Gordie Sampson sets up camp

Some of the region’s best songwriters have set up shop in Ingonish for the week, crafting songs together and learning a few tricks of the trade from each another along the way.

The annual Gordie Sampson Songcamp got underway Sunday at the Keltic Lodge and runs until Thursday when it will conclude with a public concert featuring the camp instructors and participants performing some of their new material.

Led by Big Pond native Gordie Sampson, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter who lives in Nashville, Tenn., the camp is also facilitated by respected Cape Breton songwriters Carleton Stone, Steven MacDougall and Stuart Cameron.

“We try to stay away from preaching about any how-tos because songwriting is a lot like painting pictures, as I’ve said numerous times, and it’s hard to teach somebody how to paint. You have to have a knack for it,” said Sampson. “But there are things along the way you can share with people, that can help.”

Sampson said the people selected to participate in camp are already accomplished songwriters, with serious aspirations of doing it for a living. A mix of Cape Bretoners and songwriters from mainland Nova Scotia make up this year’s camp roster, which includes Carmen Townsend, Dylan Guthro, Mark Boutilier, Mo Kenney, Barbara Cameron, Jenny MacDonald, Nicole Curry, Laura Roy, Breagh Mackinnon, Dana Beeler, Rankin McInnes, Willie Stratton, Dave Sampson, Chris Brown, Kyle Mischiek and Elijah Wohlmuth.
“Everybody is unbelievable, they’re all selected because they’re already amazing but in a lot of cases they don’t have a lot of experience co-writing,” said Sampson. “The whole emphasis of the camp is on co-writing.”

Sampson said working with such a talented and diverse group of writers serves as motivation for everyone, and also allows for people to learn from one another.

“It’s also refreshing. Because I live in Nashville, I end up writing 99 per cent country music all the time, but I miss and I don’t get a chance to write other kinds of genres because of that,” said Sampson. “So for me to come and sit down with Kyle Mischiek, who is a fabulous young R&B hip-hop artist, it’s sort of enlightening for me, and Kyle might say the same thing about sitting down to write a country song.”

During the camp, writers are divided into teams of three each day for morning and afternoon sessions. Each team produces one song per session, meaning everyone at the camp will have written at least eight songs by the end of the four days.

“We’re working down here. It’s a lot of work but everybody is here for the challenge and really enjoys it,” he said.

This is the fourth 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 camp receives funding from several sources, including the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Music Nova Scotia, the Ceilidh Cup, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, and SOCAN Foundation.

The key to the camp’s long-term success, according to Sampson, is the important relationships that develops among participants, many of whom attend the camp multiple times.

“The rest of the year you just keep hearing stories about how they’re just constantly writing together,” he said. “And once these songs start appearing on records and actually start generating revenue, that’s when we all just breathe and go ‘Wow, this is really working.'”

The finale public concert featuring all participating songwriters, performing and talking about the songs they’ve written together will take place Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Keltic Lodge’s Ceilidh Hall.

Tickets are available at Doucette’s Variety in Ingonish, which can be reached at 285-2861, and at Home Hardware in Ingonish at 285-2323. Tickets are $10 for youth and $15 for adults.

by Laura Jean Grant, Cape Breton Post