If you want to write songs, this is where to come. Ralph Carter lays out a coherent process that will have you writing your songs, in a wonderfully enjoyable week that's a roller coaster of writing, playing, performing and sharing, in the heart of Delta Blues country. I learned that writing songs isn't a question of waiting for inspiration to strike out of the blue - it's an approach that can be learned and applied.
-Dr. Kirsty Mills
I went to this workshop with two goals, neither of them particularly modest. I want to get into my truck one day, turn on Sirius radio and hear someone singing one of my songs. Also, I want to learn to play guitar and sing well enough to be able to entertain a roomful of people with my songs. Now I'm a lot closer to each of them thanks to my time spent at Songs At The Shacks!
I had a blast. I loved to see the emotion that came from all of the participants (myself included). It showed me how important that connection is with songwriting. I loved that the group was small enough that we all gained some significant insight into each other. This camp was a wonderful experience. I will be back, for sure!
After years of playing in cover bar bands I knew I wanted to write songs but remained convinced that that privilege was somehow reserved for inspired artists and genius types. I constantly wondered how I was going to move forward. Ralph Carter suggested I attend the Songwriting workshop in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which he conducts at the Shack Up Inn, on the grounds of the old Hopson plantation just outside of Clarksdale.
First, for an old blues freak like me, there is something special about being in the delta, down a couple of miles from “The Crossroads.” Second, Guy and everybody at the Shack Up are really great people, displaying all the friendly southern hospitality you’ve heard about. (You also meet cool people from all over the world there, but that’s another story.)
When I got there, I really didn’t know what to expect. I still really didn’t know if I could do it, I was just flying on blind faith. Over the next four days, Ralph dispelled some of the mystery and showed us that songwriting is an inspired process. Putting one foot in front of the other, he had novices like me reviewing basic elements of music, art and form, showing us how to come up with ideas and how to express them. He also gently yet intensely insisted that we put forth the effort in to make the results flow. And they did! All of us had written and recorded at least one song while we were there.
For me, this was truly a life changing experience. I realized that I, and for that matter anybody, can write songs, we just have to put our mind to it using the right tools. This is what I am going to be focusing on going forward !
Thanks Ralph, for showing us we can do it!
Songs at the Shacks has been an enormous creative catalyst for me, an inspirational awakening, and a great infusion of valuable musical knowledge. This workshop simultaneously provides a foundation and structure, and room to explore and soar. I have had the great fortune of participating in four workshops over the last three years, and I can safely say i've never felt more charged to write and free to express myself.
The workshop being in a historical area of the country so steeped in musical and social history provides an abundance of source material for writing. Ralph Carter has crafted a great balance between writing exercises, lessons in song forms, instrument tutorials, and one-on-one coaching. At the end of each workshop, I have recorded a song that I feel has come from a very true place within, and is viable as a live performance piece. I am grateful for the Songs at the Shacks experience in strengthening my performance practices, and my confidence as an artist. Get on down to Clarksdale and find your song!
- Meghan Maike
I walked into this songwriting workshop with a goal (but not much knowledge) - it was learning how a song is put together. I wondered if it was something that could be taught and learned or it was just something that came naturally to people.
Within the first day our group had done more writing and sharing than I could have imagined, which would fuel our first song writing attempts. Throughout the week Ralph's instruction taught me the hard facts and basics of song writing including formulas, progressions, analyzing songs written by others, and lots and lots of writing exercises. The second time I took the workshop I approached it in a different way. This time I was familiar with the basics but needed to improve, polish, and refine my work, and I needed to learn how to work through creative blocks with help from Ralph.
Ralph's passion for helping others understand the process and express themselves is something I have never experience in a teacher before. He is patient, gentle and honest - and he knows his shit through and through! He is my songwriting guru and I owe so much to him for teaching me how to put a song together. I still play the songs I wrote at his workshops for people all the time, and I am so proud of the work I was able to accomplish there!
- Krista Shows