Austin City Limits Festival 2011
It’s my favourite time to play music in Canada – summer music festival time. The season kicks off this weekend with Regina Jazz Festival and Luminato Festival. Here are the festivals I’m currently scheduled to be playing over the next few months.
June 14 w/ Royal Wood
Regina Jazz Festival – Regina SK
June 15 w/ Sarah Harmer
Luminato Festival – Toronto ON
June 24 & 25 w/ Royal Wood
Sask Jazz Festival – Saskatoon SK
June 29 w/ Royal Wood
Vancouver Jazz Festival – Victoria BC
June 30 w/ Royal Wood
Victoria Jazz Festival – Victoria BC
July 6 w/ Sarah Harmer
IlluminAqua Folk Festival – Welland ON
July 20 w/ Sarah Harmer & Royal Wood
Home County Festival – London ON
July 27 w/ Sarah Harmer
Interstellar Rodeo Festival – Edmonton AB
August 7 w/ Royal Wood
Peterborough Music Festival – Peterborough ON
August 24 w/ Rose Cousins
Windsong Festival – Powassan ON
Further details and additional dates on the SHOWS page.
Over a year ago my friend and frequent musical collaborator Adam Warner invited me over to listen to some tunes he had been working on with veteran Toronto singer/songwriter Eugene Ripper. I listened to slow echoes of Paul Westerberg (Replacements), Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and though I have always been a fan of these artists I’d yet to work on anything like this. Eugene’s songs and personality were immediately compelling so then and there we entered into a musical arrangement having me producing his next album.
Most of these songs I believe had been lying around for some years simply not having fit properly into previous releases while others were donned with entirely different tempos and moods. The adjective “dreamy” was tossed into the air and that’s where we built the framework for the production of what are essentially classic sounding pop/folk tunes. This collection of 8 songs ended up as the 2013 release Fast Folk Underground III / Quiet Light.
While I played a bunch of stuff on this album it was graciously adorned with sounds from Adam Warner (drums, percussion, vocals), Bryden Baird (horns, piano, organ), Julie Fader (vocals). I hope you’ll check out this album. It’s pretty special.
Tonight (May 24) we give the album a proper launch with a live performance at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto at 7:30 p.m.
Late night parties and nightly social engagements aren’t my style but as the dust as the dust of last weekend has settled I appreciate how fortunate I am to have attended the Juno Awards in Regina. Serena Ryder ultimately won in the category, and it’s cliche – but the nomination for Royal’s album We Were Born To Glory for Adult Alternative Album of the Year helped me feel a real belonging in the greater Canadian music industry.
The days leading up to Juno weekend were stressful, learning many tunes I got to play with a long and impressive list of Canadian talent: The Strumbellas, Rose Cousins, Amelia Curran, Royal Wood, Sarah Slean, Devin Cuddy, Jim Cuddy, Jason Plumb & The Willing, Mike Plume, NQ Arbuckle, and Kevin Parent. All I could think of for days was their music, swirling around my brain in constant consciousness. The show at The Exchange was enthusiastic, raw and among the more enjoyable nights I have had playing live music. This was without a doubt with thanks to the talented local musicians from Jason Plumb’s band The Willing (Mike Thompson, Gord Smith, Jeff McLeod) who allowed me into their fold .
Drunkenly swaying, vocalising and fist pumping directly in front of my station on stage most of the night were a few young fellas out to party. Amusing at times, I wished they’d have given it a rest while Rose or Amelia played their quieter (and gorgeous) songs. Fortunately they left promptly after Corb Lund’s solo set which they were obviously there solely for. There were too many highlights throughout the night to recount and it went by too quickly to make a mental archive. The cramped fluorescent-lit backstage was packed with performers, party organizers, music industry people, random strangers leaving little respite, which may have actually been a good thing as I appreciated the constant buzzing of energy to help keep me awake into the darker hours. After the show was over people scrambled to find available cabs or shuttle’s back to their hotels.
Friday nights celebration kept me in bed much of Saturday. But after some extra sleep and lunch I was ready to go for the Juno gala dinner. Many people likely don’t know that the majority of the Juno awards are actually handed out throughout this multiple course meal (of bland to bad wedding-style food). Important categories like Recording Engineer, Producer, Classical Recording, Jazz Recording, Metal, Roots, etc. are apparently not great television material. Fair enough I guess but in truth the gala event is a more enjoyable time than the televised awards. There are performances, awards, speeches, drinks, dinner. Some highlights were Rose Cousins solo performance to a moving slide show recognizing passed talent. And Tom Cochrane’s Humanitarian Award acceptance speech.
at the juno awards gala w/ royal wood, maureen spillane
Sunday morning I was invited to a “Boozy Brunch” hosted by Jason Plumb (Waltons, Jason Plumb & The Willing) at the Mercury Cafe during which my body and brain battled out the 3 coffee/2 margarita combo. The eggs benny helped to neutralize but ultimately I succumbed to an additional nap before suiting up again for the awards ceremony.
Shortly after arrival through some secret back entrance I found myself standing on the red carpet – to my right were a couple hundred screaming and confused teenagers, and to my left were dozens of reporters and photographers waving artists over to talk to them. I put my hands in my suit pockets and tried to take it in while awkwardly and at a distance following Royal and his wife Sarah as they were constantly beckoned. There were many people – musicians, managers, publicists, singers – on the carpet simultaneously which to my favour likely caused some confusion, hopefully distracting somewhat the fact that I felt like a goldfish that had just jumped out of its bowl. Eventually I arrived at a half-closed curtain which I lept through at which point we were able to grab a drink in the holding tank before we were cattle-prodded into the venue.
We (myself, Royal and Sarah) sat amongst all the other nominees. A couple of times throughout the program an angel of beer arrived and just sent cup upon cup of awful beer down the row. Hannah Georgas’ and Classified/David Myles’ performance were highlights for me. Hannah’s was mysterious and stark while Classified’s was a joyous celebration. Our category came up and for one quick moment I actually considered, “what if we win this?” before hearing the expected (and deserved) result of Serena Ryder as the award winner. I returned unfortunately from my much needed bathroom break toward the end of k.d. Lang’s performance, which was also the last moments of the program, forcing me to wait at the top of the stairs hoping to spot my party as hundreds of people climbed the aisle-way.
w/ Sarah Slean & Royal Wood
After a late steak dinner we went over to the Universal Music after-party, which was a tad overwhelming. There were too many people to fight through for an unforceful person and there were few places available even to stand. I didn’t think I’d last ten minutes, but after running into a few friends and conversing with Alex Cuba around an outdoor fire-pit about being a dad and touring musician I found myself getting into a cab a couple hours later back to my hotel.
My return flight wasn’t until the evening so I hung around the hotel as late as they would allow, returned unconsumed 6-pack I bought on day one (I didn’t know you could do that) before being picked up by my friend Jason who helped me kill some time. Some good things came of attending the Junos and I hope I’ll get the chance again to attend. It was great to reconnect with friends from around the country and meet some new people and realize I actually know how to socialize with human beings. Awards are nice I suppose, but just being at the Junos helped fuse existing connections to a lot of people I look up to and respect. Thanks to Royal Wood for inviting me along.
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- April 18th, 2013
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Tomorrow I head out to the Juno Awards (the Canadian version of the Grammy’s) which this year happen in Regina, Saskatchewan. The album We Were Born To Glory which I produced with Royal Wood is nominated for Adult Alternative Album. On Saturday evening I’ll get all gussied up to attend the gala dinner at which many un-televised awards are given. Then Sunday I’ll be herded along with thousands of others into the Brandt Centre for the big televised ordeal.
This will be my first time attending the Junos as a potential award winner, though a couple years ago when the awards took place in Toronto my dad got a hold of a couple tickets and treated us. We sat in front of a few teenage girls that were dying to catch a glimpse of Drake or Bieber (who was kind enough to appear via pre-recorded video) but had no idea who any of the other nominees were.
Tomorrow night is the big night for me. A couple weeks ago Shauna de Cartier (Six Shooter Records) invited me to join her production Outlaws and Gunslingers as the house guitarist in the band. I’ll be joining Jason Plumb’s “The Willing” to will accompany a dozen or so Canadian artists for a few songs each at The Exchange – a music venue that I’ve been no stranger to in my touring. Since this request I’ve been daily listening to, charting and learning some 30 songs, most of which falls under the roots umbrella but there is also a surprise or two in there. I’ve embraced the challenge of learning this much material though I couldn’t say it hasn’t come without its share of stress. The key for me this time was to chart out the chord changes and important stops and starts immediately, followed by regular active listening. The charting was possible with many of these songs in real-time while listening but others required going back and forth several times to pick out subtle, tricky changes. Though I’m not trying to emulate the recorded guitar parts, as a producer I respect how certain things that happen on the recording become very important to their presentation. I need to catch those.
In the past two weeks only I’ve listened to these 30 tracks and though I’m admittedly ready to have some new music (or temporarily NO music) in my life I’ve become a new fan of some of these artists throughout this experience. It’s been interesting discovering the nuts and bolts different songwriters use to put their tunes together. Jason Plumb’s songs have a sophistication and complexity while the tools never overshadow the music. Rose Cousins and Amelia Curran put such potent emotion in their songs it’s difficult not to be affected by. Then there is just some good time rock n’ roll with Jim Cuddy, NQ Arbuckle, Mike Plume, etc.
Anyway, enough typing. Need to get back to work. This is my last prep day! I’m really looking forward to this long night of music. I’m also looking forward to the silence and sleep that will follow.