Thomas “Tawgs” Salter still gets goosebumps every time he writes a song.
“I don’t think there’s anything better than writing a song, recording it, listening to it, and seeing people reacting to your idea,” he says. “You write a song and hopefully you transfer the emotions from your songs. Whether it’s a dance song, or an introspective look inside, good songs transfer emotion from the speaker to the listener.”
Whether it’s a dance song, or an introspective look inside, good songs transfer emotion from the speaker to the listener.”
Salter started dabbling in the songwriting when he was 16, though he admits these first attempts weren’t very good. It wasn’t until 1999, at age 23, that he wrote the song that first got him noticed. He was signed to the record label Sony Music Canada with his band Dunk, but didn’t have a publishing deal. The band never took off commercially, and Salter’s wife was then pregnant, so he thought he needed a publishing deal to achieve some financial stability. He got a $1,800 loan from his mother-in-law, bought a computer, and wrote the song “Silver Lining.”
It was strong enough to impress Gary Furniss, president of Sony ATV Music Publishing Canada, who asked Salter to join his team of songwriters. Twelve years later, Salter’s still working with Furniss and vice-president David Quilico, and still enthused about them.
“They allowed me to continue songwriting,” he says. “Even in the lean times, when I didn’t have much coming in, I didn’t have to go out and get a normal day job. They allowed me to turn into a songwriter and let my ideas blossom.”
Today, Salter germinates his ideas at his home studio in Ridgeway, Ontario, working up to 16 hours a day. In return, he’s had some songs placed with some major-league artists, having written for everyone from Lights to Colin James to Josh Groban. It was the song “You are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” – which he wrote for Groban’s Awake album in 2006 – that gave him his biggest break (and a big challenge).
“My publisher had heard Josh was looking for songs,” Salter recalls. “I’d written a string of songs years before that. In a one-week period, I wrote about 10 songs. One, ‘You are Loved,’ they decided to submit. I didn’t think anything would happen. But out of 175 songs, they called me back, said they loved it, but they wanted rewrites.
“At the time I had, like, $1,000 in the bank, two kids, and it was a crazy time,” he says. “I worked for two months straight and rewrote the song three times. I remember getting off the phone with the A&R person and she said it needs a melody that is more classical – When writing for an artist like that, you need to think about the lyrics with nice open vowel sounds for big, long notes. As soon as I hung up the phone, I had the verse melody in my head. I spent a lot of time working on the lyrics and most of it came out. It really opened a lot of doors for me.”
- · Salter co-wrote “Higher Window” on Josh Groban’s current album Illuminations.
- · Salter co-wrote “Beautiful Like You” with Lee DeWyze, who won season nine of American Idol.
- · “Don’t Let Me Fall,” which Salter co-wrote with recording artist Lenka, was featured in a television commercial for Telus in Canada; a Sears 2009 Christmas commercial; a Coca-Cola advertisement entitled “Follow the Bubble”; and in the re-booted teenage TV drama series 90210.