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What’s in a song? Series of free workshops on South Coast takes you through songwriting

Allison Russell.jpeg
Caroline Feraday
Allison Russell hosted a songwriting workshop at UC Santa Barbara

Multiple Grammy award nominee hosted first songwriting workshop at UC Santa Barbara for the songwriters of tomorrow

Whether it’s the raw lyrics from the heart, or a hook that makes your head bob, there’s no denying the power of a well-written song.

Grammy-nominated artist Allison Russell recently sold out Carnegie Hall in NYC, so she knows a thing or two about how to write compelling songs.

UC Santa Barbara students are getting a unique opportunity to peer inside the songwriter’s mind in the first of a series of free public workshops featuring intimate conversations with seasoned and highly acclaimed artists, organized by the University's music department and UCSB Arts & Lectures.

"I really love Americana Roots music and I was looking for ways to engage different parts of our university with the music department and to offer something that we don't really do...and also get these giants of the field of song-writing — pop, blues, country, jazz — lots of different genres will be represented, and this first one we have the incredible Allison Russell," Benjamin Brecher, who spearheaded the program and is the chair of music at UCSB, told KCLU.

How artists write songs can teach us not only about music, but about storytelling, collaboration and the labor of creativity, said Brecher.

He says that he hopes to bring together students with a variety of interests, as well as music students who spend their time studying classical music, together to be introduced to Russell's music and other genres.

Allison Russell says it’s not just an opportunity to inspire the song-writers of tomorrow, but to come away from the workshop feeling inspired herself, by the students.

"It's always inspiring to meet young song-writers and people who are passionate about words and music," Russell told KCLU. "I always get inspired and enjoy the exchange. Music is about communication and that's always enriching and worthwhile."

Russell says she was "under a rock" musically when she was growing up, and appreciates the opportunity to offer guidance to aspiring music artists.

"I wish I'd known that people who looked like me could write music. It took me a long time to learn that," she said.

It is a unique opportunity to get insight into the practice of song-writing, from successful artists.

For the full schedule of Songwriting Initiative workshops, visit

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award this year, and also won two further first place awards, for Lifestyle Feature and Personality Profile/Interview. Last year, Caroline won first place for Use Of Sound. She also won two Golden Mike Awards this year, for Best News Reporting and Best Entertainment Reporting, as well as a National Arts & Entertainment Award from LA Press Club for One-on-One interview. Caroline started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and she was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter - her proudest production.