Wednesday, December 3, 2014

the leading role


A long-time reader of this blog would know that my childhood portraits may have displayed a streak of... independence.

Behold.  Another photo displaying my childhood insolence.

But dear reader, this is where it all began.  In Kindergarten I was cast as The Virgin Mary, and made my stage debut singing "Little Donkey".  This was a big deal in a five year old's life.  A leading role, setting the path for a lifetime of dreams.

However, as you may glean from the photographic evidence, I was displeased with my co-star.  I thought my childhood crush Scott Wozniak was worthy of Joseph's role, but it was Anish Kanungo who won the  part. (And who Mr. Google has informed me has become a doctor.  Well done, Anish!)

So it goes in life.

Though I have no appearances as the Virgin this year, I will be singing a bucket load of Christmas songs over the next few days.  The band and I have been hard at work learning every Jingle Claus Merry Sleighbell Marshmallow Christmas tune there is going.  Though many of our performances are of the private party variety – email to book yours today! – I recommend that early birds head down to CBC Regina on Friday from 6 to 9 am for The Morning Edition's open house.  You can support their Comfort and Joy campaign for the Food Bank of Saskatchewan by doing so, and that's a very good thing.  There's lots of fun reasons to attend: a CBC prize wheel, kids craft table, hot chocolate and coffee... plus it's free!

May your heart be light, friends.


Monday, December 1, 2014

country mouse

BB and I visit Corner Gas at TIFF 2014

My childhood years were spent on a small grain farm in Saskatchewan.  I was a border-farm kid: I went to school in Rose Valley, had a line on the Quill Lake phone exchange and our mail was delivered to Fosston.  With populations of 296, 409 and 55 respectively, you can make your own assumptions about the booming metropolis that surrounded me.

With thanks to the Regina Folk Festival and Agribition I got back to my roots on Saturday night, playing music to open up the rodeo cabaret.  The bill was shared with that guy in the photo, Blake Berglund.  My band performed a good dose of twang – with heartache, drinking and death as the central themes.  We did our best to get them dancing, but still have a thing or two to learn about it all from Berglund.

Will I continue down this path and become a country singer?  Will I find a plot of land with an old barn to house a half dozen goats and a pair of ponies?  Will I just dream longingly of my imaginary double wide trailer in Pincher Creek?  It all remains to be seen...

Monday, November 24, 2014

professional help

Applying the final coat of glaze...
hi friends,

I got started on the artwork for our live album last week.  I had a whole team of talented ladies whose primary goal was to make me look good.  Which is awesome.  Let's just admit that right off the hop.

The whole process started when I fell in love with artist & superb human, Monique Blom.  I'm often surprised by the truth she teases out of me in our easy conversation.  She's a force, and you should just get on board with her art.  Basically, I met her and then selfishly devised a reason to collaborate.

But then I wanted to work with photographer Carey Shaw too.  Her portraits make me ache with nostalgia for things I've never experienced.  As Monique said, "You take pictures of my childhood memories."

And then there's my old pal and collaborator, Avril Biggin.  We've grown up as freelance artists over the last three years, and frankly, I can't imagine working without her.  Together we created the artwork for both Hello from Belle Plaine and Notes From A Waitress.

So... I just figured I'd throw them all together and see what happened.  I have no idea what it's going to look like, but I'm sure it'll be real good.

Also, I have to say a huge thanks for the expert skills of April McDougald, and Danni Knox for applying the powders, creams, sprays and various elixirs to tranform me from Farm Girl to Super Fancy Lady.

As a group, these ladies made what is usually a sweaty, uncomfortable experience into something that was creative, collaborative and made my face hurt from laughing.

And since you've read this far, I'll reward you with a little sneak peak of what we made.  I think it's really exciting.

Friday, October 17, 2014

that old familiar feeling

Hi buddies.

This week has been a good one.  The photo here is a post Mayor's Arts & Business Awards moment after I was presented with their Emerging Artist award.

It's another important reminder that I am in a state of constant dependence.  I'm in debt of music lovers, venue owners, concert presenters, fellow musicians, sponsors, journalists, technicians, funding agencies, car mechanics... hell, the list is endless. Most of all I'm reliant on Jeremy and Beth, who have devoted their time to making music a livelihood with me.

Dependance has a beautiful effect of becoming community.  We've built a solid network of support across the prairies, and it's pushing outwards to reach the east and west coasts of Canada, with a few pockets in the USA beginning to form.  It is so exciting.  Being able to sing for a living and be cared for along the way is an incredible feeling.  I'm completely lost without all the help.

So thank you already!  For listening, writing about us, taking photos, booking shows, buying merch... everything.  Special thanks to those venues like the Bassment, Ironwood, Park Theatre, Artesian, and Carleton who give me street cred by bringing me onboard with major Canadian acts and making me look good in the process.

I'm just grateful.  Full stop.  Let's just all keep doing this, ok?


Thursday, October 9, 2014

supporting the girls


This past weekend the band and I went to Winnipeg for BreakOut West.  If you're not in the know, BOW is a music conference that occurs in some lucky Western Canadian city every year.  It also serves as a reunion for industry types.  Basically, I get together with my extended community, talk business, learn me a thing or two, introduce myself to new pals, and everyone hangs out digging the music going on in the evenings.  I always enjoy the event, and I'm legitimate in telling myself that I'm "working" while having a hell of a time.

This year at BreakOut West, some smart friends of mine thought we should have a hockey game for the ladies.  It's fair to say that I did not want to play.  I'm pretty unsure of myself on skates, and I don't know the rules.  A strange gap in my prairie education, I know.

But Elizabeth signed me up, and so it was that I played in the first ever Double D Cup.  Most shocking to me was that I didn't totally stink.  Sure, ok... I played in figure skates, but you gotta start somewhere.

I must attest to the sheer awesomeness of everyone involved – players and otherwise.  Jeremy was even among the supporters and sang Oh Canada! Man, did he ever earn points for being there at 8:45 am after a few late nights out on the town.

May the tradition continue next year... and may I improve at hockey in the meantime.

Here's to the Double D Cup!  Supporting the girls since 2014.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

bg vox

Hi guys.

I've been practicing something a lot lately: harmonies. Holy crap.

Who knew I was such a lead singer?

It started with Del Barber, who asked me to play his CD release in March at Winnipeg's Park Theatre. Del casually asked me to join in on harmonies for "Someday Soon" by Ian Tyson.

I'm always (usually) up for a challenge and so I said yes... and then practiced for an absurd amount of time.

That gave me enough confidence to try it again, so I signed up to sing with Blake Berglund on a few shows. With all the practice, it's possible that I'm improving.

Maybe you think harmonies are easy.  I dunno... maybe they are. But I find it hard. Really hard. I don't know how people just "find a part". I have to bang it out on the piano. Plug my ears. Block out everything else and try to just sing in tune. And that's never been an issue for me. I can sing lead, dammit. Why do harmonies gotta be so different?

Through the struggle of getting my stubborn ear to hear something other than the melody I've developed much more respect for Anna Rose, who is a truly gifted harmony singer and gives my live show depth and nuance with her voice.  Not to mention bassist Beth who didn't sing at all before we met, and is now belting out the second part.

To further drive the point home, last night I watched 20 Feet From Stardom. It's good. Ugh... so good. I'm a big softie, so I had tears in my eyes from the women's beautiful voices throughout. Their joy of singing is too familiar to me, as is their the love of performance. It's just fabulous. It's incredible what a few women did to shape popular music. Watch it.

And so I'm gonna keep working at it because harmonies are incredible. Hearing two voices in parallel is the most moving sound that humans can produce, as far as I'm concerned.

Even if I have to learn how to sing all over again, I'm proud to do it.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

gateway pt. 2

Thx to Chris Sleightholm for this snap.
Hi buddies,

A dear friend once told me that choosing to be a musician seemed like joining a new family. He was right. And in the few years that have passed since becoming a full time musician I've seen my family grow from local to international. The glue is the sense that we're looking after each other. Whether it's a place to crash in another city, supporting each other at gigs or sharing contacts... there's a lotta love around here.

So if I'm in a family, I figure summer festivals are pretty much a series of reunions.

Last Friday night at the Gateway Festival opened for me by watching the absurdly talented Kacy & Clayton play. Follow that by two stepping with Blake Berglund to The Deep Dark Woods, and then being totally knocked over by Library Voices' new material. My evening was at its height watching The Sadies for probably the eighth time in my life. (Y'know, I'll just never tire of those dudes. My favourite memory of the band is from a show in Banff in 2007. After a killer night, their encore began with one of the brothers dryly announcing "And now The Sadies would like to play nine more songs for you," prior to ripping into a third set.)

Thankfully, Bend Sinister prevented me from falling into a post-Sadies funk. I then enjoyed my sister bands Snake River and The Pile O' Bones Brass Band close up the evening.  Day one complete.

Saturday began with the familiar Coffee Stagger as well as a failed attempt at distributing Revello ice cream bars to the festival's first risers around 9:30 am.  Eventually I found my feet, and it happened to coincide with hearing Miss Megan Nash's incredible voice.  Saturday's schedule was filled by excellent artists, with Ridley Bent, The Bros Landreth, Indigo Joseph, and The Dead South really knocking me over.

More than anything, an unexpected encounter with Tex Emery truly brought home the beauty of the festival. I've heard tales of Moose Jaw harboring one of Nashville's country legends. Rumour has it that Tex was Buck Owens' pedal steel player and it was through him that Tex made appearances on Hee Haw. Tex is now 84, and be damned if he doesn't want a spot in my band after seeing us on Saturday's main stage. And I'm all for it. That bit of news made my weekend, to be quite honest.

So there you have it! A successful family reunion where I got to relax and see the locals, reconnect with long lost buddies and finally met the guy everyone has been talking about all these years.

I'm in your debt, Gateway. Thank you for a wonderful weekend.


Friday, July 25, 2014

gateway pt. 1


The miracle of technology has me writing this in a van cruising 110 kilometers per hour down Highway 6 to Bengough, Saskatchewan.  I have the great pleasure of playing the mainstage at the Gateway Festival with The Unrequited Love tomorrow night.

Gotta say, I'm pretty pumped about it.  As usual, it's a killer line-up and the festival organizers welcome artists to enjoy both nights, which is exactly what I'm doing. How could I pass up The Sadies tonight?  Those surf country mavericks introduced me to Neko Case's music.

It's truly summer now.  Festival season has begun.  Happy 10th Anniversary, Gateway.  Thanks for having me.  And you ticket buyers can get your fix here.


p.s. My rental van came with at least 33 bullet casings from a .22 shotgun.  If one shell raises an eyebrow, and five more or so justify a pause to ponder their origins, at what count should I be legitimately concerned?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

swimming with sharks

I spurn my own love.
Photo courtesy of
Today is my four month anniversary of no blog posts.  Not even I saw that one coming...

I assure you that I've just been busy.  Like a shark that will drown if it stops swimming, it seems I will cease to breathe if I do not work.

My efforts have produced some great results and I have some happy news to share, but will do so little by little over the next while in an effort to catch you up on the happenings.

For now, I just want to tell you how excited I am that The Unrequited Love is reuniting!  Regina's favourite brew pub, the Bushwakker, will host us on Thursday, June 12th, for our headlining spot during JazzFest Regina.  Pretty excellent if you ask me!  We're digging up all those tunes for the broken-hearted, providing musical support for everyone with tears in their beers.  I sincerely invite you to join us.


Monday, February 10, 2014

wherein I requite...

Oh boy.  There's a storm a coming.

I have this habit of pushing myself to the limit, without perhaps realizing what I'm taking on.  I can't decide if it's ambition, or naivety, recklessness or just straight up stupidity.  But I do it.  Over and over again.

I like being busy.  I like working with talented people on exciting projects.  Most importantly, I like what I do.  I've got six weeks of solid activity coming up, not the least of which is two nights of shows with my band, The Unrequited Love this Friday and Saturday night.  And the first night we'll be recording the concert for a live album release.  Oh boy, indeed.

It seems that I know when I've taken on too much at about 3:30 in the morning.  Y'know, when I wake up with heart palpitations, certain that everything is going to fall apart and that I will be left in the rubble of my crumbled dreams wondering why I didn't see this coming.

It's rather dramatic.

Panic and anxiety seem to be part of my business plan.  A part that I'd like to edit out.  My friend Elan, aka Schmutzie, wrote a beautifully honest blogpost about just this very thing.  The presence of anxiety and one's attachment to it.  It resonated.  So much.

But you know what really kills me about it all?  The fact that I am so supported by my community.  I mean, Jesus... prairie dog magazine put my damn band on the cover this week.  Verb Magazine ran a piece about the show too.  The Leader Post is publishing a bit later this week.  Then there's everyone behind The Lyric Theatre and The Artesian on 13th - Shann, Marlo, Chad, Vince, Deb and my dear friend Andrew... people who have encouraged me and bent over backwards to assist in whatever way possible since I started the Belle Plaine project.

I can't even start to count the man hours that my amazing band has dedicated to these two shows thus far.  They keep agreeing to my demands and I am so grateful that they feel my music worth their effort. It is a true privilege to play with them.  I appreciate every rehearsal, contribution and pep talk they offer.  This is especially true of Jeremy and Beth, who give more than I could ever ask for.  And then some.  I am very lucky to have them all on my side - even if I do tell the prairie dog that their heads are on the chopping block for comedic value. 

And then there's everyone who comes to the show.  You guys who buy the tickets and merch.  It just doesn't happen without that support.  It overwhelms and astonishes me every time.

You would think I could rest easy amidst the confidence of those around me.  But that's anxiety: the loudest voice, and the one that transmits the most bullshit.

Listen.  I just want to put on a show that you all will enjoy.  And it seems I'll make myself crazy doing it if I have to.  I truly hope you enjoy what we have to offer this weekend in Regina on the 14th and in Swift Current on the 15th.  We've worked hard for you.

All my love and gratitude this Valentine's week.