Tag Archives: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

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.

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Top Picks from Winnipeg Folk Fest

Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Winnipeg…five days of amazing music, new friends and good times. We’ve compiled our top picks before heading even further west and out to the left coast for Vancouver Folk Fest. So without further ado:

Wish I Was There

Twila: I wish I could have made it to ‘The Bluestem Special’ Sunworkshop including the Sunparlour Players, Boy & BearThe Wilderness of Manitoba and The Strumbellas. I caught most of the groups for a few songs here and there and the possibility of them jamming together, makes me wish that I was there.

Sable: I was overwhelmed by the solid showing of Manitoba talent at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Seriously, what is in the water in Winnipeg? There is a constant cultivation of amazing musical talent in Manitoba. JP Hoe’s truthful tone in performance during the Cover Me session had he hooked while he was singing a Bonnie Raitt tune. That was a sheer folk fest moment. I just wish I could have caught his concert session on Sunday afternoon to tuck into more of his own tunes.

New Discovery

Twila: The Martha Redbone Roots Project.  Hearing their workshop with Buffy Sainte-Marie was absolutely phenomenal. The music was tight and the message was clear. Definitely worth checking out.

Sable: Jake Shumbukuro. He made the ukulele sound like such a diverse array of instruments like harp, electric guitar, and koto. I never thought a tiny ukulele could command an entire festival audience but you couldn’t hear a tarp crackle when he took Mainstage on Saturday night. It was just silence. He had a great balance of his own compositions like Blue Roses Falling as well as inventive covers of Bohemian Rhapsody and My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Favourite Workshop

Twila: No surprises here, my favourite workshop was ‘We Shall Overcome: Pete Seeger Tribute’. Concluding the Sunday festival workshop sessions with Joan Baez leading hundreds, if not thousands, of folkies swaying back and forth belting out Seeger’s ‘We Shall Overcome’. Is an event that will not soon disappear from my memory.

Sable: My favorite session was Cover Me. Although it may be strange for me to pick a cover session where none of the Artists played their own tunes, I love hearing the voice of an Artist come out in a piece by someone else. There is a risk factor involved since audience members are likely recognize the original in another form but it is that very comparison factor that increases the performance pressure. If somebody can adapt a cover and do it well in their own style, it takes talent. As well, the spirit of collaboration during a cover tune is more acceptable since everybody feels free to add their instrument to the mix since it really is just about having fun. David Myles, JP Hoe, Sweet Alibi, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, and the Bros. Landreth did a killer job and a stand out number was when David Myles started a Drake’s tune (in b minor) Hold On We’re Going Home. I loved seeing  MBF jump up to join Myles on the lyrics and relief across Myles’ face because he had lyrical back-up.

Saturday Winnipeg Folk Fest (Day 4)

A brief spell of rain in the afternoon didn’t dampen spirits. Check out some photos from Day 4 of Winnipeg’s Folk Fest.

Spread Joy! An Interview with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald walks towards me with his arms wide open for a hug and a mega-watt smile. The sleepy heat-induced lethargy within the media tent immediately lightens as soon as MBF approaches. He has just come from a performance and autograph signing at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and has a short block of time before he heads over to the Shady Grove Stage to watch his mentorees from the Galaxie Young Performers Program. MBF leans forward in his chair with his arms resting against the edge of the table and waits expectantly for the start of the interview period.

Spending the summer playing at folk music festivals is a welcome way to spend the summer for MBF. “I love Folk Festivals because it seems like everyone is here to love music. There is no other reason. I mean people’s cellphones don’t work out here. I love that,” he says. MBF invited bass and drum player, Sacha Daoud and Benoit Moirer from Chic Gamine on stage for his two final pieces, Brand New Spaces and Firecracker in his Friday afternoon concert. His enthusiasm for musical collaboration is palpable: “[Chic Gamine] blew me away yesterday. I thought they were fantastic. And the collaboration with [Sc Mira, Until Red, and Young Folk for the Galaxie Young Performer’s Program] is what we were working on for that set for later today. I thought it would be great if we could do it another time because they sound so good. I’ve obviously fallen in love with Chic Gamine. Everybody in that band is the best at what they do,” gushes MBF about his new folk-fest find and giving a slight shake of his head in reminiscing about their performance.

MBF is always looking to keep things fresh for himself such as working with different musicians and playing his songs in different ways. He is not concerned with structure and prefer to just let things happen: “I think there’s room for more beautiful things to happen if you don’t control the flow so much…chaos is managable. You find something new in it, moments of inspiration,” he says with a quiet wisdom that balances the buzz of his vibrant energy.

Taking a listen to MBF’s tunes, messages of positivity and love are themes throughout his works: “I try to make that as the approach. Sometimes I think there is enough sad stuff and anger already. I don’t feel like I need to go on a rant or anything. Man Overboard has a bit of social commentary but I wouldn’t say that it’s dark. I like up tempo, fun, and love.” However, MBF is not one to limit his compositional process. “I hear something musically that starts to resonate. I find the words come so fast. I don’t do well if I sit down with the paper, pen in my hand, and think: ‘it’s time to talk to about Camembert over cheese.’ I don’t do so well with that. I love being with other musicians for that,” he says. MBF is also conscious to state his gratitude for the support of people surrounding him such as percussionist and vocalist on tour, Andrew Ball and Katie Stanton. He conveys an unpretentious and humble tone when recognizing how it he is here because of the support from others.

MBF describes the point in which he began to recognize his characteristic voice as an Artist:” I think oftentimes you cannot listen to a body of work for a while and think ‘this is obviously better than what I did before.’ I think my computer was on shuffle one time. I was able to hear a track from an album we did a long time ago and I started clicking on it to see what it sounded like now. And I love what we’ve done. And I see I’ve been able to make a mix of music on each of these CD’s that hasn’t been defined to one thing. It’s all tied together by acoustic guitar and vocal. There’s lots of different elements. On this [YES album] there is brass but then there’s also strings and synth. We’ve been able to do what we want with all these recordings and not be so targeted or aimed [to a genre] and I think that’s a lot of the style.”

New audience members may wonder if his on stage positivity is just an act. This is not the case. His positive perspective is shaped from utter comfort with his own identity. It has come from acknowledging that he had strengths and weaknesses but he has embraced this duality with understanding. Thus, when you see him on stage – it is his core character on display. His goal is to make honest music: “I know instantly if a song is from me or not. So once that’s done and it’s released in a large sense, the way to keep it honest for me is not to dress it up too much or be larger than life. Today we played at the record tent and I forgot the words to the second half of two songs. I think a way to keep in that honest place is just to look people in the eye and not try to hide the fact that I didn’t know them. Or if I make a mistake, I just don’t care. We’re here to have fun together. And I hope that’s something that reads in that honest way,” he states with a tone with friendly truth.

MBF just notes that he wants to be part of great songs and put them down on paper. He keeps a balanced perspective towards how listeners may receive his music when his newest album ranges from quick hits like Man Overboard and Firecracker to mellow love tunes, Follow and I WilI. “I understand that some people can listen to a diverse amount of things and listen to that from top to bottom. But with some, that may not be their cup of tea, and that’s okay. If they hear me live they’ll still stick around and have a good time,” he says.

MBF is a mentor for the Galaxie Yong Performers Program presented by the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This year, emerging Artists from Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia were mentored by festival Artists. MBF reflects upon his start in making music: “I knew I wanted to make music and I just started. I knew that I wanted to play shows so I just played one. There’ll be people all the time that tell you all the time that ‘you should do this first’ or ‘you shouldn’t do do that before you’re totally rehearsed.’ I just started. I think by that kind thinking this whole thing for me has been a complete progression since day one. And it progresses all the time and I’ve never been at my best yet. I’ve been having a great time and allowing it to become what it is. I think that set me up for behaving this way. If I tried for it to be perfect out of the gates and rehearse something to death, I don’t think I would do this anymore,” he says with genuine honesty. I ask MBF what was one piece of wisdom he shared with his mentorees. MBF reveals a quote which he has taken to heart after hearing it from Steve Winwood’s guitarist, Café: “Your sole purpose is to spread joy.”

Beckoning his mentorees forward onto the stage, MBF takes off his own acoustic guitar and places it around one of the young players. He adjusts the microphone around the groups of young singers and stomps his foot and claps his hands behind them as they begin to sing. His smile and energy radiates warmth to everyone from the stage in an moment of pure joy.

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Day 2 of Winnipeg Folk Fest

Winnipeg Folk eases you into the festival spirit with two half days (Wednesday and Thursday), before throwing down the gauntlet of musical wonder with the musical workshop buffet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here are some images of life on day 2 in Bird’s Hill.

 

Winnipeg Folk Festival Workshop Picks

After spending an evening curled up with my Winnipeg Folk Festival app, listening to the Soundcloud clips, reading Artist biographies, and starring my must-see sessions. Here is where you can find me at the Winnipeg Folk Festival:

Indie 500

Sunday July 13, 2014. 1-2:15 PM. Big Bluestem.

Rueben and the Dark, The Strumbellas, and The Wooden Sky

After taking a listen to this track from the Strumbellas I am sold on this session:

Cover Me

Saturday July 12 2-3:30 PM. Shady Grove.

David Myles, JP Hoe, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Sweet Alibi, The Bros. Landreth

IMGP0012Michael Bernard Fitzgerald has been through Edmonton many times for me to catch him live in concert and I was able to see David Myles live at communitea in Camrose this past Fall. I am excited to see them on stage together to see what they come up with in addition to JP Hoe, Sweet Alibit, and the Bros. Landreth. Plus, Shady Grove is one of the stage in the woodland area so I will be looking forward to some shade mid-Saturday afternoon.

Roll on Saskatchewan

Saturday July 12, 2014. 2:30-4 PM. Big Bluestem.

Kacy & Clayton, Little Miss Higgins & The Winnipeg Five, The Deep Dark Woods, and The Sheepdogs

This workshop session is exactly the way it is. Deep Dark Woods + Sheepdogs on a stage together? I am there. Plus, I feel extremely connected to Saskatchewan after driving through that golden prairie landscape on my way over to Winnipeg from Edmonton.

A Room of Her Own

Friday, July 11 4:15-5:30 PM, Big Bluestem

Calypso Rose, Little Miss Higgins & The Winnipeg Five, Martha Redbone Roots Project, Ruth Moody, Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar.

Maybe it was the numerous years singing in treble voiced choirs but I love the sound of female singer-songwriters. I have been a fan of Little Miss Higgins, and Ruth Moody’s work in the Wailin’ Jennys for many years so to hear them on stage together, in addition established female voices, is a must see for me.

We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger Tribute

Sunday July 13, 2014 4:15-5:30 PM. Big Bluestem

Ani DiFranco, Elephant Revival, Jake Shumabukuro, Joan Beez, Reuben and the Dark, Sarah Lee Gunthrie & Johnny Iron

A folkie must pay homage where homage is due. The death of Pete Seeger was a significant musical loss this past year. There is no place I would rather be than at this workshop. I have sense that everybody at the Folk Fest will be thinking the same thing so I will be lucky to get a spot. It doesn’t hurt that headlining names like Ani DiFranco are on the workshop roster. I am also excited to hear Elephant Revival for the first time live.