Juno Award Winner Steve Strongman ‘Proves it To Us’ ….

It is a ‘Natural Fact’. Steve Strongman’s 2013 was a tremendous success!

One Juno and three Maple Blues Awards later; Strongman passed ‘hump-day in his musical career . Natural Fact was Steve’s fourth album and an acoustic goldmine of Blues’ tunes.

Fast forward to May 13th 2014. ‘Let Me Prove It To You’ now becomes his latest album and not the follow up most of his fans urged him to do.

Please listen as  Steve explains everything! And more …

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Please Visit Steve Here!

 

May 28th CD Launch at Bistro a Jo Jo

May 31st L’Astral Concert

 

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Emelie – Claire Barlow; The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and ‘Bunny’

For Emelie – Claire Barlow, the fifth time is a charm.

Following four previous Juno nominations, Barlow finally won a 2013 award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. The album is called ‘Seule ce  Soir’ . A disc which was recorded in 2012 and was initially intended as a compilation of all her French songs she has done over the years.

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‘Most of my records have one or two songs in French and we played most of them live. I just thought it was time to  re – record  them because over the years they have evolved. So the project took on a life of its own. Half the record is newly recorded versions of old songs and the other half are new songs. ”

Barlow, combining new and old – did not discover that a huge gap existed between the compositions. According to the native of Toronto, the blending of material was smooth.

“I found the album worked in a very cohesive way. For me, my creative process is taking a song and changing the arrangement completely and making them my own style. An example would be Croissants de Soleil. Ginette Reno is very pop oriented and we took her song, stripped it down and made it a lush romantic Bossa Nova. Because I have a band that has played with me for several years, there is a consistency in the record between the older and newer songs. They all sound as if they come from the same place.”

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Barlow makes no bones about the fact that she is in control of the arrangements and the writing process. She chooses the repertoire and the album name. Although, over the years she has mellowed and given up more of her ‘ perfectionist’  habits, she has learned  to ‘trust’ more people. Changing arrangements, especially on stage,  used to stress her out. Now – she realizes that sometimes, the most  interesting things come from the need of adapting it. Having musicians who are world class helps that process quite a bit.

Emelie – Claire explains …

” I sit at the piano and come up with the ideas and write out the charts for the bands. They are very generous musicians who bring their own ideas and styles and then – things evolve. Especially after playing the songs live.  Getting older and trusting everyone more leaves me more freedom to improvise on stage. Don’t forget, we are also traveling with a different amount of musicians sometimes. We may not have a piano player one show. My voice will compensate for that missing sound and my voice becomes the piano. If the horns are the instrument that is missing, same thing – my voice fills in that gap.”

emilie488152-000009_LREmelie – Claire’s voice is very ‘instrumental’ in her career.

Starting at the age of nine, Barlow has used her voice in television commercials singing jingles which appears to have launched an ensuing  career which started about fifteen years ago. Barlow plays or ‘acts’  characters in animated television series ( see link below).

Singing Jazz or doing voices are equally comfortable for the late thirties Barlowe and she is currently the voice behind an animated character in the television series; Almost Naked Animals. It is in the third season and Emelie plays ‘Bunny‘, a rabbit aptly named and ( as it turns out ), aptly placed as well …

“I moved into a new place about six months ago and I actually have a mantle. I took my Juno award – which is quite heavy ( I may use it to work on my biceps), and surrounded it with a stuffed animal of ‘Bunny’ along with a glass duck and a mouse. They are all looking at my Juno – it is pretty funny.”

The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and 'Bunny'.
The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and ‘Bunny’.

Something that is not very humorous, is when Emelie discovered that she had won the Juno award. She was on tour and could not attend the ceremonies. She came off stage following a one-of-kind performance and was informed by her trumpet player she had won. According to Barlow – shock was the first emotion that invaded her body.

” I was in total shock, it took a while to sink in and when it did – it was such a great feeling. It is hard to describe. I was also a lot happier than I thought I would be.” She laughs. “It was a little disappointing not being there to accept it but then I realized that I was surrounded by the people that made it happen and that I had  just finished doing what I loved.The ensuing ‘craziness’ that took place celebrating was memorable and will always be that. A great memory.”

Emelie – Claire was also overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from her family and friends. According to Barlow – it was the most moving part of receiving the award. A feeling which was overwhelming in a good way and fills her with happiness and pride. Her parents, both professional musicians ( Dad’s an award winning  Jazz percussionist and Mom’s a singer), were so thrilled and excited for her. All this means a lot to Emelie yet this place in her life was not so much envisioned as it just came about naturally…

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“I really don’t know what I imagined.” Admits Barlow.” I think it’s just a path I followed from the beginning without even questioning it. My parents were very busy session musicians and I spent a lot of time in studios. It all feels normal to me and even now, when I am in a little studio, locked away from the craziness of the world around me – I feel safe and cozy. I am in my little cocoon and that’s perfect for me.”

Emelie admits the music business is very tough and when an award happens like this – it is a sign indicative of how people feel. It validates what she does and although she would still make music regardless – she cannot help but feel all her hard work is worthwhile. The end justifies the means.

Emelie- Claire Barlow is playing July 5th at Theatre Maissoneuve as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. A theater which – according to Emelie, is a beautiful place to play. She will be performing a lot of her new songs – both young and old, and bringing a full band along for the ride. That way – her music will be heard as recorded. She also has a couple of special guests joining her on stage yet she is not at the liberty to say who they are at the moment.

“I cannot remember exactly …” Says Emelie.” I think this will be my fifth appearance at the Jazz Festival and I love it. Montreal audiences are so passionate and they make you perform so much better …”

The fifth time is a charm after all …

Visit Emelie’s site here !

Voice and animation work

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David Myles; Dreams Come True

Really, winning a Juno award for ‘Inner  Ninja’ – a collaboration with Classified, comes as no surprise for New Brunswick native David Myles. After all, good things come when you get along with someone so well …

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“We have known each other for quite a while and we really see eye to eye. He has this amazing ear. He performs music by feel which is unlike me. I learned with technique, I am schooled and we are a perfect contrast. He plays and writes music the way most people hear it.”

Myles, of course, is speaking of his recent 2013 award at the Junos. He won, along with the Hip – Hop / Rap sensation ‘ Classified’, the award for Rap recording of the year. A prize which makes Myles proud but is furthest from the type of music Myles is accustomed to performing or writing.

David_Myles_2“I love learning about new types of music.”Says David from his home in Nova Scotia. ” This is what I love about working with different people. For example, I did the song ‘Whole to my Half’ with Measha Brueggergossman. She is an opera singer who performed during the opening ceremonies at the Olympic games. We  could not be more different. We grew up together in Fredericton and her family is friends with my family.”

Just because the pair knew each other, it did not make it easy or comfortable for Myles when it came time for recording the song . He flew to Toronto where the song was taped in studio. The two artists were face – to face during the recording and David was a nervous wreck.

“I knew she was not going to make any mistakes.” Laughs Myles. ” If anybody was going to screw up – it would have been me! Thankfully, the song worked out well and it brought the best out of me”

David started playing music young. The trumpet and piano learned at the age of ten. He grew up in a musical family, everyone from Mom and Dad and his brothers – playing something around the family home.

“Funny …” Admits David. ” I only started playing the guitar around the age of twenty – one. When I picked that up – I realized this is what I wanted to do full time. Pursue a career in music.”

It was in Calgary, strumming his acoustic guitar in a coffee house before roughly fifteen people, when Myles realized the whole idea of earning a living through songwriting was realistic. A moment when – someone outside of his immediate family, commended him for his songwriting. A few words and David was starting a path toward a career as well as a  new -found confidence.

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“One day, I was at Mount Allison University studying Political Science with aspirations of maybe going to law school.”Says David. “Then,  I was 23 and one of my songs won a Roots – Folk award in Nashville. I realized that maybe I should do something with this. Even though I was in school studying things outside of music – I was always obsessed with it.”

Myles’ early influences were mostly Jazz – related.

Miles Davis was huge in my life because he played the trumpet just like me. Chet Baker was another one and surprisingly – Willie Nelson became huge after I listened to his album; ‘Red Headed Stranger’. I had never listened to country music and it was an eye-opener to me. Even now, I am the kind of guy who is twenty years behind in catching up to music. Especially rock. I did listen to and love the Stones’ album Beggars Banquet as well as Sticky Fingers. ‘Beggars’ is raw – country music. “

David’s current ‘guilty’ pleasures consist of listening to artists such as Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. The Beatles are also dear to his heart as they are to most artists (according to David.)

The Juno award and the ensuing popularity could not have arrived at a better time for Myles,

It coincides with the release of his new album; ‘In the Nightime’. A disc which David believes reflects the moods and feelings of his life right now. It is the reason the disc evolved from one CD into a pair. A double album indicative of his ‘duel’ personality.

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Disc one contains the romantic ballads while the second disc is more upbeat – dance oriented stuff. According to David, the reason he believes the album is so good is that everyone involved in the process was very focused.

“It took only two and a half days to record. I was very fortunate to play with musicians with a lot of experience. Aaron Davis produced the album and he helped me to bring in the musicians. David Pilch is on bass guitar, Kevin Breit plays guitar, mandolin and dobro, Davide DiRenzo is on drums and Aaron himself contributes on piano. It is the first time I worked with any of these guys. They have worked with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones. They definitely raised the bar and made me a better performer on the album. I always have a tendency to over analyze my songs either recording or writing them. These guys helped to make it simple and I am very proud of the result.”

Disc two, the R and B, Hip-Hop, Rap – influenced songs, are produced by his  friend and fellow award winner – Classified. The first single -‘How’d I Ever Think I Loved You’, is also a throwback  to the days of the fifties, the early days of Rock n Roll via The Four Seasons and Frankie Vali.

David Myles continues to grow as an artist. He is open to all genres and is unique in that he is able to sing ‘crooner’ songs as well as ‘Hip-Hop’. David will never don a baseball cap backwards however. He prefers to be himself and believes it is a reason why his collaboration with Classified works so well. The imagery is opposite. David is the accountant and Classified possesses the classic Rapper look ..

The question is; will everyone else learn to grow as a listener and get along as well as David Myles does with every artist from every walk of life …?

Sure hope so. So does David.

Sultans of Swing …er .. String; Make No Mistake

‘And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job he’s doing alright
He can play honky tonk just like anything
Saving it up for Friday night
With the Sultans with the Sultans of Swing

Harry is actually Chris.

Chris has a few daytime gigs – not just one. Chris does not play honky tonk with his violin and on Friday night – the best folk band to see are the Sultans of String. Aside from that, the above lyrics from Dire Straits are correct.

Speaking from his home in Toronto, Chris McKhool explains the way he  felt upon learning of his band’s four nominations at the 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The band was nominated for ;  Instrumental Group of the Year, World Group of the Year and Pushing The Boundaries.  McKhool also nominated for Producer of the Year.

“Honestly I thought, if we won one – we’d be lucky.” Says Chris. ” Each category was judged by a different jury so if we won one award, I was sure the other jurors would not give us anymore since we already won one.”

Chris’ band, the Sultans of String, earned the award of World Group of the Year. They did not win any more awards and the ‘jury’ is still out as to why – so to speak. This did not stop Chris, his wife and 19 month -old-baby girl from enjoying themselves in St. Johns, New Brunswick, for the award ceremonies.

Founded in 2005, The Canadian Folk Music Awards recognize Canada’s outstanding writers, producers and performers of folk music, and the artists who are expanding the genre in innovative and exciting ways.

Until their creation, there existed no awards to celebrate the breadth and depth of folk music in Canada. Awards such as the Junos, East Coast Music Awards or the Western Canada Music Awards have only a few categories that apply to folk and roots music whereas the CFMAs celebrate the magnificent diversity of Canada’s musical heritage – from the musical traditions of Aboriginal Canada to Celtic, Acadian and traditional Quebecois styles, singer-songwriter music, blues, bluegrass, and the myriad of world music traditions brought to Canada by each new wave of immigration.

For Sultans of String, the awards are timely. The group needed other worlds to conquer and awards to win. After – all, they have won most of what they were capable and eligible to win. In the past 2 years alone, they’ve acquired a JUNO nomination, 1st place in the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries), won this year’s Festivals & Events Ontario – Entertainer of The Year, and now the 2012 CFMA’s! Amazing for a band that started out with the meeting of two individuals who started to write songs because they had time to kill.

‘I met Kevin( Laliberté – the guitarist ) about ten years ago.” Explains Chris. ” I was doing this Jazz gig in North York and he was  playing guitar. We had a couple of hours to kill and as we were waiting around, Kevin was playing these great Rumba Flamenco guitar rhythms and they blew my mind. Amazingly enough – a lot of what was released on our first two discs, came out of that first meeting between us.”

Those two discs; ‘Luna’ and ‘Yalla Yalla!’ – immediately placed the ‘Sultans’ on the map. Both discs hitting # 1 on world/international music charts in Canada and ‘Yalla Yalla!’ earned a triple nomination at the  CFMAs. The group won  Instrumental Group of the Year in 2009.

“What I like about our new album -‘Move’, is that the whole band was included in the process. The first discs was myself and Kevin. This time it was great to see everyone so involved in the arrangement process.” Says McKhool. ” Chendy Leon is a genius when it comes to percussion. Our other guitarist, Eddie Paton, adds a whole other dimension to the sound and bass masters Drew Birston ( Chantal Kreviazuk) & David Woodhead (Stan Rogers, Loreena McKennitt) keep everything in focus. When Chendy is busy playing with Jesse Cook, Alberto Suarez steps in on percussion and Bassam Bishara is a master oud player from Palestine.”

Continues Chris …

“Chendy gives us such a diversified sound with which to work. He provides rhythm from all around the world. Arabic, Cuban and African to name a few. It is a group which sometimes operates as a quintet, quartet or trio and duo.” Explains Chris. ” It is always interesting.”

Chris also is one of the best kid entertainers in Canada. His newest cd – ‘Fiddlefire’ was nominated for a Juno award in 2009 and Chris has received numerous accreditations from parent groups around the country.

” If someone can put on earphones and listen to the Sultans’ music or mine and it can change their mood – then I’ll be happy.” Says Chris. ” That is why we create music – to make people smile. ”

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
‘Thank you goodnight now it’s time to go home’
And he makes it fast with one more thing
‘We are the Sultans of Swing String …’

Please stay tuned for part two of the interview as well as a review of the album ‘Move’

In the meantime …

Check out Chris’ childrens site!