Island musicians make it to semi-finals in songwriting competition

P.E.I. is well represented in a new songwriting competition with over $35,000 worth of prizes.

New contest with big prizes attracts top Island talent

Kinley Dowling is one of a group of Island musicians who have reached the semi-finals in the Canadian Songwriting Competition. (Ian MacLatchy/Facebook)

Kinley Dowling and Bryson Guptill are two talented P.E.I. musicians and singer-songwriters with very different styles.

Dowling is more pop, and Guptill has more of a folk sound, but they both write songs from personal experience, songs that touch others.

Now they are both semi-finalists in the Canadian Songwriting Competition, and dropped by CBC Mainstreet P.E.I. to talk about that.

It's the first year for the competition, and Guptill was attracted by the level of talent he found in the jury, music producers and talented musicians including Kardinal Offishall, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy.

Bryson Guptill is in the semi-finals with his song Forest Glen. (Submitted by Bryson Guptill )
"They're looking at us purely from the perspective of the music and the lyrics and judging both, so that to me was something worth investigating," he said.

$35,000 prize package

It's a significant prize package, worth more than $35,000, with artists in 14 different categories.

Dowling is a semi-finalist in the pop category for her song Microphone, and Guptill is a semi-finalist in the folk/singer-songwriter category for his song, Forest Glen.

Also in the semis are a family from Borden-Carleton, Connie Doerksen and her sons Joshua and Elijah.

Dowling is pleased with making it this far in the contest, especially since songwriting is relatively new for her, as she has been branching out from her highly respected violin playing.

Microphone was written about being raped the night of her high school prom.

Kinley Dowling is relatively new to songwriting, and is best-known as a violin player and member of Hey Rosetta! (Jean-Luc Bouchard/Radio-Canada )
"One day I just sat down and wrote out how I felt and what happened, and it was a really cathartic experience for me," she said. "It turns out to be my favourite song on the album and a lot of people have been connecting to it. For unfortunate reasons, because they had similar experiences, but I think it's a pretty good song, and I have a music video coming for it soon."

Personal song for Guptill

Guptill's song is also a personal one, written after he picked up songwriting when he retired.

"There was a memory about my grandmother's home, and building a cottage there after the home was gone," he said. "It was one of the first songs for my album. The song is a benchmark for me for other things that have flowed from that."

He's not surprised that Islanders have done well in the competition.

"Clearly on a population basis, we have an extraordinary group of talented people here, and they keep winning national recognition, and international recognition," Guptill said.

The finalists will be announced at the end of the month, and winners will be named in May.

From the Mainstreet P.E.I. interview by Angela Walker