I’m not sure I’m in the right place.
The address on the residential Canton street matches that of Realgrey Records, but I don’t see anything resembling a studio.
I’ve come for Bring Your Song, a songwriters’ workshop and open mic hosted by Realgrey owner Ron Flack the first Monday of every month. Designed to provide songwriters with peer feedback, it’s where I’ll also create the first studio-quality recording of one of my tunes. If I can find the place, that is.
Finally, I see a white-haired man carry a guitar into the adjacent barn. Inside, the rustic studio looks like The Band’s nirvana. Past a knob-filled control room, a bicycle, an old ladder and barn doors hang from the playing room’s reclaimed-wood walls.
As musicians file in, tonight’s featured artist, Tosca Abigail, known off-stage as Tosca Yonkers, checks a mic surrounded by about 15 chairs. Her 45-minute set of dynamic, emotional melodies reflects a seasoned performer. Much has changed in the five years since she first attended the workshop, but the space’s spirit endures.
“Bring Your Song is a symbol of the community that Ron’s created,” says Yonkers, a Canton native. “Coming back felt so comfortable. It’s like my second home.”
Named Our Carriage House Studio after the structure’s original purpose, the space sets a familial tone — likely because it’s the fruit of collective labor. Bring Your Song started in 2010 as a group of songwriting friends gathering in Flack’s living room. When the event outgrew the space three years later, those same
songwriters traded their guitars for hammers and power drills to remake the carriage house.
“Driving nails into dry wall and getting bloody thumbs together gave our musical experiences depth,” says Flack. “That’s when Bring Your Song solidified.”
When my turn comes, I’m more nervous than I expect to be. The crowd is far from my biggest, but undivided attention is rare at a barroom open mic. After explaining the regional inspiration behind my folk tune, I rip the opening riff.
As my final strum rings and the applause subsides, Flack begins discussing my song, its influences and its humor — something I wasn’t sure would land but many commend. An instrumentalist mentions he loves the way I bend the string on the opening solo, and Yonkers says I remind her of country star Brad Paisley.
A diverse lineup of varied skill, genre and style adds up to an eclectic and intimate night of music. A banjo player creates an instrumental track for her artisanal soap company. The Vietnam veteran who I followed into the studio moves the crowd with a muddy and bloody tale. A ukulele and cello duo’s sweeping grooves redefine their instruments in my eyes.
Each receives reassurance and positivity. “There’s so much insecurity that I combat in my music constantly,” says Yonkers. “Bring Your Song is about that positive feedback, and critiques are framed in that positive light.”
On the way out, Flack also hands me a stack of notecards on which each crowd member wrote constructive criticism meant to be read in private.
When the Soundcloud link hits my inbox a few weeks later, I pull out the notecards and listen. Most comments are still positive, but one stands out. An anonymous writer says “spaciousness” could help my 2 minute and 30 second song breathe. I replay my song, adding a few extra measures after each stanza and rip the opening riff a second time after the first chorus.
These few simple tweaks give the song new life — and makes me realize the solitary songwriter sometimes just needs a little help from some friends.
Listen to the artists from October's Bring Your Song. The next event is scheduled for Dec. 3 and features singer-songwriter John King.