Friday, July 30, 2010

Television: A Great Way to Expose Artists

Television has always been an important medium through which artists can raise awareness about their music. Without “The OC,” Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” may never have been introduced to mainstream audiences, and void of “Entourage” exposure, Cold War Kids would be significantly less well-known. Licensing music to television is mutually beneficial, as the artist reaches new audiences, and the show is not expected to pay exuberant fees. Shows like “Gossip Girl” and “Scrubs” introduce the masses to music that they would not ordinarily hear on their local hit radio station, and spark exciting conversations about the soundtracks of last night’s episodes. Furthermore, theme songs are a lucrative method of showcasing the talents of various composers and songwriters.

Several John Lennon Songwriting Contest winners have gone on to license their music for television. Among these are The Swear, Laura DiStasi, Gaby Moreno, and Andrew Belle. Because they lent their music to popular network television programs, these artists have inspired many to research their songs, and subsequently buy their music.

The Swear has been featured on “Jersey Shore,” “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” “View of the City," “A Decade of Cribs," “Disaster Date,” “Valemont,” “Always Wasted,” Converse commercials, “Tool Academy,” “Cribs,” and many more programs. Laura DiStasi’s music has been featured on “Melrose Place” and “Mercy”. Along with her Emmy nominated theme song for “Parks and Recreation,” Gabby Moreno’s music has been featured on “Lincoln Heights,” “The Hills,” and “Ghost Whisperer.” Finally, Andrew Belle’s songwriting talents have been showcased on “One Tree Hill,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “90210,” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

As a suggestion, to safely and securely license music, one should research reliable internet resources for assistance. In order to copyright music, one should visit eCO Online System and create an account. A tutorial on how to properly copyright can be found here.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

JLSC Facebook Page: Become A Fan

In addition to our blog, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest wants to keep you up to date on Facebook as well. Our new Facebook page has some great content, including current contest news and pictures of past winners and finalists. Plus, as an added bonus, the JLSC will be selecting at random one of the fans of the page to receive one Apple iPod Shuffle. For a chance to win, click on the banner below and click "like." Be sure to tell your friends to do the same!

WINNER UPDATE: The Swear to Be Featured on “The Jersey Shore”

Eight years ago, a rock musician by the name of Elizabeth Elkins was a Grand Prize Winner in the 2002 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for the song “Deception Bay.” Now, Elkins continues to pursue her musical dreams by performing with alternative rock group The Swear. Thus far, the group has released two albums – “Every Trick’s A Good One” (2005) and “Hotel Rooms and Heart Attacks” (2008) – and has been the subject of many positive reviews. Guitar Player Magazine captures the essence of their unique sound by naming the group “rock warriors with a total command of meaty riffs, feedback swells, dynamics, and churning, crunching chords.

The Swear has a long list of accomplishments, including endorsements from Gibson Musical Instruments, GHS Strings, Ampeg, Paiste Cymbals, Pearl Drums, and Vic Firth Drumsticks. Their music has already been featured on a variety of television networks, including Fox, ABC, the CW, the WB, FX, TNT, The Discovery Channel, CNN, and VH1. Tonight, they will add MTV to the list. Their song, “The Violence Rings,” will be part of the soundtrack on the highly anticipated season premiere of the hit television show, “The Jersey Shore.”

After tuning in to hear The Swear on MTV tonight, fans in the Atlanta, GA area should be sure to see the band live at one of their upcoming tour dates. See the list below for a venue near you.


7/31/10: North River Tavern (21+) (Atlanta, GA)
9/24/10: Lenny’s (21+) (Atlanta, GA)
10/23/10: Downtown Sounds at the Hard Rock Café (18+) (Atlanta, GA)
11/12/10: Vinyl (18+) (Atlanta, GA)


WINNER UPDATE: Yoko Ono Blogs about Madison Violet!

As many music fans are already aware, Yoko Ono maintains her own blog on her website, In response to the announcement this week that Madison Violet were named the Maxell Song of the Year winners, Ono posted about the folk duo and included a great video of one of their performances of the winning song, "The Ransom." To see the full blog post, click here, or watch the embedded video below.


FINALIST UPDATE: Joanie Leeds Receives Nomination from Nickelodeon

Children’s music singer/songwriter Joanie Leeds found the start of her musical career to be a challenge, as most beginning artists do. Long before she was named a finalist in the Children’s category of the Session II 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for her song “I’m a Rock Star,” Leeds spent many of her days bouncing from gig to gig around local venues in New York City. She finally realized her passion for children’s music when she got a job at a Gymboree in Manhattan and was able to earn a paycheck by working and singing with kids. After a stint on the birthday party and pre-school circuit, Leeds had enough music to fill three full-length albums.

At present, Leeds tours as part of the group Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights. Members include Leeds (guitar/vocals), Dan Barman (drums), Scott Stein (keys), Matt Aranoff (bass), and Thomas Bryan Eaton (electric guitar). The band, now a well-known group in the children’s music community, has performed at such venues as the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and XPoNential Fest in Camden, NJ. After releasing a DVD entitled “City Kid Live,” Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights were honored with two first place and one second place National Telly Awards, which recognize local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs; other recipients have included Bon Jovi, CBS, AT&T, and Comedy Central.

The group’s most recent honor comes from one of the most well known children’s television networks. Nickelodeon’s Parents Connect has just nominated Leeds and her band for the “Best Party Entertainer” award. The winner is determined through fan votes. Anyone wishing to support Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights’ can vote for the group at the Parents Connect website. Voting closes August 31, 2010.

Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights continue to maintain a full touring schedule on top of their other activities. For those interested in seeing a performance, check out their complete list of tour dates.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: SoulStice Collaborates for International Concept Album

In 2009, SoulStice was named a Session I Grand Prize Winner in the Hip-Hop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song “Strange Kinda Love,” but this title was only one stepping stone on his rise to success. His 2005 debut album “North by Northwest” was released to many positive reviews and critics were quick to call his music “enlightened.” With a growing fanbase across the globe, SoulStice was given the opportunity to share the stage with such artists as John Legend and Wu-Tang Clan, and in 2008 he was invited to join the prestigious Recording Academy.

In addition to his thriving music career, SoulStice has also gotten involved in social activism as one of the newest members of the NOH8 campaign. This campaign for marriage equality was founded in response to California’s Proposition 8 and is described as a “photographic silent protest movement.”

Recently, SoulStice has focused his efforts on creating an album with fellow artist SBe. The two musicians have collaborated with artists in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands. The record, fittingly named “Beyond Borders,” shows music’s potential for universality. For those interested in learning more about this incredible international endeavor, visit the website here.

Think you might be the next hip-hop artist to watch? Enter your song into the JLSC.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The pair surpassed thousands of entries with "The Ransom" to take top annual prize.

New York, NY (July 27, 2010) – The Alternative Country duo, Madison Violet, has been announced the winner of the coveted “Maxell Song of the Year” from the 13th annual John Lennon Songwriting Contest for their original composition, “The Ransom." The duo made up of Brenely MacEachern, who sings the lead vocals on the track, and Lisa MacIsaac, who sings the harmony, will be awarded $20,000 courtesy of Maxell, in addition to other prizes.

Known for their extensive touring routine, Brenely started writing the song in Australia nearing the end of a 2 month long trip when she was longing for home. Lisa later helped her finish the song in Grenada. The pair recorded the song in Pro Tools with an acoustic guitar, a snare kick and hi-hat, an upright bass, an organ and a lapsteel guitar.

Both hailing from Scottish small towns in Canada, Brenely and Lisa have chosen a musical path that channels their parent’s vintage record collection that compromised the likes of Neil Young and Dolly Parton.

A total of over $275,000 in cash and prizes will be distributed this year by the year-round contest open to both amateur and professional songwriters. Visit to listen to Madison Violet’s winning song, download their photo and enter the current contest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Taron Cochrane and Chazz Valentine Featured in Regina Leader-Post

In March 2010, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest announced the winning entry in its first ever love song mini-contest. People across the globe entered their best compositions in hopes of being named the winner, but the title ultimately went to the duo of Taron Cochrane and Chazz Valentine for their song, “The Brightest Star.” Since then, they have received much recognition for their efforts, and most recently they have been featured in the Regina Leader-Post newspaper in Canada.

In 2009, Cochrane was preparing to marry his fiancée, Jenna Brown, and he wanted the song at their wedding to be truly their own. He set to work on writing the lyrics, but as a graphic designer he felt he lacked the musical experience to record the vocals and instrumentation himself. It was then that he contacted Chazz Valentine, an artist from New Zealand with whom Cochrane had previously been acquainted when doing some design work for Valentine’s band, The Rabble.

Over the next several months, Valentine and Cochrane communicated via email to put the song together. Through their determined teamwork, “The Brightest Star” was completed in time for Cochrane’s October wedding to Brown, and it continues to inspire other couples around the world. Cochrane reports that the love song has been used in weddings besides his own.

In addition to helping happy couples celebrate their special day and being named a winner in the JLSC’s Valentine’s Day themed mini-contest, “The Brightest Star” has also claimed a place on the music charts in New Zealand. Thus far, it has reached a peak #3 position on the singles charts and continues to receive significant radio play.

The full Leader-Post article about “The Brightest Star” can be found here.


WINNER UPDATE: Jaffa Road Plays Canadian Music Festival

Collaboration is key in the creation of innovative and original music. The utilization of several creative minds in a musical endeavor can yield a final result that an individual could never have imagined. Toronto-based World Music band Jaffa Road is a perfect example of the importance of a group effort, as they have combined the talents of many notable musicians to create an exciting breed of World Music. The band consists of Aaron Lightstone (guitars, ud, saz, synthesizers), Aviva Chernick (vocals), Chris Gartner (bass, co-producer), Jeff Wilson (percussion), and Sundar Viswanathan (sax), with guest artists including Chris McKhool-violin (Sultans of String), Ravi Naimpally-Tabla (Tasa), Ernie Tollar-nay, bansuri (Tasa, Maza Meze, Maryem Tollar), Aaron Bensoussan-vocals, (Uri Caine’s Zohar), and Dr. George Sawa-qanun (Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble).

Jaffa Road combines sacred and secular Jewish songs, Classical Arabic and Indian music, modern jazz, rock, pop, and dub music to create a sound that is extremely unique and difficult to replicate. This amalgamation has allowed Jaffa Road to record with many influential Canadian musicians in the jazz, pop, rock, and world music genres. “Sunplace,” Jaffa Road’s debut album, climbed to the #1 spot in the CUIT World Music charts. Furthermore, the band was given runner up status in the “We are Listening Worlds of Music” contest, as well as a Lennon Award in the 2009 World category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for their song “L.Y.G.

In addition to their new album release and JLSC title, Jaffa Road was also in attendance at the Juno Awards in April for their nomination of "World Music Album of the Year." Though they didn't take home the Juno, the group did win "Best World Music" at the Toronto Independent Music Awards. Earlier in July, they also had the honor of playing at the Rocking Walrus Arts Festival; located on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, this event is known for being the most remote arts festival in North America.

For those interested in hearing Jaffa Road's unique sound, the band will be playing at the “Indulge your Scences” Festival in Metro Square, Toronto on July 29th.


Friday, July 23, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Bignic Racks Up Songwriting Titles

Beginning his career with various compilations and computer game/television soundtracks, Canadian electronica act, Bignic, has made quite a splash in the world of electro, house, and bigbeat music. In 2007, Bignic won the "Best Electronic" award at the 2007 Ontario Independent Music Awards for his song “Inexplicable.” Bignic’s other accomplishments include “Third Place Electronic" in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition ("The End of Something Big") and a position as a Finalist in the 2008 Great Lakes Songwriting Contest and a Semi-Finalist in the 2008 UK Songwriting Contest. Bignic also has placed five songs on the Billboard top 500 in Billboard World Song Contest. Bignic was a Grand Prize Winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his electronic song “Phone.” Bicnic’s fourth LP features the aforementioned award-winning songs, as well as 17 other exciting electronica songs. The album is available for purchase on Bandcamp, Itunes, and Amazon, along with four other full length studio LP’s from Bignic.


FINALIST UPDATE: Greg Sczebel in PEAK Performance Project 2010

Greg Sczebel has had a very exciting year. In addition to being named a Session II 2009 finalist in the Pop category for his song “How Am I Supposed to Breathe?,” he also beat some stiff competition to win the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s Toby Gad Experience. Sczebel will have the opportunity to work with Gad – a renowned producer responsible for hits from artists such as Beyonce and Fergie – to write and record a song.

Sczebel, who resides in British Columbia, Canada, might not necessarily call 2010 the year of his big break. His career has been steadily garnering more interest among members of the music community.  Looking back to previous years, Sczebel was a JLSC Gospel/Inspirational Grand Prize Winner in both 2004 and 2007, and he won a Juno Award (2005 Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year) for his debut release, “Here To Stay.” He has performed with the likes of Paul Brandt, David Foster, Michael Buble, and Colin James – no small accomplishment for any aspiring musician.

After his successful debut record, Sczebel released his sophomore album in October 2009: “Love & The Lack Thereof.” He reports that his goal with this most recent album was to create something “soulful but modern, original yet familiar.” His musical inspiration comes from a variety of artists, ranging from The Beatles and Stevie Wonder to Kanye West and Mark Ronson.

In one of Sczebel’s most exciting achievements yet, he has become one of twenty finalists that are competing for 100.5 The PEAK Performance Project 2010. The goal of the project is to launch the careers of artists in British Columbia, and the top twenty artists take part in a vigorous artist development program. In the final round of the project, public votes along with judges’ consideration will determine the artists’ official placements. All candidates for the project must be residents of B.C., and the prizes range from $100,500 for the eventual first place winner to $5,000 for the artist ending in fifth place. All artists receive an initial $3,500 of development funding.

Winners for the PEAK Performance Project will be announced in November 2010. Fans can follow Sczebel’s and the other top nineteen artists’ progress at the project’s website.



WINNER UPDATE: David Llewellyn to Host a Songwriting Retreat

Hailing from the coal mining valleys of South Wales, David Llewellyn grew up with an active imagination and zeal for music. By the age of seventeen, this fervor led him to a life outside of his humble beginnings, and encouraged him to depart from Wales for an exciting musical career. David came to Nashville, Tennessee in 1991, and was signed to a Music Row publisher in 1996. With its roots in Davids upbringing, and its technique developed through his new American experiences, David's songwriting soon caught the attention of many musical peers. Eventually, David began playing notable festivals such as the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, and was the recipient of its coveted "New Folk" award. Davids self-titled LP was released in 2004 to critical acclaim and radio attention, and his 2007 release "Limited Edition" quickly sold all of its printed copies. In 2008, David won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest's Lennon Award for his folk song "Take Us Down."

New tracks and improved production are in the works for "Limited Edition" and a full release is expected in the fall. In addition, David is working on a new full length CD. Furthermore, Recently, David recorded a radio show with BBC in Wales. In October, David will host a songwriting retreat in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Anyone interested in attending the retreat should contact David at


Thursday, July 22, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Debra Gussin to Pen Lyrics for Upcoming Musical

Earlier this year, it was announced that Debra Gussin and co-writer Rick Howard were the grand prize winners of the Country category in Session II of the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for their song, ““Is That You?”. After facing-off against the Session I 2009 Country Grand Prize Winners, JD Dohnal and Dave Tough, Gussin and Howard also took home the coveted Lennon Award, making them one of the twelve artists currently in the running for the Maxell Song of the Year Award.

In recent years, Gussin has made quite a name for herself. In addition to a slew of accomplishments in various songwriting contests, Gussin has worked with many industry veterans, including Paul Williams, Marty Panzer and Don Grady. In her past she has been honored with several musical scholarships and was the first ever recipient of the Lifetime Barry Manilow Scholarship Award.

More recently, Gussin’s song, “This is Our Time,” was chosen as the official graduation song for UCLA Extension. She worked with co-writer Dale Effren on the lyrics, and the song premiered on June 29th in Los Angeles; Erich Bergen of the musical, “Jersey Boys,” performed.

Now, Gussin extends her talents to write songs for the stage. She has been named the lyricist for “TURMOIL! A New Musical.” In addition to this great honor, Gussin is also on the Board of Directors for the Academy for New Musical Theatre.

With so many achievements already under her belt, Gussin is certainly one to watch in the coming years.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Expect James Tormé’s New Album in August

With a new album due for Summer 2010, worldwide concerts with esteemed musicians, and a plethora of praise from notable names in the industry, James Tormé has secured a position as an exciting and promising new act in vocal jazz. Combining elements of R&B, Big Band, Swing, and intimate ballads, James’s style is both unique and versatile, and it has caught the attention of many influential colleagues. James was surrounded by music as a child and was introduced to inspirational artists such as Steely Dan by his father, three-time Grammy Award winning Jazz composer and vocalist, Mel Tormé. Following in his father’s footsteps, James decided to begin a career as a vocalist, using both original material and covers in his performances.   James was recently named a Session II Grand Prize Winner and Lennon Award Winner for the jazz category in the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Previously in 2007, James won the Chuck Niles Jazz Music Award, and subsequently signed with E1 records in 2008.

James upcoming album “Love for Sale” has been highly anticipated in the jazz community. The CD showcases James’ skill in singing both jazz standards, and pop tunes, with his own distinct style. Although the album pays homage to the music that inspired James, “Love for Sale” is more of an evolution and amalgamation than a replication. His newest LP will feature originals such as “One or the Other,” classic jazz standards like “Autumn Leaves,” and contemporary pop songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You.” The album has been slated for a release in the summer of 2010, and James’ music can be heard on various radio stations such as Smooth Jazz 94.7 and KS BR-FM.


WINNER UPDATE: Patricia Vonne Has Packed Fall Tour Schedule

Session I 2009 Latin winner Patricia Vonne is no newcomer to the music scene; she released her first album eight years ago. Since then, Vonne has dropped three additional albums: “Guitars and Castanets,” “Firebird,” and “Worth It.” Since she first started writing music, newspapers and magazines have been quick to give her glowing reviews. Publications such as The Austin Chronicle, The Houston Press, and The Sun rave about this Texan songstress, claiming that she has “talent to melt the coldest heart.”

Vonne cites her upbringing as one of her sources of inspiration. One of ten children, she grew up in San Antonio in a bilingual household. Her mother’s past-time of singing to her children in Spanish no doubt helped shape Vonne’s current interest in Latin-styled music. Her older siblings helped to nurture her musical tastes; her elder brother, director Robert Rodriguez, often collaborates on her songwriting, leading to tracks that have been featured in films such as “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.”

Like many people in the creative community, Vonne’s artistic interests are not limited to just music. In previous years, she has tried her hand at acting, landing roles in films such as “Sin City” and “Spy Kids.” However, in between the occasional movie, she leaves plenty of time in her schedule for touring. This fall, she will perform not only in the United States, but around Europe as well.

If you are interested in seeing and hearing a truly talented Latin musician perform live, check out Patricia Vonne on one of the dates below, or visit her website for more information.


07/24/10: Benson-Carr Auditorian @ Wild Basin Preserve (Austin, TX)
07/28/10: 2010 Takin Texas Tour (Round Rock, TX)
07/29/10: Antone’s 35th Anniversary (Austin, TX)
08/03/10: Justin Herman Plaza (San Francisco, CA)
08/13/10: Sam’s Burger Joint (San Antonio, TX)
08/18/10: Iowa State Fair (Des Moines, IA)
09/02/10: Buddy Holly Center’s Showcase 2010 (Lubbock, TX)
09/03/10: Texas on Tour (Denver, CO)
09/24/10: The Continental Club (Austin, TX)
09/29/10: Franziskaner (Bad Salgau, Germany)
09/30/10: Gwolb Music Club (Watt, Switzerland)
10/14/10: Topos (Leverkusenger, Germany)
10/15/10: Scheunenuerein (Liebenau, Germany)
10/16/10: Rainbow (Altheim, Germany)
10/22/10: Kulturbastion (Torgau, Germany)
10/23/10: Anker (Leipzig, Germany)
10/27/10: Ship (Bremen, Germany)
10/28/10: Music Star (Norderstedt, Germany)
10/29/10: Wunderbar at Hemingways (Lueneburg, Germany)
10/30/10: Rathaus Garbsen (Garbsen, Germany)


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Mog Featured in Australian Guitar Magazine

It has been almost one year since Mog, fronted by Daniel Maguire, was named the Session I 2009 winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s Rock category. Since that time, Mog’s success has shown no signs of slowing. The group, based in Canberra, Australia, describes its songs as “alternative rock, rooted in strong songwriting, with a pop twist,” and audiences around the world are paying attention.

Being a Grand Prize Winner for the song “Kings” in the 2009 JLSC is only one of a long list of accomplishments for Mog. Prior to the JLSC win, Mog had received recognition in a host of different contests, including the Great American Song Contest, the International Songwriting Competition, the Billboard World Song Contest, and the Independent Singer-Songwriter Association Contest. These achievements, in addition to Mog’s placement in the JLSC, acted as a springboard for the band’s long-term career. Not only has Mog released two full-length albums – “Perfect Unreality” and “Nine” – the band’s music has been placed in television shows on MTV, E!, and CBS.

Mog’s latest accomplishment comes in the form of a feature in Australian Guitar Magazine’s August 2010 issue, where the song “Bright White Teeth” will be highlighted. Interested readers should track down a copy in the coming weeks.


Monday, July 19, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Generation Letter to Celebrate Album Release in August

It takes a very talented songwriter to win the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, so it is clear that Generation Letter, a Christian Rock band, has more than enough talent to go around. They were named the Gospel/Inspirational Grand Prize Winners in back-to-back years for their songs “Jesus My Glory” (Session I 2008) and “Glorious” (Session II 2009).

The band, based in Orlando, FL, consists of George Romanacce, John Ripley, Alex Couch, and Stephen Morgan. All four members have a hand in writing each song, ensuring that every composition incorporates several different viewpoints on the given topic and helping the band continue with their goal of producing music that “glorifies the Savior, offers the world biblically sound lyrics and delivers them with unmatched musical creativity.” Their devotion to their craft has earned them recognition across the country; in addition to their success in the JLSC, Generation Letter has won several national talent searches and has been the featured band at various music festivals in Florida.

After working tirelessly to perfect their tracks, Generation Letter released their highly anticipated album, “This is The Story,” in early June 2010. The official release party for the record will take place on August 7th at the Calvary Assembly of God in Winter Park, FL.

If you think your Gospel/Inspirational song could be the next JLSC winner, be sure to enter it into Session II of the 2010 contest.


Friday, July 16, 2010

FINALIST UPDATE: Heather Blush and the Uppercuts to Perform at South Country Fair

Heather Blush and her band, the Uppercuts, have seen much success in 2010. In addition to being named finalists from Session II 2009 in the R&B category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for Heather’s song, "I Don’t Believe in Me Anymore," this talented group of musicians have maintained a full touring schedule throughout Canada.

Describing themselves as “a trio of rogue troubadours,” Heather Blush and the Uppercuts have a rapidly growing fan-base that originally began in Calgary, Alberta, where they call home. The band released their debut album, “Vice” in June 2008, which soon attracted attention from the music community. As its title suggests, the album examines different vices that may cause trouble in a person’s life, including alcohol and bad relationship choices. In a follow-up to this ambitious first release, their sophomore album, “Versa,” was released one year later and found its inspiration in lighter topics.

Since their first two albums were released, Heather Blush and the Uppercuts have received many positive reviews from critics. Accordingly, the group was given the opportunity to perform at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Though it would seem that this performance, along with being named an R&B finalist in the JLSC, would be the highlights of the group’s year, Blush and her band have found additional success in other songwriting contests; Heather’s songs “You Take the Cake” and “Pour Another Ounce of Rum in the Eggnog” were chosen as finalists in the Calgary Folk Fest Songwriting Contest and the Great American Song Contest, respectively.

Heather Blush and the Uppercuts have certainly not taken this summer off to kick back their heels and relax. Following a string of performances around Alberta, the band will take the stage again this weekend at the South Country Fair (July 16th-18th) in Fort Macleod. More information about the fair and how to buy tickets can be found here.


WINNER UPDATE: Kate Rowe Releases New CD and Continues to Tour

Characterized by her distinct sense of humor and strong songwriting capabilities, Australian singer/songwriter Kate Rowe is quickly gaining prominence in the children’s music genre. Kate has been playing music since the age of ten, but only recently began to pursue a career as a songwriter. Before professionally recording music, Kate held positions as a French and English teacher, shop assistant, children’s party fairy, radio presenter, author, and illustrator. Kate’s debut album, “The Simplest of Things” received critical acclaim from local news sources and won the 2007 BluFM89.1 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Country Music. In 2009, Kate embarked on a tour with fellow songwriter Ryan Morison and opened for The Spooky Men’s Chorale.

Kate Rowe received a Lennon award for her children's song “Space Rabbits of Brocklevoons” in the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. This interactive composition chronicles the arrival of a foreign species of rabbits from a distant planet. Merchandise for this song (t-shirts, etc.) is available on Kate’s website, which also includes songwriting tips and suggestions of authors who are well versed on the subject. Her upcoming album “Nature’s Little Game” includes “Space Rabbits” as well as 10 other original compositions. It is due for a launch on July 30, 2010.

In support of her upcoming album, Kate has begun an active touring schedule. Beginning in Tasmania, on July 7th, the tour ventures all throughout Australia, and ends on the 4th of December.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

John Lennon’s Piano Becomes Center of Controversy

John Lennon's iconic white piano has become a symbol of the late songwriter's immortal message of peace and freedom. The instrument on which classic songs like "Imagine" were composed has been in the news recently for a controversial recital given by pop star Lady Gaga in the private home of Yoko Ono. Gaga’s performance has offended a select few Lennon fans who feel that she is unworthy of a seat at such an important piece of musical history. By allowing Gaga to play the piano, which John gave to Yoko Ono as a gift, Sean Lennon faces anger from a small group of fans; their critical comments have pushed the issue into the blogging and multi media community, sparking a debate over the implications of the young Lennon’s actions.

Sean Lennon responded to the criticism by asking fans to “lighten up…life’s too short, there’re enough real problems in the world….” Adding, “He gave that piano to my mother for her birthday, it is hers, secondly, he was not uptight the way you seem to be.” However, other fans support Sean, believing that the piano was meant to be played, and they see no problem in letting an accomplished pianist such as Gaga grace its keys.

Did Lady Gaga deserve to play Lennon’s piano? Is the instrument a piece of art to be admired from afar, or something to be played and enjoyed by fellow musicians? What are your thoughts as a Lennon fan, musician, and/or music lover?



WINNER UPDATE: Sean VanDommelen Works with Documentary Filmmakers

In early 2009, Sean VanDommelen entered his electronic song, “Lonely Girl,” into Session I of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. He was later named a Grand Prize Winner for that category, and after competing in a fan-voted head-to-head faceoff against Session II Electronic Grand Prize Winner Junsu Kwon, VanDommelen earned the highly coveted Lennon Award, making him an eligible candidate for the Maxell Song of the Year.

When VanDommelen isn’t busy excelling in the JLSC, he resides in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. He formed the Sean VanDommelen Project in 2006 and continues to hone his songwriting skills through that outlet, but he has also worked with other bands in his area, enriching his local music community. VanDommelen currently plays as the lead guitarist in VIII Days Clean, a band from Tacoma, WA that has a large following throughout the West Coast. Additionally, VanDommelen has previously collaborated with alternative rock band Mona Lisa Shines, as well as hip-hop group All Kinz, with whom he released five EPs.

Recently, VanDommelen has directed his creativity toward important societal issues; he has been working with filmmakers to incorporate his music into a variety of documentaries that investigate topics such as social justice, the criminal justice system, and substance abuse.

Clearly VanDommelen’s musical talents are widespread, and it will be exciting to watch how he continues to grow as an artist in the coming years.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Andrew Belle’s Songs Featured on TV

When Andrew Belle first released his debut EP, “All Those Pretty Little Lights,” in 2008, he probably did not expect the incredible success he would find in the coming years. A little over one year later, Belle entered one of his songs, the title track of his 2010 full-length album, “The Ladder,” into the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Judges were impressed with his entry and Belle was named the Session II 2009 Grand Prize Winner in the Pop category.

Praise for Belle’s song did not stop there. Each year, all of the Grand Prize Winners for each category of the contest in Session I and Session II go head-to-head to become the fan-voted favorite. Earlier this year, it was announced that Belle had received the most votes for the Pop category and thus became one of the twelve recipients of the prestigious Lennon Award. As a result, Belle is also currently in the running for the Maxell Song of the Year award.

Armed with his success from the John Lennon Songwriting Contest as well as many positive reviews from critics, Belle’s music was soon noticed by others in the entertainment industry and some of his songs were placed in television shows on various networks. This up-and-coming pop singer can now add music placement credits to his list of accomplishments for programs including CW’s “One Tree Hill” and “90210,” CBS’s “Ghost Whisperer,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” E!’s “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” and most recently, ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.”

Belle is certainly an artist to watch, and he is currently on tour. Interested in hearing him live? Check his list of tour dates to find a show near you.


QUICK TIPS: Using Technology to Share Your Music More Easily

The first step to becoming a household name in music is to get other people to listen to your work. Though this task may seem basic, it is important to pay attention to the small details to ensure that your songs are heard. When you are thinking of sharing your music via mp3 file or CD, follow the helpful suggestions below:

1) Label your track: Labeling your track with the song title and artist is a simple but significant step to ensure that you leave a memorable impression on listeners. Proper labels allow your song to easily be located in an audio library. A title such as "Demo 1" might work well for your own personal reference, but replacing such notes with appropriate titles means that your listeners will actually be able to find your song in their library after they decide they want to hear it again.

2) Double-check your work: When burning tracks to a CD or uploading an mp3 file online, be sure to test them to make sure they play properly. Often simple computer defaults may hinder a recording, so a quick check can help you avoid sending a blank disk to someone who might otherwise have been able to further your music career.

3) Take advantage of available software: Many music players offer equalizing options that can help clean up tracks. Presets such as “Rock,” “Pop,” and “Acoustic,” and options such as "Bass Reduction” can help you improve your tracks’ production quality and attract additional listeners.

These three, easy tips can set you apart from other artists by demonstrating your attention to detail. Have other tips of your own? Share them in the comments section for other readers to see.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Warped Tour Winners K Será on the Lennon Bus

The John Lennon Songwriting Contest's Warped Tour Winners, K Será, recently visited the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus while at the festival. Though K Será have finished their leg of the Warped Tour, watch out for their Lennon Bus video coming to you shortly. Until then, check them out in the video below.

nut[WARPED TOUR]shell - ft. K Sera & Closure In Moscow from sigismund s. pikul on Vimeo.


Struggling Concert Tours Raise Questions of Consumers’ Interests

The story of the down-on-his-luck traveling musician who plays to nearly empty venues is as almost as old as music itself. The so-called “starving artist” has not been a new concept for the last millennium at least. However, recent times have shown that it is not just the unknown coffee-house singers struggling to get an audience – during the 2010 summer touring season, even mainstream acts with a devoted fan-base have been unable to fill the concert halls and stadiums for which they have been booked.

Music news in past months has been filled with the somber announcements of soft ticket sales, canceled dates, and even tours that have been canceled outright. Rihanna’s “Last Girl on Earth” tour should have been one of the most highly anticipated tours of the summer, but several dates were quickly cut in response to lackluster sales. Other industry veterans – most notably, Christina Aguilera – did not even attempt to stay afloat in the disappointing touring season, opting to cancel or postpone their tours before tickets even went on sale. The long-awaited return of Lilith Fair has proven to be quite a challenge, as contributing artists quietly dropped out of the tour once seats failed to sell.

Some artists, on the other hand, seem immune to the flailing touring industry. Teen pop sensation Justin Bieber, pop powerhouse Lady Gaga, and the duo of James Taylor and Carole King are just a few of the acts that are keeping their heads well above water in regard to ticket sales. The stark contrast between these two categories of touring musicians – that is, those who cannot sell their seats versus those who have run out of room even in the “Standing Room Only” areas – raises an important question: why are consumers supporting some tours, but not others?

The economic climate in recent years provides the most obvious and convenient answer. While much of the nation tries to maintain their current standard of living, concert tickets are simply not a priority. This reality, coupled with the fact that tickets are more expensive than ever once processing and building fees are added in, suggests that consumers who still have the funds available to afford live music are choosing to see only one or two of their favorite artists rather than filling their summer calendars with shows.

Though a lack of disposable income is no doubt a large player in disappointing ticket sales, a tour’s production quality also deserves scrutiny. Many of the best-selling tours involve an intense combination of laser-lights shows, smoke machines, and dance-heavy musical numbers. With music more accessible than ever in both physical and digital form, it seems that consumers are beginning to favor live shows that feature vivid visuals in addition to the music. After all, a favorite song is only a touch of an iPod away, but the excitement of pyrotechnics and Jumbotrons is harder to find outside of a live concert.

Nevertheless, with expensive productions driving ticket prices higher, now is the perfect opportunity for live music fanatics to look into supporting lesser-known artists in addition to their mainstream favorites. A quick look through a newspaper or local music blog should give light to plenty of local shows for much lower prices. Additionally, many cities host free music festivals throughout the year such as Coney Island’s annual Siren Music Festival in New York City.

Are there any free events in your town? Where do you find out about inexpensive live shows? There is no better time than today to expand musical horizons and become a fan of the struggling, unknown traveling artist who will be one of the industry’s superstars tomorrow.


Monday, July 12, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Gaby Moreno is an Emmy Nominee

Just a few short years ago, Gaby Moreno and her co-writers, Victor Indrizzo and Ari Shine, were named the 2006 Maxell Song of the Year winners. Now Moreno and co-writer Vincent Jones have received the great honor of an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Main Title Theme Song” for NBC’s hit show, “Parks and Recreation.”

Moreno, now a resident of Los Angeles, CA, originally hails from Guatemala City, Guatemala. It was in that Central American country that she first picked up a guitar and began what has now become a very successful musical career. At the young age of fifteen, Moreno was asked to record her own version of the Guatemalan national anthem. It was not long before other people began to take notice of her talents, and she was asked to open for well-known artists such as Ricky Martin.

With her trademark hard work, talent, and dedication, Moreno entered her song, “Escondidos,” in Session II of the 2006 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Not only was the song named a grand prize winner in the Latin category of the contest, it went on to win the 2006 Maxell Song of the Year award, showing members of the music community that Moreno was an artist to watch in the coming years. Indeed, the title of Moreno’s 2008 debut album, “Still the Unknown,” would not describe her situation for long. Her music has since been featured on several mainstream television shows, including ABC’s “Lincoln Heights” and “Ghost Whisperer,” MTV’s “The Hills,” and now NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”

Following a successful year in 2009 – her cover of Charlie Chaplin’s song, “Smile,” became part of an Academy Award winning documentary, “The Cove” – Moreno’s Emmy nomination in 2010 for “Outstanding Main Title Theme Song” is only confirmation of what industry insiders have known for some time: Moreno is a musical force to be reckoned with, and this is only the beginning of her undoubtedly long and successful career.

To learn more about Gaby Moreno and her Emmy nomination, read Billboard’s press release below.


Friday, July 9, 2010

FINALIST UPDATE: Princess Katie and Racer Steve to Perform in NYC

Children’s artists Princess Katie and Racer Steve are all set to get their audience dancing and singing next Thursday, July 15th in Union Square. The free concert, part of the city’s ongoing Summer in the Square series, will begin at noon. The duo will perform with their drummer, Crash, and bassist, Space.

Princess Katie and Racer Steve were Session II 2009 finalists for their entry, “Clelia’s Party,” an upbeat song about the titular character’s Latin fiesta. By the end of the song, listeners will have learned the names of three types of dances – the Cha Cha Cha, the Samba, and the Mambo – as well as a whole menu of foreign dishes, such as Tostadas and Arroz con Pollo (yum!). “Clelia’s Party,” in addition to being just plain fun, helps further children’s knowledge by teaching them about the wonders that other cultures have to offer.

For those interested in attending Princess Katie and Racer Steve’s performance on 7/15/10, be sure to get there early in order to get a great viewing spot. No need to be worried if you get there too early; there will be a “Mommy & Me” yoga program at 10:00 AM in the playground.

Got a great children’s song of your own?  Enter it in Session II of the 2010 contest!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bilingual Album Reinforces Music’s Universality

In the mid-1990s, a Latin/Pop singer by the name of Enrique Iglesias burst on to the scene and soon became one of the most memorable artists of the decade. Known for his hits like “Hero” and “Bailamos,” Iglesias has spent his career alternating releases of English and Spanish albums. However, Iglesias’ upcoming album has taken an imaginative turn: it will be bilingual.

The album already shows signs of promise – in addition to Iglesias’ own talent, collaborators include well-known artists Pitbull, Lionel Richie, and Juan Luis Guerra – but its most admirable quality is the diversity of its languages. With this new release, Iglesias has created a record truer to himself than ever before by mixing different parts of his own culture and upbringing.

Using both English and Spanish in the new album seemed natural to the Latin singer. “I was raised speaking ‘Spanglish,’” he says. “I have always written in English and in Spanish, I think in English and in Spanish, I dream in English and in Spanish.”

Not only has Iglesias pushed himself creatively with this new venture, he has found a way to unite his English-speaking and Spanish-speaking fan bases, thereby expanding his market for the upcoming album. Though Iglesias is not the first artist to record a bilingual album and will not be the last – Shakira announced plans in April 2010 to combine both languages in her upcoming album – his latest creative endeavor certainly speaks to the universality of music. By using multiple languages in the same album, Iglesias shows that the meaning of a song can carry through no matter the language in which it was recorded, and that is an accomplishment that should be lauded.


Grammy Rule Change Levels the Playing Field

In January 2010, millions of music fans tuned in to watch the Grammy Awards ceremony. However, confusion surrounding the nominees for the Best New Artist category clouded the scene. Though 2009 had become known as The Year of Lady Gaga in the music community, the pop songstress was notably absent from the list of Best New Artist nominees.

Those who are familiar with the Grammys’ rules for Best New Artist eligibility know that Lady Gaga’s 2008 Best Dance Recording nomination for her song “Just Dance” was the deal-breaker. Until very recently, no musician who had previously been nominated for a Grammy could be a contender for the Best New Artist award. Though Lady Gaga took home two statuettes in January – one for Best Dance Recording and another for Best Electronic/Dance Album – fans across the world were in an uproar over her ineligibility for Best New Artist.

“There will be some changes so that particular situation won’t repeat itself,” promised Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, and on July 7, 2010, who made good on his word. In a change to the Grammy rules, artists who were previously nominated for a Grammy are now eligible for the Best New Artist award, providing they have not yet won a Grammy nor released a full album.

This rule change has come too late to benefit Lady Gaga, whose record-breaking album sales, sold-out concert tour, and extended stay on the Billboard charts have probably provided some consolation, but the Recording Academy earns the respect of many by showing its willingness to correct a situation that might otherwise have slighted future up-and-coming artists. Collaborations between established and growing artists have steadily increased in popularity as the music community strives to push creative boundaries, and the change in Grammy rules now makes it possible for new artists to work with industry veterans without having to worry that a Grammy-nominated breakout hit might ruin their chances of receiving one of the Academy’s highest honors.

The future of the music industry is looking brighter, and with the Grammys allowing greater opportunities for success it is now a better time than ever for new artists to enter the scene.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lennon inspired Epiphone guitars: John Lennon Songwriting Contest grand prize winners receive their choice of electric or acoustic!

After all of the entries are in, the songs have been judged, and the winners selected, the top songwriters are given prizes to commemorate their efforts. This year, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest grand prize winners made their choice between two amazing Epiphone guitars. These instruments both celebrate the life and career of John Lennon, and pay homage to the guitars that he used to play. While extremely similar to Lennon's original models, these guitars are equipped with new and exciting features that are sure to enhance the players' sound quality and tone.
The Epiphone “Inspired By” John Lennon Casino is a hollow body electric guitar with historically accurate attributes that make it appear as if Lennon once played it. The guitar is a replica of a sunburst Epiphone Casino guitar that Lennon purchased in 1966 during the recording of "Revolver". The guitar comes with Gibson P-90 pick-ups with "dog-ear, nickel plated covers and a Switchcraft(tm) made toggle and output jack". Furthermore, the instrument has "the correct 'burst' pattern and front and back, neck joint at the 16th fret (instead of the 17th), vintage style tuners with small metal buttons, black washer around the toggle switch and the historically accurate rectangle 'blue label' inside the sound hole".

The Epiphone John Lennon EJ – 160E is an acoustic-electric guitar modeled after John Lennon's reliable six-string. It comes with an "advanced Jumbo, sloped-shoulder body shape, solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a chunky solid mahogany neck and solid rosewood fingerboard and bridge". The rich, deep sound that the EJ-160E emits, acoustically, is desired in many genres of music, and allows the player to create warm and heavy tones at the same time. When played electrically, the guitar produces a very clear sound with the possibility of thick tone provided by the high proximity of the pick-ups. Although this instrument was created with collectors in mind, it is also an affordable, functional, and rich guitar that any player could enjoy.