Tuning U.P.

Established performers compare notes with aspiring songwriter in the “Above the Bridge” weekend


If environment affects artistic creativity, then the “Above the Bridge” Songwriter’s Weekend in the Upper Peninsula will inspire a flurry of musical notes from aspiring songwriters.

The weekend of workshops, critiques, and performances will be held this month at Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn, a winsome B&B in Curtis, Mich., built in the 1890s and perched on a bluff overlooking Big Manistique Lake. Curtis is about 65 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.

“The location is very conducive to inspiration, and enhances the artist’s experience. It’s just beautiful looking out the window at the lake when the fog rises up in the morning and the loons are out there,” says Stephen Grant Wood, one-half of The Hummingbirds, a country/roots duo who will be offering workshops during the event (June 19-22). It was Wood who planted the seed for the idea after performing at Chamberlin’s last summer with his musical partner, Rachel Lynn. He pitched it to innkeepers Bud and Kelly Chamberlin, who threw their support behind it. “I’m also on the Curtis Community Arts Council, and we’re always looking for new things to expand opportunities for everyone,” Kelly says.

“It was a great idea.”

In addition to critiques and one-on-one attention, Wood and Lynn will present a workshop on crafting songs that might stand a chance at radio play or publication.

So, what are the ingredients for a successful song?

“To write a song that’s radio friendly, you have to write within a time constraint, about two and a half minutes long, and say it in two or three verses,” Wood says. “You also want to come up with a catchy, singable chorus and a pretty melody.”

Other workshops offer tips on performance and self-promotion, as well as help for composers who get writer’s block after penning the first verse. In addition to The Hummingbirds, songwriters sharing their expertise include Jill Jack, John Latini, and Billy Brandt.

If Chamberlin’s gets booked up, Wood says other lodges and cabins in the area will handle the overflow. He says he hopes to make “Above the Bridge” an annual event.

As for writing songs with Lynn, Wood says any snags get ironed out fairly easily.

“We realize that to get caught up on one line or blocked up on one issue is pretty silly because you’re always going to write another song, and one after that,” he says.

George Bulanda
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