If the tagline for the Songwriters Association of Canada is “It All Starts with a Song”, then Jay Semko must have written it. Mr. Semko was our guest for the Regina Regional Writers group of SAC this week; Jay is a wonderful story-teller, weaving anecdotes in and out of his life with implicit songwriting tips, lessons and techniques. Like many musicians who have careers spanning decades, Jay has done many things: He’s a bass player, guitar player, singer, performer, composer for television series and movies of the week—so classical composer as well as folk/pop/Indie music. Jay is probably best known as the front man for the Northern Pikes. On top of all that, he’s an instructor, and this week, he was our mentor. But at the heart of everything—and a point he stressed—he is a songwriter. It all starts (and ends) with a song.
Jay Semko at the Regina Regional Writers Group of SAC
Within music I see myself much the same way—that I am a songwriter first—that songwriting is my musical foundation, my rock. Other opportunities may spring from songwriting, so we must keep our skills and craft tuned. So, we must not be afraid to follow where our songwriting takes us, and recognize
Speaking of craft, Jay several times alluded to the balancing act of trusting oneself as a songwriter to honour one’s intuition and creative spark at the same time as editing and re-editing our songs, perhaps the more cerebral aspect of songwriting. Another useful lesson was Jay’s assertion that songs are everywhere—they are right in front of us. He then described three adjoining tables in the room, forming an “L” and a backwards “L”; he began to describe different ways in which a song may be written with this simple observation. Inspiration is everywhere. If “it all starts with a song” and “it all comes back to the song”—then the song is all around us. What a grand place to be!
Inspiring lessons. Thanks Mr Semko!