjoy the hands-on approach of doing my own production solo, but there's something special about creating something that can be out of your comfort zone or pushes you to new heights. It can also mean you can finish things quickly because it helps remove those little self doubts that sometimes creep in, you do things for the good of the song. I have done a bunch of the APRA AMCOS SongHubs programs and the connections to other artists in the camp has evolved into wonderful friendships.
IMOGEN: Meeting new people, collaborating and always expanding the community around you is key to growing your career as not only a songwriter, but also an artist, for those of you who are also performers. I cannot count the number of times a collaboration or writing session has led to the phrase “You should write with ___!” or “Let me introduce you to ___”. Like with any business, building a network around you is hugely important in songwriting. On the creative side, I also find that meeting new people and collaborating is a way to keep me freshly inspired and always pushes me outside of my comfort zone.
WOODES: The goal is to strengthen ourselves as writers and to learn some new tools. Come in with an open mind - there are no wrong answers. Even if you are just getting started, or songwriting is something you've always wanted to do - and you're curious! Come along. It's going to be so much fun.
IMOGEN: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to connect with people online after you meet. The best thing you’ll take away from the day is some tricks of the trade and some contacts who you can call on for writing sessions, advice or just a sense of support within your community. I’m sure you’ll also come away with some lovely new friends and inspiration for some new songs!