December Meeting Recap

Hey songwriters,

Chatty might be the best way to describe the final Songwriters Circle meeting of 2015. Twenty-one members, including two new to the group, traded new and unfinished songs and coached those searching for lyrical inspiration. Despite some insightful song critiques, extracurricular gabbing of the non-songwriting kind occasionally distracted from the purpose of the meeting. That usually doesn’t happen. Time to start cracking the whip.

Newish member Liss Victory ( nailed her feature performance. If you haven’t heard her songs, catch her band Fri., Dec. 4 at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.

Sometimes a dramatic key change can launch a song to a higher level, or at least hold the listener’s interest for one more chorus. That’s the optional songwriting assignment for the next meeting, Tue., Jan. 5.

Remember this

Big thanks to the big brain of Kevin Bold ( for remembering the term “cryptomnesia,” an unintentional memory bias in which a forgotten melody or other memory returns without being recognized as something previously experienced. At the meeting, songwriters discussed at length the experience of a false sense of original inspiration that falls short of deliberate plagiarism.

Merriam-Webster describes it as “the appearance in consciousness of memory images which are not recognized as such but which appear as original creations.” The American Psychological Association calls it “a ubiquitous phenomenon.” You swear it’s your original idea, but in fact you heard it before. Chord progressions can’t be copyrighted — if they could we’d all be in jail — but lyrical progressions and melodies can be so similar to previously published work that using it for profit is rightly considered copyright infringement. Even when it’s accidental. Even when it’s cryptomnesia.

In a famous and groundbreaking case, Ronnie Mack’s “He’s So Fine,” a 1963 hit by The Chiffons, was subconsciously recalled and rewritten by George Harrison as “My Sweet Lord,” his 1970 solo hit.

Before it slips your mind, don’t forget to remember to learn more about cryptomnesia at:

Songwriters on Saturday Light Brigade

Album project producer Mike Hickman ( and group members Sue Gartland ( and Brian Price ( will appear live on Saturday Light Brigade radio (WRCT 88.3 FM) 11 a.m.-noon Sat., Dec. 5 to promote the Circle’s 11th CD release with talk and live performances. SLB also airs on WNJR 91.7 FM in Washington, Pa., so Sue will also advance the group’s Concert for City Mission benefit, Dec. 12.
Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle: 2016 Collection

– Fri., Dec. 11. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232 (Shadyside), 412-361-0873. Doors 6:30 p.m., show 7-10 p.m., doors locked 10:30 p.m. $7 admission, kids 12 and under free. Free parking. Beer, wine, beverages and food sold.

– If you’ve got a song on the 2016 CD, pick up your 37 copies at the Tuesday open stage at BBT, at the CD release event or make special arrangements at 412-263-1991 or

– All participating songwriters are invited to play two songs at the Dec. 11 show. Please contact John with your plans to perform or not to perform. Two accompanists permitted. Drum setup 6 p.m. On stage, keep the banter tight — our time in the venue is extremely limited. On arrival, find stage manager Marty Zundel ( to get on the roster.

– If you don’t have a song on the CD, please plan to attend the show to see what it’s all about and support your colleagues.

Concert for City Mission

– Sat., Dec. 12. at Venue 54, located at 54 West Wheeling St, Washington, PA 15301. Benefits the homeless shelter razed by fire this summer. Doors 6:30 p.m., show 7-10 p.m. $10 admission, kids 12 and under free. Free parking. Sale of food and beverages benefits the shelter.

– Songwriters Circle member and Washington, Pa. native Jordan Umbach ( will headline with the release of his new EP, with opening sets by Cathasaigh (, Chris Jones ( and Washington, Pa. duo Rightly Noted. You’re invited to help the homeless shelter by bringing your instrument and playing a few songs (probably two or three songs, depending on how many members are playing). If you plan to play, please give John a heads-up at

Light of Life shelter Christmas party

– Tue., Dec. 15. 10 East North Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15212 (North Side) 412-258-6100. You should have seen the kids’ big smiles as they danced and sang along to traditional carols when Songwriters Circle members played a Christmas show last year at Light of Life homeless shelter. Management loved us and invited us back. Many Circle members have original holiday songs — we mix them into the set and pass out lyric sheets to familiar Christmas songs. In need of a feel-good holiday moment? This is it. One more time,

See you soon,