Tag Archives: Canadian recording artists

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.

TALKIN’ MUSIC WITH LAURA ROCK

Move over all you insipid little girls with guitars…here’s the real deal: hard rockin’ singer/songwriter LAURA ROCK is heading back into the studio to record her 3rd album in as many years.1011097_570786989681039_626053128_nI met this talented lady a few years ago when she was launching her first solo album of pedal-to-the-metal, hard-driving contemporary rock music and she won me over completely upon first listening…I got hooked on her ballsy songs. But this lady is not just your typical “rock chick”; Laura is all heart and can frequently be found mentoring and encouraging young emerging artists, sharing her stories of performing live in clubs of varying sizes, recording studio protocols to dealing with dodgy club owners. This lady has been there, done that, written the songs…and she’s happy to impart her knowledge and expertise with those just coming up through the ranks.

Earlier this summer, Laura performed to a packed house at Toronto’s Hard Rock Cafe, proving once again that Rock’s Not Dead…. which just so happens to be the name of her current album and lead single! As she heads back into the studio, I sat down with her and asked a few questions…..

IMG_2559Where were you raised and has that influenced your music or performance style?
I originate from Newfoundland..let me count the ways that my home town of St. John’s has influenced me both musically & performance style!  Musically, growing up I was blessed with some great folk-rockers along with many other genres.  Newfoundlanders are know for being friendly and outgoing. Our storytelling abilities and sense of humor shines through – in the way we speak and in my case, write lyrics and sing.  The term “front person” comes to mind.  People say that my Newfie hospitality and genuine love for what I do translates well to stage.

Who were your musical influences?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. Don’t make me choose!! I mean it’s massive, there are MANY. Areosmith! Areosmith!! Areosmith!!! Did I say Steven Tyler? LOL!! Can’t forget AC/DC & OMG! Can you say Sammy Hager? Also Tom Cochrane,Kim Mitchell, Colin James, The Guess Who, Nikki Sixx, Eddie Veder, Dave Matthews, Matthew Good, Jane’s Addiction, MatchBox Twenty/Rob Thomas, Heart, Lita Ford, Holly Woods, Sass Jordan, Melissa Etheridge, Biff Naked , Allanah Myles, Holly McNarland, Mae Moore. And I can’t not mention my fellow Newfs Kim Stockwood, Ron Hynes, Great Big Sea, plus Hey Rosetta, Belinda Metz, Buffy Ste Marie, Joni Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones, Joan Osborne, Pink, Chantal Kreviazuk, Van Halen, But seriously I could go on and on and on and….1907491_851190768307325_4821469725654246649_nDo you play any instruments and how do you compose?
My instrument is my voice.  Regarding composing, well I can hack a guitar but I’m not all that great.  For the most part, I am a lyricist. It all comes to me in waves…it feels like it’s channeled from somewhere else, I swear! I often hear guitar riffs or drum beats in my head but I am absolutely blessed to work with a fantastic producer, Brian Gagnon, who helps interrupt my ideas.  Sometimes I go in with the lyrics and he creates the music – sometime I add some musical ideas or sometimes he has the music and my lyrics are created afterwards. Sometimes it’s a simultaneous process.

Who has been your guiding light in the industry?
Wow, good question.  I think I have always followed my own heart, but one “guiding light” in particular was the late great Nik Beat of CIUT’s Howl! radio show.  Nik’s incredible belief in me and my music lead me to L.A. and many other places. He introduced me to so many talented people in Toronto that I otherwise would never have known.

Remind me of your previous albums and the hit singles off each…and haven’t you won some pretty awesome awards, too?
My first album was called Law of Attraction, which was released in late 2011 and my current album, Rock’s Not Dead was released towards the end of 2014.LoA_front_cover_450x385I’m happy to say that my music is played on many internet stations across Canada, the US and the UK – as I say: “all the web’s a stage”.  Regarding awards, well, I’m proud to mention that I was nominated for 6 HMMA awards in L.A.  (Hollywood In Media Awards) which has resulted in some amazing opportunities and business introductions for me. I was nominated for the following songs:
November 2014 Lightning
July 2013 Law of Attraction
Mar 2013 98.5
Jan 2013 Get Your Rock On
July 2012 Blindsided
June 2012 Light My Fuse

You’ve played some pretty great venues over the past few years….
I’ve played many venues in Toronto as both a cover band artist and as a original project.  Sadly, a lot of clubs have shut down in this city but more recently I played the legendary El Mocambo before it was sold and closed, and in June we did our official CD Launch for Rocks Not Dead at the Hard Rock Cafe.IMG_2608Can you tease us with a little news about your next album?
I’m heading back into the studio to work on my third album but I’m still promoting Rock’s Not Dead which I sadly had to put on hold due to the death of my mother, father & best fiend all in a very short span of time last year. But you know what they say….what doesn’t kill you makes you write more music!   So this next album is about love, loss, and the key phrase…Bait & Switch! 11412264_1594586234156065_8810531013978382576_oYou spend a lot of time mentoring emerging young artists, sharing knowledge about the business of making music. For you, what is the most rewarding aspect of that?
The most rewarding aspect of that is simply watching them grow as an artist.  After speaking with them about several subjects, particularly “critical opinions” – as you know, we live in a society that always has something to say about whatever we do. I always like to let young artists know that there will always be a critical opinion and I offer ways on how to deal with it, how to protect your creative ego.  Once they overcome this, they soar….that’s the fun part to watch.

In a city the size of Toronto where there are a lot of performance stages, why aren’t we seeing more accessible multi-genre music stars rising from the ranks? In other words, how easy/hard is it for young performers to play on a main stage AND make money?
The music landscape has changed drastically – it’s not just localized to the city you live in.  With access to the web, you are your own record company, your own manager, and this is the concept I try to instill in to younger artists. You can make money in the music industry if you’re motivated enough to put in time and effort into your art.  The simple fact is, if you love what you do, there are going to be hurdles in the way and you will have to compromise, especially when it comes to the financial part of the business.  Having said that, I think no one should play for free…know you’re worth and stick to it.10457525_10152983333693098_7303762277621657028_nAny ideas how we, the fans, can help improve the music scene and support the artists?
You can do this simply by buying their music online or showing up at live venues. At the end of the day, the music business is a business and everyone needs to make a living.

So what’s in the future for Laura Rock?
Music is a way of life for me, it’s not a destination…I try to live in the moment for the most part, because I feel so good making music…it’s like heaven on earth.  But having said that, I do aspire to write for other artists or help/mentor those who need a little guidance.  I love films so having one of my songs in a movie soundtrack would be the biggest dream come true!bg_lrock_splash

You can learn more about Laura Rock, buy her music and keep up with news on her new album and upcoming shows by visiting: http://lrockmusic.com/