SongStudio cast: Pic: Facebook
SongStudio cast: Pic: Facebook

It's A Wrap: 15th Annual SongStudio Workshop

SongStudio, Canada’s annual songwriting workshop, was held this past week at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor in Toronto. 

The week-long event, founded by Blair Packham and Rik Emmett in 2005, annually hosts 40 songwriters, domestic and international, who converge together to geek out on the art and craft of songwriting.

SongStudio has industry mentors that work with the songwriters in personal work groups and presenting sessions. Each mentor this year was interviewed by Blair Packham and Nashville songwriter Bill Demain.

Topline takeaways from each session, and four random questions answered on the spot by each artist.


Tom Wilson

He’s big, charismatic, funny, and a mesmerizing storyteller.  Tom Wilson is also a recording artist who formerly fronted The Florida Razors and Junkhouse, and currently records with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (and Lee Harvey Osmond.)  Seven years ago (at age 53) he found out that he was adopted, that his cousin was his mother and instead of being Irish he was Mohawk on both sides.  Mind blown and book written Beautiful Scars.  He’s currently mastering a Blackie record and writing a second book.

“We all have a story – we just don’t all have the confidence.  The job is not being an artist – it’s working towards being an artist and the reason that we do it is so that we can get up tomorrow and do it again”.

The radio station you listened to as a teenCKOC Hamilton

The radio station you listen to now: CNN on Sirius

Consumed music: TV shows, movies

Favourite highway: Hwy 6 (the mystic highway)

Favourite ice cream and flavour: Haagen Daz Chocolate and Peanut Butter


Simon Wilcox

Simon is a successful songwriter originally from Hamilton, now living in LA.  She’s written for scores of recording artists including Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, and Britney Spears.  She also had a successful career getting her music placed in TV and film.  Simon’s upbringing included lots of “serious” musicians and music lovers.  Her biological father is David Wilcox, but she was raised by friends of her parents who were also very into music. 

“I didn’t want to be a musician.  I didn’t want to be something as a response to my upbringing.  Music was serious, and a lot of the music I liked was not “serious” music.  Rick Astley’s hit was so uncool, but I liked it.  When I heard Hit Me Baby One More Time, by Britney Spears, I started to realize that if I didn’t do this, I would never be happy.”

The radio station you listened to as a kid: CKCU Ottawa campus station

The radio station you listen to now: NPR

How do you listen to music: Vinyl

Favourite Highway: Number 10

Favourite ice cream place and flavour: Jeni’s Cherry Ice Cream


Damhnait Doyle

Damhnait is a singer/songwriter from the East coast currently enjoying success with her latest release Liquor Store Flowers.  She’s a board member of SOCAN, The Songwriters Association of Canada, and the Canadian Songwriters' Hall of Fame.  Like the other mentors at SongStudio, Damhnait is diversified, working on film projects, writing, and doing advocacy work in addition to making music.

“I’ve learned that there is sympathy, empathy, and then throwing yourself down the hole with them.  I work hard now on wellness, and therapy is something I wish I had started earlier in my life.  I still have stage anxiety and need to take time before I get in front of people. My thing now is yoga, eat well, drink a lot of water, be in nature.  And never change.  Just grow.

The radio station you listened to as a kid:  97.5 St Johns

The radio station you listen to now:  CBC

How do you listen to music: buy vinyl, stream, radio

Favourite highway: QEW

Favourite ice cream and flavour – Laura Secord, Chocolate Chocolate Chip


Barbra Lica

Barbra is a jazz (not jazz) singer/songwriter born and currently residing in Toronto.  She also came from a professional music family and resisted it.  At U of T, she received a BA in Music and a major in Marine Biology.  Realizing she had to pick whether to be a scientist or musician, she picked music.  Barbra remembers that she has always been writing songs; she would listen for songs that she related to and as soon as the lyrics didn’t match her reality (“his eyes were blue”), she wanted to rewrite that song to make it work for her.  Her own writing came about when she had the realization that she needed to be the story, or in the story.

“I’m a really, really good grant writer.  The Catch 22 of needing a good demo, but not having the resources to make a good demo taught me the importance of getting grants. Then when you go into the studio, be ready.  Have charts, rehearse before going in, have a list of things you want to do and prioritize. If you don’t get to all of them, you at least know what’s most important.  Touring is a challenge.  Eating well, sleeping, drinking water constantly.  And it’s always better to sing hungry than full.”

The radio station you listened to as a kid:  CJRT

The radio station you listen to now: JazzFM

How do you consume music: Apple Music

Favourite highway: I-95

Favourite ice cream place and flavour– Soul Chocolate (Toronto) Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie

--Sharon Taylor would like to thank Blair Packham the SongStudio staff for access to the mentor artists.  For more information on SongStudio, which just wrapped up their 2019 season, check out

Sharon can be reached at

Leave a comment