Acoustic Guitar Project challenges local musicians’ songwriting skills

By Connor Sadler

Gallery House Concerts is challenging 10 local musicians to get back to the basics of song writing with the Acoustic Guitar Project.

For the project, each participant gets seven days with a guitar to compose an original song, sign the guitar, then pass it along to the next artist.

Founded in 2012 by Dave Adams, the project was created as a way to re-connect musicians with what inspired them to start writing music.

Gallery House Concerts curator Jackie Bourgaize believes the project is an excellent way for musicians to make emotive songs and forge connections with other artists.

“You can download a drumbeat or choir back-up and manipulate it however you want, but there would be no real substance or emotion in the music,” says Bourgaize. “[With the Acoustic Guitar Project] the songs are unembellished, the tune and the words are standing out almost naked and the essence of the song is exposed.”

To connect with their fellow artists, they each sign their name on the guitar before passing it along.

“To have another artist’s guitar and handing it off to the next person in line — I think there’s a real significance to that,” says Bourgaize. “I think it helps foster a sense of community.”

Although he only had seven days to write his song, Calgarian musician Brent Tyler said he didn’t feel any pressure.

“I wrote the song in 20 minutes, half an hour, but spent the next two to three days rehearsing excessively, shaping the song into something that I was confident in,” says Tyler. “You want to make sure that your song is good enough and measures up. Writing and polishing a full song in seven days — it’s a new challenge.”

The Acoustic Guitar Project also gives local artists a chance to take a different approach to the way they create music and explore what it means to be a musician.

“It’s a great opportunity to share with the musical community and be involved with something outside the realm of your own career,” says Tyler.

While writing his song, Tyler wanted to remain true to the grassroots nature of the project, so he called his song “Chop Wood, Carry Water.”

“The title comes from a kind of Zen Buddhist quotation meaning that enlightenment comes from getting down to the basic aspects of life,” says Tyler. “I wanted to write a song about getting back to the roots of living and avoiding getting caught up in the business aspect of music careers.”

The Acoustic Guitar Project ends with a concert where the 10 musicians come together and debut their songs.

“When [the musicians] play a song from their heart, it’s natural and it’s so great when people truly listen,” says Bourgaize. “If it weren’t for the final concert, I don’t think anyone would know what amazing things would have happened [with the project] and many people would never hear what amazing songs were created.”

The Project runs from May 1 until Aug. 5 with the final concert on Aug. 10 at the National Music Center.

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