Spokane-based creative duo Cami Bradley and Benn Suede started working together this year when a mutual friend suggested a meeting. Opening up to a new collaborator can be difficult, they said, and especially so with songwriting.
“You’re really opening yourself up to be vulnerable with someone, especially when it comes to songwriting and storytelling because usually you’re pulling from things that are really personal,” Bradley said.
Luckily, their artistic chemistry was clear “from the first session.” Despite some stylistic differences – Suede tends toward “modern” where Bradley favors “vintage” – their tastes are largely similar, tending toward a darker sound.
Of course, it helps that “she’s an incredible singer,” Suede said, explaining his appreciation for how seriously Bradley takes her craft. Bradley is perhaps most well-known for her 2013 appearance on “America’s Got Talent” when she covered Cher’s “Believe,” but has since delved deeper into writing her own music.
Bradley and Suede will give a workshop, followed by a masterclass in songwriting, at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox at 3 p.m. Dec. 6.
“The application is pretty vague on purpose,” Bradley said. “If you’re a singer-songwriter and you have something that you actually want to present that you feel is finished, great.
“If you are a poet, and you have this poem that you could see as a song but you’re not a singer, you’re not an instrumentalist, and you want to partner with somebody, great. If you write instrumentals or you play an instrument and you compose something or have an arrangement of something that you want to present, great.
“It’s open … so I mean we could really get all over the map, and that’s kind of what excites me about it.”
Auditions for the masterclass are 3-5 p.m. Nov. 1. The workshop will follow with a combination of group and one-on-one sessions from 4-7 p.m. Nov. 16.
Auditions are open to composers, lyricists, poets and musicians of all ages for a $10 fee. Candidates may perform their original work alone or bring a partner to sing in their place. Applications must be filled out and brought to the Fox by 2:30 p.m. Nov. 1. For a printable application, visit spokanesymphony.org/master-classes.
In conjunction with the masterclass, Bradley will also be a featured guest artist during this year’s Spokane Symphony Holiday Pops alongside Whitney Dean (The Sweeplings). Morihiko Nakahara will conduct both concerts at 8 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19.
Initially, the idea of leading a masterclass seemed daunting. Bradley remembered how grand the idea of calling herself a “master” seemed at the time. But fresh off spending the past several months working on Bradley’s upcoming album, “Carmen Jane,” the duo realized that they had more than enough expertise to share.
“I came to him with basically just open hands to say, ‘I have some music, I have some ideas, I have inspiration, but I need someone to help me shape it,’ ” Bradley said. She knew she wanted someone who wasn’t just a producer – she wanted someone with “vision,” someone thoughtful and creative who would keep the focus on telling stories and “writing good music that connects to people.”
In addition to producing, Suede leads the Young Sires, a group he formed with his brothers, and recently produced and co-wrote a song for Spokane-based hip-hop artist Jango titled “Merchandise.”
“I produce, song write, engineer, mix,” he said. “We’re kind of like the Jonas Brothers in that we all just sing together.” With nearly 12 songs under their belts since starting to work on “Carmen Jane” in March, Bradley and Suede like to say they’ve been “sprinting” through the album.
For the most part, “it’s been really easy,” Bradley said. “We think a lot alike, and our writing styles are complementary, but we’re also pushing each other.”
The shutdown, while limiting in most other ways, allowed Bradley more time for creative spontaneity and one-on-one work.
“I’m really thankful because we were able to build trust and reliability with each other a lot faster than normal, ” she said. “And I think that makes the music extra special.”
For anyone thinking about applying, Suede had the following advice: “Don’t be afraid of the mess. Songwriting is messy, and the first thing out of your mouth, out of your pen doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Music by Bradley and Suede is available on Spotify and Apple Music. For more information, visit spokanesymphony.org/master-classes.
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