By T.S. Chamberland

Staff Writer

Folk singer and songwriter Bob McKillop is immersed in the Portland music scene. Playing in area bars, releasing his own CD and spending time with the songwriting elite in Portland, McKillop’s as much a fan of local music as he is a contributor. Currently president of the Maine Songwriters’ Association, this musician found his niche roughly 125 miles north of his former home, just five years ago.

McKillop spent most of his life in the Framingham-Worchester area of Massachusetts. Growing up in a household that listened to a variety of music, he put his guitar away during college and did not concentrate on music — specifically songwriting — for many years.


“About 15 years ago, I pulled it back out, pulled some of my old songs out and started writing some new ones,” said McKillop.


An interview in late summer of 2003 brought McKillop to Maine. He drove into Portland with his daughter and, he said, the view on East Promenade, looking out on Casco Bay, was beautiful. That day stayed with him and was the inspiration behind his song “Portland Afternoon” off his debut CD of the same name.

Inspiration for him comes from his many experiences, McKillop said, as well as from family, friends and other music. A longtime fan of the band Chicago, McKillop said his major influences, particularly in songwriting, are John Denver, Carol King and James Taylor.


“Chicago was just … they were great musicians. The arrangements and the composition is what really got to me with them,” said McKillop.


He said he sees Maine, particularly Portland, as a strong, vibrant and supportive music community, with many talented artists, like Jason Spooner and Judd Caswell, who hosts a monthly songwriting circle.


“I felt, when I moved to Maine, the opportunities for me to develop as a songwriter escalated,” said McKillop.


He found several open mics in the area, and said participating in them provided constructive feedback and gave him experience performing. The exposure to other songwriters and folk musicians, he added, has encouraged and pushed him to pursue his songwriting more seriously.


“I think there are a lot of artists in Maine who feel that songwriting talent welling up in them, and they are afraid to get up in front of people because of the performing aspect of it,” said McKillop.


One of the biggest hurdles in songwriting for him, he said, has been finding the time to actually sit and write. Aside from that, the key is finding the inspiration for a song; once that happens, McKillop said, the process begins. It’s work, and that, for him, means constant revisions.

“It’s a process of taking this raw energy and crafting it so that it’s a tight set of music and lyrics that drive home one concept,” said McKillop.


In addition to pursuing his own songwriting career and his involvement as president of MSA, McKillop has also created a Web site with news, reviews and profiles of local folk artists and songwriters in the state, found at MaineFolkMusic.com.


“I owe so much to the Maine Songwriters’ Association,” said McKillop. “I am very much a fan.”


He continues to play at open mics and other gigs with a variety of local musicians, some of whom are part of his debut CD, but has no plans to release another CD in the near future. His concentration, he said, is on honing his skills as a songwriter.


“I want to be the guy whose name is in parenthesis on a CD. I want to write for other people,” said McKillop.

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