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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best Way to get to the Entertainment Centre?

A. Practise! Practise! Practise!

Hi there,

When I released my first single, titled ironically 'Celebrity' I managed to pick myself up a little, ah, stalker. A harmless one of the variety, I believe, but who nevertheless managed to find my phone number and call me quite regularly for chats. He was a teenage boy who wanted to be a pop star and was really looking for advice on how to get there (I guess he couldn't get hold of Kylie's number!). We had a conversation about 'popstar'dom. I encouraged him to take singing lessons, learn a musical instrument or at least find someone who could play one so he could start writing songs etc. He got quite exasperated at this, saying, 'No, no, I just want to be an image-based popstar, not do all that musical stuff!'. So I gave him Kylie's number - just kidding!!

Anyway, my point is that a lot of people want to get somewhere - particularly in music - without putting the work in. I've always felt that I was a hard worker, but what if I practised, say, 20% harder - would I be able to legitimately hand out popstar advice from the lofty heights of my personal experience?

I've just finished reading a book called 'The Brain That Changes Itself' by Norman Doige. Apparently, we can repeat processes - even ones we find virtually impossible - so many times that the brain eventually rewires itself. 'Practice makes perfect', in other words? You think you weren't born with musical talent? Work hard enough and maybe it doesn't matter.

Here is the conclusion I've come to:  Talent + Hard Work = Success; Little Talent + Hard Work = Moderate Success; Talent + No Hard Work = Little Success.
Since the new resolution-forming season is upon us, I've decided I'm going to stop accepting that I'm as good as I'll ever be...and just practise! Practise! Practise!

My latest songwriting practice follows:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Should Delta Have Done It?

Hi there,
Did you watch the ARIAs on Sunday Night? Aussie pop singer Delta Goodrem performed a cover of 'The Day You Went Away' made famous by Wendy Matthews. Some people weren't happy! Wendy's version is beloved of the Aussie people, so it's pretty hard to beat. Is it one of those perfect pop songs that just shouldn't be touched?

Look I know I do go on about covers, ie 'other people's songs'. Let's face it, singing covers is how I make my living (weddings, parties, anything?) but it's more than that. I think there can be a lot of creativity in interpretation. You know Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley never wrote any of their own songs, but wow did they make other people's songs their own. But it can also be a minefield. People have connections to songs they love and don't always appreciate other folks messing with that!

Now just to be clear, there are 'cover bands', like Top 40 party bands or perhaps the band you might have at your wedding, then there are artists who perform covers. Please check out Thirsty Merc's version of Rihanna's 'Umbrella'. Just amazing and very different from RiRi's world famous version. Maybe this kind of thing could be called an 'original' cover.

If I think about what my own musical style is, I see it as being made up of a lot of the music I absorbed growing up (I'm still growing up!). Take a pinch of 80's synth pop, add a generous dash of ABBA, lightly spoon in some Madonna, don't forget to pour in at least a cup of Goldfrapp, and then sprinkle some Ella Fitzgerald over the top...and blend. Sometimes I can't resist going direct to the source of my musical love, but rather than trying to reproduce a song I adore, I might give it a go with a twist. Maybe if Delta had performed that song more differently to the original, it would have received a better reaction? 

I attempted to do my own original covers (with the brilliant arranging assistance of Simon Morel) last week at my (mostly original) gig at Kings Cross' El Rocco. Here are some videos. Let's hope you don't need to ask yourself: 'Has Mandy murdered it?'!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Time to Pop the Cherry

Hi there,

I find it pretty intimidating playing brand new songs to someone for the first time. It’s one week until my first original gig of the year – where I’ve committed to perform some brand new songs destined for Album no 3...

It was a bit easier for me in the past when I mostly co-wrote songs. Like a trouble shared is a trouble halved, so the blame for a dodgy verse structure or naff lyric is not entirely your fault when more than one person has authored a song. This time, as part of the whole ‘do something that scares you’ routine, I’ve decide to write the whole bloody album by myself. The audience at Lizotte’s next week won’t hear entirely virginal songs, however – they will have been heard first, of course, by my fabulous accompanist.

I thought I’d try to make his job easier by recording rough demos of the songs I’ve written so far. A bit of midi drums and even a bass line, to give him the vibe man.  After his first listen (while I watched my knuckles turn white in another room), he said he didn’t ‘quite get’ one of the new tunes. But that one is supposed to be my Goldfrapp-esque dancefloor hit! He said it sounded like monkeys had played the drums in the opening. Things took a turn for the even worse when he started talking about my show tune. SHOW TUNE!? Oh you mean the sultry tear-jerking blues number? Oh dear. Things thankfully did improve when the songs were stripped back to the vocals and chords and his arranging skills were added on top.  Percussion-loving simians have now been banished and Minnelli-like melodrama has melted away.

Note to self: do not under any circumstances attempt to be a music producer. Don’t give up your night job!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Best Things In Life are Frightening

Hi there,
Now I'm not talking about extreme sports here although perhaps the reasoning is similar. If you're a performer reading this, have you ever been backstage, about to go on and felt your nerves knot, stomach churn and brow dot with sweat? Maybe you're saying to yourself, 'What if I forget the lyrics? What if nobody likes what I do? Why the hell do I put myself in this position?' I read once that Deni Hines regularly vomited before getting on stage for a particular show.

I think part of the reason why the hell we do it is Adrenaline and other natural chemicals. I've decided that a bit of fear is actually good for you, and dare I say it, feels good. I think of all the greatest happenings in my life and fear has been an important factor in all of them. Leaving home at 17 to live in at a country university where I knew noone? Exciting! Leaving a well paid corporate job to become a professional singer. Crazy? Perhaps. Scary? Definitely. Falling in love? Cue that fight or flight syndrome, quickening heartbeat and of course that lovely Dopamine.  Having a baby - surely one of the scariest but most fulfilling things a human being can do?

So sometimes I wonder if I do things in my life on purpose to get my pulse racing, without even realising. I did hear someone advise once, that you should do something every day that scares you.

My latest attempt to keep myself unnerved is booking two gigs where I've committed to play a whole swag of new tunes. That's daunting on its own for me. Trouble is, I booked the gigs - and started promoting them - without actually having written any of the aforementioned songs.

16 days to go until the first gig. Yes I am freaking out just a bit. I am a notoriously slow songwriter and 16 days would be a reasonable timeframe for me, for the first draft of one song. But I can honestly say I like living here out on a limb. The best things in life are frightening.

Terrfiy me, please.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Do You Hate Not Doing?

What do you hate not doing?

I love this question. It seems easier to talk about what you love doing, but for me, it's the things in life you can't do without that really matter. I've had a helluva year and while things seem to be on the up now, I've never thought more about the things I would miss if I weren't around anymore! I saw this blog from Derek Sivers (founder of CDBaby and all round smart bloke). I've also just finished reading his fabulous book 'Anything You Want'. 

Things I hate not doing? Definitely in order: 1.Being with my family and friends. 2.Writing music and singing. 3.Eating. I love lots of other stuff but they're the only ones that really matter. Here's Derek's blog, below (from
'We've all asked ourselves, “What do I really love?” or “What makes me happy?”
I've wrestled when the emotion-based answers conflict with expectations. (I'm a musician, but I love working alone. Does that mean I should be a producer instead of performer? I'm an entrepreneur but I hate doing business deals. Does that mean I'm more of a CTO than CEO?)
Last week I thought of it a different way, that I like better:
What do you hate NOT doing?
(What makes you feel icky, irritated, annoyed or off-track if you don't do it enough?)
I hate not programming.
Programming, to me, is the ultimate purposeful creativity. I have so many ideas in my head of websites that would make the world a better place if they existed, services that could help people. It's just a matter of taking a thousand hours to type it all out and turn ideas into reality. Any week not programming is a disappoinment to myself and maybe to others.
I hate not writing.
There are so many things I've learned that I think would help other people to know. Things I wish someone had told me sooner. Things that have made my life better, brighter, or wiser. I want to tell everyone these things before I die, in a well-explained way so they're not misunderstood, and easy to pass on to others. And more new ones are added every week. So I have to keep writing to get them all out. Any day I'm not writing, I'm falling further behind in this goal, which I makes me feel worse.
I hate not biking.
I love the adrenaline rush of riding my bike. I love knowing it's good for my health, and making my legs and cardiovascular system stronger so I can bike across India soon. I love it so much that when I don't do it for even a few days, I get annoyed. When I see other people biking, and I'm not biking, I get jealous.
I hate not talking with friends.
I'm in my own head so much, that I love hearing what my friends are thinking about instead. I love how my friends think. I care about them and feel icky when too disconnected from them for too long.
Asking the double-negative seems to be a better indicator of what I really love doing, than asking it in the positive.
Anyway - I'm probably overlooking some of my own, but now I'm more curious to hear yours.
What do you hate NOT doing?'

Friday, September 30, 2011

Before You Die, You Gotta Play This Gig

Hi there,
Reverbnation just published the results of a survey on the venues where most artists want to perform. Top of the heap in New York? Madison Square Garden. Number one in LA? Whiskey a Go Go. Top dog in London? Wembley Stadium. No surprises there.

That would be that place in Sydney? It's not necessarily the biggest venue that holds the most appeal for everyone. For me, it was always The Basement - Sydney's iconic Circular Quay venue. It's dark but classy. It's the kind of place you could turn up and always know you'll see really good live music. Audiences know that and so artists on that stage always seem to be treated with respect. If Prince is coming to town with his stadium tour, he'll make sure he has time for a secret gig at The Basement. 

I have seen countless gigs at The Basement and I had always dreamed of playing there myself one day. I remember one night, quite a few years ago hanging out after watching a show there. Another singer girlfriend and I knew some of the guys in the band so we stayed on with them playing pool, after the rest of the audience had gone home.  

After quite a few drinks, my friend and I decided to explore. We snuck away from the rest of the group with a cigarette lighter showing our path through the now darkened stage area. With mischievous grins to each other (because I wasn't the only one who had always wanted to be on that stage) we opened the door to the backstage area. We marvelled at this cavern of gig posters and outrageous graffiti. After a few excited moments in the artists' den we decide that since we'd gone this far...we spotted the hole in the wall that led to the actual stage and giggling like schoolgirls, rushed each other to go through to the other side. When we got there we paused for a few moments in revered silence then jumped up and down (I believe there was some tap dancing and other Young Talent Time-style choreography) with absolute glee. We had been on the Basement stage!!
The Basement may well always be at the top of my heap. By the way, yes I did get to legitimately perform there - in fact I'm lucky enough to do so regularly, and on each occasion I still relive a bit of the thrill of that very first time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm a Which? I'm a Singer, I'm a Writer, I'm an 'Other'?

Aka 'Cover Bands Suck'

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a singer. I was persuaded pretty early on that singing should be considered as just a hobby, so it wasn't until my early 20s that I grew a backbone and did something about it. At that stage all I cared about was getting up in front of people and actually singing - and ideally having them like it. I was hugely envious of the duo at a local restaurant - they were actually getting paid to sing in front of people. I left my upwardly spiralling career in Public Relations. Microsoft Australia was my main client and they couldn't believe I'd leave them for the uncertain world of music. After a few months of said uncertainty (and Dad asking on a weekly basis 'Have you got a 'gig' yet?') I found myself in regular singing work and actually getting paid for it! Now have you ever noticed how your heart's desire, once realised, becomes simply a stepping stone to the next, even greater desire? So now the aim was to write, perform and record my own songs, be not just a singer, but a...wait for it - artist! Artiste? 

I did get to achieve my new heart's desire, still doing it, but I still 'just sing' too. I've talked about it before, but there's an amazing snobbery around singing covers, ie other people's songs. We definitely need to support new, original art whether it be music, theatre, literature etc, otherwise culture becomes stagnant. But I think there is a place for performance of all types. Even if that involves my third rendition of 'I Will Survive' this week thank you very much. 

I remember earlier on in my career being introduced to another singer-songwriter at a party. We naturally talked about our music and then he asked 'What do you do for a living?' because it is a rare person indeed who can make a decent living from their own music. I said proudly 'I'm a singer.' Suddenly I had a communicable disease going by my companion's reaction. He waxed lyrical about selling out, selling soul, selling just about everything - this is what I was charged with because I sang other people's songs? This was the first (of many) times I had come across this reaction and I wondered how he made his honourable, principled crust. 'I paint houses,' he said. Oh.

Of course, I've experienced the other side too. There have been more occasions than I'd like to count where I've been pouring my heart and soul into the performance of one of my self-penned tunes only to be interrupted by 'Do ya know 'Eye of the Tiger'?' from an enthusiastic audience member.

Anyway, I came across an interesting blog by Artist Manager (among other things) Corie Anziano on covers vs originals and there was quite a bit of heated commentary too. 

By the way, on that 'supporting original music' topic, I'm performing some brand new tunes at Lizotte's in Dee Why on Wednesday November 9 and El Rocco Jazz Cellar on Friday November 18...both fabulous Sydney venues - would sure be great to see you there!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Big Idea - Better than a Big Budget.

Hi there,

I remember so clearly the first time I stepped inside a video editing suite. It was in my past life as a journalism student and I've got to say, it really turned me on. There's something so amazing about having the tools to create an all-singing, all-dancing (albeit 2 dimensional) world of your own. A clever edit here, an effect and a cross-fade there, some emotive music underneath and my world looks exactly how it is meant to. Not sure if that makes me a computer geek or a control freak. Either way, I love it. Photoshop really does it for me too and most of my cravings until now have been satisfied by this more stationary universe-creating tool.

When I wanted music videos for my first set of song releases, I had to hire professional teams of filmmakers including camera operators, producers, directors, lighting technicians and editors. Hard to believe YouTube only started in 2005, but before it existed, the only place your music video was really going to be seen was on TV, so the production values had to be high.Of course it's still great to work with professionals and have your videos on the box but it's not the only way anymore. And if you're that way inclined, you can have an editing suite on your very own humble home computer.

One of Lady Gaga's recent music videos had a budget of $10 million. And yes, the result is outrageous and impressive. But please have a look at these couple of videos from friends of mine - two different Aussie independent artists.Their budgets were approximately, oh, 100% less than La Ga's and I think they're both fabulous - cute, warm and real reflections of the artists who created them.


Nowadays there's pretty much no excuse for an artist not to have a music video. Some are editing together Smartphone footage from their audiences - love it! My goal is to create a video for every song I release on the next album. And you know, I'm starting to harbour positively lascivious thoughts about YouTube's new editing tools ( Mmmm, animation. If you have a great idea for a music video, let me know - I'm collecting suggestions and inspirations!

Cheers, Amanda

Monday, September 5, 2011

7 Things You Need to know about Your Wedding Band (Part 2)

Hi! This week's blog is Part 2 of some tips a wedding planner friend asked me to put together. In Part 1 we tackled 1.What kind of a band should I book?  2.Where do I find a band? and  3.I love the band at my local, can I just go up and book them?

4. How much do bands cost? 
The price of a band will vary depending on the size of the band itself, how long you will need them for, whether they need to provide their own sound system and how far they may need to travel.

Most wedding bands will give you a quote based on a five hour call. They usually play up to four  x 40-minute sets during this time but should be happy to stop and start when required, to fit in with your order of events.

Part of a band’s fee will also be based on the kind of sound and lighting system they need to bring with them. Roughly, the bigger the band, venue and the greater the number of the guests, the bigger (and more expensive) the sound and lighting system will need to be. Sometimes the venue will already have a sound system (PA)  – if so, ask the venue for the ‘technical specs’ and pass those on to the band. If the band is providing the PA, you can also ask them if they would mind you using their system and microphones for speeches and MC duties.

Is your reception being held at a beautiful but isolated winery out of town? Accommodation and travel costs will have to be factored in. An experienced events band will ask you all they need to know and give you a quote based on all those details.

You still want to get an idea of how much you’re going to be up for though, don’t you? Well, prices vary hugely from band to band, but for an intimate wedding, you may be able to get a duo with their own small sound system at prices starting from $1000. The higher end could be more like $10,000, or a lot more if you want to hire somebody famous.

5. When do I need to book them?
It’s best to book at least a year in advance to ensure you get the band you want – particularly if your wedding is on a Saturday night at the most popular time of year (October – February in Sydney, Australia.) Most bands will ask for a deposit of around 20% which will ensure they will not take another booking on that day. Of course bands do sometimes break up or get offers to play in Fiji for 6 months and if something like this happens, they should be professional enough to help you to find the perfect replacement.

6. Can I choose the songs they play on the night?
A good band will be able to ‘read the crowd’ and pick the best songs to keep your guests happy on the dance floor. Or just the tune to have everyone crying with joy into their champagne flutes as they watch you spin across the floor as man and wife. It is usually best to trust a band to use their experience to play what they feel will 'work' at the right time.

But just like a chef needs to know what you’re allergic to before he creates your menu, make sure you tell a band if you’ve got very particular musical tastes or there’s something you simply would never want to hear on your special day. For example, ‘Celine Dion brings me out in hives!!’ or ‘ACDC are my idols’.

Before you book a band, ask to see a song list to find out what kinds of music they usually play. These lists will usually change and be updated quite often and are more to give you an idea of the band’s range of styles rather than being an exact plan for the night. Most bands will choose songs as they go, moving and changing to suit the ebb and flow of the night’s proceedings.

If you have a particular song that’s special to you both but is not on their song list, by all means, ask a band to learn it for you. A professional band will usually be more than happy to do that and there’s nothing like a live performance of ‘your song’ to charge the atmosphere.

7.What else do I need to know about booking a band?
Don’t forget to factor in the band’s set-up time (usually from one to three hours depending on the size of the band) into the running order for the day. They also need to be given parking or loading dock access so that they can haul in their heavy gear and have it ready to go well before the first guest arrives.

The band members (and a sound engineer and possibly lighting technician or roadie for bigger bands) will need to be fed and seated during breaks – this can be backstage if there is available space. Some bride and grooms choose to include musicians on the guest tables which can really make them feel included in the festivities and be quite nice for the other guests too.

Really, it should be as easy as finding a band whose look and sound you like and getting in contact. Once that’s done, they will be able to lead you through everything else to make sure everything’s covered.

If you find the right band for your wedding, the best possible choice of music will happen at the appropriate time, from your first entrance as an officially married couple right up to keeping the last diehard busting moves on the dance floor.  And when you’re sifting through all those wonderful memories in years to come, each one will come with its own special soundtrack.

Amanda Easton fronts Function and Wedding band ‘Dance Little Sister’. She has performed at at least 150 weddings, great and small, all over Australia and overseas.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

7 Things You Need to Know about your Wedding Band (Pt.1)

Hello! This week's blog is something a bit different - a wedding planner I work with has asked me to put together some advice on bands, so here goes:

'I’d love live music at my wedding but don’t know how to


Music is such an important factor in setting the tone and mood of your wedding reception. But musicians are a strange breed aren’t they? How on earth to go about booking a band? Well, after years of singing at weddings of all shapes and sizes (remember the movie ‘The Wedding Singer’? – that was my nickname for quite a while), I’ve put all you need to know in the answers to these following important questions:

1.What kind of a band should I book?

Ideally you want a band that can get Uncle Felix on the dance floor doing the twist but who is also able to play something a bit cooler for the younger things. And of course, you want to love the music too! A professional wedding band will have a huge repertoire of tunes and the experience to change styles and tempos when they need to. You might want some mood music to set the scene – perhaps some jazz or soul – while your guests are sipping cocktails and waiting for you to arrive. When it’s time to get the party started, you need the band to keep all the generations happy with a good mix of danceable songs

Another alternative, if you have the space and budget, is to book multiple entertainers for the event. Some people will hire a string quartet for drinks on the terrace; a pop band for ambience during dinner and to warm up the dancefloor; and then finish the night with a DJ for the more enthusiastic party animals. This arrangement can work well if you are happy to cope with the extra administration and significant additional costs involved, but a band that can do all of these things will not only be easier for you but will add a lovely seamless character to the event.

2. Where do I find a band?

Apart from recommendations from friends (and if you get some, make sure you still check out the band yourself!) the internet will be your most useful tool. Professional bands all have a web presence and you should be able to see live video footage, information on the types of gigs and venues they usually play as well as song lists -  all online so that you know exactly what you get! If you prefer, you can usually ask a band to send you a promotional package in the mail. Make sure it includes a DVD of a live performance. Wedding websites often have a directory of specialist wedding bands or you could simply use Google ie ‘wedding band Sydney’. Find some bands that look promising and ask for a quote. It’s best then to have a chat to them on the phone to see if they sound professional and friendly, and are willing to guide you through all the requirements.

Another option of course is contacting a music agent (yellow pages or Google will help here) – many of whom are event specialists. For a fee on top of the cost of the band, they should be able to show you a selection of bands as well as look after the administration of the booking for you. Of course, venues, photographers and wedding coordinators all have bands they like to work with too – so you could also ask for recommendations from them.  

3. I love the band at my local, can I just go up and book 


Of course if you love a band you’ve seen somewhere , there’s no reason that you can’t ask them to play for you. Keep in mind, however, that if the band is not experienced at playing at weddings, they may need a lot more managing on your part.  Also, the atmosphere at your wedding reception and your local pub may be quite different! You are no doubt putting a lot of effort into creating a certain kind of ambience for your event. Some bands won’t have the repertoire - or the look - that suits. Khe Sanh and mullets work great at 1am on a Saturday morning, but your Great Aunt Maude might not get it!

Next week's Blog: 
4.How much do wedding bands cost? 5.When do I need to book them? 6.Can I choose the songs they play on the night? 7.What else do I need to know about booking a band?

Amanda Easton fronts Function and Wedding band ‘Dance Little Sister’. She has performed at least 150 weddings, great and small, all over Australia and overseas.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Album No. 3 - All a bit Back Arsewards!

Hello there,

Most people I know who release an album, finish all the writing, recording, mixing and mastering and then only quite a time afterwards, agonise over the accompanying artwork and those necessary promotional photos. Well I seem to have put the art before My third album is still a loose bunch of only-just-in-tune demi-demos, but the artwork is done!

I have accepted by now that I am a bit of a ham, the kind of performer who lives for the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd. Of course it is way cooler to be the kind of artist that delivers their music without any consideration of 'image'. But although I love shoes, I have no desire to stand on stage gazing at them. And besides, I have never really been able to master cool. I actually love the theatre and glamour of the 'image' stuff. Soooo, for my next album, the artwork will help inspire the music, rather than the other way around. A 2 minute behind-the-scenes video featuring the resulting new shots, is below - this is a sneak peek as I won't be releasing the photos properly before the actual music is ready!

By the way, to clear the decks for the new release, my first two albums are available for only $5 each (+ postage if you want the physical version) from CD Baby, below. Each track to download is just 49c.
See you next time - and feel free to share any of your past bad hair or bad outfit shots - see below!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Favourite Song Lyrics? (or, What do Ozzy Osborne, Kelly Clarkson and Tom Waits have in common?)

Hello there,

The International Songwriting Competition is open - just passing on the latest official press release below...

But before that - what are some of your favourite lines from songs? Here are some of mine:

1. Goldfrapp's Ride the White Horse
'Now take me dancing
At the Disco When you buy your

2. Fiona Apple's Limp
You fondle my trigger 
Then you blame my gun

3. David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust:
Ziggy really sang
Screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan

4. Robbie Williams' Kids:
I've been looking 
For serial monogamy
Not some bird 
That looks like Billy Connolly

And I've got to mention just one more in the 'Believe it...or Not Category of Interesting Rhymes':
Des'ree's Life:
I don't want to see a ghost
It's the sight that I fear most
I'd rather have a piece of toast!
(The exclamation point is mine)

ISC Press Release follows: - see you next week!


Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Ozzy Osbourne, My Morning Jacket, Jeff Beck, McCoy Tyner, Duran Duran, And Kelly Clarkson Join Music Industry Executives To Select 2011 ISC Winners

August 9, 2011 - The prestigious International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has assembled a distinguished panel of judges for its 2011 competition. With the most high-profile judging panel of any music competition in the world, ISC offers songwriters and artists the unprecedented opportunity to have their music heard by iconic recording artists, as well as many major and indie record label Presidents, A&R executives, producers, music supervisors, and more.

Now accepting entries for the 2011 competition, ISC gives away more than $150,000 in cash and prizes (shared among the 68 winners) including an overall Grand Prize consisting of $25,000 (US) cash and $20,000 in prizes. Open to all levels of songwriters, ISC offers 22 categories that include all genres of popular music. Past winners have included artists from Grammy winners to hobbyist songwriters and everyone in between.

For information and enter, go to

Winning ISC can be a tremendous career booster. Over the years, many winners have achieved great career success, including getting signed to labels such as Epic, Universal, Motown, and more. Many more winners have secured publishing deals, smaller label deals, licensing deals, and distribution deals in addition to getting more gigs, fans, and recognition.

The complete list of ISC judges includes:
Recording Artists: Tom Waits; Tori Amos; Jeff Beck; Billy Currington; My Morning Jacket; Simon Le Bon & Roger Taylor (Duran Duran); Kelly Clarkson; Keane; McCoy Tyner; Wynonna; Francesca Battistelli; Tegan and Sara; Massive Attack; Michael W. Smith; Alejandro Sanz; Johnny Clegg; Jeremy Camp; Ray Wylie Hubbard; John Mayall; Craig Morgan; Basement Jaxx; James Cotton; Sandra Bernhard; Trombone Shorty; Robert Earl Keen; Black Francis (The Pixies); Mose Allison; Robert Smith (The Cure); Amadou & Mariam; Darryl McDaniels (Run D.M.C.); Toots Hibbert (Toots & The Maytals); Matt Thiessen (Relient K); Chayanne; and more...
Industry Executives: Monte Lipman (President, Universal Republic Records); David Massey (President, Mercury Records); Brian Malouf (VP A&R, Walt Disney Records); Bruce Iglauer (Founder/President, Alligator Records); Angel Carrasco (Sr. VP A&R, Latin America, Sony/BMG); Ric Arboit (President, Nettwerk Music Group); Anastasia Brown (Music Supervisor, FORMAT); Allison Jones (VP of A&R, Big Machine Label Group); Steve Lillywhite (Producer); Dan Storper (President, Putamayo World Music Records and Putumayo Kids); Kim Buie (VP A&R, Lost Highway); Douglas C. Cohn (Sr. VP, Music Marketing & Talent, Nickelodeon); Trevor Jerideau (VP of A&R, J Records); Antony Bland (A&R, American Recordings); Steve Smith (VP of A&R, Aware Records); Cory Robbins (Founder/President, Robbins Entertainment); Dr. Demento (Radio Host, The Dr. Demento Show); and more...

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

10 songs every cover band should know?

Like many an Aussie musician, I make the majority of my living from singing other people's songs. Lucky for me, I love it. I read a post from recently with the same title as this blog. Now we may have some cultural differences here, but I could agree with only two songs from their list. Just to be clear, we're not talking 10 coolest songs every cover band should know! I'm trying to find those magic songs that seem to work with almost all crowds - generally to get them dancing, at least on the inside.

I'll never forget the time I was hired with a jazz quartet to sing at a wedding. We played some cool tunes man, but noone was dancing. Someone from the bridal party came up and asked us if we could play something they could move to. The band chose a funky jazz number. No one danced. I suggested 'Blame it on the Boogie' to the band who then drilled into my skull with laser beam eyes. After a few further failed hip jazz choices, the band relented and 'Blame it on the Boogie' packed the dancefloor. I never did get asked back by that jazz band again...

Here are my picks for the top 10 songs every cover band should know. Numbers 9 & 10 are the two from's list.

1. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
2. Blame it on the Boogie - Jackson 5
3. Walking on Sunshine - Katrina & the Waves
4. Love is in the Air - John Paul Young
5. Loveshack -  B52s ( I know! I know! But people love to dance to it!)
6. Dancing Queen - ABBA
7. We Are Family - Sister Sledge
8. Lady Marmalade - Labelle
9. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
10. Brown-Eyed Girl - Van Morrison

What do you think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Falling in Love in the Dark

After an eye operation recently, I found myself in a dark room for a few days with nothing to do but recuperate. With my most-used sense out of the equation, it was audio stimulation I craved. I let my mp3 player delve into the far reaches of my digital catalogue and draw out musical memories I may never have chosen had I had the sight to do so. With nothing else to distract me, I could let the music wash over me and swell up to fill every second I lay there in the blackness. And that's when I become besotted - all over again.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who, after hearing a song called 'Stop!' on the radio in 1989, promptly decided that I wanted to become a singer. Lush, passionate arrangement, angst so deep a teenager could get lost in it and delivered by a platinum-haired goddess with a whiskey-angel vocal. Sam Brown became my idol from that moment on.

But you know how it can be as the years go by. New infatuations were always around the corner. Neneh Cherry was quite a crush and there was that ongoing affair with ABBA. At one stage I was mad for Massive Attack and Madonna. Ella Fitzgerald had me playing in a different field and was definitely more than a flirtation. I was passionate over Portishead and my liaisons with Garbage and Goldfrapp will always hold a corner of my heart. I'll never forget the heady days of my dalliance with David Bowie and I have long had a soft spot for Shivaree.

But true love never really dies, and lying there in the dark and rediscovering the music of Sam Brown was like finding a dog-eared love letter that had been forgotten in the pages of a book. I fell in love all over again.

If you want to find out more about what Sam's been up to since 1989, visit her fansite at

Oh, and yes, I did become a singer.