Dave Sampson is enjoying a cup of coffee at home in Halifax, taking a break after several weeks promoting his new six-song EP, the countrified All Types of Ways. On the wall across from where he sits hangs a framed Gold record, marking domestic sales in excess of 50,000, for his 2016 song, “No Pressure, No Diamonds,” which Classified recorded and released as a single with Snoop Dogg. Last February, Sampson inked deals with Sonic Publishing and the Paquin Artist Agency, and in the spring Tourism Nova Scotia used one of Sampson’s songs (“Gets Me Through the Night”), a co-write with Dylan Guthro (of Port Cities) and Sam Ellis, for an international ad campaign. Sampson also just placed a song on Nurses, a new Canadian drama set to air on the Global TV network this fall.

At times, it all feels surreal. The reality? these successes are no fluke. The 29-year-old songwriter has been building his career for years now by learning the craft, and the business, from industry veterans like fellow East Coaster Gordie Sampson (no relation).

The real turning point came a decade ago when he met Gordie. The Grammy-winning songwriter invited him to his Gordie Sampson Songcamp. Since then, the pair have become best friends. These annual retreats also introduced Dave to the Nashville co-writing method he now uses to craft new songs, and also to many other Nova Scotia-based singer-songwriters, like Mo Kenney, Carleton Stone (also of Port Cities), and Guthro.

Born in Sydney, Cape Breton, the songwriter moved to Halifax eight years ago. During his first few years in the city, Sampson played to half-empty barrooms; sometimes, the staff were his sole audience. Following the release of his new EP in early October, Sampson sold out his favorite local venue, The Marquee Ballroom.

When it came time to pick a producer for this EP, his good friend Gordie Sampson was the logical choice, and Music City, where Gordie’s now based, was the right locale.

“I use collaboration as an excuse to get together with people, drink some coffee, and write great songs.”

Before learning about these sessions, you need to hear the back-story. It was 2017. Dave Sampson had no money, but he had songs ready to record. To finance these sessions, the songwriter sold his 1966 Martin acoustic guitar, and booked time with a producer at Toronto’s Phase One Studios; members of the Arkells were his backing band.

“All the stars were aligned,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, these sessions never came out to what I needed them, or wanted them, to be – so I ended up sweeping those songs under a rug!

What The Critics Say

  • “Heartfelt, energized and emotional, Dave Sampson has obvious natural talent as a Maritime singer-songwriter.” – Grant Lawrence, CBC Music
  • “Dave Sampson writes a great, heartfelt pop song and has a warm, inviting, laid-back style that will no doubt appeal to a wide cross-section of people.” – The Scope, St. John’s, NL
  • “Is Dave Sampson pop, folk or indie? Who cares if the songs are good!” – Stephan Cooke, The Halifax Chronicle Herald

Sampson returned to Halifax with no guitar, no record, and no money. While figuring out what to do next, fate intervened. Some funding from FACTOR came through. He was back in the game with a new vision, and ready to take another shot at recording some songs, this time around with his pal Gordie. The Sampsons convened in Nashville at The Sound Emporium, the legendary studio where records such as Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler and soundtracks for movies like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line were born.

When he’s not in the studio, or on the road, most of Sampson’s time these days is spent at home doing administrative work, so scheduling songwriting time is essential.

“Sometimes I’ll sit at home at the piano or on the couch with my guitar, cooking up ideas, but songwriting for me works best when it’s a job,” he says. “I love collaboration, because I get to work with other people, open my mind, and use my brain to develop these relationships. That’s important for me mentally. I’m such a people person; I need humans around me all the time, and as a solo artist I picked a job where you’re alone a lot. I use collaboration as an excuse to get together with people, drink some coffee, and write great songs. I leave smiling every time!”

“Interfacing” is a series of articles about the innovative companies we’re working with here at SOCAN.  Ryan Maule oversees this work, focused on finding those companies and integrating them with our services, ensuring that SOCAN members can access the best tools the music tech industry has to offer.

Robin Leboe

Robin Leboe

Sessionwire is a great company based out of Vancouver, that aims to connect your studio remotely to other studios around the world. Sound like the holy grail? Well, for many music-makers, it’s long been the dream to create and record live with others over the internet, regardless of their geographic location. The obvious benefits of this approach are reduced costs, eliminated travel time, and the immediacy of feedback during a recording session.

This was definitely something that kept musician, producer, SOCAN member, and Sessionwire founder Robin Leboe up at night. While living in the town of Gibsons, B.C. (a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver), finding the right collaborators was a difficult task. Not only for himself, but for his family members – who are also musicians and songwriters. After coming up empty-handed searching the web for something that would allow live, studio-quality audio connections with other music creators, Robin finally decided to build something from scratch… and Sessionwire was born.

It took time, investors, and a couple of founding partners to bring the vision to life. Robin sought out longtime friend and Nimbus School of Recording co-founder Kevin Williams, and pro-audio engineering veteran Rick Beaton, to round out the team.

There have been other attempts at this in the past, but Sessionwire takes a new approach to online musical collaboration by providing a live, studio-like, remote production experience for its users. It combines web-based tools and a native macOS app to provide live video and audio connections between their users and their DAWs (digital audio workstations), regardless of the type of recording software they use. The website provides registered users with a profile, and the ability to network and connect with other Sessionwire users anywhere in the world. Once registered, users can associate their account with their SOCAN membership, and show off a SOCAN badge right on their profile.

We’re working with Sessionwire to highlight SOCAN members because we believe that our members are professionals who bring experience and talent to the music-making process.  Eventually you’ll even be able to register songs that are produced in Sessionwire with SOCAN, as part of the process.


Sessionwire On-Screen

So, what sets Sessionwire apart from incorporating existing products like Skype and Dropbox into the studio workflow?  Says Leboe, “We’re the first to offer a truly live collaboration tool that provides an easy-to-use, studio-style experience that’s combined with a social networking platform for connecting with other music producers around the world. We built Sessionwire to break down barriers between music creators, and to provide them with tools that let them save time, travel, money, and connect with one another in a truly human way.”

The tools that Robin mentions include being able to stream studio-quality audio alongside video chat, and connect and record into any macOS Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) with drag-and-drop file transfer between Sessionwire users. This is pretty ground-breaking, and we’re not the only ones who think it’s exciting.


Sessionwire Schematic

Columnist Dani Deahl, of the popular tech website The Verge, recently wrote, “From Anaheim, California, I video-chatted with a musician in Vancouver using Sessionwire, and recorded some of his vocals right into the computer I was using, running Pro Tools. This was amazing. Instead of sending recorded files back and forth, I could record a musician live from anywhere in the world, and see them as it happened.”

“Sessionwire looks like a dream becoming real for ‘caveman’ musicians like me.” – Randy Bachman

And then there are industry veterans like Randy Bachman, who says, “Sessionwire will connect the musicians of the world like nothing else before. Sessionwire looks like a dream becoming real for ‘caveman’ musicians like me, who need simplicity to connect on the recording format they’re using – to finally be able to instantly connect and share music files on the internet. I’d love to eliminate sending MP3s via e-mail to other musicians to put into their DAW and have the file changed. Only then, to get their performance sent back to me as an MP3 and have to drop it into my DAW [which is GarageBand]. The fact that you keep Sessionwire live is an amazing approach.”

As most musicians know, working live not only speeds up the creative process because of the invaluable live feedback, it also restores the creative energy and spark that’s lacking in a non-live creative process, like using e-mail and Dropbox. Those who remember the “happy accidents” while working together in a rehearsal space, or traditional recording studio, will relate.

At SOCAN, we’re excited about Sessionwire, and we think this could be a valuable tool in your arsenal.  We’d love your feedback, and comments about it, and are looking to ensure that SOCAN’s core services are even more integrated with it in the future.  It’s early days, but if this is the future of music production, it sure is bright.

For more information about Sessionwire, visit www.Sessionwire.com and visit the SOCAN Partner page in the secure portal to find out more about the other opportunities we have cooking.  If you have any other questions, feel free to contact Ryan Maule at ryan.maule@socan.com.

One thing is clear for Patrick Watson: things will never be the same. “We have to realize how much hip-hop and R&B have transformed the way song lyrics are written,” he says. “Folk’s pretty metaphors are dead. From now on, lyrics have to be direct, and straight to the point. The level of vulnerability displayed in hip-hop and R&B has pushed the limits. And once you cross that vulnerability line, you can’t go back.”

Patrick WatsonMontréal’s singer-songwriter has just launched Wave, his best album so far. It’s a luminous offering, despite having been born out of the pain of losing his mother, and a friend. It’s also a bold album because it marks a departure from the sonic dynamic that has characterized the five previous ones: instead of lengthy songs filled with orchestral flourishes, we’re now witnessing an uncharacteristic sense of self-discipline from Watson, who readily admits that he’s always draped himself in “dramatic” arrangements, as he calls them.

Two things have transformed his approach to songwriting. The first was Frank Ocean’s Blonde, but more on that later. The second one fell on his lap during the writing of Wave. “Adam Cohen gave me a call and said that there’s one of his father’s songs for which they still haven’t found the right arrangement,” he says. “So he sends me this Leonard Cohen demo and I hear him sing over this music – the classic honk honk of synths; it was quite delightful! I got rid of the music and only kept the vocal track, which was quite powerful on its own. Man, the conviction you hear in every single word he utters, it’s so rich and touching!”

That song is called “The Hills,” and it’ll be featured on the posthumous Leonard Cohen album Thanks for the Dance, to be released on Nov. 22, 2019. Watson composed new arrangements, “but to be honest, I don’t know if [Leonard Cohen] would’ve liked them,” he says. “I wanted to enhance the dark side of the lyrics, and maybe he would’ve preferred the opposite, which would have worked, too… I simply tried to be in tune with the lyrics, and the sound of his voice, with more modern, electronic orchestrations,” a sonic element also noticeable on Wave.

Watson is adamant that working with this unreleased Leonard Cohen voice track completely changed his own way of writing and singing. “Just hearing his voice, without any music, and hearing that conviction,” he says. “There’s no need to underscore it with music.” He points out the fact that the suave “Melody Noir,” on his new album, is totally a reflection of this newfound Cohen influence.

“I think the mistake a lot of musicians make is to play music in the hope of becoming someone else.”

The lyrics are self-sufficient, Watson insists. He sees Cohen as a “heavy-duty writer, just like Bob Dylan. For those guys, the text is so important, and at that point you realize that the more potent the lyrics, the simpler the music. You don’t hear them using huge arrangements or extravagant musical ideas; it’s the text that dictates what the music should do. The only genius who might be an exception to this rule is Tom Waits,” someone whose lyrics are as elaborate as the music. “Closer to us, an artist like Fred Fortin is also of that ilk.”

But back to Frank Ocean, who had a profound and transformative effect on Watson, musically as much as lyrically. “There’s no way that rap and R&B have not considerably changed the way we make music, nowadays,” regardless of the style, says Watson adamantly. “It’s not a question of form – R&B rhythms have nothing in common with what I do. It’s a question of sound, of how you mix music. If you sing playing the piano, you record in a single room, while when you use electronics, it’s right there, front and centre, but the voice needs to be front and centre too. That is how production techniques influence the lyrics: everything is more direct. That has an influence on the way I write and deliver certain rhymes.” Songs such as “Turn Out the Lights” – which is delicate and nearly minimalist compared to Watson’s earlier work – and “Wild Flower” are examples of the influence of the modern and discretely electronic production techniques of R&B.

“To be clear, the influence is not in the sound per se, but in how I understand the intention behind that type of production,” says Watson. “I believe it’s important to me, as a musician, to properly grasp and understand the intention behind those songs. It’s a lengthy process, I’ve spent months and months recording demos before grasping that idea.” Four to five times more songs than the 10 that made Wave’s final cut were recorded as demos.

Four years after Love Songs for Robots, Patrick Watson has managed to re-invent his writing and musical approach, and gives us this Wave of pure, unadulterated emotion that, wrapped in self-discipline, become paradoxically more troubling than when he draped his compositions in luxurious orchestrations. Here again, he says, the key lies in the intention. “You can’t just decide to change your sound like you would pin a picture on the wall and stare at it to imitate it,” he says. “I think the mistake a lot of musicians make is to play music in the hope of becoming someone else. One’s music is nothing but the expression of who one is. If you try to be somebody else musically, everyone will hear that. If you want to do something new, if you want to change sounds, don’t change your music, change yourself: the music will follow. Your intentions are what gives the music you create all the colours it has.”