June Island Retreat

Tribal Mischief is excited to host two new instructors for this year’s early summer retreat from June 14 through June 17, Abbie Gardner & Pat Wictor.  This season’s retreat will contain daily learning seminars interspersed among a weekend of writing, 1-on-1 mentoring opportunities, and as always a wonderful off grid experienced catered by our spectacular Culinary Institute of America graduate on scenic Bremen Long Island off the coast of Damariscotta, ME.

The Island Retreat experience is one of intimate workshopping, mentoring, and community building fostered by a beautiful rustic cabin offering a true “get away from it all” experience.

These retreats cost $500 for the weekend and is limited to no more than 10 participants. Downpayment for the weekend is $200, reservations can be made here.

Reserve Your Spot!

Please email tribalmischief@gmail.com with any questions!


Abbie Gardner is a recognized songwriter with a Lennon Award and American Songwriter Grand Prize Win.  She has taught at the Swannanoa Gathering, Summersongs, and Ellis Paul songwriting retreat.  Although her lyrics are award-winning, Abbie is perhaps best recognized for her fiery dobro playing and stunning vocal work both solo and as part of the supergroup Red Molly not to mention her collaborations for Craig Aiken, Jessie Terry, and Anthony da Costa.

“With a confidence that can only be earned, Gardner bursts out with a national steel guitar and a ballsy blues on the opening cut “Break It Slow.” It’s an unprecedented romp, fully of gnarly guitar lines and lyrics reminiscent of Lucinda Williams or Bonnie Raitt..” – Eli Peterson, Twangville
“Not only a first-rate Dobro player but a songwriter to be reckoned with.” –John Platt, WFUV



Pat Wictor arrived on the scene as an innovative slide guitarist known for fresh and memorable interpretations of traditional and contemporary songs.  He has since made his mark as a singer-songwriter penning lean and poetic songs that honor – and subvert – rural blues and gospel traditions.  For seven years he toured as one-third of Brother Sun, the powerful harmonizing trio with Joe Jencks and Greg Greenway, garnering critical acclaim, two #1 CDs on the Folk DJ charts, and a continent-spanning tour schedule.  Pat is a music educator of note teaching workshops, songwriting, interpreting, and rearranging songs on slide guitar and other guitar techniques, vocal and instrumental improvisation, and various topics of music history.

“He manages to infuse an almost playful, yet tasteful, improvisation while maintaining a beautiful sense of melody……..While he can fingerpick like the best of them, he is an absolute madman on the lapsteel. Unquestionably, anyone who has ever heard a Wictor show will permanently place him in the company of the best in the genre- Harry Manx, Kelly Joe Phelps and Ed Gerhard.” -Frank Matheis, TheCountryBlues.com

Seminar Subjects

While we have not finalized all of the subjects of this retreat we will be offering the following subjects:

Prewriting is As Important as Writing
How do we get ready to write songs?  Yes, there’s no substitute for just sitting down and doing it.  But, everything you do BEFORE you sit down to write prepares you for that moment.  What prepares you to write?  This class will focus on several activities to get in a songwriting “frame of mind.”   These include becoming immersed in words (poetry and journal writing), in music (learning interesting songs, musically and lyrically), and doing improvisational games and exercises that loosen the mind and expand one’s sense of what’s possible.

Getting Unstuck: Songwriting 

At some point, we all get stuck. Songwriting becomes a chore, something intimidating, something we put off like doing our taxes. It becomes this magical mystical unknown and we have to wait for a breakup or some other source of inspiration to be able to write again. Not so! Songwriting is a skill like anything else. This class will use fun practical activities to get you writing again (or perhaps for the first time!). Tap back into the fun. Learn to unblock those creative channels and think outside the box.


When a baby learns to walk, she falls down over and over. She fails more than she succeeds, but she keeps trying because it is not working to her – it is playing. When a painter stares at a blank page, there’s a fear and anticipation of making that first mark…very similar to songwriting. The painter needs to remember that it’s only paper. The songwriter needs to remember that it’s just a song. It doesn’t cost a dime to write a song! And it’s a simple fact that the more you write, the better you get at it. Together, we’ll get past the “blank page fear” and learn to support our own creativity. Lots of hands-on participation and hands-on practical techniques for getting unstuck.


Experienced songwriters – as well as beginners – can benefit from this class. Please bring paper, something to write with, an instrument (if you play one), and a recording device (smartphone is fine) if possible.



Melody Writing 
There’s a reason the alphabet is sung to a melody… music reaches different parts of the brain than the lyrical / word-based mind. Melodies help children pay attention and remember the words. It’s the same with adults! A beautiful lyric won’t have the same effect if it doesn’t have a beautiful melody behind it. In songwriting, we spend a lot of time and energy crafting words, so let’s balance that out by playing with melody!
In this class, we’ll explore some classic amazing melodies and find out why they work so well. We’ll look at how the combination of notes and rhythm, repetition, and tension and release, bring out the meaning in words and create emotion. The best way to learn is by playing with concepts in class, so expect a lot of class participation and fun exercises. Together, we’ll learn to write a hook, explore different ranges, write major and minor melodies, work with repeating motifs, etc. We’ll learn just enough theory to work with the concepts, but not get bogged down by it. Bring paper & pencil, an instrument, and your ears!


Using Your Instrument to Generate Song Ideas
Sometimes, our songs end up sounding the same because how we approach our musical instrument can be limited.  This class is about trying some new approaches to your instrument that might help generate ideas for new songs and new arrangements for existing songs.  We’ll look at using bass lines, playing smaller chords, interrupting patterns, playing grooves, and leaving space.  In many cases, less is more!

For More Information

I was fortunate to attend one of Tribal Mischief’s multi-day songwriting workshops. It was an unqualified success, including a great new song to add to my setlist. Great songwriters on staff provided just the right balance of formal presentations and opportunities to put their great ideas into practice. We participants also had opportunities to get to show off some of our completed songs, share excellent meals, bed rooms and generally go off the grid on a beautiful and rustic island in Maine. Highly recommended.

Tom Smith