What musicians have to say about Mission's new call for songwriters

We chat with two musicians who have applied for Mission's new project to turn history to song

Newspapers are the first draft of history. When that history becomes trapped in those yellowing pages, musicians are the ones who can bring it back to life. 

Some, like songwriter Alex Rake, think now is the perfect time to do it for Mission. 

“There’s a responsibility to share the stories of this town, especially as the population is growing,” he said. “People that aren’t from here are moving here, because it’s the only flipping way to afford life, without any context of where they are.

“You’re sharing [history] with the people living it.”

Rake is one of the local musicians who have applied for the City of Mission’s newest call for artists, which will see four songwriters work with the Mission Archives to turn old newspaper stories into songs. (You can read The Current’s story on the program here.)

The era of “boneheaded rock ‘n’ roll” is over. What is left is metaphor. Personal experience. The sort of songs that Leq’á:mel musician Patrick Anthony finds himself writing every time he is hunched over his guitar. 

“I read an interview with a big inspiration of mine named Jason Isbell … and he mentioned that he just can't write like AC/DC,” Anthony said. “Rock and roll lyrics that just kind of appeal to everybody and don't really mean much. And that's not me either.”

Anthony has joined Rake in applying for the City of Mission’s The Mission Record project, which will see four musicians create an original song based on a story from the city’s history and local newspaper’s archives. He said musicians write stories about their communities all the time—they’re just not often recognized for it.

“I'm sure there's a million songs out there about every city that people grew up in. But you don't necessarily advertise it as such.” 

Mission’s new call for artists is a chance to change that. Anthony said he hopes more communities will follow suit.

Anthony’s work focuses on songs that come from his heart, or songs where he can feel an experience in someone else’s place. It is a natural fit for Mission’s project. 

Named after the local paper, the Mission Record will give musicians a chance to use their songwriting skills to share local history. Each successful artist will participate in a workshop at the archives, then have two and a half months to write the song before recording and performing their composition.

Both Anthony and Rake have written songs that touch on their experiences in the Fraser Valley. Both have different ideas on where they would take a new composition centered in Mission. 

Anthony said it would be easy for him to lean into a song connecting his Indigenous roots to Mission’s history and “it wouldn’t be a cop out in any way for me to want to write about that.”

But he hasn’t made his mind up yet.

“I’m also curious to see what would come out of the workshop session,” he said. 

The workshop is what would allow the musicians to dive deeper into Mission history they hadn’t experienced before. Rake also spoke about the importance of uncovering new paths into history.

However, he did mention the appeal of Mission’s “lasts:” the last residential school in Canada, the last train robbery in Canada. Those markers, combined with musical elements, could lead to a new way for locals to remember their history.

“We have a wailing saxophone, we have a double bass … we can change the texture of the song to match the moment,” Rake said about his band, The Leaves. “So with that in mind, I can tell a train robbery story that's also a love song.”

“Of course, I haven't been selected yet,” he added.

Mission won’t be announcing The Mission Record’s musicians until May 15, and the songwriters won’t get a chance to dive into the archive until later that month. Even still, both Rake and Anthony said the project itself shows that communities can be committed to supporting both local culture and local musicians.

Each of the four successful musicians will receive $1,500 for their work on the project: $1,000 for the composition of the song, and $500 for the recording and performance of it. (The city will pay for the studio time and audio engineer needed to turn the music into a professional song.)

The payment would be considered low for a city like Vancouver, Rake noted, but in a small community like Mission, he says it is more than fair. Anthony agreed. 

“There's sort of like an unwritten rule in music that you're never really paid for writing,” he said. “So I think in that sense, it's a pretty nice, bold statement from the city.”

For independent artists, who may need to take time off work to perform, it’s a welcome change—and one that Anthony said he hopes will expand beyond Mission.

“We can all do it. We all have a three-hour setlist to go sit at a bar and play Tom Petty to make some money,” he said. “And I think it's taken for granted sometimes that … there is a lot of work that goes into every gig for any self respecting musician, and especially when it's original.

“I just hope that you know, we're starting a trend in the Lower Mainland, that kind of brings that out even more so.”

If you read and appreciate our stories, we need you to become a paying member to help us keep producing great journalism.

Our readers' support means tens of thousands of locals in the Fraser Valley can continue getting local news, and in-depth, award-winning reporting. We can't do it without you. Whether you give monthly or annually, your help will power our local reporting for years to come. With enough support, we’ll be able to hire more journalists and produce even more great stories about your community.

But we aren’t there yet. Support us for as low at $2 per week, and rest assured you’re doing your part to help inform your community.

Join us, make a difference, and become a Fraser Valley Insider member today.

- Tyler, Joti, and Grace.


or to participate.