Six songwriters locked away …

Six songwriters locked away in Baddeck composing songs for Celtic Colours concert

By Laura Jean Grant –The Cape Breton Post

BADDECK – Six talented and courageous songwriters are penned up together in a Cape Breton home crafting new tunes to be performed for the first time at the Celtic Colours International Festival.

Renowned musicians and writers Karine Polwart, James Keelaghan, David Francey, Dave Gunning, Rose Cousins and Lori Watson have taken up the daunting task of writing new songs and being ready to perform them in just five short days.

The six will take the stage to showcase their new material in a first-of-its-kind show entitled Coming Home: A Songwriters Concert, Sunday at 2 p.m. at the St. Andrew’s United Church in Sydney.

During a lunch break at their Baddeck home-away-from-home, Polwart said Wednesday that everyone was getting along amazingly well and it was showing in the shear volume of songs that were in the works.

“Today, I reckon we’ll have 20 songs so I actually think the show on Sunday is almost certainly going to be only songs that have been written this week. I think there’s enough songs to make that happen which is really amazing and they’re really varied songs. It’s quite a unique thing,” she said. “(The show) will have a lovely, relaxed, intimate feel to it and I think it’ll be the kind of show where you learn a lot about how all the different songwriters work and how they go about doing their thing, which is quite a rare thing.”

Having previously participated in the Burnsong project in Scotland which this year’s Celtic Colours ‘song house’ is modelled after, Polwart said participating in such projects requires songwriters be confident.

“You have to come in being prepared to share what’s in your head. If you come in and you keep your ideas to yourself it’s a waste of your time being there,” she said, noting that sharing ideas is not as easy as it sounds. “It’s quite a scary thing. If you put your ideas out . . . before you’re quite sure they’re right you have to be prepared for them to not be your best ideas and not worry about that and that is quite terrifying.”

Polwart said it was important not to create unrealistic expectations of how much they could write and accomplish in just five days.

“When we started off talking about this people were quite worried about the idea of doing a show at the end of the week with new songs,” she recalled, noting originally they thought about doing a mix of the new songs created during the week and some tunes from each of their own musical repertories, in Sunday’s show.

But that’s all gone out the window given how much they’ve accomplished already and Sunday’s show will feature all new material – some solo songs, others written and performed by pairs of songwriters and a few songs that involve input from all six – being performed for the first time in public.

“I think everyone’s been amazed by how much stuff has happened. It’s been a proper hive of activity,” she said, crediting their collective success to the talents and approach each individual brings to the table. “I think a lot of it has to do with not just people’s skill at writing but the kind of people they are. It’s a really nice bunch of people. There’s no big egos, there’s no people that are constantly trying to stamp their own thing on it. People are really respectful. There’s kind of a quiet respect about how everyone does their thing.”

Tickets to see the six songwriters on stage together this Sunday are still available online at or by phone at 567-3000 or toll-free at 1-877-285-2321.

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