Songwriting is a mysterious process and songs are sometimes created at unexpected times and in unusual places.
“You just don’t know when they’re going to happen,” said Toronto singer Linda Saslove.
She wrote the lyrics for her most requested song, The Last Goodbye, while she was sitting in her car in front of Women’s College Hospital waiting to go in for a psoriasis treatment. The Last Goodbye is one of the personal songs on her debut album, Everything. “I’ve had guys crying in the audience,” she said of the breakup song.
On the album, released earlier this year, she explores the complexities of life and love with 10 finely crafted songs – songs she brings to life with her rich, expressive voice. It’s folk music with a country twang here and there.
Influenced by the folk and pop music of the 1960s, Saslove was inspired by role models like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Bonnie Raitt. Part of the Ottawa’s folk scene, she performed at the city’s internationally renowned folk club, Le Hibou.
Saslove taught herself to play guitar, on a Gibson B25 acoustic she purchased in
Ottawa’s Byward Market for $150. With it, she wrote her first song Someone Who Cares (About You), a sad but hopeful ballad that she included on her CD.
The title song of Saslove’s CD was a semi-finalist in the 2018 Song of the Year songwriting contest, a competition judged by music professionals. Everything is a love song with a spiritual dimension. “Two people may be together because their hearts are similar, nothing else. It’s not about looks, it’s about their hearts. That’s why the lyrics, ‘True love comes into the hearts of strangers where two hearts beat as one,’” she said.
Describing her songwriting process, she said it didn’t take her long to write the opening track of the CD My True Love, a song about looking for love. “When I was writing the song, it felt like it wrote itself. I felt like I’d heard it before but I hadn’t. Even the words – I always do music first. Basically, the music, just like the lyrics, come very quickly. As I’m creating it, I can hear the next verse,” she said.
While recording her CD, Saslove worked on a song with a Holocaust theme – about a Jewish girl who was in love with a German man who becomes a Nazi – but the song chose its own direction. “Somehow I switched it around so it could be more universal,” she said.
Called Different from You, it ended up becoming a song about trying to bridge the differences between people, and could apply to lovers, friends or even supporters of opposing political parties. Saslove is still determined to write a song with a Holocaust focus. “I’ve gone to listen to different survivors speak and I feel I have to write a song dedicated to them. I just feel I must,” she said.
Her album has been getting airplay on college radio stations in Canada and internationally. Menachem Vinegrad, a DJ at Radio Upper Galilee, recently chose to play Different from You on his show, WorldWaves.
Everything was produced by Bill Bell, Tom Cochrane’s guitarist, who assembled a dream team of top Canadian session players featured on the CD, including cellist Kevin Fox, pedal steel player Burke Carroll, keyboardist Mark Lalama, drummer Davide Direnzo and bassist Marc Rogers.
Saslove is part of a musical clan that emigrated from Russia and settled in Ottawa. Her maternal grandfather played five instruments, including mandolin, guitar, violin and piano. Her late father, Herbert Jack Saslove, loved all types of music, from Broadway show tunes to the Beatles. Saslove was named after one of her parents’ favourite songs, the popular 1940s hit Linda.
Linda Saslove hosts the monthly Lovely Linda Free Times Jam at the Free Times Cafe on College Street in Toronto. Upcoming jams are on Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. Visit lindasaslove.com for more.