“We need a lot more live music in this town.” James Desautels declares. So, he has devoted himself to the prospect of training more singer/songwriters here at MRU to fill that void.
As an award-winning violinist, Desautels has jammed with the best. Boasting collaborative events with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello and Pearl Jam, his versatility rivals his passion. It’s that passion that led him to become MRU Conservatory’s ‘first string’ recruiter for pop music enthusiasts.
“We all like the term popular music because it’s timeless.” Desautels explains. “Something that was a hit in the ‘30s and is still around now is still ‘popular’.” He has high hopes for students in this program, especially the Introduction to Song writing Class. But the question is, how can one teach creativity?
Desautels is a man of answers. “There’s an art and a science of it. It’s an endless search.” His approach is organic, “We talk structure… roots of theory…then it becomes more of a workshop. Getting up to sing and play. “ He dissolves any potential songwriter’s ego, which has famously broken up countless pop bands, with an in-class group mentality, “I’m encouraging of students giving others feedback.”
An artist tends to be defined by their influences. James notes a few songwriters, “I have crazy-mad respect for people who have dialled it in. Dianne Warren, Max Martin …I love the stuff that Sara Barellis is writing… Burt Bacharach is still killing it. Love that Killers’ song Human. Pretty much anything that Queen has done. “ Even in his list, he oozes musical versatility. But when asked the most important thing he teaches in class, his answer is as complex as it is simple, “To write better songs.”
A relatively new course of study for MRU Conservatory, Desautels’ popular music instruction has been, for lack of a better term… popular. “The intro course is broad, all levels,” he says. “And the artists that took it want to take it again.” Which is, in part, the reason that the Advanced Song Writing course is being offered in the Winter 2016 course calendar along with courses in Music Business, Intro to Song Writing and a brand new course, Popular Music Band.
Who is he expecting to join the band? “I love people who are the double or triple threats. “ he says, “The singer-songwriters they’re already that cause they have their guitar, piano and they’re singing.” But, like most singer-songwriters, he needs to find a way to get a whole band together. “I want to see the pop band take off.” Desautels offers his recruitment pitch, “We need people to sign up.”
Popular music is a departure from the traditional offerings of MRU Conservatory, but it’s attracting the right type of musicians. “A couple (students) are already out there doing’ it. I’ve heard a couple great voices coming out of that class – it’s about getting the writing up to the same level of the singing.“
Fill the live music void in town. Get a band together and sign up.