Singer/songwriters share music and stories in intimate concert

Tara Bradbury
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What do you get when you put three East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) nominees and a buzzed-about folk artist in a darkened room together with the acoustic instruments of their choice?

Thursday’s Bluebird North “Where Writers Sing and Tell” event in St. John’s.

Hosted by Sherman Downey, the musical showcase will also feature the talents of Mary Barry, Jerry Stamp and Matthew Hornell, each sharing a selection of their songs and the stories behind them in an intimate, interactive and informal environment.

Downey and his band, the Ambiguous Case, have been nominated for two 2011 ECMAs: one for Group Recording of the Year, the other for Rising Star Recording of the Year for the album “Honey for Bees.” Stamp is also nominated for the Rising Star award, as well as for Rock Recording of the Year, for the album “Bloodwork,” while Barry is vying for the Francophone Recording of the Year for “Chansons Irisees.”

Hornell and his band, the Diamond Minds, will be showcasing during the ECMAs, to be held in Charlottetown, P.E.I., in April.

Both Stamp and Barry say the mix of folk, pop, rock and cabaret sounds go well together, and suit an intimate, songwriters’ circle-type venue.

“I’m all for diversity — I never think it’s going to be fun if you put all the same people together,” Barry said. “What makes a part is all kinds of people circulating, so I think having a variety of styles and different writers is great.”

Barry plans to include “You’re in My Skin” from her 2005 album “These Days” as part of her repertoire. Barry has never before performed the song, a one-take wonder when it was recorded, alone with a piano.

She’s also planning to include a song with her brother, Paddy Barry, as well as a new tune called “Mad, Mad Mama,” written within the past two weeks and inspired by an e-mail from the daughter of a long-lost friend.

“It’s about a person I knew back in Quebec many years ago but lost track of,” Barry explained. “Performing it might be a big chance to take, but when you take a chance like that, that’s how you unleash a song; that’s how a song is born.”

Stamp’s also hoping to include at least two new-ish songs in his performance, but hopes the other musicians — all his friends — might join in on his older stuff, if they feel so inclined.

“That kind of spontaneous stuff has just got to happen if it happens,” he said.

Based on Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe, the Bluebird North showcases, produced by the Songwriters Association of Canada, bring together some of the country’s most inspirational songwriters to share their songs and stories in venues across the country. This month, showcases are also being held in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver.

It’s only fitting the events be held in this province, Stamp said.

“Newfoundland has always had a great songwriting scene. People would obviosuly say Ron Hynes, but there are a lot of other great writers who are from here, who might not even be known so much for performing as much as songwriting.

“I think St. John’s is commonly known for rock bands and pop artists, but over the past couple of years there has been a great push, whether direct or indirect, to show that we have this huge songwriting scene, too.”

The St. John’s Bluebird North showcase takes place Thursday at the Masonic Temple, 6 Cathedral Street, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door ($10 for Songwriters Association of Canada members who show their card).

Organizations: Group Recording, Songwriters Association of Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Quebec, Nashville Ottawa Winnipeg Toronto Newfoundland

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