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Speechie-Chorister-Choir Girl Blogger

An Interview with Pharis and Jason Romero

Photo by Rick Magnel

Pharis and Jason Romero take time out of the tour to chat with Folk on the Road before their concert at the Arden Theatre this Friday October 19 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available online.

What’s something you look forward to when touring as you’re packing things up at home in Horsefly, BC and preparing to head out on the road?

Exploring new parts of the country, finding moments to go for a hike or a delicious coffee/meal in a neighborhood, finding something that’s fun for the whole family (we’re going to Drumheller for a few days in the middle of this tour).

Since Sweet Old Religion has had the past few months to be out in the world since it’s release in May 2018, how is the response from audiences?

Really strong and enthusiastic as our most consistent feedback from audiences is that the songs feel like they’ve been around for a long time (even though they’ve all been written within the last two years).

Is there a particular track that you enjoy playing live?

We’ve been playing the title track, Sweet Old religion, the longest, but one of my (Pharis’) current favorites to play live is Leave the Garden Gate Open (it’s such a strange journey of a song), and we both love the dreamlike state we go into while singing Age Old Dream (plus I get a chance to do something that approximates a yodel).

Conversely, are there tracks which exist to be in recorded form only that you do not play live in concert?

No, with the music we play we always want to be able to play songs live – even if the studio version on the CD has guest musicians, we’ll always find a way to find the essence of the song and perform it live as a duo. The songs are also all written by us with just our two voices and two instruments, so they all start from our core essence as a duo. We don’t do a lot of pre-production before recording, with adding instruments, so the end result of a studio version is often a surprise for us.

There’s numerous roles within your lives as banjo makers, songwriters, music educators, and family members. What are some things you’ve learned from managing these many roles?

number 1 – We are fairly consistently going to be busy, as our passions and what we do for a living really integrated, so we need to make space for downtime (hiking, swimming, fly fishing, exploring).

number 2 – we are making it up as we go along (like most folks, right?).

number 3 – it’s more important to have a spacious tour, with time for exploring, than to book in every night with a show.

number 4 – it’s got to be fun.

Songwriting and instrument building are some examples of how there are roles of creation and expression in your lives but are there any other creative outputs you are involved in?

Yup, constantly.

Pharis is the Artistic Director for a singing camp called Voice Works, in Port Townsend, WA, and we both teach at a lot of music camps.
We make jewellery (earrings and necklaces, with plans to expand) from the leftover materials from banjo building (brass, copper, silver, woods, shell, stone).

We were actively involved in building our house, and are doing most of the finishing work on it, building furniture, wall art.
Everything feels like it has an element of creativity and expression to it – from the gardens (we built a half-submerged earthship style greenhouse a couple years ago), to putting a new roof on the barn, building a sauna – and that moves over into our relationships with our kids and each other.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility and heritage when you’re sharing songs through the oral traditional and also creating handmade, heirloom-quality banjos?

When playing music together the connection is intimate, even when you don’t know someone well (or at all). If you’ve spent time listening and feeling recordings from any tradition (our particular favorite is the 20’s – 40’s old time, ballads, bluegrass and early country) you speak a similar language right away and for us that transfers into feelings of respect and creativity both. I think the responsibility would come with wanting to not be replicating the older music, but to have spent enough time listening to have a feel for the spirit of the music, so that our own innovations come from a place that isn’t just wanting to immediately put our own stamp on it. The early musicians we so love were innovators, and we admire that very much. Far as the banjos are concerned, Jason’s woodworking is immaculate, and our goal is that if treated well these instruments should last hundreds of years. We draw from a lot of sources for inspiration and creation – early furniture makers, artists from the 1800s and early part of the 1900s and our natural world around us.

Where were you when you found out you had been nominated for three Canadian Folk Music Awards? (Awards will be announced in Calgary Nov 30 and Dec 1).

Working at home in the banjo workshop!

Anything else we missed that you would like to mention?

Thank you!!!! Can’t wait to play the Arden!

For more information and tickets please visit the Arden Theatre website.

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An Interview with Skerryvore

Catch Skerryvore at the Arden Theatre tonight at 7:30 PM

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Where has your latest touring taken you and what have been the highlights for you?

DANIEL – We have had such an incredible year that it is very difficult to pick the highlights! The weekend that had Tonder Festival and Shrewsbury Folk Festival in the space of 4 day was very special. We performed to over 30,000 in 4 days and the response to our new material was incredible. It is also a real highlight to be in Canada for the first time and it is hopefully the first of many visits for the band.

 

What does the songwriting process look like for Skerryvore?

FRASER – Generally Alec will come up with an idea, lyrics, maybe an instrumental section too. He puts down a demo at home and sends it to the rest of us. We then have a rehearsal process where work from the demos to create the finished product. Sometimes the songs can change quite a bit from the demo, other times it’s just a matter of everyone adding their own touch as essentially the whole song is there.

 

Skerryvore is often described as a fusion of rock and traditional Scottish music—how would you describe how you fit into the traditional side of that equation?

DANIEL – Obviously the traditional instruments in band have a huge part in that equation both in instrumental sets and songs. In the songs there are many riffs or hooks played on fiddle , box or bagpipes that could also be played on electric guitar.

 

How did growing up on Tiree influence your approach to trad Scottish music?

MARTIN – Myself and Daniel were immersed in traditional music from a young age on Tiree with an abundance of Ceilidhs, concerts and Dances. We were also lucky to be taught from a young age from dedicated tutors on the island and also tutors brought on to the island as part of the local Feis movement. Through this we not only got to hear great musicians and bands but also be taught by them.

 

What are some of your influences? What are you currently listening to?

MARTIN – Runrig have always been a massive influence of mine  and some of the other guys in the band as well. At the moment I am listening to a lot of Dance music, Calvin Harris, Arlissa & Jonas Blue, CamelPhat to name but a few.

 

What are the challenges in forming your voice as an ensemble when you are inspired by different musical genres?

FRASER – Sometimes we have to find a place for the traditional instruments in a song. There are a few songs that would sound great as guitar, drums, bass, keys and vocal but it wouldn’t necessarily sound like Skerryvore. So, we have to adapt the songs to fit with our sound.

Skerryvore’s newest album is EVO—what is your favourite song to play off it?

 MARTIN – I would say ‘At The End Of The Line’ is my favourite song to play. Very emotional song and the tune part is mighty on the box!

What are your plans for the coming year?

FRASER – We have plans to release some more videos and will also be working on some new material. We also have our first tour of Australia coming up. Watch this space.

For tickets call the Arden Theatre Box Office at 780-459-1542 or order online. 

An Interview with Twin Bandit

Twin Bandit, comprised of Vancouver based duo, Jamie Elliott and Hannah Walker, sit down at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival media tent just at the rain begins to fall and the evening chill settles upon the Gallagher Hill. They played the Wapiti Musical Festival in Fernie, B.C. the previous evening and just arrived in Edmonton that afternoon.

So you’re not twins, or sisters, but you both grew up with sisters. What were those relationships like and how did that shape your sisterly bond now?

Jamie: Mine was very nurturing. I am the middle of three girls and we were best friends growing up. I remember one little thing that was very one sided. My older sister had a meltdown when we were very young and wrote in her diary, “as far as I’m concerned, I have no sister!” But other than that, young, silly diary entry we’ve gotten along so well. I’m still very close with my sister. And meeting Hannah it was an instant connection. She felt like a sister right away.

Hannah: It’s funny hearing [Jamie] say, “we had this one conflict.” I grew up with four younger sisters in my family and we fought all the time. Like cats and dogs. Not a fight for survival but our family is just really loud and we’re all very passionate, strong-willed people. So there’s often a lot of witty remarks back and forth and none of us are afraid of conflict. It was not traumatic. It was our way of communicating with one another. It was just how it was. We were all very comfortable relating to each other in that way. It’s been an interesting journey for Jamie and I because we did have a very strong connection like family right away. But it’s took us a lot of time, especially at the beginning, to learn how to communicate with one another working in a band.

[Twin Bandit notes there was a point when their sisters came to sit down with both of them and helped to provide perspective and work on bridging communication break-downs they were having. This sisterly intervention helped them better understand one another and move their relationship forwards.]

Was learning those communication skills a turning point in committing to this group and developing your relationship?

Hannah: I think Jamie and I right before we recorded our last album we were going through very heavy things in life. Some very serious illness and a couple of deaths in my family. The fact that we were able to walk with one another through that journey. And the fact that we were willing and able to support each other just through presence and through emotional availability. For me, it was the turning point that I knew I was prepared to walk the distance with Jamie. It felt like we would be in it for the long run. Whether that was musically or as people.

As you stated, there was darkness you were navigating prior to recording you last album. What I notice about the repetition of your song choruses is that it sounds more like a recitation of a positive mantra instead of a phrase that is trying to be catchy.

Jamie: We kinda needed that. We needed to write in that way. And find hope in our lyrics and in our songs because we were going through such a hard time. It really helped us get through those times, especially writing together and expressing these things that needed to get out. And putting a positive spin on things just helps in so many ways.

Hannah: Yeah, not ignoring the hardship of it but speaking frankly with one another and simplifying that experience into a mantra that we felt people would be able to relate to and appreciate. And something we hope would bring more positivity to our audiences. For us, because we sing for a living, we are saying these things all the time. Speech is very powerful and it really has the ability to change your perspective. That can be for better or it can impact you negatively. We had a lot of people come up to us over the years saying that our music helped them get through death in the family or heartache. We feel very honoured that people have that experience with our music.

[One of Jamie’s songs, For You, was used in a US commercial and Twin Bandit received much positive feedback. A mother who had lost three children in a car accident told them that she thought about her love for her children when she hears their song.]

Jamie: It’s so nice when people respond. When they walk up to you and say something.

Hannah: It is the reminder of why we are doing this. Music is so important in how it creates community.

Do you find songwriting is writing what you need to express at that time or what your audience needs to hear?

Hannah: It’s a little bit of both. Songwriting is quite cyclical, I find. For the style of music we perform and write, it’s storytelling. Whatever is impacting, moving, or inspiring us at the time is what we tend to write about. It is very possible songs on the next album may not be uplifting and inspiring necessarily because we may be going through a time in life where we’re exploring other aspects of the wide range of human emotion and experience. When it comes to songwriting, we’re trying to find a way to bring a deeply personal experience and boil it down to its core. That is what becomes universally relatable to people. In some ways, it’s the most personal thing in the world and in other ways it is created with other people and sentiment. To find the personal and make it public.

How is the aspect of vulnerability when sharing what is private for a public audience?

Hannah: I always cry when I sing Rosalyn and I rarely perform it live because the last few times I have broken down in the middle of a song. It’s always when my family is in the middle of the audience. It brings me back to that moment again. It tells me I am still connected to the art. But it can be really challenging and uncomfortable to perform songs that are really personal. I think people love to see that vulnerability. I think a lot of audience members connect with that. Even if you cry or forget a word, people watching you go through that experience makes it human again.

What are some exciting things coming up next for Twin Bandit?

Jamie: We’re going to Scotland!

Hannah: We are going on a three bill tour. All female acts. It’ll be our first time going to Ireland and Scotland. And it’ll be our fourth European tour. We recently found the goal sheet that we wrote [when we first started]. We have ticked off half of the things on our list!

Sounds like you have to dream bigger now.

Hannah: It was cool. We were talking about level of priority, fame, finances, connections and talking about what was more important to us. We both agreed that experience and personal connection with people that we looked up to musically were our goals as musicians. That was more important to us than material success or fame. Neither of us wanted to be famous.

It sounds like longevity is more appealing than short-term success.

Hannah: And build a good life and have music be part of that life but not the centre of it. It was really important for us to both arrive at that place. Agreeing that we didn’t want music to be our whole world. That it’s something that we love and feel passionately about.

Jamie: But we want to do it for the rest of our lives and make it lasting.

Hannah: Having freedom and understanding that life is going to change and our level of commitment to Twin Bandit. We may take time to rest or have a family. Jamie just got married a few weeks ago. [Hannah has a foster son that will soon be a year old]. It’s been a really big year for the both of us. A lot of changes in our life. It’s cool because we’re beginning to build the life we always wanted to have. Music has been interwoven throughout it.

Stay tuned to Twin Bandit’s site for upcoming information on their shows and tours

EFMF 2018 Pre-Fest Picks

Gear for #EFMF2017

Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2018 is beginning at the end of this week and here are our picks of what we can’t wait to hear this festival.

Most Anticipated Artists

Twila: Molly Tuttle

Asking this is like asking me to pick my favourite ice cream—my answer changes every few minutes, depending on everything from the rotation of the earth to what artist CKUA just played.  Being forced to decide at this very moment, I’m going to pick Molly Tuttle. She played the Uptown Folk Club’s Winterfest in 2017 and was absolutely phenomenal, so I’m looking forward to hearing her again.

Sable: Kaia Kater

A proficient banjo player and warm vocals by Kaia Kater? Yes, please. I have yet to see her play live but I am excited to hear her tunes filling up the session stages.

 

Most Anticipated Workshop

Sable: Lives of the Heart. Stage 2. Sunday,  August 12 5:45-6:55 PM.

Artists: Ferron and Her All Star Band, The Wailin’ Jennys, Russell de Carle, and John Craigie.

I have always been a fan of the Wailin’ Jennys even before I attended my first Folk Fest. I think this workshop will be packed with emotional and vocal feeling. My favourite kind of session ambiance.

Twila: True North. Stage 3. Saturday, August 11 3:05–4:15 PM.

I travel abroad a fair amount, and usually, that travel is solo. So when I’m a bit homesick, wishing to hear a Western Canadian accent and not to have to explain for the hundredth time (I exaggerate but not by much) where Edmonton is located I like to pull up my playlist with James Keelaghan and The Bros. Landreth on it. I’ve never heard Twin Bandit live, but their recordings make me hopeful that along with fabulous Dave Gunning & J.P. Cormier that this session is going to unbelievable.

Old Favourites

Twila: Breabach

The possibility of multiple bagpipes? Yes, please. I saw them play at EFMF years ago, and have gotten a number of messages (mostly along the lines of “OH MY GOODNESS HAVE YOU HEARD BREABACH??? YOU’LL LOVE THEM!”) from friends who have heard them play in the intervening years. Such enthusiasm from such a wide group of friends means that I’m looking forward to reaquainting myself with the sounds of Breabach this weekend.

Sable: Milk Carton Kids

I can’t wait to see this duo dressed in their dark, trim suits and singing into a shared microphones . Their dreamy vocals and agile guitar licks perfectly meld into a cohesive entity of sound. It’s the perfect music to listen to while staring up at the sky on Gallagher Hill.

 

See you on the hill!

An Interview with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

Photo Credit: Cameron Postforoosh

How goes life on the road so far this December?

It’s been great so far. Lucky to travel with such a good group of guys.

Last year you spoke about how it was a therapeutic process and there was a palpable sense of hope with your album, I Wanna Make it With You. As 2017 draws to a close, did that feeling of hope linger on or change?

Hope never dies – that current is my favourite part of “I wanna make it with you”. The new songs all have that hope as well, it’s something I can easily get behind.

I have always gotten your adventurous and open spirit in your previous shows whether it’s having a gospel choir up on stage with you, playing house concerts, or having dancers join you on stage, what can Arden Theatre audiences look forward to your live show this time around?

The show this year is harmony rich – there are some wide driving moments with the band with some acoustic moments laden with harmony.

Why is it important for you to include local musicians and support local music when you visit a community?

I think it is important to me to meet locals of all kinds. It has been an incredible experience meeting local musicians over the years.

Since it is getting close to the holidays, do you have any favourite tunes or traditions?

I’m not great with the holiday tunes, but I promise to be holiday social in the lobby after the show

Is there anything else you would like to mention that I’ve missed?

Thank you for the wonderful questions. Looking forward to the Arden and a nice pre-holiday visit with the great people in Edmonton/St Albert!

MBF performs at the Arden Theatre Friday, December 15, 2017 at 7:30 PM. See this link for ticket details.

Interview: Holiday Tunes with The Ennis Sisters

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In anticipation of their upcoming sold-out concert at the Arden Theatre, Teresa Ennis, speaks with Folk on the Road about their Holiday Tour.
How does it feel hitting the road again with your Christmas Tour for the eighth time?
Our Christmas show is so much fun!  It’s hard to believe that this is our 8th Annual Christmas tour. Each year, we add new songs, stories and dances to keep the show fresh and exciting for us and the audience. There’s so much excitement and magic in the air at Christmastime and it’s great fun to share that with large groups of people all over the country.
What is one of your favourite moments or songs from the Christmas set list?
One of my favourite moments is when we sing a medley of Christmas classics and the audience sings along with us. It’s like singing with a giant choir. Sometimes audience members will even throw in a few harmonies. It’s fun to get the crowd to participate in the music and I think they enjoy it too.
What is one of your initial Christmas memories singing together?
As far back as I can remember, music has always been a big part of our Christmas tradition. We grew up in a very musical household where singing and dancing was always a given for any special occasion, especially at Christmastime. I remember my grandfather and father playing tunes on the button accordion (traditional NL instrument) on Christmas Day and dancing along with my sisters when we were little girls. As we got older, we naturally learned how to play and sing that music for ourselves.  I’m so thankful to be able to share that gift today!
Do you have any Ennis family holidays traditions from Newfoundland that you can share with us?
Like so many others, family, food and music are a big part of our Christmas traditions. Each year on Christmas Eve, our mother cooks a traditional Newfoundland meal- salt fish n brewis, toutons and baked beans- and we sit at the table and take some time to enjoy each other’s company. On Christmas Day, we gather with close, extended family members for a traditional NL jiggs dinner with music to follow. I love it!
You really get to have a comprehensive east to west survey of Canada from Cornerbrook to Nanaimo leading up to Christmas, is there anything that stands out to you as a performer when you meet audiences from coast to coast during the holiday season?
We started this tour 8 years ago and toured it across Newfoundland. Then we began getting requests to bring it to the mainland.  Three years ago, we started our cross Canada Christmas tour! We are always amazed at how audiences from coast to coast respond to our music. People love the energy of our show and hearing about the traditions and songs we have in NL. Everyone leaves feeling as if they just had a little glimpse into what Christmas is like back home.
What else would you like to mention?
We have released three Christmas albums and 9 non-holidays albums over our 20 year career. Our upcoming non-holiday album will be released in the spring of 2018 and was produced by famed musician, best selling author, actor and fellow Newfoundlander, Alan Doyle.
Visit www.TheEnnisSisters.com for more info!

An Interview with North of Here

 

From the humble beginnings as a high school band, North of Here, made their debut at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this weekend. North of Here, comprised of Luke Jansen on vocals, banjo, and bass; Ian St. Arnaud on vocals and mandolin, Will Holowaychuk on vocal and percussion, revealed that they did not grow up in households with a heritage of music-making. There were no mandolins, fiddles, and banjo’s scattered throughout their homes for them to experiment on and self-teach. Luke noted that he and Ian have a background in piano but they began to learn more instruments once they formed the band. Will shared that with the exception of playing percussion instruments in school band classes, he picked up a guitar when they started the band. Ian notes, it provides “a great incentive to get better.” They express the sentiment that, by working together, they make each other better musicians.

Continue reading An Interview with North of Here