For two days at the 2019 BreakOut West festival and conference in Whitehorse, Yukon, the SOCAN Song House provided 12 member participants the opportunity to develop the craft of writing songs. The session was led by hit songwriter/producer Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk — the Grammy-winning Canadian producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who’s worked with Kendrick Lamar, Madonna, DVSN, PartNextDoor, and Dua Lipa — and organized on-site by SOCAN A&R Representative Racquel Villagante, and held at the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel & Conference Center.

The participating songwriters, all from Western Canada, were Ava Wild, Madison Olds, Tessa Mouzourakis, Biawanna, Csaba Laszlo, Alexandria Maillot, Sebastian Gaskin, Amelie Patterson, Mariya Soetaert, Elmutasim Fadl El Mola, Calla Kinglit, and Rayannah (Rayannah Kroeker).

The first day of the workshop they presented half-written songs and were given individualized feedback and critique by Koz. They re-worked these songs and re-presented them to the group. On the second day, they were partnered up, and co-wrote with each other to come up with new songs that fused their styles and strengths together.

All 12 SOCAN songwriters came away with new co-write connections, new songs for their repertoire, and a more comprehensive understanding of what it takes to write a hit song.

Madison Olds left the Song House saying, “The SOCAN Song House was simply amazing, and allowed an indie artist such as myself to connect and network with an incredible songwriter, who I now see as someone I can trust in the industry… maybe even an ally. There were moments of being pushed that forced me to grow out of my comfort zone.”

Tessa Mouzourakis said, “This year’s SOCAN Song House was an amazing opportunity for me to meet new writers and musicians, and learn through the process of collaboration… This has been an adventure I’ll never forget!”

“The SOCAN Song House was a great way to connect, and gain insight on my own music, and the music of other incredibly talented artists,” says Csaba Laszlo (a.k.a. NVY). “I personally valued the opportunity to meet future collaborators the most, as well as the opportunity to gain industry knowledge from Koz.”

Renowned songwriter Stéphane Venne strongly encouraged classically-trained pianist Diane Juster to start writing her own songs in the early ’70s. In 1979, with seven albums to her credit, singer-songwriter Juster won everyone’s heart in Québec with “Je ne suis qu’une chanson,” a powerful and touching ballad sung by the great Ginette Reno – who made the song hers like no one else could. Winner of the Song of the Year Félix Award that year, it was a gigantic hit – as was the album of the same name, which sold more than 350,000 copies in a little over a year. As a founding member of the Société professionnelle des auteurs-compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) and the Société du droit de reproduction des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs au Canada (SODRAC), which was acquired by SOCAN in 2018, Juster has often demonstrated her aplomb and her courage. “Je ne suis qu’une chanson” received the Cultural Impact Award at the 30th SOCAN Awards Gala, on Sept. 22, 2019, at La Tohu in Montréal. SOCAN met with Diane Juster to hear about the impact of this song on her career.

Dan Mangan won the SOCAN-sponsored Songwriter of the Year Award for his song “Cold in the Summer” at the 2019 edition of the Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMAs) in Whitehorse on Oct. 3, during the BreakOut West conference. The same night, the duo also won Rock Artist of the Year honours.

Susan Aglukark was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Association Hall of Fame, while Hank Carr received the 2019 Heritage Award.

Among the other winners were Snotty Nose Rez Kids, who earned the BreakOut Artist of the Year Award (after winning the Rap/Hip Hop Artist of the Year Award last year); Carmen Braden, who the Classical Composer of the Year honour; Rayannah, who took home the Francophone Artist of the Year recognition; and Northern Haze, who won Indigenous Artist of the Year. The complete list of nominees and winners is available here.

SOCAN also presented a Song House writing camp during BreakOut West 2019, allowing our member participants the opportunity to develop the craft of writing a hit song.