“Everything we do becomes the storybook of your life.“ – North Easton
Ottawa’s North Easton is a man who never stops thinking, learning, creating, dreaming, re-inventing himself, and delving deep to learn more about the human condition and the world we live in. One only needs to visit his website to see the list of musical accolades, achievements, and related skills that have blossomed and continue to develop from his life-long passion of song creation. His journey as a prolific singer/songwriter of nearly 25 years has led him down a path of self-discovery, personal growth, and plenty of creative tangents, one of which is his successful, well-attended Ottawa Regional Writers Group. Held monthly, these songwriting sessions focus on a specific theme or topic of discussion. And now he’s taken it one step further with a full day workshop entitled, STRONGwriter.
The first STRONGwriter workshop was held Sunday April 23 at LIVE On Elgin. About 40 of us had rolled in at 10am with coffees in hand and curiosities stimulated. From the start, Easton professed he didn’t claim to know everything about the songwriting process, as was also stated within the first page of his complimentary and well put together 43-page workbook. What he did offer was a collection of his own experiences and data gathered throughout years of research and actual songwriting. Because when it comes to the study of songwriting, he will tell you there is no finish line.
“I have been putting STRONGwriter together for more than a year now. The ORWG is small lessons combined with practical critique for songwriters songs, while the STRONGwriter workshop is much more intense. The full day event was intended as a level 1 entry into understanding a different process for Songwriting. I have been teaching music and Songwriting for years now, it just made sense to bring it to a new level with intention of impacting a wider audience.”
The course delved deep into the creative songwriting process and covered numerous techniques and multiple ways to organize and motivate oneself. As we travelled through the workbook, he stopped to give examples, analogies, and told inspiring stories/experiences that were captivating and designed to stimulate our thought processes. We were encouraged to jot down points, circle things we liked, cross things off we didn’t. By the end of the first hour, I was immersed as a full-on participant…my brain on fire with a reservoir of unleashed ideas, and my heart alive with a fresh sense of inspiration. We were asked to dig deep into the happiest memories and darkest corners of our lives to search for song content. Easton served himself up as merely a conduit, and shared a wealth of information and experience like a garden for us to explore and take whatever we wanted.
“We can learn from everything around us. I am constantly studying the Songwriting process, and personal development. The books and lessons I have learned from amazing speakers and influencers in the world like Tony Robbins, Simon Sinek, Dale Carnegie and many more, bring value to the Songwriting process. I channel what I learn and share it with others. I have a thirst to continue my education every day, and sharing it is not only incredibly rewarding, but it reinforces all of the ideas and concepts I have learned about.”
We were encouraged to participate in the advantage and beauty of networking with one another during the first break. I discovered people in varying stages of songwriting, as well as equally varying reasons for attending the workshop. One woman was there because she wanted to exercise and improve her storytelling. An unfortunate fall and concussion two years ago left her unable to return to her job. She used her experience and rehabilitation to write stories for children that dealt with challenging issues. She has succeeded with a publishing deal, and her first book is out on shelves. My inspiration had just gone up a notch. After a morning of unlocking our creative juices, the afternoon segment covered more practical aspects of putting a song together. Rhythm, flow, song structure, and most importantly, honesty and originality in lyric writing.
Post workshop performances followed later that evening during a separate, yet completely related event entitled, The Acoustic Guitar Project, for which Easton has taken over as curator. He introduced several singer/songwriters to share their songs in a round format. Each had previously been given one week to write a song, then later perform it using the same guitar, which was signed by all. This year’s songwriters were: Jessy Lindsay, David Shackleton, Peter Bugden, Alan Sandeman, Jessica Pearson, Howie Hooper, Andrew Parton, and North Easton.
“I was contacted a couple years ago by David Adams (New York founder of The Acoustic Guitar Project). He was seeking a new curator for Ottawa as the current curator was unable to continue the task. I jumped at the opportunity as I feel it a very unique project. The guitar that we use here in Ottawa is a Taylor guitar. It is now 4 years old, and all of the Songwriters who go through The Acoustic Guitar Project sign the guitar, so every year the guitar’s look changes incredibly. There is a lot of energy in the guitar.”
The evening came to a close with Easton himself boarding the stage to play some of his own material. For me, his performance tied in everything the workshop had conveyed earlier in the day by pure example. When you heard him speak, it was with honesty, humility, and energy…but when you heard him sing, he was North amplified. His songs and the real-life stories that inspired them, brimmed with sentiment and brought the listener on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It put the final touch on a day that left me with a lump in my throat, a song in my heart, a tear in my eye, and a freed mind overflowing with endless possibilities.
For more information on North Easton, STRONGwriter workshop, and the Ottawa Regional Writers Group, visit www.northeaston.ca or visit his Facebook page. For more information on The Acoustic Guitar Project, visit www.theacousticguitarproject.com.