Lindsay Ell is enjoying a rare day off at home in Nashville. “It feels like I’ve been on the road six out of seven days,” she says. But Ell’s not complaining. The 28-year-old singer-songwriter loves touring. Every morning, she rolls out of bed and follows her passion. “I’ve prayed of being this tired ever since I was a little girl! I get to live my dream and tour with acts I dreamed of playing with, growing up.”

1) Honesty is the key. “That is the No. 1 rule; it’s also a rule to never break. The more vulnerable you can be as a songwriter, the better the song usually is… The more real I can be, the better I believe the song is.”
2) Write every single day. “Whether it’s a title or just two lines. The voice memo app in my phone is embarrassing, but it’s filled with little tidbits, crazy ideas of me singing as I’m walking in an airport, or lying in bed half asleep… I try to write something every day and capture ideas as they come.”
3) There are no rules! “The minute I say, ‘It’s got to be done like this,’ tomorrow I’ll wake up and break my own rule!”

Those dream acts include Brad Paisley (with whom Ell is currently touring); Sugarland (who are re-uniting and taking her on the road this summer); and Keith Urban (Ell joins the four-time Grammy winner for the second leg of his Canadian Graffiti U World Tour in September 2018).

Since the release of The Project last August, the Calgary native, now based in Music City, has piled up the accolades. From the moment this debut dropped, it flew up the charts. The 12-song collection hit No.1 on the iTunes Country albums chart, No. 2 on the iTunes All Genres albums chart, and earned a No. 1 position on the Nielsen Soundscan Current Country Albums Chart in the U.S. High-profile U.S. TV appearances followed, including The Today Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

With the help of producer Kristian Bush (of Sugarland), Ell has found her sweet spot. As she writes in the liner notes, “I wanted to call this album The Project because that’s exactly what it was. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’m a different singer, different guitar player, and different artist. I’ve finally found my voice.”

When asked if she ever imagined such rapid success, Ell remains humble. “I wanted my fans to fall in love with the songs like I did,” she says. “But I had no idea it would debut at No. 1. It all still feels surreal.”

“Castle,” co-written with Abbey Cone and Josh Kerr, is one of many highlights on the critically acclaimed album. The song is a metaphor for Ell’s philosophy of staying grounded no matter what success comes her way. In the chorus, she sings, “And even if we had a house up on a hill/ I bet we’d want a castle.”

Before recording The Project, producer Kristian Bush gave Ell an assignment she couldn’t refuse. “So many people have influenced me, so I didn’t know where to begin, or go next, with my music,” says Ell. “In our first meeting, Kristian… asked me what my favourite record of all time was, and I told him: John Mayer’s Continuum. He said, ‘Perfect! I want you to go record the whole thing. These are the only rules: you have two weeks; you need to play all the instruments; and you need to do it at the studio.’ For 14 days, I worked from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. trying to get this done… I learned so much about Mayer, and how he played guitar, and how I played guitar, and how I wanted my next record to sound. The gears just clicked.” After two weeks in the studio, she handed the assignment to Bush. “I told him, ‘I finally know how I want my record to sound!’” Ell has decided to release her version of Continuum, so her fans can hear her homework. It’ll be out later this year.

“It’s so easy, regardless of where we are in society, to think we never have enough, or we’re not cool enough, etc.,” says Ell. “We all get caught up in this cycle, but it’s not where our hearts and minds should be focused; it’s not reality. That song is about keeping things in perspective, and being grateful for what we have, and the lives we get to live everyday.”

Easy advice to take to heart, but how does the artist – as she stockpiles No.1 singles and her star rises – live this philosophy? “My fans,” she says. “I have such a close relationship to them and they keep my reality in check.” Ell is a self-confessed social media fanatic – spending an average of five hours a day on her various online accounts. “I talk to my fans, and see how my shows and songs influence their lives, and that keeps everything in check.”

All 12 tracks on The Project are either co-writes, or written by other artists. The album is a powerful collection of personal songs with simple, universal messages of love and hope. Before moving to Nashville eight years ago, Ell admits she’d never collaborated on writing a song. Now, co-writes are the norm. The first single, “Waiting on You,” was a Top 5 Canadian Country radio hit. The bluesy, country-rock song is the one that kick-started The Project sessions; it was a co-write with Adam Hambrick and Andrew DeRoberts. “Champagne,” a co-write with Walker Hayes, is another of Ell’s favourites, because it forced her to step outside her comfort zone.

“It was a great experience for me to have as a writer to learn there are no rules,” she says. “You can be fearless when you’re writing; there’s always an editing step later. I was with Walker and asked him: ‘Can we rhyme feel with Jessica Biel?’ and he said: ‘Of course you can!’ That was a good writing lesson.”

Ell’s music lessons – formal and informal – started young. By six she was playing the piano, and by eight she was learning guitar licks, honing her chops by following her father to country-bluegrass camps. These days, just like one of Ell’s early mentors sang, Ell is certainly takin’ care of business. Fifteen years ago, as a 13-year-old, she met Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Randy Bachman.

Says Ell, “Randy heard a demo I’d made of Jann Arden cover songs and Tommy Emmanuel guitar instrumentals, and said, ‘She sounds like a young female Chet Atkins; I need to meet her.’” A writing session between Bachman and Ell was arranged, and the Guess Who co-founder became the budding songwriter’s biggest fan. “He got me into blues, jazz, and rock, and that gave me a whole new vocabulary for my music that I hadn’t tapped into yet,” says Ell.

Today, the pair still keeps in touch. Bachman taught Ell one other important life lesson: never lose sight of why you chose this career. “Randy told me that this life I’ve chosen will be an emotional rollercoaster, and that I always need to remember why I love doing what I’m doing, and that will keep me grounded,” says Ell. “That’s great advice, that I still think about every day.”

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Become a computer nerd and lose all your friends.

That’s the best advice Konrad OldMoney can offer anyone interested in composing music for videogames.

Hard counsel to swallow, but it’s paid off handsomely for OldMoney. To date, he’s composed music for hugely popular videogames like FIFA 17, one of the fastest-selling games ever sold in the U.K.;  Fight Night Champion, which topped the U.K. sales charts; and SSX Deadly Descents, a franchise that was the fifth best-selling game in the U.S. in 2012. All this via EA Sports, an arm of the Electronic Arts videogame production house.

“After years of playing games, and eating Church’s Chicken Number 6 combos with gravy on the side, I met [music director for EA Sports] Ricardo Almeida and [game designer and producer] Freddy Ouano.

They happened to be fans of dancehall music, which is what I was making lots of at the time, and they gave me a shot producing music for SSX Deadly Descents,” he says.

OldMoney says working with Almeida’s and Ouano’s vision allowed him to zero in on what kind of music he needed to make and for which kinds of game players. “When you do your research on the target demographics, and you make authentic music that resonates with their taste, it really pays off,” he says.

“When you do your research on the target demographics, and you make authentic music that resonates with their taste, it really pays off.”

Hearing OldMoney break down his creative process is hugely insightful for someone who’s never played videogames. While announcers in a game like FIFA 17 are talking – “and they’re either talking while you’re winning or losing” – you have to “make music that has room for them, but leaves the player feeling the pressure of being down a few points near the end of the game.

“How do you create that emotional response without overpowering the announcers?” he asks, anticipating the question. “For something like that, I would get rid of drums, ‘cause they’re too distracting, and use synth arpeggiation as a clock instead. Maybe speed everything up by 15 bpm [beats-per-minute] or so over the 30 second clip, to raise the feeling of urgency.”

OldMoney says when making music for games, you have to consider who’s playing them, and what types of sounds will resonate with them.

OldMoney, born Konrad Abramowicz, immigrated to Canada from Poland when he was 10. Coming from one of the most homogenous countries in the world to multi-cultural Canada was eye-opening for young Abramowicz, but getting exposed to diverse sounds was, for him, the biggest thrill.

Aside from dabbling in dancehall and hip-hop, OldMoney has worked with several high-profile artists working in different genres in Asia. The list includes Korean hip-hop superstars Tiger JK and Yoon Mirae. The producer is also working with Dawid Kwiatkowski, who he calls “the Polish Justin Bieber.” We ask OldMoney if it’s challenging for a Canadian producer to approach artists globally and convince them to work with him. “Networking and collaborating is a very important part of the music industry and in the era of the bedroom producer, it’s easy to overlook that,” says OldMoney.

Eight years back, OldMoney produced a song for his old band Smokey Robotic. It got the attention of the two Korean stars, and he began collaborating with them. OldMoney is returning the favour, trying to get Korean artists exposure in North America. His new single, “Undefeated,” which appears on the official UFC3 soundtrack – along with tracks by Cardi B, Snoop Dogg and Future – features Korean emcee Junoflo.  “It’s nice to open markets for artists who have done the same for me,” he says.


  • Zero in on what makes you special over other producers. Like, why would a certain game franchise pick you over the thousands of other applicants?
  • Be prepared for lots of last-minute changes, if you do get assigned a project.
  • Start paying attention to who’s doing what in the game industry, and reach out to them. A great way to start is to talk to some publishing houses and audio library owners, and see if they’ll pick up and shop your catalogue.

OldMoney easily explains the difference between composing for games and for singers. “A game project has usually been really fleshed out by the time it hits my desk,” he says. “There are hundreds of songs, clips, and thousands of sound effects to consider. My value on games lies in being able to understand and deliver exactly what the producer and music director are looking for. Whereas an artist will often come to me in search of something that they can’t really put their finger on, and we go from there.”

OldMoney’s reputation has been growing steadily, with several big-name game companies – the names of which he’s forbidden to disclose – seeking his services. He attributes being in-demand to being reliable, delivering premium content on time, every time, and his attention to detail. In an article in Forbes magazine last year, OldMoney was quoted as saying his clients want “that Konrad sound.”

Here’s how he describes it: “A bold cup of expensive coffee, with a shot of Jameson, first thing in the morning,” he laughs, before getting serious. “I have a strong foundation in hip-hop, that pocket-in-the-drums that makes your neck snap back and makes you want to bang your head. That’s my favourite thing to add to my music, regardless of genre.”


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When songwriters put their creations out into the world, they typically do so as an act of faith, without a clear picture of just how their work will be exposed and received.

There’s no such mystery with the songs created by the BigDay Music team of Lee Baillie and Marc Rogers; they’re custom-written songs, aimed at a very small and completely targeted audience.

Toronto-based songwriter Baillie established BigDay, and she works closely with multi-instrumentalist and producer Rogers in crafting material to suit the wishes of their clients. The company name refers to the fact that their original compositions are designed to be played on a special occasion, most commonly a wedding, a milestone birthday or anniversary. Less orthodox commissions have been songs for a dog, and a law firm’s anniversary.

How the rights work for BigDay
Interestingly, all rights to BigDay recordings remain exclusively owned by BigDay Music, and cannot be monetized or resold at any time. Clients are granted a personal use license, in perpetuity, of their purchased recording. Performance royalties come into play if a BigDay song is played or performed at a venue Licensed To Play by SOCAN. For example, if a client plays their BigDay song during their wedding at a licensed venue, or a BigDay song ends up getting radio airplay, or is uploaded to YouTube. BigDay registers its songs with SOCAN to cover any of these types of situations, each of which would garner performance royalties.

The concept began organically. “I founded the company in 2014,” says Baillie. “Prior to that, as a labour of love, I was just writing songs for my family and friends, as gifts to celebrate their special occasions. These songs were shared, and as word spread, I was approached by others who wanted to commission songs for their loved ones, and the milestones in their lives. BigDay is the result.”

Baillie’s first customized song was for her brother. “He’s a great singer, and he sang that tune to his wife as a surprise at their wedding reception,” she says. “Shortly afterward, my grandmother Kitty was turning 95, and our extended family planned a huge birthday party at her seniors’ residence. I wrote two songs for her as a surprise, and she was elated.

“I think that moment made me realize just how meaningful personalized music is, for the family, as well as the person who’s the song subject.”

To have those “Kitty” songs professionally recorded and produced, Baillie tapped Marc Rogers, an A-list session bassist (Philosopher Kings, Holly Cole, Norah Jones) and producer. “I knew Marc through my roommate at the time, [noted singer-songwriter] Emma-Lee,” says Baillie. “I had a great experience, and I later decided to officially team up with Marc and launch BigDay.”

Rogers stresses that “Lee is the brainchild behind BigDay. She saw this as an unserved demand that no-one knew about, and it is such a good idea.”

Many early BigDay songs were co-produced by Rogers and his wife Karen Kosowski, an acclaimed songwriter/producer (Brett Kissel, Emma-Lee, Madeline Merlo). “Karen’s career has been exploding so she has zero available time to put into this now,” says Rogers.

“There’s a unique joy that comes from writing keepsake tribute songs that mean the world to a select few. It brings a whole new layer of meaning to the songwriting.” – Lee Baillie of BigDay Music

He’s happy to pick up the slack. “I really enjoy the work,” he says. “For instance, on a wedding song, I understand how important a part of one’s life that can be, as I’ve been married for 16 years. To be able to musically commemorate the inception of that journey is quite an opportunity.”

He also appreciates the chance to flex his musical muscles in a variety of genres. “As a session bassist, if you’re working for a pop artist, there’s an obsession with being up-to-date in the palettes and tones you use,” says Rogers. “In our custom songs, that’s not a concern.

“For instance, with one song, it was ‘they really like Spanish music,’ so I got to listen to old Paco De Lucia records and play nylon-string guitar. I haven’t done that since I was a teenager, so that was a fun challenge.”

The BigDay writing process begins with Baillie sending the client a detailed questionnaire, so she can get a sense of the personality of the song’s subject, as well as the preferred musical style.

“I’ve learned that people are much more poetic than they realize, when they candidly describe loved ones and share anecdotes, which makes my job as a songwriter much more inspired,” she says. “It’s a heartwarming experience to get a window into the loving way in which people view and celebrate one another.”

Baillie uses these notes “to pull out the gold nuggets of ideas and write the song with that information. I write and record it, adding vocals at my studio and laying down some piano chords. I send that to Marc, with the client notes on the genre, song references, or particular instrumentation they want. He does the full production, mixing and mastering, and always makes the track sound amazing.”

“My job is to dress the song up in such a way that it lives in the world that the client likes,” says Rogers.

“Instead of trying to make a piece you hope will appeal to the greatest number of people possible, you have the freedom to make a piece of music targeted at one very small, specific group of people to whom it’s going to be extremely meaningful, if you do your job right. There’s no other circumstance where you get that opportunity, and I love it.”

Baillie is equally enamoured of the concept. “While there’s a particular satisfaction in making music for the masses, there’s a unique joy that comes from writing keepsake tribute songs that mean the world to a select few,” she says. “It brings a whole new layer of meaning to the songwriting.”

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