Cape Breton Post: One word, one line, one song at a time

This will be the third year for the Gordie Sampson Songcamp, which was conceived by Sampson as a way to help young songwriters gain experience and develop tools that will benefit them in their writing careers.

The song camps, facilitated by Sampson and fellow songwriter Steve MacDougall of Slowcoaster, were held in 2010 and 2011 at the Glenghorm Resort in Ingonish. Participating young writers collaborated on more than 10 songs over three days in 2010, and 30 songs over a weeklong camp last year.

Sampson said the song camps are designed for writers and artists “that show promise, candidates most likely to do this for a living.”

“It’s not like we’re looking for people that show some skills and we’re going to teach them the rest. It doesn’t work like that. We’re basically looking for people that are already awesome,” he explained.

One of those people who caught Sampson’s attention back in 2010 was Carleton Stone, now an established artist and East Coast Music Award nominee.

Stone, who participated in the camps in 2010 and 2011, said he’s honoured to be asked to come back this year as an instructor alongside Sampson and MacDougall. The 2012 song camp is set to take place July 8-12, again at the Glenghorm Resort.

Stone described the camp as a life-changing experience.

“It just kinda opened my eyes that you don’t have to be by yourself, banging your head against a wall, trying to think of that perfect line all the time. It’s OK to bring someone in who you respect as an artist and write together,” he said. “I’ve never been the same since. I don’t really like writing by myself any more.”

Stone said his approach as an instructor will be simply to keep everyone positive and offer some tips along the way.

“The one thing that I really kinda learned from Gordie, that he kinda preached from Day 1, was that we’re not really there to tell anyone how to write a song,” he said. “It’s a personal journey when you’re a songwriter and everyone who is at this camp can already write songs, that’s why they’re there, so it’s more just kinda showing them a few tricks of the trade that are helpful once you start writing songs every day for a job.”

Set to participate in the camp this year are new writers Laura Roy, Seamus Erskine, Willie Stratton, Dana Beeler, Kyle Mischiek, and Samia Nassim. They will join returning song camp writers, Dylan Guthro, Breagh MacKinnon, Dave Sampson, Elijah Wohlsmuth, Natalie Lynn, Evan Meisner, Molly Thomason, Mo Kenney, Barb Cameron, Jenny MacDonald and Brandon Johnson.

Sampson, a native of Big Pond who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., is a successful solo roots-rock artist and a respected, Grammy Award-winning songwriter for country stars like Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill and Keith Urban, but he said up-and-coming songwriters who attend the camp are teaching him as well.

“The average age of participants are 16-24. I’m 40 years old, so if nothing else I get this sort of bird’s-eye glimpse of a generation under me and how they approach writing a song. I learn a lot from them because songwriting styles and approaches change over the course of time, like everything else does.”

Sampson, who is in the Maritimes for a few weeks, said one of the most rewarding parts of the project is coming home and hearing songs created at the camps on the radio, brought to life by talented artists like Stone, Thomason and Guthro.

Like in past years, the song camp will conclude with a public concert featuring all participating songwriters, performing and talking about the songs they’ve written together. This year that’s set for July 12 at the Keltic Lodge’s Ceilidh Hall. At 6:30 p.m. there will be a family/all-ages show, followed by a second show at 9 p.m.

Tickets are available at Doucette’s Variety in Ingonish, which can be reached at 285-2861. Tickets are $10 for youth and $20 for adults. All proceeds will benefit the Gordie Sampson Songcamp and the Ski Cape Smokey Society.

by Laura Jean Grant