The unique Grand Rapids-based songwriters’ club just released its first compilation, spotlighted by Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted tracks by Rob Jordan, Jon Hayes, Brad Phillips & more.
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Reluctant to perform his new tunes live in front of an audience but still eager to get feedback on his music – and the production values of a completed song – Phil Wilson strived for a fresh twist on the usual songwriter conclaves.
So, the Grand Rapids artist’s SONGDRINK “club” was born, with dozens of songwriters meeting regularly via Zoom to critique and listen to pre-recorded versions of their new music.
“I don’t enjoy performing and often my songs are made with a virtual band, so it doesn’t translate well to live performances,” said Wilson, who’s also a member of the long-running Grand Rapids Songwriters’ Alliance which meets monthly to discuss its writers’ work.
“So, I launched a new concept where there would be no performances and a focus on recorded original music.”
Added West Michigan singer-songwriter Jeff Oxford, who’s also integrally involved in both groups: “Unlike GRSA, this is focused on production of original music. You drill down into the recording process, mixing, mastering, using effects, what other instrumentation (to use).”
As Wilson puts it, the idea is to make members’ music “more radio-ready for presentation.”
Mission accomplished, Phase 1.
SONGDRINK this month released its first compilation of 13 “radio-ready” tunes developed and honed over the past few years.
“Sonic Polyphonic” features tracks written by Wilson, Oxford and veteran West Michigan artists such as Julia Yob and Brent Godfrey as well as emerging regional talent making a foray into the music world.
The debut album – available for free at bandcamp.com – spotlights music and talent “far beyond my dreams,” Wilson conceded.
LISTEN: Kaylee Koslowski, “Time is a Shadow”
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE featured SONGDRINK tracks by Wilson, Oxford and Grand Rapids songwriter Cody Ketchum. Scroll down to listen to the songs and the full radio show podcast.
Initially meeting in person but later moving to Zoom during the pandemic where members can share their screens and their recorded music online, SONGDRINK has sparked numerous collaborations between members over the course of 60 events where 10 or so new songs are introduced during each session.
For instance, Yob provides the lead vocals for Wilson’s track, “My Boyfriend is Cheating on You” on the debut album, and Oxford has assisted and mentored members with various production enhancements. Some members aren’t strong vocalists, so pairing up with singers in the club has been a blessing.
“I always collaborate. I never do anything on my own, so this group is perfect for me,” Oxford said. “You learn something from every single collaboration.”
Sessions cover everything from a writer’s inspiration to song structure, and include unfinished tunes as well as completed compositions.
“Many of our active members joined with little to no modern recording experience, but have become quite proficient,” Wilson said.
“There is something inspiring about presenting your song to a group to review. You put extra effort into it. Over a year’s time, you suddenly realize how far you’ve come.”
Wilson hopes to release new SONGDRINK compilations at least annually, noting those releases could help recruit new members who represent more diverse genres. The club numbers more than 100, with a couple dozen really “active” members.
While most songs lean toward folk, pop, soul, blues and typical singer-songwriter material, Wilson said he’d “love to have a more diverse membership. We want more cultural influences. Everyone should know that if you come to SONGDRINK, passionate about making music, you are in. You are welcome here.”
To that end, while the club started as a Grand Rapids-area venture, Zoom has allowed SONGDRINK to become an international collective with members outside West Michigan and even as far away as France (songwriter Stephane Pontarollo).
“Bringing someone into the group brings them from zero to 100 so much faster,” Wilson said of club members’ ability to create finished recorded songs. “Look at what this has become.”
This week’s episode of Local Spins on WYCE – which showcases regional music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org – also debuted fresh music by Brad Phillips, The Pink 50’s, Jon Hayes, Rob Jordan, Blacklunged and Dominique Mary Davis, as well as tracks by Jammie Award-nominated artists La Furia Del Ritmo and Normal Mode, and a special tribute to Phlegethon, featuring the late Aris Hampers. Listen to the full radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (2/10/23)
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