There was music in the cafes at night / and revolution in the air.”
That line from Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” always reminds me of the University District in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when folk music blasted out of such forgotten hovels as the Pamir House and The Last Exit on Brooklyn, and you might hear the Rev. Gary Davies beneath Roosevelt at the University Friends Center, or an impossible combination of jazz musicians and folk singers across the University Bridge at the Llahngaelhyn.
Today, there are more coffeehouses than ever, but most are silent mausoleums where patrons prefer a wireless connection to virtual space rather than the clamor of music and revolution.
But on the third Monday of each month, in the upstairs room at the Allegro Café, in the alley around the corner from the Magus Bookstore, the ancient energy of the troubadour still prevails. It is the monthly meet-up of Songwriters in Seattle, a group that boasts more than 500 members throughout the Greater Seattle area.
Organizer Chris Klimecky recalls that when the group started in 2007, it was just one monthly meeting in the Alibi Room in Pike Place Market.
“Things incubated for a couple of years, and then I asked myself how we could transform our enthusiasm from a series of random events into a movement. How could we connect all these dots and create something that could be important to Seattle?,” he said. “The answer was in networking: using social media and increasing the events, getting more people involved as hosts and creating an atmosphere of support.”
David Rix is another organizer who was with the group from the beginning. He had been a musician all his life and was feeling unsure of what direction to take with his music, when he attended a meet-up in the Alibi Room.
“It was just a random thing,” he remembers. “I happened to be checking out organizations for songwriting but was finding nothing.”
That meeting turned things around for Rix, who met producer Jay Pinto though the group, who connected him to Heavy Hitters, a publishing company in Los Angeles that placed one of his songs on the soap opera, “The Young & the Restless.”
This success encouraged him to motivate others to pursue their dreams. “We want to break down these barriers that people have. We want them to be comfortable with all the different levels of the music industry, and hopefully, we can be a channel through which they can realize their goals,” Rix said.
One of Songwriters in Seattle’s success stories is how one of the songs written during a mash-up, a situation in which a dozen songwriters try to write the same song, found its way to the National Public Radio airwaves.
An article about mooncakes inspired the song, and Klimecky was so enthusiastic about it that he gave it a full production that sounded so good that Rix sent a copy of the song to the journalist who wrote the article, having no idea of his connection to NPR. It wasn’t long before the station was broadcasting it.
Klimecky also uses his facilities and engineering know-how to produce podcasts focusing on members and their work. “The level of talent in the group is tremendous, and the podcast is an opportunity to sit down and get to know them better,” he said.
Jessica Lynne is among the songwriters whom Klimecky has profiled. She is a traditional country singer from Denmark who joined the group before moving to Seattle. When she arrived, her initial nervousness was allayed by the supportiveness of the group.
“I was afraid to pick up a guitar and play because I hadn’t played in so long. But the minute I did, I felt like I had found a place where I could grow,” she said.
Since that day, Lynne has been on a fast-track to success. She met Kevin Jones, who produced her EP, “Spiritual Cowboy,” and made fast friends with three other songwriters: Rachel Mae, Adena Atkins and Kate Lynn Logan.
“The four of us do a lot of things to co-promote each other,” she said. “Every time something good happens for one of us, we haul the other three along.”
An ‘engaged’ community
The number of events put on by Songwriters in Seattle is phenomenal. Monthly showcases feature a diverse collection of musicians in venues such as The Conch Buzzard in Greenwood. Business meetings cover topics such as on-line presence, networking, and marketing. Home recording seminars teach members the fundamentals of making a demo.
Among the song-critiquing workshops is a relatively new arrival to the group, The Beacon Hill Songwriter’s Circle.
“We’ve had the Circle for a year and a half. It grew slowly until about nine months ago, when we started to get people through Songwriters in Seattle,” organizer Paul Ray explained.
“It has expanded from people who lived in the neighborhood to people coming from all over the Seattle area,” his partner, Betty Jean Williamson added. “Everyone has the opportunity to present something they are working on, and we listen and voice our opinions.”
The most spectacular event remains the monthly meet-up at the Allegro, where 15 to 25 songwriters introduce themselves with a song they have written. Non-members are welcome to come just for the show.
Songwriters in Seattle is not just for songwriters; anybody who wants to be involved should get involved. “We want to make the music community more engaged, more connective and more supportive,” Klimecky said.
BILL WHITE was a regular contributor to the arts section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until its demise in 2009. He most recently was the film critic for Seattle PostGlobe. E-mail him at email@example.com.[[In-content Ad]]