Krista

ACTOR KRISTA BARZSO PRODUCES AN EMOTIONAL & VERY PERSONAL FILM “PERSISTENCE” BASED ON HER OWN SCRIPT

Some time ago, I had one of those great phone conversations with local actor, KRISTA BARZSO, talking about how I might be able to help her career, how a publicity and promo campaign could support her and hints of her upcoming project – her debut as producer and screenwriter of “Persistence”, a short film based on her own personal experiences. Krista’s passion and enthusiasm intrigued me and to borrow from another film…she had me at “hello”!

Skip ahead to just a few weeks ago when I again heard her voice on the phone, this time even more excited and focused – her film was ready to roll and she had just launched an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign in order to underwrite the pending production costs. So I hope you enjoy this virtual meet-n-greet with Krista and if you would like to offer this exciting emerging Canadian filmmaker a hand-up, here’s the link where you can donate to her film’s budget: https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW

Persistence is a story about what happens when romantic intentions cross over into stalking. The film explores what happens when trusts are broken but laws aren’t, and just how much damage can be done to someone’s life in that space between.

You’ve acted for many years on stage, screen and tv – what has inspired you to now write and produce?  I love acting and the exploration of the characters that you get to bring to life, but I wanted to try writing to get to explore another aspect of storytelling that would allow me to create my own story completely from the ground-up, and producing has allowed me to get to see this project all the way through from concept to fruition.

You have an exciting new film project titled “Persistence” that you’ve written and considering the subject matter (possessiveness, stalking, emotional control) I have to ask…have you experienced this in real life? 

You’ve assembled a great cast and crew, and are now going thru the funding process – apart from securing financial support, I bet you’re all looking forward to working after the long pandemic lockdown and quarantine period – what did you do during the lockdown?  I am always looking forward to getting back on set! But you’re right, that feeling is definitely amplified after going through such a long lockdown period.  I was really lucky and did have the opportunity to work on a few projects even during quarantine, but for the rest of the time my main focus was on finding ways to constantly be growing my skills. It was really important to me to know that I was going to come out of lockdown with more tools in my toolbox than when it began.

One of the plus sides to all of this is that a lot of acting teachers/schools around the world, found ways to work in a digital space. This has opened opportunities to train with companies around the world that I might not have had access to before. I signed on with an acting coach Neil Schell who has been working with me all the way from Kenya to hone my auditioning skills and career trajectory, and I’ve been training my improv skills with the renowned Groundlings School in LA. in addition to writing and producing my first screenplay, of course!

You’ve enjoyed much success with previous short films on the festival circuit – with Persistence, do you have plans to submit to Canadian and int’l festivals or do you want to secure immediate showcasing opportunities on one of the many online platforms?

You’ve become quite the expert in stage combat, weaponry and screen fight & martial arts skills – are you aiming to become the next superhero like Black Widow or any of the Marvel/DC Comics super heroes? Please share some of your training stories. I would love that so much! It is definitely a dream of mine. I love portraying intense, complicated, bad-ass women and a lot of those stories involve some kind of physicality. The major action sequences often come at critical points in the story, so it is important to me to be able to do those scenes justice so that it is believable that my character is actually going through the turmoil that you are seeing on screen.behind the scenes as an Archer in an undisclosed TV pilotI originally started this training so that I would have a better handle on how to approach these scenes safely and ended up completely falling in love with the art form; it’s like really violent dancing. I still have so much to learn, but I have had so much fun in the past training how to work safely with various weapon systems for stage and screen at Rapier Wit. One of my favourites was found weapon, where you take everyday objects and try to turn them into weapons in a fight sequence.
Obviously in-person training has been difficult during quarantine, but I was lucky enough to find Taz Garcia who is an amazing actor/director and who has worked Jackie Chan and the Jackie Chan stunt team, and I have been doing some virtual Action for Film training with him. It’s a little tricky to find the space in my house and I think my family thinks I’m nuts sometimes with all the sound effects I make while training, but that is the price we pay!

Do you see your career continuing with a focus on acting or doing more writing and directing?

 Who has been your industry inspiration or who has helped you the most with your career aspirations?   There are so many people who have helped me and who continue to help me along the way. Teachers who have taught and encouraged me and colleagues who’s drive and ambition has inspired me. Most recently, my coach Neil Schell has pushed me to try things outside my comfort zone and has really helped me view my career and believe in my talents in a different way. He is also going to be directing my short next month. Here’s Krista in some of her many acting roles…BeFunky Collage (1)Any advice to others wanting to develop their directing and/or writing skills?  Do your research. Read lots of books, lots of screenplays, watch lots of movies, see the differences between the screenplay and the movie and how the director went about brining it to life – then stop doing research and just do it.  There is no magic book that is going to fully prepare you ahead of time. There is no teacher like experience, and you will learn more through the act of attempting it yourself than you ever will by just reading about it. Try it and get feedback from people who know what they are talking about, then try it again. You will learn a ton, and your next one will be better.

More about Krista:  Krista has had a passion for acting from a very young age. Over the years she has had the good fortune to work on a wide range of stage productions including The Liar, Stepping Out, Nana’s Naughty Knickers, There Goes the Bride, Glengarry Glen Ross, Love Virtually, and Les Miserables as well as some independent films such as Soul Mates, A Great Guy, Still Life, Signing Off and Grey Zone. Constantly striving to learn, Krista has studied at The Robyn Kay Studio, The Lighthouse, Rapier Wit and The Second City to name a few.

Again, here is the IndieGoGo campaign link so please help support the Canadian film industry by donating to Krista and her film production. Thank you.   https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW As Eden in Whitehorn's Love Virtually

Jewison cover

LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR NORMAN JEWISON GETS BIO TREATMENT FROM AUTHOR IRA WELLS

Last week, I was honoured to attend an online gathering of film critics, writers, film directors and industry insiders to hear author IRA WELLS discuss his new book NORMAN JEWISON: A DIRECTOR’S LIFE published by Sutherland House Books (Founded in 2017 by Canadian author and publishing executive Kenneth Whyte). As a long-time fan of the Canadian director’s films, this was a dream Zoom meeting! Ever since my first viewing of The Thomas Crown Affair starring the king of cool, Steve McQueen, and the gorgeous sophisticated Faye Dunaway, I was hooked on Jewison’s style and on-screen “rhythm” – that chess scene from Thomas Crown stands as one of the most erotic scenes ever committed to film…and they kept their clothes on!! From 1965 thru ’68 he served us some of the era’s (and film history’s) most iconic films: In the Heat of the Night presents southern racism in all its brutal ugliness and features that slap heard around the world, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming is a hilarious look at how the cold war affects small town America, and McQueen’s earlier cinematic outing with Jewison, The Cincinnati Kid takes us into the shady but exciting world of high stakes poker. Fiddler on the Roof, The Hurricane, Moonstruck, F.I.S.T., Rollerball, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Soldier’s Story…going all the way back to the beloved Canadian tv series, The Wayne & Shuster Show, Jewison has delivered provocative, compassionate, engaging and hilarious content for his audiences to devour. This new book is now on my Christmas list for Santa…and the fat man better show up early with this present!th (6)About the man, the book and the author:

NORMAN JEWISON directed some of the most iconic and beloved films from the 60s through the 21st century, from In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair to Jesus Christ Superstar and Moonstruck. But despite being what his friend, award-winning screenwriter William Goldman called “a giant of the industry,” Jewison could also walk the streets of any city in the world and go unrecognized. Jewison was a man of contradictions: he cared more about telling great stories than gaining fame and fortune by showcasing movie stars, but generations of Hollywood’s marquee actors—Judy Garland, Sidney Poitier, Faye Dunaway, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington—trusted him at crucial moments in their careers. Yet, for all his talent and the passionate support of his actors, Jewison suffered heartbreaking rejection from the executives who refused to believe in his dreams.t crown heat of the night th (7)Norman Jewison: A Director’s Life is a story of artistic survival and reinvention, and about the fate of original cinematic ideas in an industry increasingly captive to corporate greed. Drawing upon exhaustive archival research and dozens of interviews, biographer IRA WELLS (pictured below) provides a soulful portrait of an idealist who had to fight for every frame of his legacy. Here are Norman’s legendary collaborators— Hal Ashby, William Rose, Steve McQueen, and more—brought to vivid life in original letters, telegrams, and revealing, unpublished interviews. A clear-eyed reassessment of Hollywood’s final golden age, Norman Jewison: A Director’s Life is both the intimate portrait of an artist and a rallying cry for anyone who has had to fight for their creative vision.Ira headshot (1)Author IRA WELLS is an assistant professor in English and Academic Programs at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The Guardian, The New Republic, The Walrus, Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Review of Books, and American Quarterly.  Advance reviews and kudos are pouring in for Ira’s book….

“Renowned filmmaker Norman Jewison is a contradiction in terms: one of the great purveyors of classical Hollywood storytelling and an outsider at the same time. Finally, with Ira Wells’s rewarding biography, Jewison receives the attention he richly deserves. Wells’ vibrant, well-written chronicle is one of those indispensable film books that illuminates the times and life of one of film’s major practitioners.”Michael Barker, Co-President and Co-Founder, Sony Pictures Classics

“This is a terrific book and a fun read. Norman Jewison directed some of the most enjoyable films of our time. I thank Norman for his films and applaud Ira Wells for capturing both Norman’s legendary feistiness and his great generosity of spirit, both of which I experienced first-hand.”Joe Eszterhas, writer of Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Hollywood Animal

“Ira Wells, wonderful storyteller and master stylist, takes us to the movies, then behind the scenes, then beyond, bringing new life to films and stars we thought we knew.  This is a book you will never want to put down.”David Yaffe, author of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell th (2) th (3) th (5)NORMAN JEWISON: A DIRECTOR’S LIFE
ISBN [hardcover]: 978-1-989555-38-5
Price: $28.95 USD / $34.95 CAD
Page count: 490
Available NOW from Amazon and in-stores or direct from the publisher: https://sutherlandhousebooks.square.site/product/norman-jewison/61?cs=true&cst=customth (4)

 

Divine Tides - Album cover

GRAMMY® WINNER RICKY KEJ & ROCK LEGEND STEWART COPELAND RELEASE STUNNING “DIVINE TIDES” ALBUM

A few years ago, my recording client, Ron Korb, Canada’s Grammy-nominated flautist and composer, turned me onto the music of RICKY KEJ (pictured below), the prolific American-born Indian composer and recording artist, with whom Ron had collaborated on a number of recent tracks.Grammy® Award-winner Ricky KejNot only was I blown away by the sublime beauty of Ricky’s music but also the exquisite music videos he produces, and his compassion and dedication to the environment. When I heard about Ricky’s latest album, DIVINE TIDES, a collaboration with the legendary drummer from super-group The Police, STEWART COPELAND, I knew I had to reach out personally and have a chat with Ricky.Grammy® Award-winner Stewart CopelandFirst, who is Ricky Kej? He was born into a family of doctors in North Carolina, USA. After his family moved to Bangalore India, Ricky studied at the prestigious Bishop Cotton Boys’ School where his passion for music developed. He started playing keyboard and guitar for various rock bands in India but after high school, he chose to pursue his education in the field of dentistry to please his parents. Five years later in 2005, he graduated as a dental surgeon but ironically, he did not practice dentistry for even a day after he was awarded his degree. Ricky started producing jingles for television and radio, and in a span of four years he had produced over 1,000 jingles for various clients like Levi jeans, Air India, Blaupunkt, IBM, Toyota, Nike, etc.

Ricky released his first lounge album Communicative Art – Lounge from the Bay in 2003 to rave reviews, becoming a commercial success in the “lounge” category. Songs from this album have found their way into over 20 international compilations, and his second album Kamasutra Lounge released in 2007 featured Indian musical legends such as Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ulhas Bhapat, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Ajay Pohankar, etc. This, too, was a critical and commercial success, being released in the United States under the ‘Water Music Records’ label.  That same year, Ricky took on the project of composition for the film Accident where he directed the music for 6 songs and background score. Since then, he’s composed and scored for several shorts and documentaries and produced numerous music videos in both long and short form. He’s released 20 albums and has been featured in two dozen compilations. So let’s hear from the master himself about his life, his career and DIVINE TIDES…..

When/how young were you when you realized you loved music and had the gift to compose and play?  Ever since I remember, I have always been in love with music. Even as a child, my ears have always been more important than my eyes. While most of my classmates in school were fascinated by television and cartoons, I was hooked to my music system. I would dissect songs I heard to try and figure out the instruments used, the musicians playing those instruments, and I would learn about different cultures and people through music. I was also passionate about the environment. It was through my music that I fell in love with our natural world and I have always found a deep connection between music and nature. I have no idea why, but we had a baby grand piano at home, and a guitar. So I started off by trying to make music on those instruments. Much later as an adult, after I already embarked on a thriving professional musical career, I took a formal education in music to avoid what I perceived could be a handicap in future.grammyWho were your musical and spiritual inspirations when you started your career in entertainment and musical healing for the planet?  I have loved the styles of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and AR Rahman because they have never let genre boundaries define them. All that they did was make music that they strongly believed in and collaborated with some of the best musicians and individuals across the globe. The world was/is their musical canvas. After I won the Grammy Award in 2015, I decided to dedicate my life and music towards creating environmental consciousness through my art and there has been no looking back. Although my music is global, it is strongly rooted in India. I am a huge fan of various Indian art forms and I have always been inspired by ancient Sanskrit phrases and traditional Indian music. The ancient Indian texts were filled with musical verses and those verses spoke about co-existence and environmental consciousness.snskritHow has Covid impacted your ability to reach your fans – have you performed concerts or presentations online during the world’s lockdown?  I miss performing my music to a live audience. Live concerts allow me to connect and interact directly with my audience and to ensure that they leave my concerts with a renewed love for our planet and hope. It is always an amazing feeling to look at an audience and realise that I have succeeded in emotionally connecting with them through my music. The pandemic has hit the entertainment industry very hard. The music industry is extremely dynamic and different professionals in the industry rely on each other. Performing artists, production companies, event management companies, sound engineers, recording studios and everyone else involved is stuck in limbo at the moment especially here in India. I performed multiple virtual concerts over the course of this pandemic with my last three online concerts watched by an estimated 200 million viewers from around the world. It is all about adapting to the times and our surroundings, because no matter what pandemic hits us, music will never leave our lives.

This creative collaboration with Stewart Copeland has produced a unique series of recordings and videos, with an innovative release of single tracks and accompanying videos from now until September. How did you come up with this concept?  I had been working on a follow-up to my Grammy® winning album ‘Winds of Samsara’ and had catalogued some of my favourite ideas. Recordings were delayed because of my relentless touring schedule and when the pandemic hit, it presented an opportunity for me to spend time in my studio and kick-start this project again. I reached out to Stewart and was thrilled when he said yes to making this album with me. I have always relied on technology for all of my recordings and Stewart, too, is high on technology and has one of the most amazing home studios. That helped us record seamlessly during the pandemic. Stewart and I recorded our portions individually and it all came together superbly. Despite the pandemic, we are thrilled to have created an album that celebrates life and will create a wave of much-needed positivity in our audiences.Grammy® Winner Stewart CopelandStewart Copeland has always been my musical hero, and I have been a life-long fan. Working with him was like attending the best masterclass imaginable. Stewart is not just the Founder and drummer of one of the biggest-selling bands in history ‘The Police’, he also regularly composes for operas, orchestras, and for over 50 Hollywood movies including the Oscar-winning ‘Wall Street’. Despite reaching the pinnacle of success, he is constantly evolving and learning by exploring new sounds, traditional music instruments and rhythms. We constantly threw ideas at each other, adapted sounds and crafted this album together, piece by piece. All of the songs have strong Indian roots with a fusion of the west and the entire album celebrates the magnificence of our natural world and the resilience of our species.

“One day during the Apocalypse I got a call from Ricky Kej about making an album. He had assembled an amazing collection of exotic musicians, or perhaps I should say deeply traditional musicians, in the exotic context of his inspired production style. The flow of ideas soon became a torrent of recording and music. The spiritual ambience (not something that I’m generally known for) infused my aggressions upon inanimate objects with loving passion. The timpani were ringing! The crotales were singing! Making this record has been a unique adventure in both music and divine awareness.”  Stewart Copeland

“I had been working on a follow-up to the Grammy® winning album “Winds of Samsara” and had cataloged some of my favorite melodies. Recordings were delayed because of a relentless touring schedule, but then the 2020 pandemic hit. Strict lockdowns presented an opportunity to spend more time in the studio. In 2016 I was privileged and honored to collaborate on a song with Stewart Copeland. With the support of industry veterans Ralph Simon and Tarquin Gotch I mustered up the courage to ask him to collaborate with me yet again, this time on a complete album. What followed was one of the best and most fulfilling personal and musical experiences I could have ever asked for. Working with Stewart was like attending one of the best masterclasses imaginable. Stewart is not only a living legend, but an extremely humble human being, filled with positive energy, that pushed us to deliver our very best for “Divine Tides.” – Ricky Kej

Have you made plans for touring once the world is safe for musicians and audiences?  It is hard to make any concrete plans right now since the situation around the world is extremely unpredictable due to lockdowns, suspension of flights, border controls etc. and of course, with the virus constantly mutating. Touring is definitely on my mind but, I guess, for the next few months I am going to work on promoting Divine Tides and try and get as many people to listen to it. Since I have worked so hard on the music, poured my heart and soul into it, I feel I owe it to the music to ensure as many people around the world enjoy it.Grammy® Winner Ricky KejThank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Ricky. And if you would like to learn more about this amazing and much-respected World music artist, please visit his website at: www.rickykej.comDL JCDivine Tides will have a unique launch format: every song will feature an accompanying music video, released from July 7th until September 28th, 2021, as both Ricky and Stewart feel that all of the tracks deserve their moment in the sun. The complete album will be made available on all audio streaming platforms as of July 21st. You can follow the release schedule on this dedicated website:  www.divinetidesmusic.com

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Local artists form the special group “131 Collective” and open pop-up gallery in Toronto’s chic Yorkville neighbourhood!

It was so exciting to walk through the doors of the brand new pop-up art gallery located at 131 Bloor St West…just a few doors East of Avenue Road, opposite the Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Burberry fancy-schmancy boutiques along what is affectionately referred to as Toronto’s mink mile. A group of talented fine artists came together when the opportunity to take over a vacant store space came their way and had only 4 days to hang their works and quickly promote themselves as the 131 Collective. The featured artists include Mark Gleberzon @mjggallery Morgan Jones @morganjonesart Todd Monk @toddmonkart Jeff Turner & Jane Pike @jandj_photo_art Vanessa Drew @vanessaracheldrew_art Adrienne Jackson @crushwrks and Huy Lam @_huylam_20210619_135210 (3) 20210619_134706 (2)Lots of large canvases hang in a space that offers great viewing perspectives and allows for several people to be inside at once, dutifully face-masked and socially distanced. The gallery provides hand sanitizer and follows all Covid safety protocols.

If you don’t have a lot of wall-space to collect and display large pieces of art, the group offers a number of smalls that would fit anyone’s loft, condo or cottage. See below…20210619_134908 (2)I spoke with Jane Pike who, along with her partner, Jeff Turner (of J&J Photographic Art) have been working hard to get the pop-up ready for this weekend’s launch and she said….

Check out these stunning floral pieces by Vanessa Drew…20210619_135305 (2)…and my long-time friend Mark Gleberzon is showcasing his beautiful chair series along with their real-life inspirations (below)20210619_135104 (2) 20210619_135249 (2)

So many exquisite paintings and wood/metal sculptures on show – you MUST visit in person to truly appreciate all the work created by Toronto’s leading local artists. 20210619_134743 (2) 20210619_134824 (2) 20210619_135004 (2) 20210619_135242 (3)20210619_141113 (2) 20210619_134807 (2) 20210619_135203 (2)20210619_135832 (2)20210619_135042 (2)Gallery hours: Monday thru Wednesdays 11am to 6pm, Thursdays thru Saturdays 11am to 8pm and Sundays 12noon to 5pm
Address: 131 Bloor St West (just west of the Colonnade)20210619_135149Just look for this stunning artwork in the window (below) and please follow each of the artists on IG (their indiv. handles were included in opening paragraph). Thank you for supporting Canadian artists.20210619_141922 (2)

SHELLEY P

ACTOR, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, HORSE-LOVER SHELLEY PETERSON SITS HIGH IN THE SADDLE AS SHE LAUNCHES HER 9TH NOVEL

Throughout the 80s and 90s, I’d become a fan of Canadian film and tv actress, SHELLEY PETERSON. She appeared in all the major hit tv shows like Night Heat, E.N.G., the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the comedy Dog House and another fave of mine, Twice in a Lifetime (2000). In 2007, Shelley appeared in the scary, spooky thriller Dead Silence alongside one of my favourite Australian actors, Ryan Kwanten, who starred with Aussie superstar Aaron Petersen in the original Mystery Road movie.  During all this time, Shelley was not only married to politician and future Ontario premier, David Peterson, she also raised a family and started writing books for Young Adults based on her love of horses. Oh, and by the way, she continued riding and owns a horse facility north of Toronto. Talk about an over-achiever and a great success story!

Her books are beautifully crafted novels targeting the tween/teen/young adult readership and focuses on horse-lovers and their adventures with their 4-legged best friends.  Her latest book is THE JAGGED CIRCLE which Shelley is currently promoting and hopefully will soon be able to do the usual meet-n-greet reading events with her fans as the province opens up after 15 months of Covid lockdown. I recently spoke with Shelley where we discovered our mutual love of horses, sharing our pony club stories from way-back…Cover final, Jagged Circle copy (1)Congratulations on the publication of your latest Y/A novel The Jagged Circle. You’ve written 9 books now involving horses so you must have been a pony club girl from way back…yes?  Yes, you’re right. I went to Pony Club in London, Ontario. We had wonderful teachers who were thorough and demanding. For example, we were timed taking our bridles apart, cleaning and oiling them, then putting them back together. We learned every part of a horse, how to look after them from top to bottom, including how to feed and groom them. The riding part was just as demanding, but more fun!  My favourite teacher was Dorinda Brickenden Greenway, who was an international show jumper. I admire her so much that I put her in ‘The Jagged Circle’ as a judge in the March Madness Steeplechase.

I gather you’ve always ridden throughout your adult life, too, and now own a fabulous horse facility, Fox Ridge – can you tell us about it and how it allows you to fulfil any childhood dreams?  I’ve been extremely lucky to have been around horses all my life. I had horses as a child in our backyard barn in London and then married a man whose father had a farm with Hereford cows. Pete loved horses and knew more about them than anybody else I’ve ever met. He’s a character in many of my books as Pete Pierson. He bought me my foundation mare, Sandpiper, and I’m now raising her great-grandchildren in Caledon where we live at Fox Ridge. I can think of nothing more fulfilling than guiding the journey from wobbly-legged new-born foal to a responsive, calm, willing adult horse.thumbnailI read a brief synopsis of one of your earlier books, Dancer, which was inspired by your then-teenage daughter. I must admit, the story could have been written about me, too. I was the class geek back home in Australia, and instead of 2-legged friends, I had a whole herd of 4-legged ones at the local stables. Have you found that your books offer comfort and validation to your predominantly tween and teenage female readers? And have you received “fan mail” reflecting that?  Absolutely. Readers’ emails and letters warm my heart and keep me writing. Each of my novels deals with a real issue (or several issues) that kids face, and each person will take what they need out of my books. If something that happens in one of my novels reflects a reader’s personal situation, I hope they’ll find strength and inspiration by how my characters cope with it. Otherwise, it’s just part of the story.sundancer (2)When you were acting on a regular basis, you appeared in 2 of my favourite Canadian tv series, E.N.G. and Night Heat. Do you miss those days or are they now just very fond memories?  I loved the world of theatre, television and film, and it was good to be a part of it. It’s very tough work, regardless of the glamourous perception of it, but very rewarding as well. The magic of theatre cannot be replicated elsewhere, and I revisited it in my novel, ‘Stagestruck’. One day I might go back to it as a little old lady, but for now I prefer allowing my imagination the freedom to create stories as opposed to acting them through other writers’ characters and dialogue.th (2)Being the wife of a politician must have been demanding – did you find horse-riding offered you relaxation and an outlet to de-stress?  Horses only relate to you when you set aside your stress. They actually turn away if you bring your troubles to the barn. As soon as you understand that, things go well. Through any turmoil in my life—being the wife of a politician, raising children, having a stressful career– horses have always demanded that I put my mental garbage in a sack and leave it metaphorically at the barn door.

Riding horse Prospero with grand-daughter Willow

Riding horse Prospero with grand-daughter Willow

The Jagged Circle is the second book in your Jockey Girl series and this time your heroine, Evangeline Gibb, is up to her stirrups in solving a murder while training her steeplechaser, Kazzam, for a big race. Can you give us any more clues as to how Evangeline does…with the helping the police solve the crime as well as the race?  Before the story begins, her grandmother Mary has been training Evie and Kazzam over jumps, and there’s already a very strong bond of trust between horse and rider which allows them to escalate their training over cross-country jumps with Piers Anders. And Evie’s love of her little sister, along with her curiosity and grit, won’t allow her to stop delving into the mysteries until they’re solved. The story takes place over a very short time, going from the boredom of being alone at Spring break to action overload as the drama unfolds. One reader told me he needed a nap when he finished reading my book!

Do you have social media where fans can follow you and learn more about your books?  I have a website, www.shelleypeterson.com  and a Facebook page “ShelleyPetersonBooks”. My publisher is Dundurn Press and I’m on their website as well. Any questions can be sent to me directly via my website, and I’ll answer them as soon as I get back from the barn.thumbnail (1)Thank you so much for sharing your life and loves, Shelley, and I know my readers will be checking out ALL your books which are available from Amazon as well as through your own website.  You can also visit the Dundurn Press website and social media: @dundurnpress
THE JAGGED CIRCLE by Shelley Peterson
Paperback ISBN: 9781459746947 • $14.99
eBook ISBN: 9781459746961 • $8.99willow riding Robyn

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CELEBRATING AUSTRALIAN FILM AT THE ANNUAL VISION SPLENDID OUTBACK FILM FESTIVAL

As a proud Aussie stuck here in Canada, it’s frustrating not being able to go home, hang out with my family and meet up with friends in the film industry over these past 15 months of Covid travel bans. But I always have my eye on what’s happening in the Down Under film and television industries and unashamedly admit to being obsessed with Indigenous superstar Aaron Pedersen (pictured below, left) whose performance as Det. Jay Swan in the film Goldstone is nothing short of Oscar-worthy! It just so happens Goldstone was filmed in the outback town of Winton, in the state of Queensland, as was his award-winning tv series, Mystery Road, based on his character Jay Swan, first introduced to us back in 2013 in the original film, Mystery Road, written and directed by Ivan Sen.126961990_10164102171740478_5870466753728279799_nWinton is also home to the newly opened Australian Age of Dinosaurs, a massive outdoor exhibition of the bones and fossils of extinct creatures that once roamed the country…imagine Jurassic Park without the scary man-eating beasts! It’s also the birthplace of the world’s leading int’l airline, QANTAS and where the song Waltzing Matilda was first performed some 100 years ago.  But it’s the unique cultural experience of watching movies under the stars – and boy those southern hemisphere starry skies are fantastic – that will be drawing me back home next year  to join film lovers, filmmakers and film media to the VISION SPLENDID OUTBACK FILM FESTIVAL.Royal Theatre Winton Image - Photographer Alan MathiesonThe opening feature film this year (June 25th) is the much-anticipated documentary about Australia’s legendary leading Indigenous actor, David Gulpilil (below – photo by Miles Rowland), who is now battling cancer yet has kept working as much as his health allows. Other films include June Again, starring award-winning actress of screen, tv and stage Noni Hazelhurst, and Rams starring another favourite actor of mine (and great wine maker, too) Sam Neill. The full festival programme, tickets and related events available online at: www.visionsplendidfilmfest.com 

I had the opportunity to chat online with Festival Director, Mark Melrose, who told me all about the Festival’s history, the stars who have attended and all the exciting Festival related activities…and of course, how to get there.

Congratulations on the upcoming Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – please tell me a little about the genesis or inspiration for the festival, who was Butch Lenton, how long it’s been running and why Winton for a film festival location considering, in colloquial terms, it’s back o’ Burke, beyond the black stump and up Woop-Woop (i.e. the middle of nowhere!)  Vision Splendid was the brainchild of Clive Kitchen, a local businessman. He started discussions in 2013 with the then Mayor of Winton, Butch Lenton, following the success of the film, Mystery Road. In June 2014, the inaugural Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival took place, and it has grown ever since.Winton Royal Open Air Theatre 1 - Photographer Maree AzzopardiLenton was the major driving force behind Winton being what it is today. He had the vision to push for films to be made here on location and the drive to make it happen – sadly he is no longer with us to see how the Festival has grown – it’s a testament to his hard work in creating a film-friendly town that will ultimately create a new industry for Outback Queensland. There are several reasons Winton is the home of the Festival, but mainly it’s due to the fact several feature films and TV series have been shot there in recent times, including The Proposition, Mystery Road, Goldstone and Total Control. Its unique landscapes and vast open spaces cannot be replicated in a studio.

How has COVID-19 impacted the festival and what precautions are you taking to ensure audience safety this year?  Of course, COVID-19 has meant more precautions and risk mitigation elements have come into the festival. The 2020 Festival was postponed, thankfully not cancelled, until September as we found a window to push on with the event. Thankfully we did, as the event resulted in the best of the Festival’s short history with a 36% increase in crowds from 2019. The COVID safety plan included reduced capacities in the theatre and Town Hall, cleaning of the venues between each screening, all tickets being pre-purchased and not available at the door, contact tracing via ticketing and QR codes, and social distancing markers on the ground for queues. These elements will be in place again this year.

Since the Festival’s inception, which attending filmmakers or celebrities have caused major excitement with media and audiences alike?  There have been several filmmakers and celebrities that have caused a ‘stir’ in the media and audiences, including Ivan Sen (director/writer) and actor Aaron Pederson for Goldstone, Michael Caton and Mark Coles Smith for Last Cab to Darwin, Gyton Grantly for Beneath Hill 60, Margaret Pomeranz for David Stratton: A Cinematic Life, Roy Billing as the Festival Patron, Steve Le Marquand for Locusts, and Nicholas Hope for Book Week.last cabDr. Greg Dolgopolov is the Festival Curator and Creative Director and he kindly answered a question for me: How do you choose which films to showcase and what forgotten cinematic treasures to celebrate?   As the Creative Director, I am tasked with selecting and curating around 50 films each year –documentaries, shorts and feature films. These are mainly new films but every year we feature some classics – either silent films that are brought back to life with live musical accompaniment or films celebrating a significant anniversary. The guiding principle for the festival is that the films have to be Australian and sometimes that could include a film that has an Australian involvement, such as a film directed by an Australian but produced elsewhere or a foreign film that stars an Australian actor. Majority of the films are made in Australia and the Festival features a selection of the best available films made recently. The other guiding principle is that the films need to engage a mainstream audience. That means that we are looking for great crowd-pleasing films. I tend to program a few ‘testing’ or art house films as one thing that I have learnt over more than 15 years of curating is that you can never predict what audiences will like and that there are clearly different audiences for different films.

I try to curate in a representative manner capturing different communities and different ideas. The Festival tries to be democratic but not in some crazy quota system but just the best films possible across genres, themes and ideas and I do tend to lean towards outback stories featuring the Australian landscape as part of the drama largely because of where the Festival is located. The origins of the Festival were in presenting Mystery Road in 2013 in the town where most of the filming took place, so the Festival is very connected to the films that have been shot in the Winton area and regional Queensland more broadly. The Festival is intensely committed to drawing new productions to the region and in developing new and emerging filmmakers. Every year about eight new short films are made during the festival by the next generation of filmmakers, and we are confident that when they start helming major productions and need a rugged outback location or a remote rural community, they will come straight to Winton.EZGihnLWkAI4mx6Curating Australian ‘cinematic treasures’ is an art form in itself – sometimes it’s a films’ significant anniversary that justifies its inclusion in the program. Sometimes it because we are featuring a digital remastering of a classic or because one of the Festival guests is bringing their new film and we want to highlight their body of work in the program, so audiences can get a taste for what they have done in the past. Getting a sense that the selection was right by judging the mood in the room is incredibly satisfying as a curator, as well as bringing people together to discuss what they have seen in more robust ways than they would at a standard cinema experience.  That is the great thing about Winton – there is that time and opportunity to have a yarn with others about your experiences and we have a strong group of regulars who are not afraid to voice their opinions and that is just great for the dynamics of having a little festival in the middle of nowhere, but that continuously draws such huge crowds every year.

Back to Mark….The festival also actively involves film students from Griffith University Film School (GUFS) and the University of NSW (UNSW). How do they participate and why do you think it’s important for them to get hands-on experience at the festival level?  Having students involved is immensely important for a number of reasons: they request to travel to Winton for a two-week Outback Filmmaking Bootcamp where they create a short film in two weeks in an extremely remote region. This allows the students to experience the highs and lows of filmmaking – what it means to make a film without all the creature comforts available in the big cities; the highs of creating something seen by an audience in a short period of time; and getting used to working in groups of people across disciplines.  From an economic point-of-view for Winton, there are 60+ future filmmakers in town who now know about the locations and what Winton has to offer and potentially will make a feature film there in the future. The town opens its doors to the students, filming in houses, workplaces and the main streets. They are immersed with Indigenous Culture working closely with the Koa Aboriginal Corporation on the importance of the land and historical significance. The students are also volunteers for the festival and get some experience as to what it takes to put a festival together….and the need of volunteers to make it all happen.film studentsThe town of Winton has been the location of some of the most exciting films and TV shows, including one of my favourite films, Goldstone (directed by Ivan Sen and starring the great Aaron Pedersen) – what does Winton offer incoming productions apart from long days of great natural light and friendly people?  There are exciting things in the pipeline for Winton that, should they fall into place, will offer more incentives to shoot in this unique location. It already has the spectacular outback vistas, the town setting, the friendly people, but in 6 months time, we hope it will have two or three more major developments to bring in more filmmakers and cement the industry here in the Hollywood of the Outback.Winton Sign - Photographer Peter LikHow difficult is it to reach Winton from, say, Sydney or Brisbane? And what sort of guest accommodations can be found for overseas festival visitors?  It’s not that difficult to reach Winton, it just takes time. There is only one flight a day from Brisbane into the town of Longreach and from there Winton is a 2 hour drive (177km). There is a bus that departs Brisbane daily and a train that departs Brisbane for Longreach twice a week.  There are several hotels and motels including the North Gregory Hotel (where Waltzing Matilda was performed in public for the very first time over 100 years ago), and the Outback Motel to name two. There are also four caravan parks if that is how you are traveling.via airhotelGood luck for this year’s Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – is there anything else you’d like to share with international film fans?   Thank you. We are excited to be able to operate during these bizarre times, however, we do miss our international friends. We can’t wait to open the borders and welcome you back  for (hopefully) next year’s Festival.  If you’re a filmmaker looking for somewhere different to make a film, check out Winton. We don’t call it the Hollywood of the Outback for nothing!Winton Royal Open Air Theatre 2 - Photographer Maree AzzopardiThanks to photographers Alan Mathieson and Maree Azzopardi for the amazing shots of previous Festivals. I’m sending my best wishes to Mark, Greg and all the wonderful volunteers and folks of Winton. I can’t wait until I head Down Under next year. There are so many activities for all the family including a daily kids club, “breakfast with the stars” each morning, local Indigenous storytellers and there are even silent movies being shown, too. Let’s not forget there’s great food and drinks as well as shopping – you gotta take home some great Aussie outback souvenirs!  If you can’t make it to Winton this year, I’ll see you there in June of 2022!Winton

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FUNNY LADY CARLA COLLINS OFFERS INFECTIOUS LAFFS WITH NEW COMEDY ALBUM “PANDEPIC!”

With three comedy albums currently available on iTunes – Mobius Stripper, The Best of the Worst of Carla Collins and Recovering Nudist, funny lady extraordinaire CARLA COLLINS has just unleashed…er, I meant released her latest album PandEPIC! available now on your favourite streaming platform. Here’s a teaser of the tracks: www.carlacollins.hearnow.comIMG_4218Recorded at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub in Toronto in between Covid lockdowns, this hilarious escape from reality delivered by our favorite emotional support cougar will have you laughing your ass off !

Carla’s reality show Carlawood is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and she’ll soon be filming her first US comedy special produced by the legendary David Steinberg and Proven Entertainment once the industry opens back up post-pandemic. She recently launched her new podcast/web series Carla Collins Rox the Elmo where comedy, music and spirituality meet for the perfect three-way. Carla has also teamed up with bestie, entrepreneur and longtime vegan Michael Stuart Webb for a new podcast to complement their upcoming book called The Douchless Vegan: a Giddy Guide to Living a Delicious Life without Being a Dick.d veganCarla is the creator of Chuckle and Chill: Comedic Meditation, a revolutionary new concept where after delivering thirty minutes of her stand-up comedy, she leads the audience through an authentic, original, relaxing guided meditation. An instant hit, her comedic meditation has already been featured on NBC’s California Live, CP24 News, SiriusXM Radio, CBC’s Metro Morning and in The Eden Magazine and LA’s Splash Magazine.20CCEA42-71CB-46F0-B8B5-7B9781544E96Carla is the bestselling author of Angels, Vampires and Douche Bags, a comedic motivational tome which I read in one sitting – it’s so damned funny! – and is currently writing a new self-help coffee book entitled Stairs: A 30 Day Step by Step Guide to being Fab AF. Her hilarious comedy can be heard around the world on various Sirius XM stations, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TIDAL and Pandora. You can also hear her melodic voice on several commercials and cartoons. So you see…Carla is the reigning queen of all comedy media! Below, Carla shares the stage with Canadian comedy legend, Kenny Robinson.with KennyHaving known her since the early 90s (when she was a mere child!), I’ve watched Carla rise from her first comedy appearances in Toronto, through her stints as a TV reporter on the Oscar red carpet in Hollywood, to producer/host of her own network tv & webtv shows, to best-selling author, meditation guide, to headlining star in leading comedy clubs in Canada and the US. She’s so multi-talented, she out-Oprahs Oprah!!IMG_4199As we’re crossing fingers, toes, eyes for Covid restrictions to ease, why not enjoy a damn good laugh with Carla as she guides us through life, love and lust with a little squirt (yes, Carla, I told you I’d find a way to incorporate your fave word) of lascivious and licentious laughter via her brand new comedy album PandEPIC! now available via Amazon, Spotify, iTunes, Apple, Pandora, Deezer…etc.

If you wanna keep up with news of future  shows, books and live appearances, visit her website www.carlacollins.com and if you’d like to explore her wellness thru laughter program, visit: www.comedicmeditation.com   You go, girl!ECC32362-64EA-4F9F-BA47-EA1611C7EC47

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CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC STAR GRAHAM TRUDE RELEASES LATEST SINGLE AS TRIBUTE TO THOSE SUFFERING WITH PTSD…INCLUDING HIMSELF!

A fellow PR/artist management friend of mine, Michael Stuart Webb, recently signed an exciting new client and when I heard about said client, I knew I had to share his story with my readers/followers. Thanks for setting this up for me, Michael….it’s always great to support friends in da biz!

GRAHAM TRUDE is an award-winning Canadian singer/songwriter and he’s proud to release his brand new single titled PTSD today, Tuesday May 25th.  The song focuses on his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) which is a mental disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event such as warfare (which was the case for Graham), traffic collisions, sexual assault, child abuse, or other threats on a person’s life. Watch the video – see link at end of this article.Cover-PTSD-01Before embarking on a music career, Graham was a tank crewman in the Canadian military (pictured below), completing multiple tours in Afghanistan, an experience from which he mines a great deal of his deeply honest and raw songwriting. Upon his return home to Canada and discharge from military service, he continued his work on the frontlines as a police officer, during which time Graham was nominated for two lifesaving award and a commendation for a Chief’s Award.meta_eyJzcmNCdWNrZXQiOiJjb250ZW50LnNpdGV6b29nbGUuY29tIn0= (2)His heroic service overseas and his law enforcement career had a profound impact on his life as a whole, and Graham was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which led to addictive and self-destructive behaviours. Determined to conquer his demons, Graham sought and found refuge in his music which was instrumental in his recovery. His songwriting references these life experiences, creating powerful lyrics which he combines with edgy guitar riffs and infectious hooks. He is a master storyteller who uses a pop, rock and country fusion beats.

Graham has collaborated several times with renowned multi-Juno award-winning country music producer, Jason Barry, and has also written and performed the theme song for the television show The Real Canadian Joes, and won an Ontario songwriting competition – all this earned him the respect of his peers in Nashville where Trude has spent time perfecting his craft. To celebrate the release of his new single, I spoke with Graham and asked him to share his story and his song with us….2018-07-27 21.46 (2)Congratulations on your new single PTSD – I’m sure it will resonate with so many ex-military, police, firefighters and front-line medical staff. As a PTSD sufferer yourself, did you find the writing process cathartic and healing?  Thank you very much I greatly appreciate it and thank you very much for this wonderful interview. Usually in every song I write there is always some healing for me and it’s a way for me to express my emotions and get it out on paper. I find in my experience with trauma and addiction when I am feeling down or not myself, I love to write music and it helps bring me to a better light.

Were you an army brat or was your military career of your own making? And if so, what inspired you to sign-up?  My military career was certainly of my own making. My father was a chief of police in Collingwood for many years and my brother joined the military shortly after I joined in 2007. There was something about the calling of being a soldier that I always wanted to do and I always wanted to help people which is why I got into policing after as well. It is a personal goal of mine within my life to help people who are going through tough times and feel they are alone. image3I recently worked with an LA-based filmmaker client who produced, wrote and directed a movie (Battle Scars) that dealt with PTSD in the post-Vietnam War era which illustrated how inadequate support was for returning warriors nearly 50 years ago. Have things changed? Did you seek and receive therapy to help you deal with the trauma and your resulting addictions?  I feel that things have changed drastically within the last 50 years, especially in relation to mental health, but we are still not where we should be yet. I know of several homeless veterans, first responders and members of the general public who are dealing with intense mental health issues. During my time of intense depression and anxiety, I can honestly say that without the help of my friends and family I would have been in serious trouble. We need to think of that when we think about the individuals in our lives and how we can help them. Sometimes just being there for somebody is more than enough – it may not seem like it but it definitely is. I am still heavily involved with therapy and my addiction recovery.

Obviously writing and recording this song is going to open conversations within families that had, perhaps, been suppressed – do you have any advice to those living with PTSD sufferers on how to communicate without judgement?  It’s very hard for me to tell other people how to open up with their emotion. Honestly, I found it best to explain it to my family in more of a struggling way. I tried to tell them about it before but it just wasn’t something that they could really understand because they weren’t going through it as well. The best thing in the world that ever happened to me was rehabilitation where I was involved in a process called “rigorous honesty”. This type of honesty is something you need to dig very deep in your life with, it is something that you have to be prepared to part with and to accept. This is not related to bad things that you’ve done in your past but more the dark things that you would take to your grave. When I had the ability to put all these “secrets” out into the universe and ask for forgiveness it was unbelievable how it was received. None of us is perfect but I truly believe life is about growth and learning. image6Have you always been a musician? What’s your musical background – guitar lessons as a kid?  I wouldn’t say I’ve always been a musician but I have certainly been a songwriter ever since I can remember. I learned how to play the basics of guitar when I was very young and taught myself simple songs. From those simple songs I would write lyrics and melody about anything that I was going through. Mind you, most of the songs were probably about girls that didn’t want to date me…. haa haa.

Performing as one half of the Singing Soldiers band (with your brother-in-arms Chris Earl) has no doubt raised your profile with the public and the music industry – how has this transformed or refocused you career goals?  The Singing Soldiers was an incredible experience and it was amazing to be doing stuff with Chris as he is a fantastic musician. Everything that we planned and wanted to do with The Singing Soldiers was a success. I just felt that it was time for me to get back to my roots and continue my solo career.2018-07-27 21.45 (1)I notice you’re also a big fan of ink – you have an amazing collection of tattoos across your body and have even opened up your own tattoo parlour, Rustuk Ink. Is there one tattoo that holds the most meaning for you? And at the parlour, what is the strangest request for a tattoo you’ve ever received?  Yes, I certainly have a lot of tattoos; I was a military guy so I got tattoos all over the world. My wife and I fell in love with tattooing so we decided to open a shop in Wasaga Beach, Ontario. It was very successful and we absolutely loved the shop so much but we had an opportunity to sell it to a larger franchise, and so we took the opportunity. Luckily, we knew music was picking back up and my wife is pregnant right now with our first child which I am extremely excited about.  Needless to say, I would like to place my time and efforts into my family. The most influential tattoo on my body would be my left hand with my army logo and poppies. This is dedicated to all my brothers and sisters who never made it home from Afghanistan along with many of my friends who did make it home but are still suffering. I would certainly say the funniest tattoo we had come in was an individual walk in who wanted a Pringle tattooed on his shoulder. When I asked him why he wanted that tattooed on his shoulder he said because his boss keeps telling him he has a chip on his shoulder! But really, we’ve had a ton of people with extremely interesting stuff and I love it all!

Graham, good luck with the single, PTSD, and as Ontario opens up for live events (hopefully this summer) do you have any plans for concerts or live appearances?  Thank you very much for everything! Live performances will certainly be picking back up once the world opens up again. We have a wicked show ready to roll and are looking forward to playing some great venues! Luckily, being with the Michael Stuart Webb Media Group has offered me some exceptional opportunities to share my music. Thank you all I look forward to meeting you and hopefully seeing you at a show.
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With his new release, this soulful, gentle giant who possesses that rare combination of extreme vulnerability and playful bravado, delivers his message loud and clear: whatever personal war you are currently fighting, you are not going into battle alone! 

Here’s a first look at Graham’s music video…and I encourage my readers to download the track via your favourite streaming platform. Thank you for supporting Canadian musicians…and thank you for your service, Graham Trude.

Follow Graham on IG: @grahamtrudemusic or visit his website to learn more about this talented singer/songwriter: https://grahamtrude.com/

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CANADIAN COMEDY ICON GLEN FOSTER TO RELEASE COMEDY ALBUM “UNCHECKED” MAY 25TH!

I’ve known GLEN FOSTER for nearly four decades, representing him during the 80s as part of the Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Klub agency Funny Business, then working with him again several years ago when he launched a series of independent comedy showcases featuring the best of the best of Canadian comedy talent.  Known as That Canadian Guy, Glen has become a mainstay on the Canadian comedy circuit – he didn’t just work the road, he’s one of the comics who built it! His comedy is clever and intelligent, combining reflections on his own personal experiences with razor sharp commentary on current events and popular culture.World_on_shoulders_0253 (2)He has appeared many times at the world-renowned Just For Laughs festival, had his own TV specials on the Comedy Network, can be heard frequently on CBC Radio’s “The Debaters” and he’s a club and corporate event favourite across the country.  That Canadian Guy is a reference to Glen’s first network comedy special during which he joked about the fact people could call him “that Canadian guy” if they couldn’t remember his name.  Sure enough, after the show aired, Glen received a flood of e-mails from viewers who said, “I couldn’t remember your name but I remembered “that Canadian guy.” This became a part of his act….

Glen contacted me recently with great news…he’s releasing a brand new comedy CD on a real-life record label, so I asked him a few questions about how the album, UnChecked, came to be during the pandemic lockdown as well as how the comedy industry has dealt with the lack of live audiences….

After being locked down and locked out of live performing for 14 months, you’re releasing your new comedy album “UnChecked” May 25th – is producing this album how you spent your time during Covid quarantine?  I’m a procrastinating perfectionist which is a terrible combination.  It means that a lot of things never get done.  And if by some miracle, they do get done, they’re never right.  Oddly, I was wildly productive at the beginning of the pandemic; I created a “Covid Comedy” website to showcase comedians who were doing online projects during lockdown.  I co-wrote a Covid parody song and I was one of the first Canadian comedians to attempt a Zoom show.  In fact, just hours before the lockdown, I borrowed a van and raced to Home Depot to get a piece of fake brick wall so I could build a virtual stage in my basement which I called “The Covid Club”.  But did I work on the album?  No, well, not right away.  The bulk of this album was recorded in January 2020 which is very lucky, because a month later, we were going lock down for three weeks to “flatten the curve”.  After it was done, I decided to set the recordings aside for a while so that I could come back and listen with “fresh ears”.  For me, “a little while” means “forget about altogether”, so it wasn’t until we were in full blown pandemic that I actually started listening.  And then I listened repeatedly, over and over.  I made detailed notes as I prepared a paper edit.  Being a bit of a purist, I was hoping to record the entire album from a single show.  (Personally, I think it’s cheating to record six shows and take the best bits of each), however, it turned out that the best recording was the Saturday early show, which is a shorter show because they have to bring in a second crowd. This meant that I couldn’t do a full headline set.  So, full disclosure, I had to edit in material from other shows. 18739257_612638128931218_5476678764500736413_o (2)As the pandemic dragged on, so did the editing process as I sent notes and audio files back and forth with the producer, who was a friend with a newborn who was also time-challenged in his own way.  I vacillated between completely ignoring the album and sudden urgency for completion.  First it was to release the album in time to qualify for the Junos. When that deadline passed, I thought Canada Day might be a good time to release.  Of course, I couldn’t get my shit together in time, so by late summer ‘20, I had decided to hold the release till Christmas.  Then I got a call that changed everything.  A comedian friend I have known for many years, put me in touch with 800Pound Gorilla Records, which is the largest producer of comedy albums in the world!  They wanted to hear my album but they couldn’t get to it until after Christmas so I made the decision to postpone yet again!  Finally, almost a full year after I had recorded it, I got word that they wanted to sign me to a distribution deal.  I am very excited because UnChecked will the first album that I have ever released on an actual record label.  It’s only taken forty years to get some US audience and media attention.Head_hands_out_0093 (2)How did you choose the material included on the album?  Well, first of all, I had to eliminate material that I had already done on previous albums, which I managed to do – mostly.  There were a couple of bits from earlier albums that I HAD to include because they were working well with some of the newer bits I had been working out, so they had become part of my regular set.  I would say though that there are only a couple of exact repeats.  Most of them are bits that were in an early development stage when I first recorded them.  Now, of course they’re much more polished, or I’ve spun them differently or changed the delivery.  Besides, I wouldn’t be the first comedian to get away with doing an “old” bit on a new album.  Unchecked has been growing as a concept in my mind (and in my act) for a few years now.  Partially it’s a reference to my scatterbrain existence. I have a To Do list with NO checkmarks, which is not entirely true, I suppose, because I did manage to get this album out…finally.   However, it also refers to the fact that as a “cis gendered white male” I don’t check any boxes.  If you look closely at the cover, you will see that it is made up of actual check boxes, some of which refer to things that are still on my “to do” list like “Screenplay” and “Taxes” (the deadline is looming as we speak), while others are boxes that I can’t check like “Female” or “LGBTQ”.  I’ve thrown in some more whimsical ones as well, like “Rich”, “Sexy”, “Astronaut” plus a few more contentious ones like “woke”, “safe”, “politically correct”. – things I am most definitely NOT.  So in that sense, the third meaning of UnChecked is not holding back, no holds barred, which is an approach I certainly take on this album.  I seem to have a penchant for ambiguity; I love it when things have two meanings, so UnChecked having three gives me a kind of nerdy thrill.

You pride yourself in working “clean”, but with all the frustrations of isolating with the family, were you tempted to go from That Canadian Guy to That Pissed Off & Angry Canadian GuyI used to be more of a stickler on the clean thing, but now I like to play both sides of the fence.  I can do a completely clean show if that is what’s required, but shows where you can cut loose are a lot more fun.  I don’t mind dropping the odd F bomb, but I would never swear for the sake of swearing.  If you’re going to do it, it should help the joke. There is only ONE F bomb on the entire new album, but there is no way to do the joke without it.  I’ve tried, but F*ck is the only word that really works.  I could have cut the joke, but I really wanted to include it because, apart from getting a great laugh, it makes an important point about the state of comedy and what should be considered “funny”.  In fact, there are a few observations about the state of comedy, particularly with regards to political correctness, cancel culture and what you can and can’t say.  Or more specifically what I, as a cis gendered white male, can’t say.  Or certain taboo topics that comedians are not allowed to joke about.  The only rule I have in comedy is that there should be no rules.  In fact, when someone tells me that I can’t do a joke about such and such, I see it as a challenge to find a way to do it.  For me, the jokes that create the most tension are the ones that bring the biggest laughs and the best of those are the ones that leave you wondering “Was that offensive?”  I would say that about 70% of this album is pretty close to “Disney clean”, and another 20% could be considered questionable, but that last 10% is going to make some people’s heads explode!!  So I look forward to the release of UnChecked and my subsequent cancellation…LOLliveWith the possibility of live performances starting up by end of summer, are you already planning shows in Toronto and across the country in support of the album?  If I do any touring, I don’t think it will be in Canada, not for a while at least.  We are way behind on vaccinations, so I don’t see things opening up again until fall.  Even then, I think older crowds, which I appeal most to, are going to be pretty skittish about going into crowded spaces for some time. Or maybe, if they ever perfect Zoom, we’ll be doing more virtual shows.  I’ve done a few of them during the pandemic, and some of them were awful.  Even the good ones don’t compare to LIVE though.  Of course, if the album is a big hit, who knows?  This is the first time that my comedy will be heard all over the world and that may bring some new and interesting opportunities.

Several years ago, you presented a series of live stand-up shows (The Canadian Aces) featuring comedy greats like the late Mike MacDonald, Evan Carter, Ron Vaudry, Ronnie Edwards and Simon Rakoff, as well as your then Hump Dump Live radio show co-host Lawrence Morgenstern. The rooms were packed with fans who appreciated the sharp and timely material. Could such a series of shows happen again, either with the Aces or the young’ens once we’re allowed to go back in to the clubs?  Again, it remains to be seen. And again, the primary market for that sort of thing would be an older crowd who, as I say, might be a little skittish about crowded spaces for a while.  The good news is more and more comics have been in this game for twenty years or longer, although due to all the lockdowns and on again off again closures of live venues, 2020/2021 may have an asterisk in the margin of the record books.

In That Canadian Guy’s opinion, how has the comedy scene changed over the past 4 decades since you started out?  Comedy reflects reality, so all the issues that have been part of that reality like racial tension, the #metoo movement, gender issues have all had an influence on comedy. The biggest thing I’ve noticed would be the rise of political correctness, which isn’t unique to comedy of course, though comedy seems to be the focal point of a lot of anger lately. Certainly a number of comedians have been under the threat of being “cancelled” for mere jokes.  This is another one of the themes of UnCheckedGlen Foster_Unchecked coverThere is this notion that comedy, like everything else needs to be more diverse and inclusive.  Along with that comes the idea that old, white, male comedians such as myself should step aside, give up our privilege, etc.  As a result, I find that a lot of comedy is more preachy than it used to be.  It’s more about making your point, or standing up for this group or that group, not punching down, etc.  There is a lot “clapter” these days which is a term for an audience half laughing, but more clapping and agreeing with whatever point a comedian might be making: I think it’s all a bit of nonsense.  To me, the only thing comedy has to be is funny.  My rule is be funny first, then you can preach or do whatever the hell else you like, but be funny first.

Where can we purchase/download your UnChecked album and how much will it cost to enjoy and own great comedy?  On May 25th, it will be available on all the usual music download platforms like Apple, Amazon etc.  Or you could just visit my website www.thatcanadianguy.com because I will have all the links listed there.

Good luck with the launch, Glen…I hope everyone buys the album and the next blog interview I do with you will be for next year’s Juno awards!!  Make sure you visit Glen’s new website, follow him on Fcbk at  www.facebook.com/thatcanadianguy or visit the record label    www.800poundgorillarecords.com

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COOL CALIFORNIA BAND BRINGS GARAGE/INDIE ROCK VIBE TO THIS YEAR’S “VIRTUAL” CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK

Last week, I read an interesting Fcbk post from Boyce & Hart (award-winning pop/rock songwriters) via The Monkees’ Fcbk account about a young indie band out of California covering one of the 60’s iconic hit-writers’ songs, (I’m not your) Stepping Stone which was originally recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders but it was The Monkees who created magic with the tune. As many of you know, I’m a huge Monkees fan – I used to argue with my BFF at high school who was better, The Monkees or the Rolling Stones (LOL) – then in the 80’s I got to work press for the eastern Canadian leg of their original reunion tour (sans Mike Nesmith). Below, hanging with Davy Jones backstage pre-show in Toronto.Davy-Jones-80s-tour-197x300Needless to say, I was intrigued by this groovy young band, the VELVET STARLINGS, and clicked thru to their cover version of “Stepping Stone”…WOW! Big juicy sound, great licks, fab vocals. Bravo, boys! I was hooked and said so by leaving a comment on the Boyce & Hart page who seemed to like my response. So when the songwriters of a classic pop song endorse your cover version, you must be pretty damn good. VELVET STARLINGS MAIN BAND 1The band was founded by young lead singer, guitarist & organ player Christian Gisborne, brothers Foster Polling (drums) and Hudson Polling (bass), and new addition Ashton Minnich on second guitar.  I wanted to make sure I shared news of my latest discovery with my music-lovin’ friends and industry colleagues so I reached out to the band who is participating in this year’s virtual version of Canadian Music Week and asked them a few questions….

Congratulations, lads, on your participation in this year’s CMW, even though it’s online only. How has Covid quarantining and travel bans affected your new album launch and reaching new audiences?   We’ve actually finished 2 albums during Covid and we’re finally putting out our debut album “Technicolour Shakedown” this summer (to be distributed by AWAL/The Orchard in US.)! While Covid did put a damper on touring, it gave us the time we needed to really focus in on the music. We’ve started doing a lot more livestreams and such so that’s been pretty fun getting to connect with people mid-song, playing requested songs and what not.

Has the band participated in any online concerts or socially distanced events over the past year, and if so, how were you received by fans?  Yes! We did a livestream benefitting Alexandria House, raising money for displaced women and children. It was super fun as we had to learn how to do multi-camera editing which ended up being the reason for our new extremely DIY music videos coming out this summer…haa haa!  We’ve played a couple of socially-distanced local shows and they’ve been pretty fun, I think people are ready for live stuff to come back – just gotta get on that vaccine!VELVET STARLINGS PRESS MAIN BAND 2 808How long have each of you been playing/performing? And do any of you have formal music training?  Drummer Foster says:  I started playing when I was about 12, and my brother, our bass player, Hudson started playing when he was about 10. We both took music classes at our middle school and high school, but we really started getting serious about music when we started playing in high school bands. That’s around the time we figured out that we really just liked playing rock n roll as opposed to the jazz and classical music we’d play in school.  Lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist Christian (pictured below) says:  I guess with music I took the same approach as Brian Wilson, McCartney and Lennon. I learned to play by ear for most part, found all of the chords in my Beatles songbook and just applied them to my own songwriting. I had heard that George Martin made sure Lennon & McCartney didn’t learn to read and write as he thought it would confine them creatively. I wanted to play organs and keyboards after hearing Alan Price (The Animals) & Ray Manzerek (The Doors) – those guys are huge influences.10_VelvetStarlings_SkylerBarberio_53A3819What drew you together as a band? Was it style, genre or simply the love of music creation?  Christian:  I met brothers Foster and Hudson at a Cage the Elephant show and we’ve been friends ever since. Ashton used to play in their band and now we’re all rocking out together. I think growing up in a time when everyone at school worships Drake and Post Malone definitely contributed to the ‘want’ to find other people who dig rock’n’roll and organic instruments. We all love the same bands and it all just somehow worked out.

Being an oldie, I am truly impressed with your musical influences from the 60’s – legendary artists such as The Stones, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Iron Maiden…even Humble Pie! Did you each discover these groups via your parents (or grandparents)? And what appealed most to you about the rock/R&B grooves? Foster:  We just love rock’n’roll. The energy of playing music in a room or outdoors and getting a reaction out of the audience is really what we love to see each time we play, and we work hard to try and squeeze it out of an audience at each concert. Of course, this has a lot to do with what music we were introduced to when we were younger. Growing up during the garage rock revival was huge for us, listening to all these killer bands like The White Stripes or Jet really kickstarted our love of the energy that rock n roll gives off. From that point, you start to really get into it and research who influenced who, and then you just go down the rabbit hole from there.4_VelvetStarlings_SkylerBarberio_53A2967I discovered Velvet Starlings thanks to a Boyce & Hart/Monkees Facebook shout-out …you covered their “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. Why this song…what did you hear in it that prompted you to cover it with your own style?  Stepping Stone is such a bad-ass moment in their discography. We were gonna try and do Valleri but the solo just rips too hard and I couldn’t figure it out..haa haa. That’s so sick that you worked with them for their reunion tour! Seeing The Monkees live would be the dream – I saw Mickey Dolenz play Pleasant Valley Sunday and Last Train to Clarksville at a mini local festival in Laurel Canyon and just that blew my mind.

Thanks, guys, any messages for your new fans in Canada and around the world?  We’re big fans of Canadian rock’n’roll. Arcade Fire, DFA1979, Mac Demarco. The New Pornographers was actually the last show I went to right before Covid. We’re hoping to make it up to Canada some day…hopefully in 2022.  Toronto & Montreal are on our list of places to rock. We really appreciate Steven Dagenais & Robert Singerman for including us on this year’s CMW line up. The funny thing is we were supposed to be in Toronto in 2020 for CMW & Indie Week, but due to Covid they were postponed along with our official SXSW conference slot and our UK tour. We look forward to getting back out there again playing to a live audience.

Good luck with CMW, fellas – check out news of the Velvet Starlings and other great artists at www.cmw.net (online May 18-21) and I encourage you to visit VS’s own website for more music videos & band news as well as social media links www.velvetstarlings.com

Big thanks to Roger Gisborne, Owner/CEO Sound x 3 Records and Gemma Downes, Label Mgr/A&R/Artist Development at Sound x 3 Music UK for their kind assistance with writing this blog. Band photos courtesy: Skyler Barberio