Folk Roots Radio Episode 603: feat. The International Songwriting Competition & More New Releases

Folk Roots Radio Episode 603: feat. The Independent Songwriting Competition & More New Releases

We’re pleased to bring you another hour of great new music on Episode 603 of Folk Roots Radio. This episode is a little different though, as all the music is by Canadian artists and we’re also including a short interview with Shane Whalen, Director of Marketing at the International Songwriting Competition who are celebrating their 20th anniversary with the launch of a brand new annual prize, the Spotlight Award which focuses on talent from a specific region of the world. This time around, in collaboration with Canada’s music licensing organization SOCAN, the prize will go to a Canadian songwriter. We wrap up the episode with new releases from Canadian artists T. Buckley, Pat Chessell, Sophie Lukacs, The Fretless, Yves Desrosiers, Big Little Lions, Slow Leaves, Born On A Wednesday, Luke Michielsen, Joe Nolan, Daniel James McFadyen and Alanna Gurr.

Support the artists during Covid Times


The mission of the International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is to increase exposure for both aspiring and established songwriters, while promoting excellence in the art of songwriting. Amateur and professional songwriters and musicians from anywhere in the world are invited to participate in the competition.

This year ISC are celebrating their 20th anniversary, with more cash and merchandize prizes. They have increased their overall prize package to $225,000 (US) in cash and prizes which will be shared by a total of 71 winners in 23 genre categories. Entrants may submit as many songs as they wish – in the same category or in multiple categories. In addition to cash and merchandise prizes, winners also benefit from an ISC promotional campaign. The Extended Deadline for the 2021 competition is November 3.

A Founder’s Choice Award of $10,000 (US) has also been established. This one-time award is in addition to the overall $25,000 (US) Grand Prize selected by ISC’s panel of judges. The winner will be selected by ISC’s founder, Candace Avery, and ISC’s Listening Committee and gives them the opportunity to recognize and award their favourite song for the first time in ISC’s history.

ISC Spotlight Award 2021To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the ISC is offering a new prize, the Spotlight Award which focuses on talent from a specific region of the world. In 2021 – in collaboration with Canadian music licensing organization SOCAN – the award will go to a Canadian songwriter who embodies excellence in the craft of songwriting. All Canadians who are members of SOCAN are eligible for this award. This award is in addition to all other winners honoured in the overall ISC competition. The winner will be selected by ISC and will be awarded a prize package consisting of studio recording time at the renowned Dark Horse Recording in Franklin, TN, USA, one-week lodging at SOCAN Nashville House, and a travel grant from the SOCAN Foundation.

Judging of the ISC is carried out by the ISC’s internal Listening Committee who screen all the submissions to create a short list in each category that is then sent to a panel of artist judges and music industry professionals. Submissions are judged on creativity, originality, lyrics (excludes songs that do not have lyrics), melody, arrangement and overall likability. Some categories may have additional criteria. Production/Recording quality and vocal ability are NOT criteria (except in the Performance category in which vocals are a judging criteria).

For more information on the International Songwriting Competition and how to submit your song(s), visit

Show Notes

We started off this episode with another track from Calgary AB based singer-songwriter T. Buckley‘s great new album “Frame By Frame”. “Holding My Place” is a song written from the perspective of a young person who has been convicted of a crime and now must try to get their life back on track again.

“I’ve worked with at risk youth and young offenders in the past and seen how cyclical the justice system can be for some.”

Vancouver based Celtic folk artist Pat Chessell has his Irish and East Coast Canadian roots firmly on show on his latest album “The Road Not Taken” which oscillates between rousing Celtic folk pub songs and more intimate indie-folk songs with a little bit of an Americana sound. On this episode we focus on the more intimate end of the spectrum with the relationship song “Rose And Broken Windows”, a co-write with Ivan Boudreau and Pat’s brother, Shawn.

“Falling” is the latest single from accomplished kora player and singer-songwriter Sophie Lukacs. It’s a beautiful meditation on the excitement and vulnerability that goes along with opening yourself up to love. It’s also the first track from Sophie’s debut album which is due in the spring of 2022.

Sophie learned the kora with legendary Malian player Toumani Diabaté. On Falling, Sophie is backed by guitar and the kora, alongside fellow Malian instruments – the calabash, five-string ngoni bass, and, its three-string cousin, the djeli ngoni.

“I use the word ‘Falling’ because the process of falling in love, as hard as one may try otherwise, is sometimes out of your control. It’s terrifying, but also the most beautiful thing in the world.”

The Fretless who feature Trent Freeman, Karrnnel Sawitsky and Ben Plotnick on fiddle and viola, with Eric Wright on cello have just released “Open House”, a wonderful 10-track guest vocalist collaboration. On this episode we feature a completely different take on Bruce Cockburn’s “Wondering Where The Lions Are” which features Lady Phyl on vocals.

“As a Canadian band that has the pillar of artistic exploration in its DNA, we wanted to cover a Canadian artist that appeared to have that ideal as well. Bruce Cockburn was just that artist! He is such an incredible songwriter, musician, and artist – we knew that for our take on ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’ had to be something different and we couldn’t be happier with Lady Phyl’s otherworldly vocals.”

The instrumental we play on this episode, “Lulkanto ce kamionhaltejo” comes from Montreal multi-instrumentalist and composer Yves Desrosiers‘ latest album “Nokta Soforo”. From what we have seen, the live show for this album is pretty spectacular and features Yves Desrosiers on guitar with an accompaniment that features a whole array of different instruments with some pretty cool visuals and stage lighting.

We’re big fans of Big Little Lions who feature Helen Austin (from Vancouver Island) and Paul Otten (from Cincinnati OH). Accomplished songwriters, they are currently releasing a new single a month. Their songs have been used in both TV shows and movies. They have also done very well in the International Songwriting Competition, so it seemed natural to play one of their recent releases, the simple love song, “Peaceful”.

“Holiday” is the latest album from Winnipeg singer-songwriter Grant Davidson, who makes music under the name Slow Leaves. It’s the first album that Grant has recorded, performed and mixed himself. It turned out to be a challenge that he really enjoyed.

“It’s the first record I’ve recorded and performed everything myself, partly because of the pandemic and partly because I’ve always liked the idea of doing more and more myself and learning to do it myself. It’s just me, I guess, for good or for ill. I was always intrigued by getting as close as I can to what I just want to hear. This new record is a little more about letting go than my last ‘Shelf Life’ (2020). Considering things were locked down and the state of the world, I think these sentiments leaked into the songs but I didn’t sit down to write a pandemic album.”

Born On A Wednesday is a 15 year musical collaboration between five different songwriters from Nelson BC who love making music together. On this episode we play “Not Afraid”, the first track from their second album “From The Headwaters”.

“We are super excited about our second album, ‘From the Headwaters’. With funding from Creative BC, we were able to spend more time in the studio to produce thoughtful and professional sounding songs. We still have four lead singers and some songs we are really happy with. It was not an easy album to make with Covid restrictions. A lot of the pre-production was spent outside around a bonfire on Kootenay lake. This is reflected in our gang vocals and some distinctly beachy vibes.”

“‘Not Afraid’ was written by band member Ian Caron in honour of two close family members who passed away from cancer. It is a hopeful, uplifting acoustic tune honouring their strength and resilience. It represents hope in tough times and tough circumstances. We hope it lifts your spirits!”

Kitchener ON’s Luke Michielsen is getting set to release his latest album “Landlocked”, an alternative folk recording based around the mental health impact of overwork – pushing ourselves to the limit, and then over it.

The book is partly inspired by Jenny Odell‘s book “How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy”. Jenny writes: “Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.”

On this episode we play the first single, the rousing “Workin’ Man”, on which Luke sings of looking in the mirror and not recognizing himself because he has become who he has always feared: a man consumed by his work. “I need some help and I want it fast”.

“I hope that this new record will help start a conversation about how valuable creativity is as an outlet and how important it is to take care of yourself.

“Cherry Valance” comes from “Scrapper”, the new album from Edmonton AB singer-songwriter Joe Nolan. It’s a song that was inspired by members of the greasers gang in the S.E. Hinton coming of age story (and 1983 film) The Outsiders.

“The song ‘Cherry Valance’ was the one that got me thinking this album needs to be a fighter, a scrapper, a summer party, driving with the windows down and watching the fire works reflecting down on the North Saskatchewan river in a midnight sky. The song is inspired by the S.E. Hinton book The Outsiders. I always related with the greasers in that film. This is a nod to them.”

“The Coast” is a song about yearning to return to Canada’s beautiful east coast from Wolfville NS singer-songwriter Daniel James McFadyen‘s great new album “August, I’m Yours”.

We wrap up the episode with Guelph ON singer-songwriter Alanna Gurr reflecting on her own social anxiety, while singing about being the “Life of the Party” – that’s right after everyone else has gone home. It’s the title track from her great new album.

That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.

If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!

Image credit: Mali Aroesti Photography from Pixabay.


You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)


Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)

T. Buckley
Holding My Place
Frame by Frame (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN

Pat Chessell
Rose And Broken Windows
The Road Not Taken (2020, Self) CDN

Sophie Lukacs
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

The Fretless
Wondering Where The Lions Are (feat. Lady Phyl)
Open House (2021, Birthday Cake) CDN

Yves Desrosiers
Lulkanto ce kamionhaltejo
Nokta Soforo (2021, Impressaria) CDN

Big Little Lions
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Interview: Shane Whalen, Director of Marketing at the International Songwriting Competition.

Slow Leaves
Losing My Mind
Holiday (2021, Birthday Cake) CDN

Born On A Wednesday
Not Afraid
From The Headwaters (2021, Self) CDN

Luke Michielsen
Workin’ Man
Landlocked (2021, Self) CDN

Joe Nolan
Cherry Valance
Scrapper (2021, Fallen Tree Records) CDN

Daniel James McFadyen
The Coast
August, I’m Yours (2021, Self) CDN

Alanna Gurr
Life Of The Party
Life Of The Party (2021, Missed Connection Records) CDN

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2019. Designed by Susan Wheeler of SuzyWeb