The Red Door Pub Showcases Songwriters

On Friday, May 12th, the Red Door Pub and Grille at the Meaford Motel will be presenting a showcase of three songwriters for a special evening.  Since it began to feature live music on Friday evenings, the talent booked into The Red Door has had a slightly different approach from other venues.  With an emphasis on jazz and classical players, it has provided an alternative to the primarily rock flavoured acts that are featured at venues like The Leeky Canoe, leaning more toward what’s known as a “listening room” where people come to quietly enjoy the performances.  And timing the shows from seven to ten on a Friday evening means that fans can enjoy these acts over a meal and still head down the street to The Leeky just in time to arrive when things are starting to happen there.

The great success of the recent Gallery Concert Series at Meaford Hall demonstrated a genuine appetite for a small quiet venue that features original music, with almost every show in the series a sell-out.  To focus on the original music of songwriters can be a bit of a challenge but it is clear that our area supports that approach.  In Thornbury, Bruce Wine Bar has a policy of featuring original acts only and their shows on the weekends attract a loyal audience, as does their open stage on Wednesday nights.  The many other open stages in the area also feature a lot of original talent.  Jon Farmer has presented special songwriter evenings at The Bleeding Carrot in Owen Sound and they too have drawn capacity audiences.

As you sit through and listen to the individual styles of each of these songwriters, you’ll find yourself engaged in the spirit of the songs, and the stories they contain.

The three songwriters featured on this inaugural songwriters’ night at The Red Door will be Bill Monahan, David Hawkins and John Brownlow.   Although they have different styles, they also have some things in common.  All three are prolific songwriters who have a lot of respect for the craft, and for their audiences, writing and performing to reach an audience with stories and reflections that will resonate.  And although they have made their livings in different ways, each has spent a lifetime immersed in music, providing support for other talents and motivated by a love of musical creativity.  Their love of music has led each in his own way to become an integral part of music development in the area.

Bill Monahan runs an in-home electronics service throughout Southern Georgian Bay which, among other things, helps clients set up their home entertainment systems to get the most out of both new and legacy equipment.  He has been writing songs all his life and played in a variety of bands.  His enthusiasm for original music led him in the past to serve on the board of the Mariposa Folk Festival, and to create an independent record label that specialized in songwriters, as well as years of freelance writing about music and musicians.  He’s played in Country and Rockabilly bands in the past, and a few years back was part of a local rock band that called themselves Bighead.  Currently he publicises and promotes live music of all kinds throughout our area with his website Meaford Live Music (you’re soaking in it).  His songs come from the heart, in styles that reflect what he hears on the radio and records, within the confines of what he is able to do with an acoustic guitar.  It’s been said that many of his songs, though original, sound like timeless standards, characterized by simplicity and wit in his lyrics and catchy medodies.

David Hawkins is the former owner of Owen Sound’s music store that has now become Long & McQuade.  He has long been a supporter of local talent, including hosting open stages and participating in cooperative efforts like The Mossy Gatherings and The Harmony Centre, where he recently hosted a celebration of their fifth anniversary.  He currently fronts a traditional country dance band called Trish and the Tractors.  His original songs glimmer with humanity and beautifully surprising melodic phrases, and are delivered with smooth vocals that set off the meanings of the songs.

John Brownlow makes his living as a screenwriter but manages at the same time to create a prodigious output of original songs, which he painstakingly records at his home studio.  When he is inspired, he records other artists, including most recently local songwriter Greg Smith, whose debut EP, Iris was recorded at John’s studio.   Up until a few years ago he fronted a band called The Sportswriters.  He has for many years hosted The Epping Festival on his property, featuring a variety of local acts.  He is also a very impressive video producer, whose collection called The Epping Sessions have included videos of local artists Drew McIvor and Rob Elder among many others.  His songs are the epitome of the craft, pulsing with humour and wry wordcraft.  It’s easy to see the influence of British New Wave from the nineties in many of his songs and his more recent songs have a Brazilian samba flavour to them.

All three of these performers are currently working on albums that feature their original songs.

They are all mainstays of the bi-weekly songwriter gatherings that happen alternately in Owen Sound and Thornbury under the auspices of Georgian Shore Songwriters.  These gatherings are valuable workshops for songwriters at any level of experience.  Sitting in a circle each songwriter presents a song or part of a song and gets feedback and constructive criticism from the others in the group.  The emphasis is on the craft of song writing rather than the performance.  There are no restrictions on style and anyone is welcome to attend, bringing along their work for supportive feedback.  They are always especially inspiring gatherings for the songwriters involved.  John Brownlow, David Hawkins and poet/songwriter Richard-Yves Sitoski organize and host the events.

As you sit through and listen to the individual styles of each of these songwriters, you’ll find yourself engaged in the spirit of the songs, and the stories they contain.  This is the kind of evening that will seem to go by all too fast and leave you with tunes and lyrics swimming in your head.

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