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Exclusive interview with Portland singer songwriter Mel Kubik

Women songwriters of Portland unite in song and Portland singer songwriter Mel Kubik leads the way by telling me in this interview how it all got started. Let’s begin:

Women Songwriters in the Round concert series Saturday, January 11, 2014
Women Songwriters in the Round concert series Saturday, January 11, 2014Vesma Puharte

What continues to inspire you musically?

Inspiration for me starts with the lyrics. I'm constantly drawing from life; stories that I'm living out, personally; stories that appear to me through interaction with the people I run into everyday.

To me, songs are snapshots of moments. So, I'm putting a lot of my energy and attention into being as fully present as I can, in the moments I'm experiencing, and then letting my muses play with that energy.

Musically, I'm pretty excited by the songs that my vocal students bring to me to learn. They keep me in the loop and expose me to artists that wouldn't otherwise be on my radar screen. Honestly, over the past 8 years it's been my work as a private vocal and songwriting coach that has really drawn me down the rabbit hole of music.

In order to guide someone else, to provide answers to their questions, to help them grow, I feel that I have to continually examine and discover new ways of understanding how this "whole thing" works within myself. I'm always asking myself, what makes music so important to us as human beings? Why and how does it move us? Why do we feel that we must express ourselves in this way?

There is a real relationship between me, as the artist, and the person I'm sharing the song with. How can I deepen and care for that relationship? I've always been a creative person. Teaching and guiding is proving to be my greatest source of inspiration.

What does 2014 have in store for you as a songwriter?

I'm intending that 2014 will be a great year for me, as a both a writer of songs and a performer. I've taken a long break from writing. (Nearly 2 years) I was focusing on arranging and interpreting other artist’s songs, and re-working some songs of my own that I'd never shared with an audience.

Lately, though, I've been sitting at the piano with pencil in hand and recorder "on", sketching out new ideas. Creating this Women Songwriters in the Round series has sparked my muses. If there is original music to be performed every month they want in on that action. I've given them some special assignments. We'll see what the outcome sounds like very soon. I'm also more interested in co-writing than I've ever been.

I spent a good deal of time, a few years back, working with at-risk teenagers in a fabulous program called "Playwrites, Inc." I was one of several songwriters who were coaching each young adult in the area of creating lyrics for characters in the plays they'd created earlier. (It's much more involved, but that's for another interview.) Then, each songwriter would then take the lyrics that came out of the workshop process, and create original music for them. I grew to love the process of writing with another person.

How have you evolved in your songwriting? What has been the ebb and flow?

My evolution as a songwriter has been one of steady growth. I began, decades ago, thinking that songwriting was a mysterious gift that only came once in a blue moon, in fits and starts, if I was lucky. With the help, prodding, and patience of some great musical friends and a game that we all used to play,

I learned that songwriting is a process, definitely a gift at times, and something that, if I actually choose to show up with the intent of writing on a regular basis I produce songs, mystery solved. I've learned to simplify, to be clear, to get to the essence of the picture I'm painting instead of being clever or veiled. I mean, really, who wants to be in relationship with someone clever or vague and veiled? I prefer real.

How has the monthly women songwriting in the round helped you over the past year?

It's new. We will share the stage together for the first time on Saturday at the show. Women Songwriters in the Round, is one of my favorite performance experiences, both as a performer and as an audience member. Over my fairly long career, I've participated in many. Big thanks to Craig Carothers for exposing me to the format. Prior to last October, I'd always done them in mixed-gender company.

Though I've been in Portland for a rather long time, until this past 18 months flew by, I had no idea that there were so many great female songwriters here. I was invited by Rachael Rice to participate in a series of tribute shows performed by all women, The Vulva Underground.

Throughout the many shows we did, I was exposed to Portland's huge artistic pool of women songwriters. I feel strongly about providing opportunities for them shine, to bring their original songs to a greater audience and so this new monthly series at Shaker and Vine, "Women Songwriters in the Round", was born.

Shaker and Vine is a perfect setting because it’s intimate, the decor is all lamps and couches and comfy chairs, a sit back and listen environment. You really do feel like you're in our living room. Saturday night’s lineup features me, Kathryn Claire, (Singer-songwriter and fiddle player) Karyn Ann Patridge (Soulful voice) and my cohort is Wynter Byrnes. Byrnes will provide support on bass, guitar, back up vocals.

In the spirit of Portland's community of brilliant creators of song, Women Songwriters in the Round is a monthly concert series whose mission is to gather, promote, and share the "crème de la crème" of Pacific Northwest female songwriters with an ever-expanding, supportive and appreciative audience.

This format involves four songwriters seated in a semi- circle and taking turns singing their own songs, adding comments about the music and occasionally accompanying each other instrumentally and on harmony vocals.

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 7:00 p.m. at Shaker and Vine, 2929 SE Powell, tickets are $10.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door.