January 28, 2010

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A shot at fame
An evening of originals at monthly Shaskeen Song Shoot
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

When Tricia Dovidio sat down behind a Casio keyboard to sing two years ago at the Shaskeen Song Pull, all she hoped to do was make it to the end of her first original song without forgetting the words.

She’s come a long way since, thanks to a monthly gathering of mostly non-professionals dedicated to making their own music.

Next week, the 44-year-old mother of three will audition for her first band, an all-girl group she likens to Godsmack. Last month, Dovidio released a holiday CD, to give to customers of her Plaistow hairdressing business.

She began attending the get-togethers mostly out of curiosity — her husband, Bruce “Juice” Dovidio, founded the event.

“It’s modeled after old-style guitar pulls, where musicians take turns playing a song,” Tricia Dovidio said. In mid-2007, Bruce learned of a national organization that sponsored gatherings around the country, videotaping performances to post on the www.songpull.com Web site. “He thought it was a great idea, so he had a little video camera and he did a couple.”

Soon Mike Breault, who had a background in sound and video, volunteered to assist, bringing top-notch equipment and disciplined production values into the mix. To date, they’ve filmed hundreds of videos as the event, now called Song Shoot, continues into its third year.

The quality of the taped performances makes even the occasional cringe-worthy song sound first-rate. This opportunity for Web immortality is one of the big lures of Song Shoot.

“They use the right lighting, they test it like a pro, and the videos on our page are better than any of the other song pulls on the Web,” Dovidio said. A muted blue backdrop is set up behind each performer, with multiple cameras used to capture the action. Musicians pay five dollars for each song, with the bar matching

Held the first Monday of each month in the back room of the downtown Manchester pub, the event attracts a lineup of songwriters ranging across the musical spectrum. While Dovidio, who’s penned 58 tunes since that first nervous night, is an unabashed rocker, June Vaillancourt leans toward country. Don Lacourse and Carol Kelly’s duo Phoenix play Dan Fogelbergstyle folk, Tajoura Davis injects hiphop elements into her soulful songs and sandy-haired Addison Chase puts his emotions front and center. “Sometimes it feels good to feel horrible,” Chase said as he introduced “Broken Heart Breakdown.”

Everyone’s writing on the clock, working to have something new every time Song Shoot meets. “The ones that come every month, they always have a song,” Dovidio said. “It’s, ‘gotta write, song pull’s coming.’ We all get lazy,” she said, “but once you go to this … usually people get hooked and they want to go every month, and just keep writing.”

Dovidio never fancied herself a songwriter until her first visit, which she attended as an observer: “I saw amateurs getting up, and their songs sounded really simple,” she says. “I thought, oh my gosh, I think I can write a song! You know how they make you write poems when you’re a kid? Basically it’s that — and then you sing it. My husband said, ‘Well, honey, you need some music.’”

So she learned some chords on the family keyboard. “No sweat,” she said. “Now I play guitar and a little bass.”

She’s also leveraged the power of the Internet, setting up personal music pages on a bevy of Web sites — Reverb Nation, Soundclick, YouTube and iLike, where she sells her Christmas album.

She enjoys the camaraderie of the Song Shoot musicians, some of whom drive hours to be there. Recently she began working with players from all over the world through Musicians Collaboration, a Web site that ties together disparate talents — songwriters looking for vocalists, guitarists looking for lyricists, or anyone with work that’s missing a piece.

Dovidio’s contributions can be heard on several compositions at the site, www.musicianscollaboration.com, and she even appeared on a music video of a song written by Ian Burridge that features an image of her singing, superimposed over a shot of old English castle. She and Burridge have never met face to face, but the Rush-inspired track looks and sounds fresh nonetheless.

These experiences have revealed untapped confidence, Dovidio said: “I’ve learned not to be afraid to be a failure. Who cares if you stink, if you’re having fun stinking? That’s how I feel.”


Song Shoot
When: First Monday of every month, signup begins at 7 p.m.
Where: Shaskeen, 909 Elm St., Manchester
Cost: $5 videotaping fee for performers
Visit www.juicerocks.com and select NH Videos from the Videos menu to see Shaskeen Song Shoot videos