Four Chords and the Truth, the Dakota Confessions are series of songwriter showcases held quarterly in Toronto at the Dakota Tavern, featuring a blend of top notch songwriters and songs in an intimate environment. Each show is hosted by award-winning songwriter Andrea England and will features several nationally and/or internationally acclaimed songwriters (and maybe a surprise guest or two). The songs are performed “in the round,” a style made famous by Nashville’s Bluebird Café, in which all four songwriters share the stage at once, each introducing and performing one song acoustically per round for a series of 3 rounds.
5thth Dakota Confessions RECAP:
Featured Songwriters: Liam Titcomb, Laurell, Madeline Merlo, Derek Downham. Surprise Guest Host: Dan Hill. See songwriter bios at the end of this post.
Throughout the evening, Blues & Roots Radio’s Stevie Connor interviewed the Four Chords songwriters from 5th Confessions for his Wee Dan’s Hoose radio show. Check out the special here:
ABOUT THE SONGWRITERS:
Dan Hill (Special Guest Host)
How does one describe the creative force driving Dan Hill? Nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Vocal, winner of a Grammy (as co-producer of “Seduces Me” on Celine Dion’s 30 plus million-selling “Falling Into You” album), winner of five Juno Awards and the Harold Moon Award (Canadian Lifetime Songwriting Achievement Award), Dan has recorded and released multiple gold and platinum albums. His classic hits, such as “Sometimes When We Touch” (closing in on 5 million spins in America alone, and covered by hundreds of artists around the world), “Can’t We Try” (#1 Billboard AC Record of the Year), and “Never Thought (That I could Love)”, another #1 AC record, all remain staples of AC radio stations around the world. Dan has also enjoyed consistent success as a ‘behind the scenes’ songwriter, his compositions recorded by so many artists spanning so many musical genres that it’s, well, incredible. Pop singers Celine Dion, Britney Spears, 98 Degrees, The Backstreet Boys, Rod Stewart, Donny Osmond, Jennifer Rush and Michael Bolton, R&B singers Tina Turner, George Benson, and Jeffrey Osborne and country singers Tammy Wynette, Sammy Kershaw, Mark Wills, Reba, Alan Jackson, and Lorrie Morgan, to name a select few. In 2009, Dan Hill published his highly acclaimed memoir, I Am My Father’s Son (HarperCollins Canada, slated for international release in June). On the heels of completing his memoir, Dan recorded his 14th album, Intimate, with producers Matthew McCauley and Fred Mollin, his first studio album of new songs in almost 15 years. Thus began a hectic period of composing and recording, touring and writing that continues to this day. Intimate was released in March 2010. The album featured new songs such as the CD’s lead track “(Don’t Tell Me) How I Feel” and revised versions of his hit songs recorded by 98 Degrees, Backstreet Boys, Reba McEntire and Michael W. Smith. Last October, aftermaking friends with the world’s greatest boxer Manny Pacquiao, Dan and his producers joined Pacquiao at Capital Recording Studios in Hollywood, California to record “Sometimes When We Touch”. Out of this session emerged 7 versions of the song (including a hip-hop version with Toronto based, Grammy winning producer Boi 1da), a 4 minute music video and a 26 minute documentary issued as the CD/DVD combo set, Sometimes When We Touch: Manny Pacquiao Sings featuring Dan Hill. Dan kicked off 2011 touring the Philippines where he played a sold out show with Stephen Bishop and Yvonne Elliman at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila. Then he was front and centre for the Juno’s 40th anniversary celebrations 2011 where he presented the “Pop LP of the Year” award, performed in the Juno Decades shows and was featured in the book, Music from Far and Wide: Celebrating 40 Years of the Juno Awards (Key Porter Books). Currently, Hill divides his time between writing songs and prose. In addition to writing several feature articles for leading publications and his regular column for Diabetes Magazine, he has captured his experiences with Manny in The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s magazine. In the studio, Dan has just cut and mixed six new songs for his upcoming album and is working, alongside producers Matthew McCauley and Fred Mollin, with Manny on the boxing champion’s new CD featuring “(Don’t Tell Me) How I Feel” with newly signed Pacquiao artist Mado.
Singer/songwriter Liam Titcomb grew up backstage. He signed to Sony Music Canada when he was 15. Now 28, Liam is a seasoned and respected musician and writer. Even before the release of his first album (age 17) he was touring across Canada with established acts like Tom Cochrane, Great Big Sea, David Usher, Colin James, and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings etc. In 2003, he contributed the song “War” to the benefit album Peace Songs (along with Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney and more) in support of War Child’s humanitarian programs. This album earned gold status in Canada. Still a staunch supporter, in 2009 he fundraised for War Child by busking coast to coast – 99 shows in 60 days. Reporting on air to the CBC his weekly adventures, Liam proudly raised and donated well over $50,000. In 2004, Liam released his debut album on Columbia Records with Grammy Award-winning producer Bill Bottrell (Sheryl Crow, Shelby Lynne). Including hit songs “Sad Eyes,” and “Counting Headlights” which reached Top 10 and Top 20 at Canadian Hot AC radio and the Much More Music Countdown Charts. “Get Down” from this album was used in the Trailer for the Feature Film “Childstar” (Don McKellar). In 2006, Liam Titcomb was nominated at the Canadian Radio Music Awards for Best New Group or Solo Artist (Hot AC). In 2007, his sophomore album “Can’t Let Go” was recorded in Nashville with another Grammy Award-winner, Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, Emmy Lou Harris, Wallflowers). Liam started his own independent label, Double Dorje Records through which he released his sophomore album “Can’t Let Go”. From that release, “Lift Me Up” was used in the soundtrack for the documentary “The Wild Horse Redemption”, directed by Academy Award winner John Zaritsky. Also, “It’s You” was used in the TV series “Republic of Doyle”. For his third album, Liam returned to capable producer Jay Joyce (Patti Griffin, Emmy Lou Harris, Wallflowers). “CICADA” was born. “Landslide” has already been featured on Fox’s popular TV series “Bones” and “Richer Than We Know” was used on the TV series “Switched At Birth”. CICADA was released by Nettwerk Music. In support of “CICADA”, Liam completed 2 Canadian cross-country tours which saw him opening for Colin James in world-class venues like; the National Arts Centre and Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium as well as headlining many of his own shows. Liam also opened for Jann Arden at Massey Hall with his new material. In 2013 he had the huge honor of playing for and singing with Joni Mitchell for her Birthday Tribute at Massey Hall alongside greats like Herbie Hancock, Rufus Wainright, Kathleen Edwards and more
With two cuts simultaneously in the top #40 on the Canadian AC charts this year, Laurell’s songs have been featured on MTV’s “The Real World”, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”, CMT’s “Meet The Wilson’s”, Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules”, YTV/Netflix’s “Some Assembly Required”, and Muchmusic’s “Degrassi” and “Life With Boys”. Penning a handful of top #40 Canadian radio singles both for herself and other artists, Laurell’s work has won the Bell Future Star initiative 3 times “Can’t Stop Falling (Ryan Stewart), YTV sensation Charlie’s “Ghosts”, and budding Alberta star Lexi Strate’s “Chances”. Laurell’s explorative voice has also been featured on various EDM tracks, debuting in the top #10 of Beatport’s progressive chart on Lazy rich and Special Features’ epic “Float Alone” and Armada feature, Dankan & Antillas’ “When You Love Someone”, most recently garnering attention from Afrojack and Wall Recordings in Amsterdam. Splitting her time between LA and Vancouver, Laurell’s most recent collaborations include Afrojack, Trevor Guthrie (Armin Van Buren), Club Banditz (Universal USA), Rozzi Crane (Adam Levine), Ryan Stewart (Carly Rae Jepsen), Lisa Harrington (Tegan & Sarah), Jocelyn Alice (Disruptor/Sony Records USA), Victoria Duffield (Warner Canada), Jeff Dawson (Daniel Powter), Black Rock Studios in Santorini (Justin Beiber), and producer Ian Prince (Bobby Brown). University trained in vocal jazz, self taught on guitar, and playing piano since childhood, Laurell is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the songwriting world.
For Canadian country music darling Madeline Merlo, 2016 is shaping up to be a big year.
Driving-playlist essential, her new single “Whatcha Wanna Do About It” is the fourth release from her debut album, set to launch spring 2016. Making CMT’s Top 20 Country Music Chart, and Sirius XM’s #OnTheHoriszon List, played nationwide in the USA, it’s a toe-tapping follow-up to last summer’s catchy “Honey Jack,” which received widespread airplay and attracted both country-and pop-music lovers alike. After the success of “Honey Jack,” Merlo opened for country royalty Keith Urban and went on to scoop up 2015’s Rising Star award at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards and Female Vocalist of the Year at the British Columbia Country Music Association Awards. Then she rounded out 2015 touring with heavyweights Dean Brody and Paul Brandt. This summer sees Merlo, who was recently selected by Spotify for their “Spotlight on 2016” artists to watch, taking Canada by storm to perform at major country music festivals across the country, including Rocking River Country Music Festival, B.C. and Boots and Hearts, Ont. If you’re not in the foot-stomping crowds, you can catch Merlo in her acting debut in the upcoming country musical film Country Crush,inspired by the Nashville scene, out this summer. Merlo plays aspiring singer Nancy Taylor who falls in love in her quest for stardom, alongside Jana Kramer and Sophie Tweed-Simmons. This is Merlo’s first lead role in a movie, although she has previously worked with award-winning director John ‘JP’ Poliquin on the immensely popular “Alive” music video. Merlo signed with RGK Entertainment and Open Road Recordings at 18. After several trips to Nashville her first single, “Sinking Like A Stone”, was added by JRFM in Vancouver, winning the Hot Country Challenge. The word began to spread and Merlo’s journey began. Madeline Merlo has always had eclectic taste, and in her music you’ll hear the influence of classic country of artists like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, R&B greats Etta James and Billie Holiday and modern superstars such as Miranda Lambert. She has contributed to Sparkle: An Inspirational Handbook for Young Girls, which features interviews with female artists, entrepreneurs and public figures in British Columbia. She’s also performed for the Canadian Armed Forces as part of Team Canada, a small group of Canadian ambassadors from the sports, music and entertainment industries visiting Sicily, Italy, and an operations base in Kuwait. Closer to home Merlo is a champion of local artisans and is passionate about promoting new designers. She’s an ambassador for Wear Your Label, a conscious clothing line that creates conversations about mental health. Her boho, free-spirited style as unique as her sound.
From Toronto Ontario, Canada, Derek Downham is an accomplished songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist that possesses an inspired voice with both power and dexterity. Derek has recorded and played live/toured with many of Canada’s finest bands and artists, such as his bands -THE BEAUTIES & THE TONKAS. His songs have been included in film and television. BURY ME was featured in the Universal movie Drowning Mona (featuring vocals by Amy Millan of Stars, starring Bette Midler/Danny Devito/Will Farrell). Many of his songs from the band TROPHY were placed in several television shows. See : HOW DID YOU GET THIS WAY and NOTHING TO LOSE by TROPHY. His song A TOAST FOR THE DAY by TROPHY was chosen as the international song for UNICEF. Recently CIRCLE OF THE SUN (a co-write with Serena Ryder from her album Harmony) was prominantly placed in the TV show HAWAII 5-0. His co-wrotes with THE BEAUTIES have made their way into international ads. AMC used FASHION BLUES by THE BEAUTIES to promote new episodes of MAD MEN & THE WALKING DEAD. The commercials we said to have been aired over a million times. He has also performed/recorded with (in no particular order): Andy Kim (Rock Me Gently, Sugar Sugar, Derek is his Musical DIrector), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Serena Ryder, Sarah Slean, Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), Luke Doucet, Melissa McClelland, Sam Roberts, Lights, Paul Quarrington (Whale Music, RIP), Hugh Dillon, Kyle Riabko (Columbia), Paul Reddick, Colin Cripps, Ladies Of The Canyon, Trophy, The Beautiful Unknown, By Divine Right, Hayden Neale (Jacksoul) , Jason Collett, Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Kim Stockwood, Jully Black, Tomi Swick, Treasa Lavasseur, Dru, Graph Nobel, Jeen O’Brien, Amy Millan (Stars), Ron Sexsmith, Shaye, Esthero, Kurt Swinghammer, Justin Rutledge, Rik Emmett (Triumph), Blair Packham, Arlene Bishop, Sebastian Grainger (Death From Above 1979), Revival Dear, Ivana Santilli, Matthew Barber, Jeff Healey (RIP), Emm Gryner, Scott Anderson (Finger 11), Damhnait Doyle, Stratochief, Holy F*ck, Beans (Warp), Elliott BROOD, The New Kings, Micheal O’Grady, Andy Stochansky, Danny Michel and many more.
Andrea England (founder/host)
Nova Scotia-born Toronto-based Andrea England has a unique ability to work successfully in two different music worlds, recording and performing as a solo roots/country artist while placing songs with pop stars and emerging country artists. Having been awarded by the John Lennon International, NSAI, USA, and International Songwriting Competitions, England’s songs have appeared on numerous TV series, in feature films, and have been recorded by numerous artists, including former Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger (whose recording of co-write “Casualty” on Killer Love earned Andrea her first UK Gold record), 2015 CCMA nominee Twin Kennedy (cowrites “Get Back Up” and “I Never Will” book-end their new album, It’s A Love Thing) and rising star Meghan Patrick (“Nothing but a Song” on Grace & Grit) among others. Andrea’s own most recent release, Hope & Other Sins – which was produced by Colin Linden and features guest musicians Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Damhnait Doyle, Liz Rodrigues and Gordie Sampson, among others – garnered rave reviews and diverse radio play, reaching #1 on Galaxy’s FolkRoots chart & spending 14 wks on CashBox Magazine’s Top 50 Folk Chart. Of it, David Kidney (Critics at Large) wrote: “The songs are autobiographical, personal, honest and universal. The performances are potent as you might expect; England’s vocals are delicate yet strong…” Andrea’s most recent endeavour is founding and hosting Four Chords & the Truth, Toronto’s newest and hottest ‘in the round’ songwriter concert series. Presented quarterly by Jack Daniel’s at the Dakota Tavern.