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

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/

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

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

“WILD AT HEART” TAKES READERS ON AN EXCITING RIDE WITH 3 AUSTRALIAN BRUMBIES & 1 BRAVE HORSEWOMAN

Having all this Covid lockdown time to explore online stories from home (Australia), I was thrilled when I came across a Facebook post announcing the launch of an exciting new book, Wild at Heart, by French-born Aliénor le Gouvello, who undertook an intense and challenging solo journey stretching an extraordinary 5,330kms from Healesville in Victoria (the s.e. corner of the country) up to Cooktown in the tropical far north of Queensland; she had three horses that were once wild brumbies (the Aussie equivalent of mustangs) as her only  companions.151677445_3743509249096164_5844396051903961977_nThroughout her grueling trek across some of Australia’s most spectacular terrain, Aliénor battled both isolation and the harsh elements, but she forged a close bond with her horses Roxanne, River & Cooper, as well as experiencing unexpected life-changing discoveries. Surrounded by wildlife that included deadly spiders, snakes and crocodiles, she also suffered tropical illnesses and injuries but pushed on to complete the ride and join an exclusive club of those few who have triumphed before her. Her sturdy bush horses all live with her now in peaceful  retirement on her cattle station in outback Queensland.59788288_2167293760051062_5017374520239980544_nAs a child, Aliénor dreamed of travelling and having adventures around the world. When she decided to take on the Bicentennial National Trail – Australia’s longest non-motorized, self-reliant trek – she had already completed a horseback trek in Mongolia as well as a sidecar motorbike expedition across Asia and Europe from Siberia to Paris. At the time of making the decision to mount up and trek the breadth of Australia, she was working in an aboriginal community near Uluru (the giant red monolith in the heart of the country) in the Australian Central Desert. She had recently fallen in love with Australia’s wild brumbies and hatched a plan for her most ambitious solo expedition to date; the adventure would also draw attention to the plight of Australia’s wild horses. The horses were originally brought in with the settlers, helping build the country and even taken with the troops to fight wars abroad; they are part of the country’s heritage and culture. Australia now has the largest population of wild horses in the world. They have adapted to all sorts of environments and can be found all across Australia. Their plight has been controversial in the media when the government has resorted to aerial culling as a mean to manage their population, a cruel method that leaves horses to bleed to death for days. Alienor’s trek was dedicated to bring a light on these very resilient horses and promote better management of them.  These tough equines were perfectly showcased in The Man From Snowy River movie from back in the 80s – if you get a chance, do watch it and witness some of the most exciting horse chases ever recorded on film.29572387_1613619402085170_1085232860379005776_nAs Aliénor said in a recent ABC television news interview about her book, “It was the longest and most challenging trek I’ve done so far but also the most rewarding and amazing experience I have had with horses,” she said. “I pushed my limits further than I could have imagined, you discover strengths you didn’t even know you have.”  Wild at Heart tells of her physical and mental challenges of being a lone traveler and having to be so self-sufficient along with caring for her horses along the deserted track but the book contains some spectacular photographs, courtesy of world-renowned adventure photographer Cat Vinton.

Since her book launched last month, she’s been busy attending bookstore meet-n-greets (yes, Australia has mostly come out of Covid lockdown and gatherings are permitted) and giving numerous media interviews; in fact, Aliénor has become something of a “folk hero” and a champion of the brumbies.165438475_3828394140607674_6649526619257448360_n 169076026_3845201365593618_8839215924954813680_nInternational sales of her book are available from the Book Depository website (yes, they ship around the world):  https://www.bookdepository.com/Wild-at-Heart-Alienor-le-Gouvello-Cat-Vinton/9781922419200
Watch for my article/review in the June issue of THE RIDER newspaper (www.therider.com) and you can follow Wild at Heart on on social media at:  www.facebook.com/wild.at.heart.australia

WILD AT HEART
By Aliénor le Gouvello, Photographs by Cat Vinton
Format: Paperback | 288 pages
Publication date: 30 March, 2021
Published by Affirm Press, Mulgrave, VIC, Australia
ISBN10 1922419206
ISBN13 978192241920022310472_1447770742003371_766571780966721878_n

ACTOR, ARTIST & POET PHILIP CAIRNS RELEASES BOOK OF POEMS ABOUT HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS….AND BED BUGS!!

Over the past five or six years, I’ve had the opportunity to promote plays, art shows or poetry readings by my friend and client PHILIP CAIRNS. He’s currently celebrating the release of his latest book HOLLYWOOD POEMS AND OTHER DIVERSIONS, now available from Amazon.ca. The first section of the book offers stream-of-consciousness narrative poems about Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, Lee Grant, Anita Ekberg, Gloria Grahame and Canada’s own Jackie Burroughs. The author weaves biographical tidbits about these women into each poem, and includes snippets about his own life growing up as a gender-questioning, queer boy in Scarborough, then living as a struggling artist in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. The second half, “Bedbugs and Cockroaches” features satirical, comical stories and poems in which these itchy-scratchy critters come to life. They are like truth-telling cartoon characters, forcing the protagonist in each piece to face reality. The first half is mostly serious in tone and confessional while the second half will make you laugh out loud!coverPhilip has already garnered glowing kudos and thumbs-up from fellow writers and literary media, and I recently spoke with him and asked him to share his thoughts on completing the book during this past year of Covid.

What was the inspiration for your new book of poetry & prose, Hollywood Poems and Other Diversions?  It was David Bateman, my editor, who suggested the concept. He’s very familiar with my work through my public readings. We’ve also co-written short plays that were performed at various festivals. This book is 12 years’ worth of poems, written on the theme of the Golden Age of Hollywood, though not by any means the only poems I wrote during that period. I’ve been a movie freak since I was 9 years old. I was sleep-deprived all through my adolescence because I stayed up half the night watching classic films on the late show. As a teenager, I once saw 4 movies in one day with my best friend. I always identified with the actresses. I loved to get lost in a different world in the dark. I would often sit through a movie more than once. I once saw a double bill of a Robert Altman film and a Jane Fonda movie and I sat through both of them twice…8 hours of movies. I was in my late teens and seeing Bonnie and Clyde was a turning point for me; I came out of the theatre wanting to have sex with Warren Beatty and wanting to be Faye Dunaway. That was scary for a 14 year old. Many of the poems in my book are loving biographies of movie stars I love like Anita Ekberg, Gloria Grahame, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. And Canadian icons like Mary Pickford and someone who was supportive of my work, Jackie Burroughs. But interwoven in many of the narratives, there are incidents from my life growing up as a queer, gender-questioning person in Scarborough. The second section of the book is pure fun, the Bedbugs and Cockroaches chapter. These critters come to life and do tasks like raiding a jewellery box and hiding pills, and they comment on the action with razor sharp accuracy. They are satirical and fun pieces and mostly fictional. They usually get laughs – I used to perform these works live a fair amount. I love to hear an audience laugh. Bringing laughter into people’s lives is manna from heaven. This is such a challenging planet to live on. Economically, it’s like being a hamster on a wheel.IMG_4161Have you spent time in Hollywood and visited any of the homes of those legends about which you write?  I’ve never been to L.A. It seems kind of scary with all those back streets full of pup tents close to movie star mansions. I’ve been outside of Brad and Angelina’s former place in the French Quarter and I did go to the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago where I starred in a short film that played at the Short Film Corner. I went to lots of cocktail parties and met filmmakers from all over the world. It was surreal. I went to one queer party in a tent on the beach but that said, No Celebrities Allowed although it was hosted by a queer celebrity. When I left the party, there were fireworks over the water. We’d been to a screening of our movie that day as well. I think it was the happiest day of my life. I felt like Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief without her jewels and fine gowns.

As a young man, were you a big movie fan and if so, who was your favourite star and what was your favourite film?  Probably from 8 or 9 years old, I’ve loved movies. I was precocious. I was reading newspaper reviews of foreign films when I was 9 or 10. I wanted to be on TV from the age of 4 or 5. My favourites as a child were Hayley Mills and Annette Funicello. As a teenager, it was Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. In high school, I once asked my mother if she would write me a note for the office saying I had a dentist appointment. I told her I wanted to see a Marilyn Monroe movie on TV. You know what her response was? “Okay. You’ve been working hard at school and I know how much you like her so I’ll do it.” Wasn’t that cool? She and I didn’t always get along that well but that’s another story. My favourite film is The Wizard of Oz. Number two is 2001: A Space Odyssey. And Cabaret with Judy’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, is on my Top Ten list of fave movies. Judy Garland is my fave singer and her record, Judy at Carnegie Hall, is my favourite album. My second favourite album would be Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Notice a theme here? And of course, All About Eve is on my Top Ten list, as well. I think I have about 25 films on my top ten list. I love many of Robert Altman’s films. Watching James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden on the late show when I was 16 was a turning point. I sobbed in my bedroom the whole next day. I love Brando, Montgomery Clift, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Lee Grant, Bette Davis. The list goes on. I work as a background performer in film and TV – I feel lucky that I get to be on set with famous actors and watch them work and be well paid to do it. My family isn’t impressed because being a background performer is the lowliest position on a film set. It was worse back in the 1970s when I started out. I’ve been at this a long time, plugging away in the underground trying to be heard. I don’t go to a lot of auditions these days. I would love a really juicy part in a film. The character would be someone who questions their gender. I lived the life of a gay male for decades, and now I don’t identify as male or female. For me, gender is totally irrelevant. What I have between my legs serves as a function and gives pleasure but does not define who I am. What difference does it make what gender I am? At the same time, I wish to be considered for male roles in film, TV and theatre.  Below, Philip performing poetry readings around Toronto.1799986_10151999725607129_1737786910_o readingsIn the second part of the book, you’ve written about bedbugs – those stories are so funny and biting (pun intended!) – what motivated you to explore those themes?  I suppose it was losing my bed to bedbugs. They kept spraying and spraying but they wouldn’t go away so I threw out my mattress and box spring. It was the only one I had ever bought as an adult. I have been sleeping on the floor every since. They are really horrid little creatures. I don’t know what made me give them voices. Weed, maybe? I can’t for the life of me recall. I love writing those pieces because the bedbugs and cockroaches can say things that people normally are too polite to say…like a little devil sitting on your shoulder. It’s almost like those pieces write themselves. I am just the channel or conduit. I think they work because audiences laugh and even request them.

Philip, you’re quite the renaissance man – a fine artist, a writer, poet and an actor for both film and theatre…what do you find more challenging or fulfilling?  I think I do all these things because I don’t like to be bored and I bore easily. What I found hardest was making a living. I always had to have another part time job to get by, and I would have to juggle things. Sometimes the Universe is kind. I was rehearsing a play and I got 2 TV commercials which shot at night so it meant not much sleep but I could still attend rehearsals. And then finding time to paint, write, draw. I’m pretty driven but I also need down time to recharge. Often, it’s marketing time that goes out the window. I’d rather get out the drawing book and coloured pencils than start submitting myself for film roles or my work to publications. I think I find painting the most relaxing even though I feel it is not my strongest talent or skill. Reading my poetry in public or sitting in the audience watching one of my plays is exhilarating and fulfilling when you really connect with an audience. You can feel it in the air. Total silence. No snoring. Ha!! Hearing a big, big belly laugh from an audience is indescribably wonderful.  I suffer from stage fright these days. I have a terror of forgetting my lines. But if I’m reading one of my poems, I’m fine. I have it right in front of me. I’ve been studying with the most wonderful acting teacher, Alan C. Peterson, which has taught me to tune out everything on a film set or on stage, and just focus on what is happening in a scene. That is all that is happening.  Below, Philip running lines as Julius Caesar and as a glammed up blonde for a recent indie filmRoadrunner Commercial Durango Miller’s Abortion is FunHas the isolation and quarantining throughout this past year of Covid affected your writing or ability to earn a living?   My income from film and TV has dropped considerably but then my expenses have dropped, too. I used to spend a fortune going out with friends and colleagues. Now, I make all my meals at home. But it has afforded me the time to assemble the book and edit and rewrite it which is much harder than the initial writing of a poem or story.  It’s a great feeling when you’re in the zone and it’s flowing out of you onto the page or screen. That usually happens with the first draft. Since the first lockdown, I’ve written a lot and done a lot of drawing and painting. I don’t like to watch more than one movie or TV show per day, if that. It’s been a time of deep, deep reflection. What is awful is that all the dumb, stupid things I’ve done in my life have come bubbling up to haunt me, perhaps to teach me a lesson or something. It has helped me to grow but has been quite painful to behold.head shot (2)

Below is a selection of Philip’s paintings that have been exhibited in Toronto galleries…Crystals on my Kitchen Table Terra_Multi-Gender Being From Another Solar SystemAbout the author: Philip Cairns writes poetry, performance-pieces, plays and short stories. His work has been published in Labour of Love, Resistance Poetry 2, Excalibur Monthly, Xtra! and The Body Politic. In Toronto, Philip has performed his own writing at “Plasticine Poetry” at The Central, A Space, The Art Bar, the Black Swan, the Gladstone Hotel, Glad Day Bookshop & the Theatre Centre. He was one of the organizers, and a frequent host for The Beautiful and the Damned Poetry Cabaret at The Central. He was MC for “Sexy Words” at Lula Lounge and “Bent Expressions” and “Smash Words” at Press Club. He performed in “Hard and Able #2” at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, on the TV series “William Shatner’s Weird or What” and in “The Judy Monologues” at the Toronto Fringe Festival and in a province-wide tour (winning the Best Actor award at the London One Act Festival). Philip has exhibited his acrylic paintings, watercolours and coloured pencil drawings in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Toronto and Edmonton, most recently at Urban Gallery, the Parliament Street Library and at Arcadia Art Gallery in Toronto.

Philip has a number of interviews coming up in May, including CIUT-FM radio’s Howl! show as well as on the Art Bar online poetry show May 11. Follow Philip on Facebook for all the news… Facebook.com/philip.cairns.16

HOLLYWOOD POEMS AND OTHER DIVERSIONS
By Philip Cairns
Purple Poet Press (April, 2021)
$17.89 – Soft-cover, 186 pages
ISBN-13: 979-8701703214
Available from Amazon.ca

CANADIAN POET, ARTIST & ARTS JOURNALIST DAVID BATEMAN LAUNCHES HIS FIRST NOVEL “DR. SAD”

I’m pleased to introduce you to Canadian freelance arts journalist, artist and performance poet DAVID BATEMAN, who currently resides in Toronto, Canada. David has published several books of poetry and contributes literary reviews in several leading national and local newspapers & magazines. He has also taught creative writing and literature at post-secondary institutions across Canada. He has recently published his debut novel DR. SAD, and although Covid quarantining and stay-at-home directives have forced him to cancel live readings and book signings at bookstores and coffee houses around Toronto, David is utilizing the internet and social media to reach his fans and attract new readers (and book sales!).Dr-Sad-2x3-RGBStory synopsis: Discover the difference between living a life and simply enduring on in this cross-campus, cross-country comedy of manners, queerness, poetry and HIV.

Bateman has crafted a brilliant novel featuring a main character, Stephen, who is a middle-aged teacher who is also gay. He’s content, except when he isn’t. He’s a poet. He has a new teaching job in Kamloops, British Columbia……Stephen has HIV.  DR. SAD is the story of one man’s journey across Canada and through his diagnosis. It is the story of the distance between queer urban spaces and a small campus in small-town BC.  It’s the story of discovering the self within the world and the world within the self, of discovering the difference between living a life and simply enduring one. This is a tragicomic cross-campus, cross-country romp that believes in the power of romance.  Weaving together narratives of past and present, of Toronto’s Gay Village and the streets of Kamloops, this lively and dynamic semi-autobiographical novel dives deeply into gender and queerness, class and privilege, and the realities of aging. It is a dynamic and engaging hybrid, stylistically daring while remaining intimate and human.  Leaping through time and mixing the playfully serious with the seriously playful, DR SAD blends poetry with prose and finds the humour in despair in one complete, glittering tragedy of triumph.20210317_153614 (2)I recently spoke with David, socially distanced, of course, and he shared his thoughts on the writing process and of life under Covid:

Congratulations on your first novel, David. What inspired you to share your small town/big city experiences in the semi-autobiographical DR. SAD?  The diagnosis that begins the novel motivated me to write the openings chapters. It was a very curious and startling way of receiving the news, and I thought it would work well as an introduction to a kind of tragicomic, semi-fictional narrative around survival and endurance under challenging circumstances. The diagnosis was revealed in the first chapter, in the fist draft of the manuscript. After a variety of editing suggestions from various editors, I decided that moving this to a slightly later chapter would work better.

Your career has included arts journalism, book editor, poet and performance artist – now you add novelist to your CV; compared with your other pursuits, how difficult was it to complete the book?  It was much more difficult with a longer project to find the time to develop it. With arts journalism, poetry, editing, and performance, over the years there have always been deadlines in those areas, so that made it easier for me to focus on an end result. But with a novel there was no sense of a deadline so it just kept being put off. But I had always wanted to write a novel, and started a few but never got very far. I was writing poetry more at the time, in my thirties and forties, and had a publisher in Calgary who published four collections of mine over a ten-year period, and that was my main focus. A longer narrative project always seemed out of reach, never enough time to devote to a novel length project. Soon after I returned to Toronto, after living and teaching in Alberta and B.C. for close to ten years, I applied for a year long Fellowship and was delighted and surprised when I got it, so basically, the funding and the lengthy time period, one year, motivated me to sit down almost every day and work on a first draft of the novel. The application for the fellowship included the original first chapter for the manuscript.

Covid has obviously put a stop to live readings and bookstore meet-n-greets with your fans – what’s been the most difficult or inconvenient part of the lockdown/stay home situation for you as a writer?  Actually, I have found that the pandemic has afforded me more time to write, and develop various projects. I have been very fortunate to be in a relatively safe and comfortable environment over the past year and have had a couple of small grants that have supported my creative work. It is disappointing, of course, not to be able to take part in live readings and events, but I have found zoom and various online platforms to be very satisfying and inspiring to be able to continue to take part in events with a variety of other artists across the country, and beyond. But the hardest part of this I think has been not being able to go out and exchange ideas and hear other writers present their work in community settings. That was a very inspiring and motivating part of my life as an artist, and a lot of that has disappeared during the lockdown/stay at home period. And yet, on the other hand, online platforms have extended some of my connections as an artist to people from parts of the world I might never have had the opportunity to connect with through readings, festivals, interviews etc.

So many people are utilizing the pandemic stay-home time writing their own books of short stories, poems or novels – what advice can you share with them?  I try to have a routine, dividing my time between painting and writing. Deadlines give me a focus, and even if there isn’t a set deadline from a gallery or a press or an arts publication, I try to write down rough deadlines, and creative ideas, and follow them as much as possible – with a list of projects itemized by priority. Of course I often stray from those deadlines, but just having them there, written down and always present in a way, can keep me interested and motivated in continuing the creative process within each separate area – poetry, painting, editing, arts journalism, and longer prose and performance works. And searching online about various grant possibilities is also helpful. Even if I don’t get them, which I often don’t, it can be a great source of motivation to re-consider various projects in the context of a grant application. This helps me to develop the project in formal ways I might not consider outside of a grant application framework – when I am sitting around just thinking or jotting down lists around ideas for a number of projects. Applications often ask artists to describe various ideas in specific itemized ways. I find this very helpful as I move forward with any given creative idea.

Any other comments you’d like to share?  I try to think of everything I do as part of the creative process. Sometimes it can feel a little silly, and enormously privileged to be able to just binge on Netflix, or any of the big movie and television channels available. But especially now, within this pandemic, watching a variety of narrative structures, flash across the screen, whether they be contained within a kind of documentary style or pseudo reality tv show about a painter, or something as mainstream as Ozark or The Queen’s Gambit, or a series like Flowers or Fleabag, well, it all acts as inspiration for ideas and images that contribute to the ideas and images racing through my head. This has always been the case, as we live in an image world, but now, confined more to our homes and workspaces, film and television, and some reading, can be a welcome and nurturing distraction.20210317_155215 (2)David has a number of interviews in May, including the popular HOWL! radio show on CIUT-FM 89.5 with host Valentino Assenza on Tues. May 4th (10pm to 11pm) and another scheduled for taping in mid-May with Mark Tara of Rainbow Country radio (for broadcast in July). Follow David on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/david.h.bateman

DR. SAD, Soft-cover, 310 pages
Price: $28.99 Cdn. (hardcover) or $15.94 (Kindle e-book)
University of Calgary Press (Dec.2020)
ISBN: 9781773 851037
Available from: Amazon.ca, Type Books & Glad Day bookstores in Toronto & Waterstones Books (UK)

 

ENJOYING A SHORT WALK AMONG THE SPRINGTIME FLOWERS IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO

As our city enters its third week of stay-at-home restrictions, how lovely to enjoy the spring air, free from the confines of my apartment in downtown Toronto. With no other way to get exercise or see daylight, I chose to take a quick stroll away from the main thoroughfares this Sunday afternoon. Although I’m surrounded by concrete and glass high-rise office buildings and condos, there are a few secret pockets of turn-of-last-century townhouses with their beautiful little garden patches as well as a parkette or two.20210418_121409 (2)I first dropped by my neighbours across the street – the spectacular office building that’s headquarters to the Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Co.  Carefully reaching through the wrought iron fence, I snapped a few pictures of their flower beds, most of which are still slumbering…but there were a couple of early risers!20210418_115317Around the corner, there’s a delightful little parkette that never disappoints at springtime. Usually full of red tulips and bright yellow daffodils, this year there’s a blanket of tiny blue flowers…not bluebells but something just as pretty…wow!20210418_115826 20210418_115757Behind the parkette, there’s a modest little cul-de-sac lined with row houses from the 1900’s, all beautifully maintained and reno’d. The houses on the north side of the street back onto the Rosedale ravine and at the end they’ve created a lovely area with wooden railway ties as benches and the wild gardens are filled with birds singing. I frequently go there just to sit and relax and…breathe!20210418_120709Looking down onto Rosedale Valley Road from my perch above…..

Walking back along the little street, I enjoyed several of the perfectly-kept flower beds and pots….20210418_12143520210418_121439Time to head home as the skies grew a little overcast but not before I snapped a few shots of the planters along my home-stretch of Bloor St East, featuring my favourite little flowers, pansies. Aren’t they lovely?20210418_122955 (3)So get outside and enjoy the sun, the fresh air, the flowers and birds…forget about Covid for half-an-hour and be grateful for all these beautiful things we’re given for free. But please keep your mask on when passing by your neighbours.20210418_123006

MEET FINE ARTIST DONNA WISE WHOSE “MAPPING THE INFINITE” SOLO SHOW HEADS TO TORONTO’S PROPELLER GALLERY APRIL 7TH

A few years back, when things were “normal”, I had the pleasure of promoting DONNA WISE‘s fabulous contemporary abstract art as part of a group show at Urban Gallery which has sadly closed its doors due to Covid.  Fortunately Propeller Art Gallery has survived and they are presenting their first in-person show (with limited capacity) April 7 through 25 featuring Donna’s latest works titled MAPPING THE INFINITE. (signature canvas pictured below)Mapping the InfiniteABOUT THE ARTIST: Donna Wise is a Toronto-based artist who has exhibited in Canada and the United States. Her versatile acrylic paintings are large, bold, fluid and full of energetic confidence.  For a number of years, Donna was a Docent at both The Art Gallery of Ontario and The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. By invitation, she has participated in art auctions for The Canadian Opera Company, The National Ballet, The Royal Ontario Museum and Baycrest Hospital. Her work can be found in the Boardroom of the Parliament Buildings at Queen’s Park Toronto, and the lobby of the famed Elgin Theatre, Toronto. Her paintings can be found in many corporate collections including the Four Seasons Hotel, Baycrest Hospital and Equitable Trust, among others, and are also in private collections in Toronto, Montreal, Miami and Tel Aviv.IMG_1911ARTIST’S STATEMENT:  For me, painting is a visual language that ignites both my curiosity and imagination; I am determined to live my life full of wonder. This perspective at the moment has shifted because the world feels broken and so many of us are searching for a beacon, but I believe wonder is the way.  Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness. These large abstract paintings with bold colour-saturated strokes fuse together both geometric forms and textures. The paintings are my voice and a reflection of my inner world – they allow me to map the infinity of my surroundings and enhance the environment with feelings of pleasure, beauty and optimism, providing an element of drama for the viewer.

I’m pleased to welcome Donna to the Fordham PR client family, and I recently spoke with her during a visit to her studio where she is often kept company by her two gorgeous standard poodles (see photo above).

Donna, as a professional artist, how has the Covid quarantine affected your productivity?   Actually, Covid was a blessing in disguise as I had unlimited, uninterrupted time in studio. As far as exhibitions in galleries, everything was in lockdown which meant galleries had to scramble to make on-line virtual shows accessible to both artists and collectors.

Your latest collection of paintings going on show at Propeller Gallery (“Mapping the Infinite” April 7-25) feature so many beautiful colours – soft pastels, vibrant reds and strong blacks. What was your inspiration for this series of large canvases?  I felt that this project needed to be hopeful. There is no political or social statement in my artwork. Strong, bold colours full of confidence and energy are what you see. These colours had to create an emotional, personal response unique to the viewer.

Magic Hours 30x36 acrylic on canvas20210310_121904You also have smaller works in the upcoming Colour & Form Society’s show in Niagara Falls (March 30-Apr. 24) – being so used to large format works, how was it scaling down your work for this 2’x2’ show?  It took me a while to adjust my methodology and rhythm to create such small canvases; in the end I was successful with the challenge. Old dogs can learn new tricks – all part of the journey.20210310_123451 (2)Many of the galleries that survived this past year by presenting online “virtual” exhibitions, are now opening up for live in-person shows (granted, with limited access) – are you looking forward to getting back in front of potential collectors and fans?  I’m very excited about being able to actually hang the art work in the gallery setting. It’s extremely hard to get the full exposure and feel of the work on-line. There is still some uncertainty about what “open” means – how many people can come in at one time, can artists host catered receptions, etc.Moon Night Warriors 36x48 acrylic on canvasYou use a very specific acrylic paint brand for your work, Golden Acrylics, and apparently you use one that is very old indeed. Can you tell us about your preferred paint supplies and just how old that red one is?   I have found Golden’s heavy acrylic paints to be my product of choice. I actually have several jars that are over 30 years old (see 2nd picture below). 20210310_123400

 

20210310_123343Any advice for young artists looking to carve out a long-term career such as yours? Any specific strategies or marketing thoughts?   Hang in there. There are going to be a lot of disappointments & rejections but that is all part of the journey. Learn how to challenge yourself through these tough times. Most of all, stop doubting yourself, work at what you do best. Maybe you will have to deviate for a short time, learn a new technique… but stay true to yourself. And most of all, keep doing what you love doing. Creativity is magic so don’t examine it too closely.
20210310_121828Donna, if there’s anything else you’d like to share about the art market or the need for beauty in our current dark times?This has been a very trying time for everyone, some more than others. The world seems to be very unsettled at the moment so we’re all looking for a beacon of hope. I choose to live my life in a world of wonder – I believe that art is the way. Art, I believe, is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness and everyday we need a little magic!  Who better to say this then Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli: “Here on the edge of what we know, in contrast with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world and it is BREATHTAKING!!”

You can view Donna’s “Mapping the Infinite” solo show online at www.propellerartgallery.ca from April 7 thru 25th, or in-person at the gallery located at 30 Abell Street (off Queen West,  just a few blocks east of Dufferin). Call ahead or email for gallery hours and capacity restrictions: 416-504-7142  |  info@propellerartgallery.ca   And to learn more about Donna, visit her at:  www.DonnaWiseArt.com

Thank you for supporting Canadian artists!Chantilly Lace 60x60 acrylic on canvasIMG_1915

SINGER BILLY NEWTON-DAVIS BRINGS THE CLASSICS TO NEW AUDIENCES DURING COVID PANDEMIC

I’m thrilled to introduce you to the new EP from the oh-so-talented BILLY NEWTON-DAVIS, recording artist, cabaret entertainer and all round musical bon vivant!  The brand new jazz EP “HAVE WE MET?” from the four-time Juno winning vocalist who’s worked with Gloria Gaynor, Sammy Davis Jr., Céline Dion, The Nylons, MelleeFresh, Boomtang Boys, Nino Anthony and deadmau5 is available now from your favourite streaming platforms or directly from Billy’s website: www.billynewtondavismusic.com

This brand new jazz EP from the four-time Juno winning vocalist who’s worked with Gloria Gaynor, Sammy Davis Jr., Céline Dion, The Nylons, MelleeFresh, Boomtang Boys, Nino Anthony and deadmau5, offers a juicy jazzy, bluesy, gospelicious vibe. “Have We Met” features some of Billy’s favourite classics from the great American songbook.  The EP features Juno-winner Mike Downes on bass (and arrangements), Stu Harrison on piano, Ben Ball on drums and was recorded & mixed by Brad Nelson at Cylinder Sound, live-off-the-floor.

I met the incomparable showman nearly 4 decades ago when we were both young and full of showbiz promise – Billy came into the restaurant where I was working (back then, everyone was an actor/waiter so…) and throughout his dinner, he shared stories with me about his moving to Toronto to make a name for himself, work with the big stars, sing, dance….everything. I think I fell a little in love with this joyous ball of energy sitting in my section, and over the years, I’ve proudly followed his rise to fame. Both his dedication to his craft and strong work-ethic have earned him the respect of fellow musicians and artists, and after listening to his latest EP, I thought I should let him tell his story here to my readers. I got the chance to reach out to Billy and ask him a few questions about his career and this new musical offering in the time of Covid.DJoBjC5XkAEcuJQ (2)Billy, congratulations on your new EP “Have We Met?” that’s now available on all streaming platforms or directly from you, via your website. The songs are all classics to which you’ve added your own super cool vibe – how hard was it to whittle down your extensive song catalogue to these five songs?   It was not easy. I love beautiful songs and I chose each of them for the feel or story of the song, or if I had personally had that same experience. I wanted to integrate my own understanding into each song. I also want to sing these songs every night and love doing them…every night!

You’ve enjoyed a lot of media attention for the EP – how gratifying is it to know that the media as well as the public appreciate this gift of music during such a depressing time?  It gives me great joy!  I love what I do and I’m always happy when people are smiling… especially for the love of songs!

In the late 70s, you worked in several hit shows on Broadway, including Stop the World with the incomparable Sammy Davis Jr, arguably one of the greatest entertainers of all time (he sang, danced, played multiple instruments and acted). Did you pick up any nuggets of stage craft or advice from the great man?  Yes I did – Sammy helped me find my confidence and the fact that I really wanted to be there. It was all about being present and never ever letting anyone know that you’re not there… people pay their hard-earned money for a performance so you always give 100% for every show and nothing less. SammyWho were your early influences or inspirations in music and/or theatre?  Oh, Glenda, there were so many. When I was very young, my Dad played lots of music around our house so I was surrounded by all sorts of sounds and singers.  My first solo was in church in Cleveland at age 5.  My parents owned a great record store in the neighborhood, the “Golden Voice Record Shop” in Cleveland, where I used to hangout during my high school years. Thanks to to the store, my parents were able to pay for my university education and I graduated Ohio U. before moving to NYC to take my place in “show biz”.  Aretha was always a great inspiration; I love her because she learned from the great Mahalia Jackson [her life story is soon to be a major motion picture], Clara Ward, Billie, Ella, and Sarah Vaughan, I’m sure.  Sammy Davis Jr. was my inspiration to be a showman….but I still listen to Aretha! And much like Aretha, my mother was a strong successful woman and was one of the first African-American women to own her own business (Glamour World)  in Shaker Heights. I have been surrounded by inspiration all my life.arethaYou made an immediate impact on Canada’s music scene when you moved to Toronto in 1980, winning multiple Juno awards (your first album, Love Is a Contact Sport, was awarded the Juno for best R&B/Soul recording and another for Most Promising Male Vocalist) and you were also in great demand for vocal collaborations with artists as diverse as Celine Dion and deadmou5 (both Juno award winning recordings) before touring with the legendary Nylons in the early 90s. Do you consider the 80s one of Canada’s “golden eras” for popular music?  Yes indeed – the 80s were an incredible time in Canadian music. And the different genres of Black Music became recognized. Reggae was also very prominent, but then R&B rose in popularity and now the popularity of Drake, Jully Black, and the Wknd have arrived and taken over the pop world. Makes me very proud to have been part of that journey.HAVE WE MET ALBUM COVER BILLY NEWTON-DAVISObviously performing at corporate gigs and concerts or touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have you created or participated in any online concerts or have plans to do so?  I’ve been very fortunate to have been invited to do lots of virtual performances. I recently did The 519 Gala for the 519 Community Centre in downtown Toronto.  I performed at a wonderful gala for the Rainbow Railroad charity where we raise money for them to protect LGBTQI individuals and enable them to live in freedom and safety in their own country. And this past Christmas, I appeared in the LOFT Community Services Christmas Concert where we raised upwards of $100,000.00 for street kids, the homeless, the mentally challenged and the elderly here in Toronto. It was such a great cause and it made my Christmas.Billy Newton-Davis Photo By Xander Looking Down To The Side

And finally, Billy, I have to ask: when you and I first met, I was waitressing in between acting gigs at Toronto’s legendary late-night bistro, Bemelmen’s, when you came in and sat in my section. You proudly and excitedly showed me blueprints for a new home – did that ever come to fruition? (By the way, I knew you would become a big star – you had so much energy, it was unmistakable).  There was a house – it was in the Queen St W area – but I met a wonderful guy and moved into his condo. We got rid of that and now have a cool New York style apartment.  I’m very grateful for all the gifts the universe has given me and I celebrate life on a daily basis, even through COVID-19 which has given me new focus – I was recently in the studio recording more new songs. I’m still writing for the next album and making plans for new live performances when we can all come together again. Billy Newton-Davis Photo by Xander cool shoesThank you, Billy, and I’m so pleased you still find so much joy in singing and performing, even under such confined conditions during the pandemic. Hopefully by summer, we’ll all be able to attend concerts where we can sing along with you once again.

If you’d like to learn more about Billy Newton-Davis and his music, visit his website: www.billynewtondavismusic.com and follow him on social media.  And thank you for supporting Canadian artists!

Bottom 2 photos courtesy of Xander.