Tag Archives: Winnipeg Folk Festival

Interview Preview: Fortunate Ones at the Arden Theatre


Andrew O’Brien from Fortunate Ones had some time to chat with FOTR.

How has your tour been going so far?

The tour has been fantastic. Too often stops in Saskatchewan only include Regina and Saskatoon. It has been a real education, getting to see and experience smaller towns in the province. Saskatchewan is an exceptionally beautiful place and the people we’ve met have been so welcoming and kind. We’ve also been setting up/mixing and tearing down our own sound system each night. Historically, we’ve been spoiled by having sound people and equipment provided so at first we were a little hesitant about the the time and effort it was going to take to do it all ourselves but it has been surprisingly rewarding and we’ve gotten it down to a science!

You’ve previously mentioned that the more your tour Canada the more it feels like a unified country instead of being from Eastern Canada or Western Canada, why do you think that is?

The music of this country is so diverse but it is that diversity that binds us and brings us together. We run into fellow musicians and friends as we travel from coast to coast and we see ourselves in them. We’re all out here trying to make a living at doing what we love. Rather than feeling a sense of division or competition we have come to see that there is an empowering community of like-minded artists in this country. This sense of community has been the greatest takeaway from this career. It really doesn’t matter if you’re making music in Vancouver, Saskatoon or St. John’s, we’re all trying to achieve the same goals.

There is such a strong folk music culture from your home province of Newfoundland. What do you think it is about NFLD that produces such accomplished musicians?

As Newfoundlanders we are fiercely proud and protective of our cultural heritage. We come from a culture of storytellers and singers. This sense of entertainment is almost certainly rooted in the geographical isolation of living on an island. When people started to settle in Newfoundland they brought with them oral and musical traditions from Ireland, England, Scotland, France and other regions and over time this melting pot of cultural styles has morphed into a patchwork that we think of as traditional Newfoundland music. The wonderful thing, now in Newfoundland, is that “folk music” is not solely recognized by the traditional instruments that have come to define it, rather it is a multi-genre art form that has grown exponentially over the last number of decades. It’s either that or there’s something in the water.

In the initial stages, you both were musicians in larger bands, do these larger collaborative interests still exist for you as Artists or do you find more drawn to the duo work in Fortunate Ones?

The urge to collaborate is always there and I think that is partly due to the fact that we have surrounded ourselves with such talented and inspiring people. We love what we do as Fortunate Ones but are definitely excited to expand on our sound and performances. We are looking forward to see where our next album will take that journey and will most definitely be calling on our friends to help us in that exploration.

How do you continue to challenge yourself as Artists and stay accountable to one another in your artistic vision?

We write and perform music to express ourselves and to connect with people. That connection is a powerful thing and strengthening that bond is always the goal. We always try to create work that comes from a meaningful and honest place. If we don’t hold ourselves up to a creative standard and level of honesty in the work it would be difficult to get behind the music. If we can’t stand behind our work then our fans won’t either.

Previously, you have mentioned that time is a present theme in your music, do you find that communicating through the medium of music helps to make a transient thing like time feel more permanent by capturing the moment in music?

We’ve written many songs about time, it’s passing and it’s effect. I’ve yet to come to comfortable terms with it and I suspect my trepidation surrounding it will continue to be a central theme in our creation. I can’t think of anything specifically that feels as though it has a true sense of permanence. All good and bad things fade with time. There is a joyful sorrow in moments as they pass. It’s really quite beautiful and serene to know how utterly minuscule we all are.

Is there something you would like to mention that I have not asked?

We have a Christmas EP called All Will Be Well coming out this Friday, November 4.  All details can be found at www.fortunateones.ca.

Fortunate Ones performs at the Arden Theatre Friday November 4, 2016. For more information on tickets and The Arden Theatre’s Professional Musical Series, please visit their website. Some upcoming Artists include: Aoife O’Donovan, Jayme Stone’s Lorax Project, David Myles, and The McDades.

Fun Fact: The last time Folk on the Road saw Forunate Ones was at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Friday From The Hill

Friday photos from the Hill.

Folkie FAQ

Where did July go? I swear it was just yesterday Twila and I were on the road headed to Orillia. The folkover (a.k.a. Folk + hangover) hasn’t been too bad since arriving back in Edmonton. I almost made it out to Canmore Folk Fest this past weekend but I just missed it. I was actually checking out #UncleJohn at the Banff Summer Arts Festival instead so I took a folkie weekend off to hang with my friends from the Opera Chorus.

I thought I would address from Frequency Asked Questions I’ve been getting from my friends coming back in case anybody else is interested:

Aren’t you and Twila sick of each other?

After a month of travel and almost 10,000 km on the road, you probably have to ask Twila to get a balanced perspective. However, after living in such close proximity for a long time you start to recognize each others cycles pretty well. You know when to say something and when to hold off. Sure, there are moments of cabin fever rounding hour 30 in a vehicle, but you realize it’s not really the other person that’s making you antsy but the overall travel fatigue. We also have a lot of alone time once we get at the festival since Twila is off session hopping and taking photos and I’m usually in the media tent doing interview research, transcribing, or writing if I’m not watching sessions.

How bad did you miss your bed and/or pillow?

Strangely enough, while there were moments where I did miss home, it wasn’t for my mattress. I seemed to adapt quickly enough to make a temporary home wherever I was. Plus, I am a travel narcoleptic and I can sleep anywhere pretty much instantaneously. It also helped that in Vancouver and Calgary I was staying with good friends that I don’t often see so it was a reunion time! I find that familiar people make a place feel at home since it was easy enough to find replacements for other voids like a good coffee place etc.

What did you eat?!?!

It means a great deal to me that my friends were concerned with how I satiated my voracious appetite. Firstly, I had to adapt from my structured three meals a day routine since Twila doesn’t eat full meals. She successfully subsists off a diet of black coffee, rice crackers, fruit, veggies, pepperoni sticks, boiled eggs, and chips. There were no sit-down meals during any of our travel days. For the most part, I just ate crackers, fruit, cereal, granola bars, chips, and candy. In the mornings, I would get hot water from the first pit stop to make oatmeal or use hot water to make instant noodles in the evenings. It was handy to have a utensil set that included a pair of chopsticks. When arriving in a city, we would both hit up the grocery store to replenish food stores for the rest of the festival. However, once I was at the festivals, I just ate at food trucks. Since the food is pretty well-curated and local, the eats were pretty good. Every festival had a wood-fire pizzeria option, there would often be some kind of Asian Thai food option, donairs/pitas/tacos were standard fare; however, there would be great opportunities to eat at the tasty local food truck options. A few stand-outs were the steamed white bun pulled pork and ginger beef tacos from Taiko Taco at Calgary Folk Fest, the sweet and spicy chicken karage from Mogu in Vancouver Folk Fest, the kale and quinoa salads and pulled pork from the Men with Knives food truck at Mariposa Folk Fest, and there was a tie between the chana masala from East India Company and the empanadas and watermelon/mint/feta salad at Corrientes at Winnipeg Folk Fest.

Perhaps there are more questions people are curious about? If so, they can ask me on Gallagher Hill at Edmonton Folk Fest or ask in the comments below and I will update this post with new answers.

I Survived the Winnipeg Folk Festival

I survived my first complete Winnipeg Folk Festival. I feel like I need some kind of button. It was a fine balance to ensure I had enough mental acuity to conduct interviews and keep the media updates coming from the festival while making sure I got a good sampling of the campground culture.

Twila and I visited the campground for a piece last year at the festival and we were both convinced we needed to return to camp the festival for the full experience. The campground truly comes alive in the evening with 24h drum circles, fire shows, and vibrant Art installations in the evening. The routine of our evening after Mainstage at the Festival would be to come back to the campground, I would take a nap from 12 AM-1 AM while Twila edited photos, and then we would wander the campground from 1 AM until whenever we finished. Then we would wake up at 9 AM and get ready for another full day at the festival. We braved a wide range of temperatures from searing hot humidity in the afternoons to staving off the chill from severe thundershowers on the last day. My skills at the capture and release of spiders from within our tent, taking icy cold showers from communal taps, and tuning out the ambient drumming in order to sleep are now perfected. I also have a new appreciation for sturdy tents, solar panel chargers, and glowsticks.

We completed a particular rite of passage by camping these past two festivals in Orillia and Winnipeg. I am excited to see what Vancouver and Calgary will bring.

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.

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.




Reunited with Winnipeg Folk Festival

There is nothing like the feeling of being united with an old friend. That’s what it was like as Twila and I rolled into Manitoba from North Dakota on Monday. The shimmering golden canola in the hot prairie sun was a welcome accompaniment as we drove towards Winnipeg. Out first course of action was to get some espresso at Lil Sister Coffee and to check out the locally made print t-shirts at Sew Dandee on Osborne Street. We stocked up on provisions and had our last hot shower before driving to Birds Hill Provincial Park. We set up camp and are ready for the upcoming week.