Category Archives: Music

cover (3)

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.

Bitch_Carole_SingleArt

CHURCH OF TREES/CAROLE POPE SINGLE “WORLD’S A BITCH” GETS WORLDWIDE AIRPLAY

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, Bernard Frazer of Church of Trees gave me the 4-1-1 on the band’s new single, World’s a Bitch, featuring the iconic voice of Canada’s legendary pop diva Carole Pope, along with Rob Preuss. Since then, thanks to Bernard leading the promo charge, the single has been added to radio playlists around the world, including my home country of Australia…yay! Even in a pandemic, talent will triumph…especially with such a great song. (Carole & Bernard, pictured below, made sure they were well masked)2021 Carole Pope & Bernard  FrazerA music video starring Carole is in the works, so watch this space for news of it’s upcoming release.
Below is a partial list of radio stations around the globe where fans are listening….more being added daily:
Artefaktor Radio, Mexico City/London, UK
Banks Radio Australia
Bombshell Radio, Toronto
CBC Radio 2
CFUV FM, Victoria
CHMR, St. John’s Nfld
CFCR FM, Saskatoon
CFRU 93.3 FM, Guelph
CHCR, Killaloe ON
CHUO 89.1 FM, Ottawa
CIUT FM, Toronto
CJLO, Montreal:
CJSW, Calgary
CKCU 93.1, Ottawa:
CKMS 102.7, Waterloo
CKUW, Winnipeg
CKWR 98.5, Kitchener
Flyflew Radio, Laut FM, Germany
Fylde Coast Radio, Blackpool UK
Humble and Fred Radio, Toronto
KOOP FM, Austin Texas
KRAC Radio, Montreal
Live 88.5, Ottawa
LRDR Radio, France/Switzerland
NYthespirit, Toronto
Radio Coolio, Toronto
Radio That Doesn’t Suck, Toronto
Revival Synth, Brazil
WA12 Radio, Manchester UK
WFM 97.2, Manchester UK
Blast The Radio, Ottawa
Valley 89.5 FM, Canberra Australia

AND, Carole has just launched a GoFundMe campaign in support of Attitude: The Art Rock Musical! based on the life of her brother, Howard (pictured below), a New York-based musician who died of AIDS in 1996Donate and be a part of the process!  Here’s the link:  http://bit.ly/2MgUYBp  AttitudejpegBig CONGRATS to Church of Trees and Carole Pope for scoring such universal applause for the new single….you can listen in or buy the single from your favourite streaming platform, or direct from the artists at: http://www.churchoftrees.bandcamp.com/

rik-roe_5 (2)

CANADA’S LEGENDARY QUEEN OF SCREAM STILL ROCKIN’ OUT WITH HER NEW “DARBY MILLS PROJECT”

Canada’s Queen of Scream, DARBY MILLS, has been earning her living doing what she loves – singing & performing for her loyal fans – since 1978. And as she’s said in a previous interview when asked if she’s feeling a bit too old for rock & roll, “I’ll talk to Mick Jagger then let you know…”  When I arrived in Toronto a few years prior to Darby’s professional debut, it was the height of the disco era and all the clubs pumped out Donna Summer, Barry White, KC and the Sunshine Band, and the Bee Gees. As much as I loved disco, the dancing, the dubious fashions and platform shoes, I also loved to rock and roll but I had to wait until the early 80s to hear that voice, that growling, loud empowered woman’s voice that belonged to Darby Mills, fronting the Headpins band.145_origWhen you mention Darby Mills to anyone who’s a rock fan, you see a smile come across their face and a nod of recognition – this woman has earned her place in Canadian rock history. First working in cover bands, then a jazz/blues group and a funk/soul band in Alberta, finally accepting the invitation to sing with the rock band Steelback and heading back home to BC with them. Darby built a solid reputation on stage, fans flocked to see the band and its rocker chic out front. More gigs, more miles, more exposure to big international acts, both opening for and singing with, established Darby as a leading light in the Canadian music scene. Then came the Headpins…and then came the drama!  I encourage you to visit Darby’s website where you’ll find an in-depth history of her career and, in particular, her years with The Headpins (weblink at end of story).

I recently spoke with Darby from her home in BC and asked her if she’d share a few thoughts on her new Darby Mills Project (sadly sidetracked by Covid that has shut down Canada’s live music venues) and her experience as a woman in a male-dominated music genre….. 49121065_2626607834016328_5956634531585851392_nDarby, your first introduction to “performing” in front of crowds was as a young aspiring figure skater – did the discipline of sports training over a 12-year period affect your life and work ethic as a recording artist and stage performer?   Absolutely, the sacrifices made by myself and family were huge. As a competitive skater (pictured below with trophies almost as big as her) you miss out on many events outside the rink, even holidays, as training was first and foremost. No skiing or girls’ hockey (my Dad coached) and summer escapes where out of the question, but I did attend skating summer camps most of my teen years. As for the actual performance, it gave me the basis for nerve and confidence. Even though to this day there is still a tingle that hits me just before the show.9498496I understand as a youngster you spent many summers at your family’s cabin and your dad would sing as you all sat around the nightly campfires – apart from him, who were your early musical influences or inspirations?   Many many influences I’ve had over my life time. Early on, I listened to all the pre-70’s LP collection of musicals my parents had, then I got into Linda Ronstadt, Tom Jones, The Eagles, Ann Wilson, The Who and of course Led Zeppelin. It was at that point I was introduced to Janis.

You’ve been a part of several ground-breaking Canadian bands (Steelback, Headpins), honing your chops and touring throughout the 80s – what lessons did you learn during that crazy period that now allow you to take the lead with the Darby Mills Project?   In the late 70’s, after graduation I moved to Calgary where LIVE music was everywhere! Jumping back and forth from there to Vancouver many times until 1980 when I was recruited by the Headpins. My early Rock experiences consisted of searching out the correct band for my abilities and interests….and there where many!  And every time I got fired (lol) I learned more about the rights and wrongs as well as the prejudices of those in the industry. To me the answer was to become one of the guys best you could and grow a really tough skin.142662660_702376817098503_808680119311385062_nYou’ve also toured with some of rock’s greatest bands such as KISS, ZZ Top, Whitesnake and Aerosmith – were you treated differently in such a male-dominated environment or were you accorded the respect you had well-and-truly earned?   Each band is different – I’ve seen actions that are kind at heart and supportive, as well as those that are destructive and mean-hearted, meant only to undermine the success of the opening act!  WITH kiss 1982What is the significance of your “Letting Go” tattoo? Did you get that ink after you decided to take a break from your career in the early 90s?   I got the “Letting Go” tat to remind me that there was more to come.  My life was not all about what once was.  Sadly, I had been told that should I leave the Pins, I would never work again. Those people I’m guessing, had forgotten that I had already accomplished such a feat. In fact, I was the only member of the Headpins band except Brian “Too Loud” McLeod to do so!  I have earned 2 solo recording contracts, one to MCA America in 1986, and the second in 2001 with MCA Canada. Then in 2016, 36 years into a revised version of the Headpins, I felt it was past time to step up and bring something new to the table. This was not accepted by the members and I felt trapped in a downward cycle. At 56 years of age, I knew it was NOW OR NEVER. It was time again to take on that challenge.  Proudly I can say that I have now obtained a worldwide distribution deal with True North Records. 142172612_755571281744144_5778864844485981381_nAfter spending time away from the stage and recording studio to raise your family and care for ailing family members, why now, why the Darby Mills Project?   After losing my recording contract with MCA in 2002, I felt it was time to start a family. Married 10 years at that time, my husband a I both agreed. 6 months into making that decision I got a call from a former Pins drummer. He asked if I would sit in with his cover band here and there, but shortly after that I found I was pregnant with our first child. Behind the scenes, I had been dealing with a lawsuit for the past 5 years. The Headpins had acquired substantial debt to the former manager and even though I had been fired from the band, I was personally being held responsible for its repayment. With no record deal on the table and now our first baby on the way, I gave up on all counts and let the government step in.  I felt the health of my unborn child was more important than fighting over money I neither had nor made from the band, so my public defender suggested I declare bankruptcy. Those where the only months I did not work as a singer/performer. I had worked at this profession for 44 years by that time.  And now I will say that Covid-19 has given me the longest break in my life time!

The Darby Mills Project allows you to reach out to long-time fans and play with musicians who had also experienced the highs and lows of the 80s and 90s.  How gratifying is it to find fans so loyal and vocal when you take the stage (pre-Covid days, of course) and have you had younger new fans reach out to you as well?  I guess they see themselves as the ones who where down in the trenches with us all these years. The Rock’n’Roll era of my generation will likely never be experienced in the same way ever again. What a time we had!!Ted VanBoort

Photo courtesy Ted VanBoort

Obviously performing live concerts or touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have you participated in any online concerts or have any plans to do so?   We spent more money than we made this last year doing a new 13 min video – six Headpins tunes mashed up into a medley.  We “The Darby Mills Project” get asked at every show, why aren’t you doing this or that song? My answer was always “because we are not the Headpins”.  It was never my intention to be the Headpins as a solo artist. They have a new singer and have worked steadily since my departure.  But the questions just kept coming, so the guys in DMP suggested we do a medley of Pins tunes so we can make the ticket buyers happy. DONE!  Paid for and ready to watch.  My thoughts for 2021 are that if there are no signs of live shows coming back into play, we’re working on another adventure that I’ll speak about when it happens.    Stan Pietrusik (2)

Photo courtesy of Stan Pietrusik

I was sorry to hear of the tragic loss of your beloved father due to Corona Virus – what advice do you wish to share with your fans about health and safety precautions?   I spoke out publicly a few days after my Dad passed. Global TV news reached out to see if I would be interested in sharing my thoughts and it took some consideration as I know there are still so many who feel we were being lied to and the back lash would be harsh.  My family stayed away from Dad as he was in a long-term care home. We did NOT want to be the ones to inadvertently take the Covid virus into his care home. We followed the rules set by government regulations and called him every single day to stay in touch best we could. For 10 months he stayed safely tucked away from the world.  BUT THE WORLD GOT IN!  Covid landed in our little town with a handful of cases for a month or so but then after Christmas and, I can only surmise those who did not follow the stay home regulations, BOOM, three local care homes were on total lock down.   3 – 4 – 5 cases then 35 then 68 and now we hear about all the deaths. It is REAL and will take out so many more of us before we reach herd immunity.

I did get messages from the naysayers, such as “It’s a hoax”. There were those who said, “Why should we worry about the likes of him, we should think about all those small businesses that are out of business for the fear of losing the old”. Well, I TOO am part of the OLD! I TOO am out of business!  But I can still find compassion for those trying to be part of the solution rather than those who are looking only for fault and someone to release their frustrations on.  May the Universe find compassion for us all ‘coz boy, are we messed up!

~~~~~

Thanks, Darby, I really appreciate you sharing your personal, painful thoughts on dealing with the frustration and fear of Covid. On a happier note, I strongly recommend clicking thru to watch the 2018 Telus Original documentary on her career “The Queen of Scream”.

…and if you would like to follow Darby for news of upcoming releases and, hopefully, live shows later this year, check out her website where you can also purchase her music: www.darbymills.com111_orig

Bitch_Carole_SingleArt

LEGENDARY ROCKER CAROLE POPE JOINS CHURCH OF TREES & ROB PREUSS FOR BRAND NEW SINGLE (released JAN 15)

Ottawa synthpop band Church of Trees has hooked up with legendary Rough Trade vocalist, Carole Pope, on a new single WORLD’S A BITCH. The single captures the global angst over the COVID pandemic and the desperate need for vaccine distribution. The JUNO award-winning Pope, who pushed the boundaries of sexuality and sexual politics both in Rough Trade songs and on stage, says “I think the song encapsulates how we’re all feeling about being locked down…and you can dance to it!”2021 Carole Pope & Bernard  FrazerWow! How great is it to see one of Canada’s iconic, game-changing artists stepping up when we need someone, anyone, to kick the collective arses of those national and provincial “leaders” who have been caught napping when it comes to vaccination roll-outs? Thanks to former Spoons/Honeymoon Suite keyboardist Rob Preuss (pictured below) who was working separately with both Pope and Church of Trees, he suggested that Trees’ frontman Bernard Frazer write something that might suit Carole’s voice. Frazer says, “I leapt at the chance. I’ve been a Rough Trade fan since the 70’s, and Carole’s voice has always resonated with me. So, to write for such a legend was a dream come true.”Rob-Preuss promo picI reached out to Bernard to ask him about the new single, hoping that Carole would also add her voice to the interview, and voila! This is what they had to say….

As professional musicians, how has Covid impacted your ability to stay connected with your fans and allow you to showcase/sell your music?
BF: Multi-member projects, like ours, aren’t able to physically get together to play things like Facebook Live events. So, unless you’re willing to compromise Covid protocols (which we’re not), you can’t get together to rehearse no less play a virtual gig. In that respect, it has been a big pain in the rear! However, we have been incredibly active producing new music and making it available digitally. So, we are able to connect with fans in that way. (Bernard Frazer, pictured below)BERNARD FRAZER Promo pic 2021 BCP: It’s difficult, we made a couple of socially distanced videos. One with BNL- I also released a couple of singles and have one more I’m working on. This really impacted my plans for Attitude, a musical I wrote with Kate Rigg which was supposed be workshopped at Buddies In Bad Times theatre. Because of that we’ve gone virtual and I’ve created a GofundMe page so fans can contribute and get involved in the creative process.

Obviously, touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have either of you created or participated in any online concerts or have plans to do so?
BF: When things lifted a bit in the late summer, we were just starting to re-group so we could rehearse, but then the second wave started to rear its ugly head. So, we thought better of it.  If there is an opportunity, say after we get our vaccinations, we will definitely start rehearsing for some type of performance. We are itching to play live again.
CP: I had to cancel and postpone several live dates. We were part of NAC’s Canada Performs series and Tim Welch, my guitar player, and I have done one curated performance for a fan’s wedding and we’d like to do more. Since we couldn’t be inside, we shot a stealth video at the CNE grandstand. Carole1Now the world has access to music without setting foot in a record store (sadly) or having to purchase hardcopy CDs, vinyl, etc. has that opened up new markets/audiences to you as well as creative collaborations with int’l artists?
BF: Definitely. As synthpop artists, we have found a large, worldwide, “family” of synth-based artists who not only promote each other, but collaborate, as well. We’ve done several collaborations with Rob Preuss, who is now in New York City, as well as the electro-band Graflex from Manchester, UK. We are looking at future collaborations with an artist in the Netherlands, another in B.C., and a great electro-duo from Colorado. We have also discovered a fantastic group of internet and terrestrial radio stations and radio shows that solely promote electronic music. We now get played around the world, from the UK, France, and Germany, to the Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and Australia!
CP: I’ve been collaborating with people in Canada and the US for the past few years. I’m not great at promoting my work – I just want to make art, but am inspired by the connections Bernard has made. I will try to work my music more this year.Carole2.byLedaResurreccionjpegThere are so many opportunities to stream your music – which platforms do you prefer and where can fans find Church of Trees and Carole Pope?
BF: Church of Trees prefers churchoftrees.bandcamp.com because it enables the artist to recoup a reasonable percentage of sales (downloads and CD sales). But we also respect the fact that so many people prefer on-demand/playlist driven music. So, Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, and Google Play are great too.
CP: I’m on Bandcamp but do better on other streaming sites like iTunes and Spotify etc. I also sell merch on Teespring.com and my own website.

Carole, back in the late 70s & early 80s, you were instrumental in bringing excitement, danger and sexuality to live performance – in your opinion how do today’s music stars measure up with their sexualized performances? Do you think they overuse it to the point that the music/lyrics are only secondary?
CP: Some singers are unconsciously sexy like St Vincent and Billie Eilish, but a lot of artists throw it in your face and it’s like yeah whatever.  There’s some really bad factory manufactured cookie cutter shit out there. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. I find a lot of supposedly sexy songs forgettable and insipid. I’m a huge fan of my gurl Peaches who’s a great lyricist and very sexy performer who pokes fun at sexuality. I know I’m not mentioning any guys but I think they broke the sex mold when George Michael and Bowie (the most beautiful man ever) passed.

And Carole, other than this impressive collaboration with Church of Trees (and Rob Preuss & Jordon Zadorozny), are there any artists with whom you’d like to record/write?
CP:  I’ve worked with Peaches, Nona Hendryx, Dusty Springfield, Alain Johannes, Hawksley Workman and Rufus Wainwright, and tried to collaborate with Dave Gilmore on a Pink Floyd album (which didn’t happen) but would love to work with Bjork, Radiohead and St Vincent. A woman can dream.

Bernard, you’ve been guiding Church of Trees’ musical journey from its formation in 2017 to the upcoming EP “Pause” – can you tell me who were your early music influences? I hear perhaps a little early Brit synth/pop like Howard Jones or Thomas Dolby, and was wondering if you ever listened to Japanese pop/classic genius Ryuichi Sakamoto?
BF: I love Ryuichi Sakamoto. I listened to Yellow Magic Orchestra quite a lot in the 80s, and have followed Sakamoto’s solo career, including his film scores, over the years. I loved his scores for The Last Emperor and The Revenant. David Bowie is, perhaps, my all-time fave artist. I have listened to everything he has release, from the 1960s (Konrads, King Bees, Manish Boys) through to Blackstar. Howard Jones, Thomas Dolby, Duran Duran, OMD, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Soft Cell, Japan, and Gary Numan are all massive influences, as well.

 And finally, Carole, I was intrigued to learn of your upcoming (and very personal) theatrical project “Attitude: The Musical” based on the life of your brother, Howard (pictured below), a New York-based musician who died of AIDS in 1996. Will you be performing in the stage version or on the soundtrack album?  Or will you remain behind the scenes as writer/producer working with the director?
CP: Attitude is ever evolving so I might show up in the stage production but mostly I’m going to work behind the scenes. I haven’t thought about singing on the sound track but thanks for the idea.AttitudejpegWORLD’S A BITCH is available at: www.churchoftrees.bandcamp.com  … and all streaming services.

Follow Carole Pope at  IG: @carole_pope   Twitter: @carolepope   www.carolepope.com
Follow Church of Trees at   IG: @church_of_trees   Twitter: @churchoftrees   www.churchoftrees.com

A note of trivia: Back in the late 70s, Carole was my next door neighbour in Cabbagetown and I would frequently see superstar visitors walking up her path. I’d often sit on my tiny front porch with a cup of tea and wave across the flower beds. She and her Rough Trade partner, Kevin Staples, were the quietest, most polite neighbours you could ask for. Meanwhile, my house was ground zero for wild gatherings that included Second City & SCTV cast members, celebrity photographers, musicians – usually the band Songship which featured Catherine O’Hara’s sister Mary Margaret as lead singer (the band’s drummer Bruce Moffatt was one of my room-mates), and I occasionally played host to legendary skater and artist Toller Cranston who lived a few blocks away.

If you wanna learn (or remember) what it was like in Toronto back in the 70s and early 80s, pick up a copy of Carole’s tell-almost-all autobiography, Anti Diva.book

DSC02624seaside

GRAMMY-NOMINATED RECORDING ARTIST RON KORB MISSES TOURING & MEETING HIS FANS DURING PANDEMIC

Like all musicians across Canada, Toronto’s Grammy-nominated flautist and composer, RON KORB, has been dealing with not just the loss of income from live concerts, international touring and recording sessions, but also missing his personal meet-n-greets with fans who flock to his live shows both here in Canada and around the world (pictured below).  His most recent project was playing on the film soundtrack for the historic WWII drama & top grossing film for 2020, The Eight Hundred, which was in the cinemas at the end of 2020 for 2 weeks when half-capacity audience screenings were allowed before we went back into Covid lock-down (watch for it when it’s released on VoD or digitally).fnas 2I recently chatted with Ron online and asked him to share his thoughts and observations on how Covid has impacted his life and career, and to talk about his research project addressing the state of Canadian digital streaming and rights, and how it impacts musicians and fans…wall (2)Ron, as a professional musician, how has Covid impacted your ability to reach your fans and sell your music?  Covid has been devastating to the music community and affected every area of activity. In addition to all live performance being cancelled many other sources of income such as teaching, composition engagements and recording projects have decreased. Now the only way to reach fans is through Social Media which really isn’t the same.

Obviously touring is off the table, have you created or participated in any online concerts or have plans to do so?  Yes, I have participated in some online concerts and events like the MY EARTH SONGS (below) virtual concert in support of UNICEF along with some Grammy winners, The Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Virtual Event, The Beaches Jazz Festival and I guest hosted an online radio show.Earth SOngsHow is your award-winning World Café album doing? Its the perfect listening choice for those stuck at home during quarantine, with energetic danceable tunes as well as smooth relaxing pieces, too.  Thanks for saying that. World Café continues to get enthusiastic feedback. It is time to encourage my fans to listen to my music via streaming sites as that is the main income source for music during the pandemic.  Listen to World Café here:  https://open.spotify.com/album/7F9humDpfXkAuhlLramJzQ b_W1sic2l6ZSIsIm1lZGl1bSJdXQ==For even more joyful and soothing music with unique instrumental accompaniment, your Grammy-nominated Asia Beauty (2016) is still available for purchase via your website, yes? As are all your other albums…?  Yes, all my albums are available through www.ronkorb.com and the Asia Beauty CD has a beautiful reissue. My CD distributer went bankrupt and record stores didn’t pay me. Now with CD Baby closing its store, my own website and Amazon are the only outlets for my physical product. The advantage of ordering from my site is that the albums can be autographed if the customer wishes.  Listen to Asia Beauty here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2UMUxYkRKZcz7sTBR1sv7958thgrammyYou recently formed the CANADIAN DIGITAL MUSIC COLLECTIVE, an organization and research project to help Canadian music creators increase their visibility online. Members are encouraged to post information about music streaming, online music promotion and changes in the music business. How did this come about and why the need?  Streaming is 80% of the music market these days but it’s very difficult to be discovered because 40,000 new songs are being added to the music platforms every day. Many of my fellow Canadian musicians produce great music but they remain largely unnoticed. We are funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the goal of our research is to find methods to help Canada’s music creators get discovered online and receive the royalties they deserve.130006745_10158649074400552_6752103679655064319_oDoes the CDMC offer workshops or webinars?  Yes, since September we have already done 3 webinars and will do a final one in February before submitting our report. The workshops have been great and we have really learned a lot about the ever-changing digital world. It’s interesting that before we started this research project, I had certain suppositions about what were the problems and solutions when it came to streaming. After engaging with the other CDMC members I realize there are a multitude of options, very few easy answers and a lot of hard work and diligence to be successful in the digital sphere.  Any Canadian artist can join at  https://cdmc.mailchimpsites.com/  and our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/719764478662299

Whats the best way for fans to keep in touch?   Anyone who wants to check out my music can explore these outlets:
YouTube Channel:  Flute Traveller https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Vbx5qQ6qW-LCf8NmGHmHw
Apple Music https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ron-korb/29541142
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/4Xjxonsw8YU2tX5MR7n0r8
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ronkorb.longdi
Twitter: @ronkorb
Instagram: @ronkorbmusic

Thanks, Ron, and hopefully by end of this year, you’ll be performing live again in front of your legions of fans here and abroad…and doing all those great media interviews (below, Ron with Nancy and Valentino at CIUT-FM’s Howl! radio show)CIUT

Chiara 2

12YR OLD TORONTO SINGER HAS BRIGHT FUTURE!

What a wonderful surprise to discover local talent, esp. when it’s a 12yr old with great presence and a very supportive family. While enjoying a nice iced latte this past Sunday at Zaza’s coffee shop in Toronto’s Yorkville village, I watched as Chiara Petrozza set up her sound equipment with the help of her family and proceed to entertain the customers and passers-by with her mature tone and pitch-perfect voice.

I spoke with her mother, Silvia, who told me Chiara is now studying ukulele as well as continuing vocal lessons (which she’s studied for the past 6 years). The youngster from Vaughan is also learning songwriting and continues to record studio demos so she’s on her way with a laser-like focus on her future career. Having the guts to perform in front of strangers at that age is just wow, I mean WOW! She even tackled a Leonard Cohen classic which impressed everyone within earshot…here’s a brief taste:

You can follow Chiara on her Instagram account @chiara._p8  and if you’d like to catch her in person, she’ll be performing again at Zaza’s on Friday Sept. 11 around 6:30pm (Cumberland St, just E of Avenue Rd). Come watch/listen so you can tell people you knew her when….
Bravo, kid, keep challenging yourself and don’t let anyone distract you from your dreams. Keep performing anywhere and everywhere – you just never know who’s gonna see/hear you.Chiara 1

AUSSIE MUSIC STAR ALI HUGHES MESMERIZES AUDIENCE @ HUGH’S ROOM WITH HER “LEONARD COHEN KOANS” CONCERT

What a glorious night that was! Last Sunday evening, Ali Hughes took her Hugh’s Room audience for an emotional ride with her reinterpreted songs from the late Canadian legend Leonard Cohen‘s repertoire.

Throughout her performance, her sexy sultry voice hung out on every note, laying it down then soaring again into the next stanza….and looking around the showroom, every face was turned towards the stage, eyes wide with mouths to match. I sat at the back of the room listening to the gasps of recognition as Ali introduced one classic Cohen after another, each with a new emotional and musical “translation”….it truly was a transformational moment.20190602_22345820190602_223852

Ali also brought with her the newly released 4-track EP (Tea & Oranges) from the show, recorded back home in Oz with her band, Ali & the Thieves. Her version of Suzanne will bring tears to any hardened fan’s eyes and I’m happy to tell you that the final track on the CD is, in fact, Suzanne. Check her website for purchase & download details (see end of article).20190527_132147After the show, Ali met with her Toronto fans and signed copies of the EP….20190602_203332 20190602_224839Hopefully she’ll return to Toronto soon for another Leonard Cohen Koans concert but she hinted she was working on her next project which is another unique interpretation of pop-culture classics…this time by Lou Reed. In the interim, she takes the Cohen show to the 2019 San Francisco Leonard Cohen Fest (presented by Noise Pop and hosted by Conspiracy of Beards) Nov 8, 9 & 10 at Cafe du Nord & Swedish American Hall, in S.F.   In October she will be presenting performances of Leonard Cohen Koans in London and New York with her long-time collaborator Daryl Wallis, plus performances with NYC collaboration, Sunday Swoon (with Adam Armstrong and Curtis J).

Visit her website for news of Ali’s upcoming shows, social media & music:   www.bigsbabs.comCentrefold

Toronto poster

TONIGHT! Australian singer ALI HUGHES brings her “Leonard Cohen Koans” tribute concert to Toronto for 1 night only.

After 10 days of rehearsals, media interviews, celebrity schmoozing at a film festival and enjoying all the touristy stuff that Toronto has to offer, Aussie singer ALI HUGHES will take the stage tonight at Hugh’s Room to introduce her critically acclaimed 90-minute show featuring the songs and poetry of Canadian music icon, Leonard Cohen.ALI_271061685190_2452038624806523_1181734640604413952_nThe legendary singer/songwriter known for his sensual vocals left us nearly 3 years ago and Ali’s interpretations of songs such as Chelsea Hotel #2 and Suzanne will intrigue, engage and soothe the listener. Ali recently recorded a 4-song EP from the show with her long-time Aussie band (Ali & the Thieves) titled Tea & Oranges and these will be available for sale and autographing after the show tonight.20190527_132147 20190527_13215620190527_153559For the past 2 nights, Ali has performed at Hugh’s Room, opening for friend and fellow singer, Jane Siberry (below L) for whom she has sung back-up on Jane’s tours. Tonight, Jane graciously presents “Leonard Cohen Koans” and Ali Hughes who takes centre stage.with Jane SNBA finalists The Raptors may be playing on home court tonight but if you’d rather experience this tribute to one of Canada’s greatest artists by one of Australia’s most unique performers, we look forward to welcoming you….

Hugh’s Room is located at  2261 Dundas St. West (416-533-5483). Show starts 8:30pm
Tickets available at the door $45.00 (come early to ensure best seats)AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpg

ALI_2710

AUSSIE CHANTEUSE ALI HUGHES to unveil “TEA AND ORANGES” EP @ LEONARD COHEN KOANS CONCERT SUNDAY JUNE 2, HUGH’S ROOM

Just in time for her upcoming concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, ALI HUGHES will be bringing her live recording of 4 songs from her highly successful 90 minute tribute concert LEONARD COHEN KOANS  with her so Toronto audiences will be able to enjoy her voice and arrangements of Cohen’s legendary ballads long after she returns home Down Under. I spoke with her last week and asked about the recordings….

You’ve just completed recording your new EP, TEA AND ORANGES, containing 4 tracks from your Leonard Cohen Koans project – tell us about the experience of working in-studio on your own project? It was wonderful – the musicians on the album have been playing this show with us for a long time. Bassist Michael Galeazzi has played with Daryl and me since the inception of the show, backing vocalist Gerard Carroll joined in 2011, and Michael Quigley (Quigs) started playing drums and percussion with us in 2016. There’s a kind of shorthand when you play with people for a long time and we recorded the entire EP in 5 hours!

recordings are done!

recordings are done!

I wanted the recording to carry the vibe of our live show, and so we recorded live in one room together with Sean Carey at Church Street Studios in Camperdown, Sydney. That’s the way it used to be back in the day – big bands, everything….I LOVE that, and Sean helped make that happen. I hope you’ll come see & hear for yourselves at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on June 2nd

Sean Carey

Sean Carey

Our arrangements are quite dynamic which made for a few obstacles, but everyone was on their A-game. I had a quick listen with Sean in the booth after the recording session – he’d just given a quick general mix and I couldn’t believe how he made it work so beautifully. And I must give a huge shout out to Sean Carey and the team at Church Street Studios for their recent Emmy Award win – they won in the category of outstanding sound mixing on a preschool animation on Beat Bugs.

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic'd for Michael Galeazzi

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic’d for Michael Galeazzi

The musicians who recorded with you – have you worked with them before and what did they bring to the recording sessions?   Yes, we’ve played together for a long time; they’re all incredible musicians with many other beautiful projects. I love playing with them, and I’m so lucky they always say yes when I call :>)  Every time we play Leonard Cohen Koans we find a new depth, especially in Suzanne where we open out into quite a free rave in the second half. This recording was no different – the sensitivity and the boldness of these musicians is extraordinary.
Michael Galeazzi is a member of the ARIA* award winning Karma County and played on Indigenous Australian legend Jimmy Little’s ARIA award winning album, Messenger. He and Michael Quigley have a super long history together playing in APRA nominated jazz outfit Java Quartet and Quigs is involved with Australian/Japanese experimental project Enough to Escape; Gerard Carroll is a highly talented vocalist and actor with a long theatre credit list including on the Australian cast of Once directed by Tony Award winning director John Tiffany, as well as recording and touring with Keegan Joyce on Snow on Higher Ground; and the spectacular Daryl Wallis‘ vastly varied career includes playing piano for Barrie Kosky’s Women of Troy as well as being an integral player in CIRCA’s regional Australian piano based verbatim storytelling show, Reclaimed Pianos.
*Australian Recording Industry Association music awards

Michael Galeazzi

Michael Galeazzi

Gerard Carroll

Gerard Carroll

Michael Quigley

Michael Quigley

Did you have a personal hand in the production process or did you relinquish full control to your producer/engineer?   Daryl and I had a very strong vision for the recording, and Sean’s sensitivity and clarity helped to enhance it beyond what I thought was possible.

Ali's long-time collaborator Daryl Willis

Ali’s long-time collaborator Daryl Wallis

Why “Tea and Oranges” – where did that title come from?   The reference to ‘tea & oranges’ is from the first verse of SUZANNE – he’s observing and feeling at the same time, and his description of her feeding him tea & oranges is one of the divine in the ordinary….exquisite.

Will “Tea and Oranges” be available for sale at your Toronto performance, June 2nd?    Yes! CDs will be on sale for $15 and I’ll be around after the show to say hi and autograph copies.cd coverLEONARD COHEN KOANS – presented by Jane Siberry
Sunday June 2 @ 8:30pm
HUGH’S ROOM, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto
www.hughsroomlive.com
Tkts: $40 advance / $45 at the doorToronto poster

Toronto poster

LEONARD COHEN KOANS – 1 night only with Australia’s ALI HUGHES, presented by JANE SIBERRY

I’m thrilled to announce that Australian vocalist/recording artist ALI HUGHES is bringing her inspiring celebration of the spirit, music and poetry of one of the greatest songwriters of the modern age to Toronto for a 1-night only performance:  LEONARD COHEN KOANS, presented by Jane Siberry, takes the stage at Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto, on Sunday June 2nd (8:30pm)

This passionate, sensuous vocalist “more than embodies the energy that one expects from an evening celebrating Cohen”, her startling range and remarkable ability to hold the stage meeting this exceptionally well-crafted curation of Cohen’s poetry, prose and song – Avalanche, Chelsea Hotel #2, and the beloved Suzanne – to offer a stirring meditation on the legend and his legacy.AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpgPart-concert and part-homage, these exciting and original interpretations explore Cohen’s music through jazz, gospel and rock genres, cracking wide open the incredible musicality in his work. Intertwined with excerpts of poetry and prose, and delivered through the lens of his Zen Buddhist spirituality LEONARD COHEN KOANS weaves a new pathway into your experience of this glorious Poet of the Holy Sinners. Accompanied by masterful Toronto pianist ADREAN FARRUGIA, this electrifying, vigorous 90min narrative concert is Cohen like you’ve never heard before. Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, Leonard Cohen Koans gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

I recently spoke with Ali back home in Sydney, Australia, about the show and her career highlights as she prepares her 4-track EP featuring songs from the show (available for purchase on show night)…..

What is your musical background or training – were you a singer/performer during childhood or teens? I don’t have formal music training, as such – I learnt to sing via my parents’ record collection!  The Andrews Sisters taught me how to harmonize, Tina Turner taught me rhythm, Bette Midler taught me emotional range, Annie Lennox taught me vibrato control and Aretha taught me to sing out!!arethaI went to drama school in my mid-20s and in my graduating year met my creative collaborator, Daryl Wallis – he is an incredible musician and artistic mind – when we started playing shows together, I was always surrounded by highly skilled, older musicians. That environment really allowed my intuitive musicality to develop.
You’ve performed in Canada before – when/where might we have seen you?  You might have seen me singing backing vocals on tour with Jane Siberry sometime over the last few years; or at Ori Dragan’s lovely 120Diner with my collaborator Daryl Wallis and Toronto locals John Alcorn, Bucky Berger and Terry Wilkins. Daryl and I also played an awesome house concert in The Annexe (hoping to do it again!!) and were super lucky to play in Northern Ontario on the magical Manitoulin Island.ALI_2710So why Leonard Cohen? What was the inspiration for this amazing project?  Actually, this show was built for a project-based unit of university study.  A theatre director friend of mine had suggested I do an interpretation of Suzanne. I sat on it for a long time… waiting for the way in.  In January 2010, I did a creative intensive as part of some further theatre training at university. It was a super intense, incredibly challenging course, held in a remote area, led by a small older woman who had the energy of a dragon and the presence of a Zen master. Every day pushed the students closer to breaking through our self imposed artistic limitations, and every evening ended in an exhilarated exhaustion and deep sleep. One night when I was super exhausted and almost asleep, I started hearing beautiful chords in my mind and realized they were the way into an arrangement of Suzanne! I made notes, called Daryl straight away and we started working on the arrangement as soon as I returned to Sydney. We played the arrangement at a show the following week and I knew something else was coming.LeonardI had the opportunity to do another unit of study with that same teacher. I made the proposal to create a show using only the words and works of one artist (none of my own personal patter, so to speak) and started devouring Cohen’s work. Researching his Zen Buddhist spiritual practice offered an entirely new way for us to conceptualize celebrating his work. The result is a unique experience of Cohen’s work which is accessible to Cohen devotees and newcomers, practitioners and non-practitioners of meditation, and people who just want to hear some really great music.
You’ve sung back-up with some pretty amazing artists (k.d. lang, Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright) so why step into the spotlight now? What was the push that propelled you to take charge up front?  Being up front isn’t really new to me, I’ve always sung lead on projects at the same time as doing backing vocals on others. I love doing both. I love blending with another voice as a backing vocalist. When you’re really connecting energetically and vocally with someone, you feel you’re moving together like a murmuration of starlings.  And leading a room is an altogether different feeling – but has a similar sensibility to it in that, for me, its about opening oneself in order for the music resonate with the audience in all the ways it needs to.
A previous musical collaborator and Canadian icon, Jane Siberry, is presenting your concert – how cool is that? Did she approach you or visa versa?  Ah, my gosh, it’s the coolest. Jane is extraordinary – she is a close friend and such a huge supporter of this show; she saw an opportunity for us to work together in Toronto and she made it happen.Jane-SiberryOf all Cohen’s songs, are there one or two that you can relate to on an emotional level or that inspire you intellectually?  One or two?? Ha! Ok, I’ll try to keep it at one or two. Suzanne – I have a deep resonance with that song. My favourite line, ‘you know that she’s half crazy – that’s why you want to be there’. and, of course, Dance Me to the End of Love – there’s nothing I can say.
What can Toronto audiences expect to see/hear at the Leonard Cohen Koans show?  Audiences can expect to see a tall Australian woman singing some beautifully and dynamically arranged interpretations of Cohen favourites, including Chelsea Hotel #2, Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat, and some less well known tunes like The Guests and The Butcher, interwoven with a little spoken word and some story telling.  Jane Siberry will be performing as our very special guest opening act, and will also be moderating an artist Q&A session with me at the end of the show so make sure you stay for that.on stageAnything you’d like to share with those Leonard Cohen fans considering buying a ticket?  I am so happy you’re thinking of joining us at Hugh’s Room, and I really hope you decide to come along. We are excited to be just moments from releasing a 4 track EP, titled ‘TEA & ORANGES’. It’s our first recording of tunes from the show – you can find information about the EP, Leonard Cohen Koans, and also about Daryl and myself at www.bigsbabs.com or by connecting with us via our Facebook band page, Ali & the Thieves.

Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, LEONARD COHEN KOANS gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Heart-stopping” (www.theatermania.com)
Spine-tingling” (SX Magazine)
“… Hands down the best I’ve ever heard!” (nytheater.com).
“…  Sensual, enigmatic… intense warmth, startling range.”  -Veronica Hanlon, SX Magazine
“… Exceptionally well-crafted…3 1/2 stars out of 4 “ – Michael Giltz, Huffington Post NYC

Get your tickets now for Sunday June 2nd from www.HughsRoomLive.com  $40 Advance/$45 at doorposter