British Columbia

B.C. musician a finalist for top prize in international songwriting competition

Raised in Smithers, Michael Wilford's blues song "Scotch" has made it to the final round of the annual global contest that features celebrity judges Chris Martin, Dua Lipa and Tom Waits.

Michael Wilford's blues song Scotch makes it to final round of annual global award

Songwriter Michael Wilford, a Victoria Conservatory of Music alum, has had his single Scotch selected as a finalist in the People's Voice blues music category of the International Songwriting Competition. (Hailey Krakana)

Every so often, Michael Wilford, a Victoria-based musician raised in Smithers, B.C., wonders if somewhere in sunny California Coldplay front man Chris Martin is listening to Wilford's song Scotch and liking what he hears.

The tune is a finalist in the People's Voice section of the blues category of this year's International Songwriting Competition. The annual contest is open to artists around the world and, this year, features celebrity judges that include Martin, pop star Dua Lipa, and prolific songwriter Tom Waits.

People's Voice finalists have now been selected and people can go online to listen to the songs and vote for their favourite between now and midnight on April 7.

"To me, this song has sort of existed in these different periods where my life got turned around one way or another," said Wilford, discussing the track during an interview on Daybreak North.

LISTEN to Michael Wilford's single Scotch featuring vocals by Chelsea D.E. Johnson:

Scotch was written over a few years and Wilford said the evolution of it seemed to always take place at a time when something pivotal was happening in his life. 

He said he started penning the lyrics when he was moving from his hometown to the Island for school, arranged it with a new friend he had met at school, recorded it when he was leaving post-secondary, and then released it during the pandemic.

Like many musicians, Wilford, who also plays drums for the B.C. rock band Old Soul Rebel, the pandemic has been a hard time financially and emotionally. Feeling a bit low in September, he sent his song into the competition in the middle of the night.

"I just sort of needed a win for my music," he said.

And win he could.

The People's Voice prize pack includes professional production of a free single or album release.

Sounds of a cheap guitar

The song itself has a deep, rough quality to it that Wilford said really came together when he started piecing it together as a student with his friend Joshua Litton.

Litton, who plays guitar for Old Soul Rebel, had picked up a $10 guitar at the time from a music store that was shutting down for good and wrote a bluesy riff on it that made Wilford realize that's the direction the song was going.

"It absolutely sounds like a $10 guitar," said Wilford with a chuckle, adding it is a bit "nasty" sounding but he thinks it works perfectly and can be heard in the recording sent in to the competition.

Wilford, who also plays drums for the Vancouver band Old Soul Rebel, said he is thrilled the first song he wrote has done so well. 'With your first song, you expect so little and hope for so much and it really did so much more than I thought it was going to do," said the Victoria-based musician. (Nolan Guichon)

The song features the vocals of Chelsea D.E. Johnson from Old Soul Rebel. Categorized in the blues genre, Wilford said he doesn't plan on sticking necessarily with any one genre moving forward.

"I want to write the songs that I think are really exciting and then find artists to work with that can help portray that. It might get a little unpredictable actually."

Wilford graduated with a Victoria Conservatory of Music/Camosun Diploma in Music Performance in 2018 and is a member of VCM's faculty, teaching  drums and Rock Band group classes, according to the conservatory's website.

The International Songwriting Competition received over 26,000 entries this year. Winners in all categories will be announced in late April or early May.

With files from Daybreak North


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