Interview with Canadian musician AARYS

Interviews
aarys photo
PHOTO CREDIT: LANE DORSEY

Contact

www.aarysmusic.com

Instagram: @itsaarys

Facebook: AARYS

Bedtime find

AARYS is an incredibly beautiful and talented singer and songwriter. On top of that – she’s CANADIAN! If you’ve read my other interviews with musicians Stuck on Planet Earth, Neon Dreams, Craig Stickland, jFEROcious, and King Khan – you would know how much I love Canadian music and supporting Canadian musicians. If you haven’t read those interviews – chop, chop! Check them out under my “Interviews” tab.

I was about to sleep when I came across AARYS’ music. I saw her name mentioned on a post relating to Stuck on Planet Earth or one of their band members. AARYS’ sultry and powerful voice in combination with the music hooked me immediately – a true gem of a discovery. I quickly bought a few of my favourite songs (Bad Thing, Different Kind of High and Leave the Light On) and looked forward to listening to them the next day.

About

AARYS, originally from the Niagara region, has made Toronto her home. Her debut single, Echo, became a SOCAN Song of the Week, and was featured on radio stations throughout Canada (e.g. CBC Radio 3 as one of “3 Ontario Songs You Need to Hear”). Her debut album, Secrets, was written in both Toronto and LA and released on April 5, 2019. Since then, she has joined Toronto label Division 88 and released a slew of new singles and remixes, with much more to come…

AARYS lives with anxiety and has become a strong advocate for mental health – releasing her song, Talk, on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2020 and organizing a singer-songwriter event as a fundraiser for CAMH. She has also spoken on the subject of mental health and music in a TEDx Talk back in 2018.  

Her music

Genre: alternative/pop/electronic

Echo (single) – 2018

Secrets (album)– 2019, songs include: What My Secrets Are, Arizona, Bad Thing, Different Kind of High, Heavy, Echo, It’s Good to Be King, Leave the Light On and Goodbye.

Talk (single) – 2020

Body Heat (single) –2020

Uninvited Guests, Glenn Gould (collab album) (Ft. the songs “No Roses” and “Better”) – 2020

Interview

Me: AARYS, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. You radiate such a positive energy from your IG photos and videos alone and it’s been great having a chance to chat with you. As I wrote up this interview, I was listening to your music and added “Talk” to my music collection. What a beautiful song.

Congratulations! You recently released your new singles “Body Heat” and “Talk”. You wrote on one of your IG posts that “Body Heat sits in the middle of two themes that hit you in the peak of lockdown: 1) the fear of losing closeness with someone you love (emotionally or physically) and 2) our very human need to touch, see and physically be with each other.”

COVID has affected the whole world in such a horrific way, but at the same time I heard many comments about the “good” things that have come out of it – mainly, the realization that there are more important things in life than being part of the rat race.

What were you doing at the time COVID took over the world stage?  And how did the pandemic affect you with respect to your music?

AARYS: Thank you so much! Before COVID first hit, I was making my living performing live full-time. I would play anywhere from 2-6 gigs in one week give or take, always commuting, and when I wasn’t gigging, I was out in the scene in some other way. I was very used to that fast-paced lifestyle, always performing and surrounded by people who would validate my talents with applause, although I would often burn out. The pandemic obviously put a complete stop to all of that. It was tough, mentally, to adjust and I got to thinking a lot about those themes in Body Heat as well as what I was going to do now. I wound up actually doing what I was always too busy to do before, which was learn how to start producing, as well as engineering my own vocal sessions. I’ve also been doing a lot of songwriting, getting tons of new stuff ready for release soon. And I actually enjoyed getting to stay put in Toronto all summer instead of being on the road. Of course, pandemic life still affects me mentally sometimes, but like you said there have been some silver linings.  

Me: I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how did you decide on AARYS as your alias? It’s an odd but interesting name.

AARYS: My first name is Sarah, and when I was about 15 or so in my first band, my bandmate started saying my name backwards, pronouncing it like “heiress”. It stuck.

Me: I saw your posts about “Uninvited Guests”. Can you explain the story behind that project?

AARYS: Myself and a collective of amazing artists, released an album that we all worked on together called Uninvited Guests. Division 88, which is the label I am a part of here in Toronto, partnered with Sony Masterworks and Primary Wave to distribute this project that remixes the works of the renowned Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould. Gould spent his life doing things differently by creating his own interpretations of classical pieces; left the world of performing for the recording studio at age 31; and basically predicted our use of technology and the way we would be making and consuming music today. Billy Wild, as the lead producer and president of Division 88, worked for several years on being granted the rights to use Gould’s recordings, and along with a team of other producers and artists, created Uninvited Guests by sampling and remixing these classical pieces. The final result was an album that was a fusion of classical samples and modern, hip hop/electronic/ pop music. I’m featured on the songs “Better”, and “No Roses” (with Your Hunni and Ro Joaquim).

Me: That’s really interesting. I’ll have to check out the new music. I watched part of your video where you were at Kensington Market shopping for a mannequin to burn for your Body Heat video.  What is the symbolism behind the mannequin being burned?

AARYS: We were really just trying to come up with a unique way to physically represent someone’s “body heat”, so we made a body hot by lighting a fake one on fire!

Me: Where do you get your musical inspiration? And do you play any instruments?

AARYS: I play guitar, piano and can still rock the flute because I played all through high school and still have one of my own at home. I first got into guitar because of my Dad. He’s also a musician, so he was probably my earliest influence. I get my inspiration from my own life mostly – relationships, experiences and often my journey with mental health. I also get influenced by favourite artists of mine. Currently I’m most in love with Bishop Briggs, BANKS and Lennon Stella.

Me: How long have you been in the music industry? And what would you say was the “moment” where you determined your path as a musician?

AARYS: Well, I’m 25 now and I’ve been working as a musician since I was about 14/15 years old. I was involved in several projects and bands over the years, but I’d say the moment I determined my own path wasn’t until I started working on my album “Secrets”, with my first single as AARYS being released in 2018. That project was the first time I felt like I was finding my sound, and being myself, and it led me to some amazing people and opportunities. I also moved to Toronto because of working on that album, and that’s been the best move ever.

Me: Now that you’ve released Body Heat, Talk and Uninvited Guests, what’s next?

AARYS: Some cool things are still about to happen while we promote the Uninvited Guests project, so stay tuned for those. And next up, I have my next single on deck as well as another exciting collaborative project in the works.

Me: That’s is very exciting. Sounds like you’ve been very busy. My personal mission in life is to find happiness. I feel that life’s too short and you can’t keep putting off the things that you want to do, because it could be too late by the time you get hit with something unknown (like in my dad’s case, he always wanted to take the Transcanada train, but then he got hit with a life-changing stroke just months after his retirement). What are some things that you do to de-stress yourself and find balance in life?

AARYS: To de-stress, I need physical activity in my life. I just love weight training. I also go to therapy when I need to check in on myself, and always make time to have long talks with my family and close friends. Otherwise, I keep trying to find the balance between being so focused on my career, and just having fun as a 25 year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her. 

Me:  You are a big advocate for mental health awareness.  You talk openly about your personal battles with anxiety and self-doubt. I enjoyed reading your comments about your album, Secret. Basically, the album was a medium for you to expose your deepest feelings and thoughts, while allowing the writing process and singing heal you. I completely agree that music has a way of influencing our brains and emotions. Plus I find that the world is too quiet without music.

I watched your short video on YouTube where you talk about your therapy sessions and the “thought replacement” technique that you learned.  An example you gave was replacing a negative thought, in your words, “if I stand up for myself, people will think I’m a bitch” and replace the thought with a fact such as “I’m always empathetic, always care about feelings…and would never do anything that was mean, so why would they think I’m a bitch?”

I can relate to you, as I had a lot of self-doubt and emotional issues growing up and it took me decades to learn not to care what others think of me. What are your thoughts on mental health specifically relating to youth?

AARYS: I just think back to when I was younger, and very clearly living with anxiety, yet having no idea that’s what was happening until I was 21 and having a terrible breakdown. I think it’s important for mental health to be widely talked about and accepted so that youth can feel comfortable asking questions and learning about mental health early on. It’s always helpful to see how many other people deal with the same thoughts and feelings as we do.

Me: I ask this of every musician I interview – what tips or advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a career as a musician?

AARYS: Try not to compare yourselves to other people, even though it’s hard when social media mainly shows you how awesome your peers are doing. Also, be as authentically yourself as you possibly can be, and you will be happiest with your art and find yourself surrounded by a lot of good people, in my experience.

Me: It was great discovering your music and having a chance to learn more about you. I’m proud of you for helping to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health and sharing your vulnerability with others, in hopes that they can find a way to open up and get the help they need. It’s also amazing how you turned your negative thoughts and feelings into such masterpieces.

When the world ever returns to some form of “normal”, you’ll see me at your next live performance.

Is there anything else that you wish to share?

AARYS: You’re so sweet! Thank you for these thoughtful questions and I’m glad you’re a fan of my music! Last thing I’ll just reiterate is to stay tuned to my socials for a couple of online performances and upcoming releases being announced soon! Also, there’s a world-wide pandemic going on, so if anyone is feeling down or unmotivated, that’s entirely and completely ok. Check on yourself and talk to each other! 

—End—

Here are a few of my favourite songs:

Interview with Canadian musician: Jeff Fero of jFEROcious

canadian music, Interviews
Photo credit: Jeff Fero/jFEROcious

Contact
Website: www.jferocious.com
Instagram: @jferocious_ 

Mystery Man

I discovered musician Jeff Fero of jFEROcious through Instagram.  What caught my attention was Jeff’s unique voice, song rhythm and videos.  That’s not all – my curiosity was piqued because there seems to be a lot going on with jFEROcious’ feed – not just “straightforward” music video clips. In fact, I didn’t realize he was a musician until one of his most recent video clip posts. The detective in me figured that he is Canadian through his use of hashtags lol. Being Canadian myself, I am really inspired by Canadian musicians and support them whole-heartedly. On top of that, I am a very curious person and wanted to learn more about this mystery man (who has no bio information on his website), so I reached out for an interview.  And here we are.

EXCLUSIVE PRE-RELEASE LISTEN

You heard it here first! I am extremely excited that Jeff offered a pre-release listen of his new tune “Our Currrency” for this interview. Click here to take a listen. Our Currency has a really great vibe. Keep your ears out for more new music from jFEROcious…

About

jFEROcious is based in Kootenay, British Columbia.  Jeff is not only a super-talented songwriter, singer and guitar player, but has skills in web/graphic design as well as video/sound editing. According to Jeff, his “broad skill set in digital media, which was [his] main side hustle in the early years, [allowed him to] keep touring, recording, and being a musical fool, ha.”  Jeff finished his university degree in marketing at The University of Lethbridge – getting a 4.0 GPA. One smart dude. He “pursued a degree in marketing after about a decade in music, after realizing that 80% of what [he] was doing with touring, promoting, and labels was marketing… 20% of it was music.” Jeff played for many punk rock bands including Live on Brighton, but decided to experiment with a different musical project which involves collaboration with other artists.

jFEROcious’ songs include: Uke, Sound Advice, Never Wait, Won’t be late, 3 days from May, and my personal favourites Hysteria Amplified, First World Tragedy, Close the Distance and Days Gone.

Jeff Fero of jFerocious
Photo credit: Jeff Fero/jFEROcious

Interview

Me: I’m always looking for new music. I remember commenting on your post when I saw your Hysteria Amplified video clip – it’s such a great song. I can’t quite grasp how that song makes me feel, but something like being caught in time in a dark spot – but in a good and interesting way. All of your songs are really solid and catchy.

Jeff, I must say that doing research for this interview was like gathering a bunch of random pieces with rough edges and trying to piece them together into a puzzle.  With my sociology, interior design and legal background, I generally like to organize my thoughts and ideas in a way that I can understand them.   If I can articulate this properly, watching your video for “Uke” feels taboo – like watching something that I’m not supposed to watch.  In the video you are looking intensely directly into the camera so watching you shave your beard seems like something forbidden.  Yet, I am oddly compelled to watch.  I suppose it is human nature to be curious! BTW – you look great without a beard 😊

You mentioned that you are experimenting with a “project” and doing some work with others to get away from your previous punk rock style of music.  If you had to “define” your new music style, how would you do so? And what are your thoughts on how your project is progressing?

Jeff: Thanks for all the kind words – they are greatly appreciated! I was really motivated to make “Hysteria Amplified”, because for me, the point of songwriting is to capture a moment in time. At times, I fall into the trap of writing, planning, rewriting, producing, and refining music – which takes time, and can end up removing the moment from the song. This one was done entirely at home during quarantine, with no production, some noticeable flaws, mixed and mastered at home – it’s just a real song from a real moment in time. I don’t often do that any more, and it felt great to make happen. I am really happy when I can look back on a song and it takes me back to an identifiable moment, and I feel this will be one of those songs. Defining the style for me is hard. I’ve been writing a ton of different songs lately – some fall into the darker indie / pop world, some are full on rock tunes, and songs like “Uke” fall somewhere in between. The purpose of jFEROcious for me, is to get away from the music I’ve become really comfortable making, and to force out something new and hopefully somewhat strange. When I first started making songs, they were certainly odd (probably a little too odd), but when I realized that people preferred hearing the refined pop rock stuff we would sometimes make, I fell into that cycle of trying to make songs that sounded a certain way. Songs with formulas and rules.  Ultimately, jFEROcious is an outlet to ditch that and make original music. I’m stoked to be getting the positive feedback I have been getting so far, but I’m in a good enough place right now that I have zero concern on making songs sound a certain way, and I am not concerned about appealing to a certain crowd. The marketer in me hates this terrible approach… but songwriting is the passion here. Not a dedication to any one sound or genre.

In terms of how the project is progressing, the relative success of the song “Uke” was a major push in the right direction. The other three songs on the initial release (Songs That Were New) were not a far stretch from my former alt rock self. But “Uke” was the first real effort to create a song without a guitar – and unexpectedly, it got more positive feedback than anything I’ve written. I even signed music over to a major record label in 2012, but there was something about “Uke” that people were liking in a way I had not experienced before. That made me a lot more comfortable in my pursuit of doing something different. In the summer of 2019, I started another four songs, and did so with zero guitar (at least in the writing stage). Making the conscious decision to do this resulted in something that feels truly unique to me. Reverse ukulele riffs, vocal basslines, pen clicks, and a pile of other experimental things found their way on to these songs. I don’t even care to divulge the full scope of weirdness. I am not doing it to come across as weird, but sometimes a pen click is a better snare sound than a snare… and you never know until you try. And you’ll never try if you’re just making music that “needs” to fit a certain mould. 

Me: So, in my opinion, you were successful in conveying your message through your song Hysteria Amplified – as I mentioned, when I listen to it I feel like I am caught in time – oddly comfortable in a dark spot.

The first part of your band name is obvious, but how did you decide on the second part of the name, jFEROcious?

Jeff:  I have long wanted to establish a “solo” musical identity. Certain bands come and go, and then songwriters like me are back at square on trying to form a band and build a new following etc. jFEROcious is me wanting to put music out as individual… but as an individual not brave enough to use his legal name ha. Largely, the name can be attributed to auto correct. Fero is my last name, and whenever you type it into a phone, the phone really wants you to type the word Ferocious. And j for Jeff. Bam jFEROcious. 

Me: That’s a good point about bands coming and going and needing to start from scratch again if they break up. I am happy that you are brave enough to venture out on your own. The music you have created is really original and fresh.

At what age did you pick up your first guitar? And at what point did you decide to pursue music?

Jeff: I honestly didn’t touch a guitar until I was 18. My friend forced me to play bass so he could have a band, and the rest is history. At 20, I dropped out of University to pursue music. At 23, I moved to Kelowna to go to a sound school. Learning music theory and how to properly record were major goals of mine, and helped me out tons. Being surrounded by various musicians was a huge help… almost all of which were far better and more experienced than I. It was non-stop music for a long time. A few bands, touring, labels… but I honestly don’t think I was very good until…. 27ish. It took me about 10 years to feel comfortable and confident in my abilities.  

Me: Do you have any other hidden talents?

Jeff: None that I can express publicly no.  

Me: You are so hilarious! Maybe you’ll disclose them in a subsequent interview?

I ask this of every musician/band I interview because I think it would be helpful for budding musicians to know –any tips or advice for anyone considering becoming a musician or being in a band?

Jeff:  Don’t make music for other people. There will always be bands and labels trying to build / replicate a certain sound. Making something that actually represents your personal creativity is way more rewarding, and holds greater potential to stand out. Don’t be Dbag. Objective talent only goes so far. If you want to book shows or festivals beyond your Instagram feed, you need other bands, artists, and venue owners to have your back. Fans too. Assuming of course that you already know how to write good music, and know where/how to deliver it – being a good person matters. Thank someone who compliments you. Watch the other bands set. Be gracious for every chance live opportunity you get. Learn covers you would never otherwise learn – and play them the way the songwriter did. Not for your shows, but to learn. For years I did pop punk covers of every hit song I liked. It was easy. When I actually sat down and learned how to play something the way the original writer did, it was hard, but vastly expanded my ability to write. Learn marketing. If you’re trying to make ground in your music… spend time marketing – as opposed to re-writing and changing songs so they fit some other mould. Don’t pay for streams, don’t pay for PR if you’re in a indie band or artist – but do learn basic marketing skills. YouTube is a great place to learn. Legit representation is hard to find, learn how to do it yourself. 

Me: While it may seem unoriginal for a band or musician to play covers, it makes sense the way you put it. I heard Al Capo of Stuck on Planet Earth say the same thing on a live stream. Jeff, you mentioned that you played with the band Live on Brighton for 5 years and performed many live shows with other bands.  Do you have plans to play live as jFEROcious?

Jeff:  Live on Brighton was definitely the epitome of my touring life. We covered Canada coast to coast and some parts of America too. That shit is hard. My reality right now is songwriting – it is far and away my favorite part of “The Biz”. I ran away from the scene and big cities to live in mountains, and I am happy to never return. There has been a bit of pressure to perform as jFEROcious, but I’ve handily talked my way out of it thus far. And well, COVID… so no immediate plans. My concern on playing live is that I have a bit of a vision for it – and that vision includes visuals and lighting etc. If it happens, it will be work – but we will cross that bridge if we get there.  

Me: What is it like working with a producer for your song Days Gone, who as you mentioned has Taylor Swift as a recording credit?  And do you plan to release an album?

Jeff: Yea, I had reach out with more than an ask on some of these new songs… I had to use a bank account too, haha. I have a studio network in the alt rock world, but it has been hard for me to find people in different genres and with different tastes. So for the song “Days Gone” I hired Matt Tryba – a fellow Canadian, who has album credits galore. Not gonna lie, it was a shock for me. He took that song in a WAY different direction than I had recorded the demo. I had to fight my urge to undo all his work, but in the end, I just trusted his choices and put it out. For the song “Sound Advice” I hired another pro, Cooper Anderson from New York, who has a grammy for his work with “FUN.” I really liked working with him, and that process was more of a collaboration with a lot of back and forth. It was a great experience, something I will likely make happen again. As mentioned, I started four songs last year, with the idea of releasing another EP. However, the way social media and Spotify have changed the game, releasing as singles give you a way better chance of being picked up on playlists and the algorithmic stuff as well. There is something so satisfying about dropping an album or even an EP – but at this stage in the game, singles are a better move for me.  

Me: What aspect do you find the most challenging about your career as a musician and self-managing yourself?

Jeff: Knowing where to direct my energy, and my budget. Spotify has changed the game in a big way. The early era of Facebook, and everyone just ripping music off the internet – circa 2008 – I think was good for indie bands. If you had a good song and worked hard, you had a chance. You knew you were not going to make any money off your music, but you could find fans easier than ever before, and you could learn the right places to play and find the right bands to play with. Shows and touring were a great bet. Now though – I think people prefer headphones to live music. While Spotify still holds potential for indie music discovery, I do think it’s a return to the days of big record labels running the show. Major playlists are controlled, and you are fed whatever Spotify decides. Apple Music and YouTube are very similar. People (and algorithms) like to see big stream numbers. For a while, finding the next new thing was a trend – Not sure that is still a thing. With that said, my career management is probably easier than most, because this time around I’ve made the deliberate decision to focus on songwriting and showcasing. So there is a lot of reliance on social media. The hardest part of this approach for me is getting people to actually listen to the songs. Lots of people see/hear the song in part, and click like or share, but that doesn’t mean they are actually listening – and if they do, it doesn’t mean they will listen more than once. You need to get them to see your track, listen to it, like it in real life (not a social like), then search and save/buy it. Social media interaction is often so superficial that it’s hard to tell who is a fan, or who just wants you to go like their stuff. 

Me: I totally agree with your comments about “social likes”. The world is a totally different place now and you can’t tell who is really interested in your posts or following you just for the hell of it. The most annoying thing for me is getting tagged in advertising. For me, Milka brand has been tagging me – when I am vegan!!! Since a lot can be done online and through social media these days, how has COVID-19 impacted your daily life and music?

Jeff: Well, I was enjoying Mexico when the borders were shutdown… so that was fun. But we all got home, and made it to quarantine. I live in a very quiet area, so COVID has really just been something I see in the news. That said, our local shops are being pummeled, but that’s a conversation for another day. Oddly enough, I had a bunch of music scheduled for release between March and July – so the timing was good as I had time to work on some video/visual pieces. A big part of luring people into that first listen is a good visual. I think everyone being at home helped the song releases get more attention than normal. But (unfortunately) people have been bored and scrolling social media more than ever. So for me… I guess the timing was right. But honestly, watching bars like The Hideout in Toronto close their doors forever – among many others – is concerning. Venue owners labour for the love of it… not the profit. I think the Canadian live music landscape is in trouble. We’ve got a huge country, that is very hard to tour at the best of times. Without those venues in the small cities that most people haven’t been to, there will be a lot less up and comers getting the chance to hone their skill and build a fan base.  

Me: Yes, it is looking like a grim future for some music venues. But hopefully, music supporters will be quick to return to venues after all this is over. To name three – which musicians or bands would you say had the most influence on your music?

Jeff: I grew up on Green Day – and sure, I can brag about listening to their earliest music as an elementary kid, but the American Idiot album is a course in songwriting unto itself. Can’t even say I listen to them much anymore, but influence is there and it’s permanent. AWOLNATION had a huge impact on me. I watched their front man Aaron play in a few bands and grow spectacularly as a songwriter. From grunge punk rock into whatever they are now. I think he’s as legit a songwriter as they come. And the bands ability to take that highly produced music into an incredible live show is impressive.  Fall Out Boy was, perhaps to my detriment, the band I always tried to check my songwriting against in my rock days. I learned a lot of structure and format from the production in their music. But the biggest thing is vocal pattern and singing style. I can’t sing half the stuff their front man Patrick does, but if I’m ever stuck on a vocal melody, I will crank a few Fall Out Boy tunes for inspiration. 

Me: Interesting – I will have to check out AWOLNATION. Never heard of them before.

I finished my entire first draft of my novel manuscript back in April but decided to re-work the entire format. It’s a bit of a frustrating process and I find it hard to focus at times. How do you deal with re-working your music? Have you ever spent a lot of time working on a piece and scrap it at the end?

Jeff: Well that’s super cool. I always though writing a novel would be an incredible feat. Not that I want to do it… but the time and effort, impressive! The first time I noticeably took the time to do that was in “Uke”. I finished the demo, and the bridge was straight up boring. Usually, I would just go into the studio and spice it up with instruments and background sounds, but that can be a total cop-out. So I cut it out in full and made a new one. It is way better, and part of the reason song has been well received. As far as full songs being scrapped – that has definitely happened too. However, I don’t think any of them ever go fully to the graveyard. Instead they live on a hard-drive waiting to be revived one day. At least that’s what I tell myself. 

Me: You posted about SOCAN royalties and asked people to guess how much you have made from royalties, and if someone guessed you would give them the money.  I can relate to your comments about micro-pennies from my own experience with my blog site.  Since I began my blog about a year and a half ago – despite having thousands of views, I have made a whopping $0.57! There’s no retirement with these funds.  Lucky for me, sharing my writing is not my day job.  So, will you now reveal the answer?

Jeff: I coooooulllld reveal the answer, but you know…. “Mystery Man”. Kidding, it was $0.98. I think the most I’ve ever made from SOCAN was about $600 in a year – and that was from full scale touring and some FM radio play. In the streaming world, most royalty payments come right from your music distributer these days, so I’m not actually sure why SOCAN paid me at all. Last year I probably made about $150 off about 16,000 streams/purchases. This year is looking better, but ya… streaming music isn’t the best choice of day job.  

Me: Actually, it’s really funny, because by the time I drafted and posted this interview, I made $0.99 from my site. Jeff, this interview has been a great opportunity to learn more about you, your music and the finicky music industry. Thank you again so much for agreeing to this interview.

Everyone – if you haven’t already, check out jFEROcious’ music. Help Jeff increase his “micro-penny royalties”!  I have been helping while enjoying great tunes. Jeff, any last thoughts that you would like to share with your existing fans and new ones?

Jeff:  Beyond “THANK YOU” I should probably wrap this up! Though – I really would like to know what other artists or bands I sound like. It is a question I often get and don’t really know how to answer. So if you do listen, drop me a line with what you think!

Thanks for everything Monica! 

—End—

For you guys (apparently like me lol) who enjoy watching guys shave:

Here are a few of my favourite songs:

Interview with Al Capo of Canadian band: Stuck on Planet Earth

canadian music, Interviews

Written by Monica Ng


Get in touch with Stuck on Planet Earth

www.stuckonplanetearth.com
Instagram: @stuckonplanetearth
Facebook: Stuck on Planet Earth

!!!ALERT: STUCK ON PLANET EARTH’S DEBUT ALBUM RELEASE DATE IS JUNE 26, 2020!!!

Photo credit: Stuck on Planet Earth

Phoenix Theatre

November 22, 2019.  That was the day I was first exposed to Canadian band, Stuck on Planet Earth. Stuck on Planet Earth was Moist’s supporting band. I have been a fan of Moist since I was about 18 years old and I am a huge supporter of Canadian music.  It’s always great to discover new artists and music. I even picked up a free nifty Stuck on Planet Earth logo sticker at the merch table. Recently, I took the sticker on my forest run. Pictures from the photo shoot are pictured above. I thought it would be suitable for this post, as it would appear that the astronaut was indeed stuck on planet earth!

I was just polishing up my interview with Neon Dreams when I caught one of Stuck on Planet Earth’s live streams on Instagram. It was a lot of fun because Adam and Al had the chance to answer all of my questions during the stream. I decided to reach out to Al about participating in my blog interview. I was totally honest with Al and wrote that I was just discovering their band and would need to do some research in order to prepare my interview.  Further, I told him that I am not a professional writer but write for the love of it. So no pressure right? Nah.

About

Stuck on Planet Earth is an alternative rock band based in Toronto.  The band is made up of three members – Al Capo (vocals, songwriter and bass), Adam Bianchi (vocals and guitar) and Andrew Testa on drums.  The “3As” band! The band has been playing together since 2007.

Anthem Records recently signed up them up for a record deal.  The record label represents bands like Rush and Big Wreck. Stuck on Planet Earth will be releasing their first album titled, Beautiful Nowhere on June 26, 2020. Prior to this album, they mostly released singles. Their repertoire of songs includes: Higher than the Drugs, Rising, Permanent, I Want it Now, Just to Have You, Gone, Another, Lights So Low, Stay Away, Alive and so many more…

Stuck on Planet Earth
Photo credit: Stuck on Planet Earth

Interview

Me: Al, you are a singer, songwriter and bass player. I find this very impressive – as I cannot sing, write songs, or play any instruments. I am so honoured to have a chance to interview you.  From what I gather so far, you are super-charismatic and a “straight-to-the-point” kind of person.  Adam and Andrew – you guys are very talented as well! You guys are all so well-spoken – I am enjoying your live streams/chats. Al, I appreciate and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in my interview.

What I remember most about your band from the concert was your enthusiasm.  You guys were genuinely excited to be on stage and there was definitely a positive vibe. The one bad thing was the quality of the sound at Phoenix Theatre.  A friend warned me about the issue.  The vibration of the music made it difficult to hear any lyrics and the guitar and drum sounds were a bit muddled for both yours and Moist’s performance.  I basically had to stand near the back to have better sound. That might be the reason that I wasn’t completely hooked on your music already.

Al, thanks for directing me to a Podcast your band did with Michael McDonnell (@allaboutthesong – Episode #68). You told Michael that at the start of your band’s musical career, people were telling you that you sung/played out of tune. But you guys practiced and persisted. Music is obviously a passion for you guys and you have been playing since high school.  Because becoming a musician is not a traditional path, I ask you the following question – what was the “defining” moment when you knew that you wanted to pursue a career as a musician and did anyone encourage or try to discourage you?

Al: I’m not so sure there was a defining moment. I think it was just the passion and desire to create, write songs, and perform live… once I really delved into it, I knew that no matter what, I always wanted music to play a big part in my life. Like in anything, once our band started to make a name for itself- it was like “oh okay, maybe we can actually do this”. Of course along the way there have been people who have not favoured my career path, but to be honest, I’m not the type of person who really ever cared what others thought of me. I truly believe in life you’re supposed to carve out your own path. 

Me: I love your don’t care attitude and totally agree about finding ones own path in life. Any advice for those considering pursuing a career as a musician?

Al:  I usually don’t like to give advice, because there isn’t a rule book that tells you how to pursue a career in music. However, I think one has to be willing to get knocked down, and have really thick skin. I also think staying true to your authentic self is very important. If you can remain true to who you are, while creating your art – that to me, is more important than any accolades. 

Me: I have to ask because I am curious and cannot find the information anywhere – how did you guys decide on your band name? To be honest, when I first heard your band’s name, it took me a long time to remember it – I just knew it was something about planet Earth. But, when I think about your name now, I am reminded that so much happens in our lives and this planet called Earth, so to be “stuck” here may be a bad thing?!

Al: We wanted our band name to be a statement. A name that could make someone feel something, whether that’s a curious feeling, or an understanding. Also, given the chaotic ridden times we’re currently living in – it seems our band name because it’s more relevant as each day passes. 

Me:  Yes, I remember you mentioned in one of your live streams that the astronaut in your Higher Than The Drugs video was roaming around in a deserted place – which is similar to our empty streets post-COVID-19. The pandemic has definitely taken a toll on the world.  You were probably performing a lot before then. Shortly after the Moist concert, I saw that you guys were playing at The Drake. I wanted to catch your SOLD-OUT show but didn’t get a chance. What is a typical COVID-day for you? How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

Al: Before the pandemic we were either in the studio recording, or touring and playing shows. Although all of our summer touring plans have been cancelled, the positive out of the situation is that it’s really allowed us to focus on our social media presence, and given us the opportunity to connect with our supporters and fans. 

Me: Just to get to know you a bit better – aside from music, what are some other hobbies/interests?

Al: I like to make art @kid_capo, [Instagram account], I love basketball, hiking, and love hanging out with my family and close friends. 

Me: That’s amazing! You recently mentioned your artistic talents in a live stream. I can’t say that I’m surprised that you have more talents. I will definitely check out your art. Generally speaking, what drives you and keeps you going both in life and your music career?

Al: To me, I’ve always been driven by the notion that we can’t take anything with us when we leave this place. Making music and art is my imprint on the world, and I love that sentiment – as morbid or beautiful as that is, depending on how you choose to look at it. 

Me: As I am getting older, I too have come to the same realization -that we can’t leave earth with any physical possessions, so I am all about life experiences versus material items. I would much rather go hiking or kayaking and surround myself with nature than drive around in a fancy car. How do you manage your stress day-to-day and when touring?

Al: Haha, I’m not that great at stress management. I’m a bit of a control freak with a lot of OCD tendencies. Luckily, Stuck has a great team around us who help us manage all the stresses that come along with the lifestyle. 

Me: I believe that what music people listen to can provide a lot of insight into who they are, so I ask this question of everyone. I know that I asked you guys this during your live stream, but I have to admit that I was only half-listening because I was working at the same time –oops sorry! Who are your top 3 favourite musicians/bands?

Al: I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to just 3 – but I can tell you some of my big musical inspirations: The Police, Cage The Elephant, Nirvana, Jimmy Eat World, Killing Joke, The Raconteurs, the Gypsy Kings … the list could go on. 

Me: I haven’t heard of one-third of those musicians and will definitely check out some of their music. I’m sure the life of a musician is exciting.  What is the craziest thing a fan ever did for you?

Al: I don’t know about crazy – but when we first started touring the US, we had a rough go on a few dates, and a fan decided to put us up in a hotel, where we could get some real rest and recovery time from all the floors we had been sleeping on. So not crazy, but nicest thing. Very grateful to that fan to this day. 

Me: In the Podcast with Michael McDonnell, you talked about your band working together and being on the same page; and being straight when working towards your common goal. Whereas, other bands often break apart possibly due to resentment of one member (ex. one person does all the work).  Did you ever have conflict with Adam and Andrew, where you couldn’t agree on a particular direction for your music? And if so, how did you overcome the obstacle?

Al: We love like brothers, and at times fight like brothers. I think over time, we have just learned our individual roles in this band, so we don’t step on each other too much. We usually overcome conflict by talking very openly and honestly and don’t hold anything back.

Me: That’s great that you can be open with each other and not let anger manifest itself. On that note, you are known for writing and singing about the raw blunt truth of life. Your band plays songs about topics that most people would shy away from – like in your song, Another. It’s actually one of my favourite songs. The lyrics go, “I am thinking about another when I’m with you.”

I studied sociology and psychology in university and mostly explored concepts of human nature.  While it may be normal to think of someone else while being with another, no one vocalizes it.  Correction – no one except you guys! What type of feedback have you received from friends, family, or fans about your lyrics in general? Has anyone told you that you are singing about their life?

Al: A lot of people have told us that our lyrics really resonate with them in many different ways emotionally. That’s why we do this, to connect with people through our music – we’re very grateful for the privilege of being able to communicate through our music. 

Me: From what I gather –  over the years you have been releasing singles for budgetary reasons as well as allowing people to enjoy one song at a time.  You also mentioned that when albums are produced, some songs get lost on an album. How do you feel now that your first album is about to be released? Do you think that some of the songs will ‘get lost’?

Al: I think we’re at a point now where our style and sound is very focused. We know which direction we’re headed sonically, and all we can hope, is that it doesn’t get lost. 

Me: Can you give your fans a hint of what “vibe” your overall album will have?

Al: Beautiful Nowhere is a very dynamic record – it’s all rooted in alternative rock; it’s vibey, dancey, and anthemic. 

Me:  I’m so glad that I stumbled onto your Instagram live stream because I had a chance to re-visit your music. I am hooked now and can’t get enough. Seriously looking forward to listening to the new songs on your album and catching you guys in concert.  I have already pre-ordered your digital album 🙂 I wish you the best of luck with your new album.  Thank you again for agreeing to this interview and your time.

Everyone out there – check out Stuck on Planet Earth’s music. They are Canadian and TOTALLY rockin’!!! Before wrapping up this interview, do you have anything else that you wish to share with your fans?

Al: Our debut album Beautiful Nowhere is our everywhere on June 26th! 

—End—

Here are a few of my favourite songs:

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Interview with Canadian Band: Neon Dreams

canadian music, Interviews

Written by Monica Ng

neon dreams logo
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

This post is dedicated to Lauren (IG: @neon_dreams_lover), who I met through Instagram because of our shared love of Neon Dreams.  I don’t know Lauren personally, but I could tell by her posts that her life is profoundly affected by Neon Dreams’ music and her interaction with them. Plus she reminds me of a younger version of myself.

Get in touch with Neon Dreams

www.neondreams.ca
Instagram: @neondreams
Facebook: Neon Dreams

Love at first concert

If you have been following my other posts, you would know that I only discovered Neon Dreams in October, 2019, after I saw their name listed as one of Tyler Shaw’s opening acts. When I searched for their music on YouTube the night before the concert, I started dancing the moment the smooth and catchy rhythm of About You played.

Long story short, Neon Dreams played at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. I enjoyed their performance so much that immediately following the concert, I bought their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams. I was really lucky to have a chance to meet Neon Dreams’ dynamic duo in person at the Meet and Greet following the show. I told Frank and Adrian that they have a new HUGE fan.  I just had to see them again as I was hooked. For the first time ever, I bought tickets to a concert for the opening/supporting act and not the main performer. Sadly, the Strumbellas concert was cancelled due to a health issue of one of their members. Neon Dreams and Frank Kadillac have already inspired a couple of my blog posts (Dreamin’ of Neon Dreams and Pure Happiness) which are posted on my site. If you are curious about the meaning behind their vibrant orange and white logo, you can read about it on Neon Dreams’ Instagram account and Facebook page.

neon dreams
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

About Neon Dreams

Canadian talent alert! Neon Dreams is made up of Frank Kadillac (Vocalist and Ukulele player) and Adrian Morris on drums and guitar. Frank and Adrian are from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Neon Dreams released their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams in 2019 and was touring in Canada and the United States up to the time the Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19) began its spread across the world. Neon Dreams is currently working on a new album, which will include the three songs they released this year, Turn Back Now, Walk Away and most recently released – Sick of Feeling Useless. Did you know that Neon Dreams was also nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards?! Also, the super-creative guys created their own stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless (see YouTube video below the interview).

Interview

Me: Frank, you rock. Adrian, you rock.  I have nothing more to say. Just kidding! I always have more to say. 

Frank, you command the stage with your constant movement and jumping off speakers – and of course, your vocals are incredible. Adrian, I am totally mesmerized by your drumming. You are the most amazing drummer I have ever seen perform.

You guys make it look so easy performing on stage – a true indication of the hard work and dedication that goes into your music and performances. How much time would you estimate that you put into the preparation for your concerts? And how do you handle the stress of touring?

Frank/Adrian:  Since we were kids we’ve dreamed of being on stage, played in so many bands and watched so many YouTube videos of our favourite acts crush it live… I feel like we have been preparing for each show since grade 10 haha. To this day I’m watching Linkin Park at Rock am Ring on YouTube hoping that one day we can do that!

Me: Frank, I read on your Instagram post that you have to do a lot of cardio to maintain your energy on stage.  What else do you do to keep in shape both physically and mentally? 

Frank: Reading self help books to get different perspectives of life usually helps my mental health a lot. Before doing this I was a wreck… I don’t know why “reading books”  was an uncool thing to do when I was growing up. After reading the books I’ve read, I gained this knowledge I can never forget that just adds to my armour.

Me: Frank, I can totally appreciate your comments about reading books. I didn’t go out much as a kid and spent my time with my nose in a book. My love of reading lives on. You can visit a whole other world through a book.

Adrian, I ask you the same question – how do you keep in shape both physically and mentally? Also, I saw from your posts that you are a movie buff. What are your top 3 favourite movies of all time?

Adrian: I find it pretty hard to keep up with working out when we’re on the road (although moving all the gear counts right?!), but when I’m home I make sure to run and hit the gym as much as I can. I try to run 5 km every other day or so. Mentally I try to explore and enjoy everywhere we go as much as possible even if that’s just taking a walk in the town or city we’re in or checking out some locally fave spots. I’m usually the one on the road trying to find all the good food spots. 

Top 3 movies!

  1. Lord of The Rings Trilogy
  2. Entire Star Wars Collection
  3. Tarintino Films

I couldn’t just pick three so I went with collections.

Me: It’s great you work to stay in shape. About food – I totally get you – I love food too! Adrian, your drumming is crazy amazing. I mentioned to you before that I tried to do your drumming move where you effortlessly cross your arms over to hit the cymbals. I admit that I was struggling! Frank mentioned somewhere that when he was initially looking for a drummer you were able to play his songs immediately. When we were chatting at the Meet and Greet, you talked about your talent for playing many instruments.  It’s obvious to me that music is in your blood. How long have you been drumming and playing guitar? And what other instruments do you play?

Adrian:  I’ve been playing drums since I was about 13! I started off on piano before that. I didn’t have a lot of friends that took music as seriously as I did so I had learn as many instruments as I could, so I could record demos on my own without having to rely on anyone else. But then I met Frank! 

Me: Adrian, it’s really interesting that you learned how to play instruments so as not to rely on anyone. You have such a gift. Wish I had musical talent.

I know you guys must be disappointed that your tours are postponed for now because of the pandemic, but it’s amazing that you guys have been going live on Instagram during this time. It’s so kind of you to chat with the world and share your music.  What are your thoughts about how the pandemic has changed the world?

Adrian:  We try to find the positive or upsides to every situation no matter how hard or blindsiding it may be. We’re actually really excited to have this time to work on our new music and live show. It’s like a video game, you can’t make it to the next level without training your skills first.

Me: I am really excited about your new album. What are you thinking about for a theme for your album?

Frank/Adrian: All I can say is that its going to feel like the soundtrack to a coming of age movie from early 2000s!

Me: Can’t wait! I am curious how you guys co-ordinate to work on your album with Frank living in Arizona?

Frank: I don’t live there – just there from time to time between seasons! Me and Adrian are always together.

Me: Awww…you guys are the sweetest! Based on your fans’ posts on Instagram and your own posts, you guys really have a way of connecting with people. You mentioned that people tell you their own personal stories about their lives and how your music may have changed things for them. Frank, you have shared your deepest secrets about your life with the world. Your message is constantly one of staying positive and love. What is the message that you would like to share here?

Frank: I told this once in an interview because I can only express things that are deep with people that seem like they care but I feel like you do. I tried to harm myself and it didn’t really work thankfully, but before that I had an ex share with me a book – she said I was gonna need it someday (she was very spiritual) and of course the book was right there when my darkest night came around. It taught me how to meditate and find my purpose. Over thinkers like me that don’t have a purpose can get lost in a fog of thoughts that lead to one thing “why am I here?” but I found my purpose through meditation. I’m just here to help people find their true selves. I used to try and be person that helps people one on one and fix problems they bring to me but I was bad at that and realized I have the power of music, so I’m just building this sanctuary for all the misfit toys that were lost like me. 

Me:
 Frank, I really appreciate you sharing something so personal with me and your fans. I know you have been through a lot growing up, and I am happy that you have found your “path”. Your story is very inspirational.

Adrian, what is your vision for the music that Neon Dreams produces?

Adrian:  It has to feel good when played live! We have so many genre influences and we incorporate all of them into our music but the one thing about all the artists we love in all these different genres is their music ALWAYS feels massive in a live show and makes the crowd move. 

Me:
 Do you guys have any tips for people who want to pursue a career as a musician?

Frank: 
Listen to people that live the life and have the career you’re working towards.

Me: “I had a dream, you were a red lush maple leaf, losing its identity…I wish there was a little flood, a little flood just to carry you…” (Lyrics from About You).  Those are probably one of my favourite lyrics so far. I spent a long time learning the lyrics and belting out the song with my then five-year-old.  He is one of your big fans too. We had About You on auto-repeat for about two months straight. What I love about your music is the vibe and energy. Your songs are upbeat compared to other sad songs out there. I also like that some of your songs begin with a certain rhythm then changes in the middle to a different style at together – like your song, If Not Now, When?

What is/are your favourite song(s) on your album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams?

Frank: Sweet Dreams till Sunbeams and Life Without Fantasies!

Adrian: If Not Now, When? We Were Kings and About You.

Me: Adrian, those are my favourites as well. Frank, I like Life Without Fantasies too. When I am out hiking, I think how amazing a place is and fantasize about all sorts of things. I think of your lyrics, “what is life without fantasies” and it’s true – life is nothing without some fantasies. Fantasies keep us going. You have no idea how many times I have sung, About You, in the forest – usually when I am alone lol. Thinking about your red lush maple leaf! I just did a whistle version video!

I believe that the type of music someone listens gives a lot of insight into that person. Most of my favourites are Canadian – you guys, Matthew Good, Moist/David Usher, Ria Mae and Craig Stickland. Who are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Frank: 
Funny you say that. That’s what I say all the time. When someone tells me their favourite song I know instantly who they could possibly be. If I was rating it off of which artist I can listen to every single song and love, it would be Linkin Park, Coldplay and The Fray.

Adrian: I feel through music instrumentally first then lyrically usually. I need to feel emotion through what’s going on through the instruments. Blink 182, Sum 41 are the only artists I probably know their entire discography and I return to the most. Bring Me The Horizon’s album AMO ignited a whole new sense of inspiration for me.

Me: On a topic unrelated to music (directly at least): I love tattoos. I currently have three of my own. One of them says, “This Thing Called Life”, which is the title of my personal blog site.  It represents my journey through life and its ups and downs, and my love of writing. I notice that you guys have a lot of interesting tattoos, so here’s a more personal question that I hope you don’t mind answering. What is the symbol of one of your tattoos and the meaning behind it/reason why you got it?

Frank: I have 3 hearts on my hand from the game Zelda. Only one half of one heart is filled in to remind me when I’m at my lowest I’m still alive I still have a heart beat and the game is not finished yet.

Adrian:  I’m Algonquin of Pikwakanagan and I have my tribes emblem tattooed on my arm. My grandmother was forced into residential schooling in the 1950’s and after that some of my family hid our indigenous blood. I can understand why that may be. But it’s important for me to show proudly who I am.

Me: Very cool Adrian. Great story behind your tattoo. Your arm tattoos are beautiful. Frank, after you returned this interview to me, I wrote back to you about how I got chills reading about the symbolism behind your hearts. I can relate to how you feel when you are down to just one ‘life’ in video games – same thing for real life.

It’s been great learning more about both of you. I have been wanting to chat with you guys for a while. When you agreed to do this interview, I had to sit and think long and hard about the questions that I wanted to ask you. There’s just something magical about you guys and trying to capture the essence is not an easy feat.  Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  It means so much to me and probably your fans out there.  I am really looking forward to hearing new music from you guys and seeing you in concert again.  Also, your friend, Alex Gayoso (IG: @alexgayoso_) has done some amazing videos for you guys! I enjoy all of your videos. Everyone out there – check out Neon Dreams’ music. They rock!

Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?

Frank: Look out for each other this is your family you guys built this – we just provide the music.

Adrian: Take care of each other, meet each other, become friends with each other because like Frank said – you guys created this and we’re a community together. 

–End–

Check out the cool stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless:

A few of my favourite Neon Dreams tunes

In this thing called life, really “connecting” with others is a truly an amazing experience.

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Interview with Canadian Musician, Craig Stickland

canadian music, Interviews
Craig Stickland musician
Photo credit: Craig Stickland
https://www.instagram.com/craigstickland/

How Craig came into my life

To be honest, I never heard of Craig Stickland until October, 2019, when the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts announced his name together with Neon Dreams (as opening acts for Tyler Shaw).  That evening, all of the artists put on an awesome show and later came out for an amazing meet and greet. I find that meet and greets are the ultimate part of a concert experience – as it’s a chance to make a connection between the music you listen to and the musician(s). Some artists are particularly interactive when it comes to social media as well. From my personal experience, Craig and Neon Dreams take the time to interact with their fans, which makes them really down-to-earth and personable.

Typical me, when my writing bug comes out, I write about everything new that I experience. However, it took me some time to write an Instagram post about Craig’s performance after I first saw him in concert, because I needed time to digest it. During his performance he played mostly rock songs that I couldn’t really relate to, but I was blown away by his last song, Break Every Rule. That song really showcased his powerful and soulful voice.

Craig has this intangible quality to him – a certain vulnerability and old soul wrapped into a rugged yet sexy “stereotypical” rocker (wink, long hair, goatee, t-shirt, black jeans and black leather jacket). Craig left me wanting more. I was so happy when he announced that he had an album in the works.

Release of Starlit Afternoon

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Craig just recently launched his album titled, Starlit Afternoon, on February 28, 2020

I listened to his album the morning it was released.  My favourites so far are: Starlit Afternoon, Break Every Rule, Good Love and Stop at Nothing. If I were to take a stab at Craig’s album music style, I would say it’s a mix of alternative rock, with a touch of country, jazz, blues and soul.

About Craig

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Canadian talent!

Craig was born in Vancouver then moved to Toronto when he was 3 years old. He is currently living in Los Angeles where he continues his modelling and singing career. Craig discovered his passion for music when he was about 16 years old. He picked up his first guitar when he was 16 years old and was the singer in his high school band. Finally, after finding his true passion in life, he released his first EP titled, Leave me to the Wild, which includes songs such as Break Every Rule and Tears in the Rain.

Craig has toured with some amazing Canadian talent. To name a few: Tyler Shaw, Alessia Cara and Matthew Good.

Interview

Me: Craig – I am so excited and honoured that you agreed to an interview with me. Thank you for taking the time for me and your fans.

Congratulations! You just released your new album titled, Starlit Afternoon on February 28, 2020.  I read that the last song, Good Love, on your album took about five years to write. What part of the process took the longest? And how did you finally “let go” and decide that it is complete?

Craig: The part of the process that took the longest was finding the right production to match each song. When a song is written it can be produced any number of ways, and the experimentation until I was satisfied is what took so long. There’s a gut feeling when you know something is done. You also need to trust your friends and collaborators. 

Me:  I only recently discovered that you are multi-talented.  You are a songwriter, singer, guitar player, piano player, actor and model! Do you have any other interests/talents? Being a musician is quite different from modelling – what would you say was the “turning point” in your life, where you decided to become a musician?

Craig: I decided I wanted to be a musician in high school when there was a band that needed a singer. I auditioned, got the role and was hooked. Recently I’ve been very into designing and making furniture as well. I started a studio furniture company with a close friend called @callusandco

Me: I love that you are so real. In one your Instagram post’s you mentioned renting out your apartment as an Airbnb, so that you could afford to keep touring/working on your music career.  I messaged you if that was the life of a musician, and you replied, for some.  With this in mind, do you have any tips or words of advice for people who are considering becoming a musician?

Craig: Everybody’s path is different, but I’d say there’s no substitute for hard work and dedication to your craft. Unless you get incredibly lucky very early on, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to continue pursuing your dreams. My journey is coming up on a decade and a half, and I just put out my first album. 

Me: Your white van seems to be a huge part of your life. You coined some of your songs as part of the “The Van Sessions” (Very creative by the way!). For some reason your van reminds me of the one in Scooby Doo!  I enjoyed watching your YouTube video (see video below) where you were building the interior of your van to make it liveable and Canadian winter-proof. I am sorry to say that I was chuckling when you were cursing in your video 😊 What is it like to live out of a van? Do you ever feel claustrophobic?

Craig: I really like living out of the van and I do feel claustrophobic at times, but only when my van isn’t clean. It’s taught me a lot about living simply, focusing on minimalism and being organized. 

VIDEO OF CRAIG BUILDING HIS VAN

Me: I know that life inspires your music. What was your inspiration for Starlit Afternoon?

Craig: I’m always inspired by my personal experiences, feelings and emotions. The daily things I go through in life, that we all experience in some form or another. I try to find the best expression of that and create it into a song. 

Me: Other than meditation, how do you manage all the stress that you are going through?  It couldn’t have been easy touring and trying to finish your album at the same time.

Craig: If I don’t center my day with a workout, I feel stressed. I’ve been really into daily journaling as well and making furniture keeps me in a very present mindset. 

Me: Please also finish this sentence (lyric from Phil Collins’ song, Groovy Kinda Love):

Craig:  “When I’m feeling blue…all I have to do is sing a tune.” 

Me: Very cool. I wish I could sing. Is there anything else that inspires your music? 

Craig: Other music, or often times a powerful film or documentary. 

Me: So many of my favourite musicians are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams and Ria Mae. I love my music like crazy! But I recently discovered that I had no idea what type of music my family and friends listened to.  I find that knowing what type of music people listen to is enlightening and tells a lot about that person. Who/which bands are your top 3?

Craig: I’ve recently been incredibly into Frank Ocean. Coldplay is one of my favorites especially after touring with them and seeing them live every night, and John Mayer was a huge influence when I was coming up. 

Me: I am really enjoying your new album. I think you would be happy to hear this:  My daughter always shuts down my music the moment I start the music in the car.  When I was playing your album for the first time, I told her I could sing Break Every Rule. Suddenly she turned off the music. I was like What the hell?! -thinking she was shutting me down again. Turns out she was waiting for me to continue singing your song. Then she actually turned the music back on.  But of course, that now that she’s heard your album once – it’s turned off again.

When will you be touring again?

Craig: I’m pretty much always on the road at some point or another, although I don’t have a tour booked at the moment, I’m sure something will come through with the release of my album! 

Me: Is there anything else you would like your fans to know about you and/or your music?

Craig:  I think you covered it all, thank you! 

Me: On that note: Craig, you can sing to me any time.  I hope to catch one of your Toronto shows soon.  Thank you again for being so open to this interview and your time.  You are super-talented and not to mention – gorgeous! I hope everyone discovers your music soon. Best of luck with your new album.

***** END *****

A few of my favourite tunes

In this thing called life, you never know what could happen when you just ask. Like this interview!

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Interview with childrens’ book author, Kelly Charleson

book reviews, Interviews, Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to my new friend, Kelly Ann Charleson, who took the time to DM me on Instagram — pointing out that we are both children book authors, plus HUGE fans of Matthew Good!  On top of that she has the same name as my daughter and has two sisters as well!

photo of childrens author kelly charleson
Photo credit: Kelly Charleson

Kelly Ann Charleson is the author of “If I were a Dinosaur”, and The Woodland Series: “The Deer”, “The Den” and “The Socks”. She is a passionate writer and illustrator. Kelly is originally from Australia, but now lives in Ottawa.

You can follow her on Facebook: Kelly Ann Charleson and Instagram @kellyanncharleson

Below are the links to her current four books:
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9334245-the-socks
https://www.blurb.com/b/9337555-the-den
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9311692-the-deer
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9337490-if-i-were-a-dinosaur

Kelly’s story

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Kelly, as she is one busy lady! 

I wanted to share Kelly’s story, because she is so genuine and has such a lovely message behind her books.  As well, her stories are not ‘typical’ – three of her books deal with difficult life issues written in a way that children can understand and relate to: such as miscarriage in pregnancy/loss of a sibling (The Deer), living with an auto immune disease (The Socks) and loss of a parent/adoption (The Den).

Me: Recently, you posted a copy of an ‘old treasure’ – a book titled: “Kelly’s Holiday Story Book” on Instagram.  You wrote: “Looks like I’ve been an author/illustrator from the start.”  It’s amazing what children are capable of creating on their own, if left to their own vices.  I find that these days, kids don’t have a lot of down time -just a chance to sit down and be creative.  I remember spending my childhood engaged in creative play and drawing, but my own kids don’t really like to read (think electronics!).

So, what exactly motivated or inspired you to begin writing and illustrating for publication?

Kelly: I’ve known for years that someday, I would like to be a foster mom, so until I’m in a position to do so I’ve joined a few groups so that I can learn more about the reality of it all. One thing that stood out to me was the amount of parents asking for recommendations of books that deal with issues relating to foster care and adoption, and how few fictional resources there were to meet those needs. Initially, I was making books for the little ones in my life just for fun, but once I realized that there is need for these very niche, touchy topics to be addressed, I decided to create The Woodland Family series, and started making my books available to a wider audience.

Me: It’s hard enough to be a self-published author and your book content is very unique.  I asked you why you included a full free preview of your books on blurb.ca, and you replied that you wanted to “make sure that any child who could benefit from reading one of my books is able to access it, whether or not an adult can buy it for them.”  That is ABSOLUTELY amazing! So, with this in mind, what are your plans to reach your target market?

Kelly: Once I start taking my books to markets, libraries, schools, etc., I’m hoping that the exposure and word of mouth will help the books to find the children who might need them. In addition to that, I hope to continue teaming up with local organizations that are relevant to the topics covered in my books. I really enjoy supporting worthwhile causes, so if an opportunity for working together to bring attention to an important issue arises, I’m more than happy to go for it. My latest book was loosely based on a local project, and we’ve both been able to see some of the impact that partnership has had already, which has been really exciting.

Me: I learned about your books because of your DM through Instagram.  Do you think that social media is a helpful venue for you to market yourself and your books?

Kelly: At the very least, it’s great for networking. I created an Instagram account to promote my work, but have found it to be more a place of community and support than a marketing tool. It’s great seeing all of the other authors on there, and sharing/receiving tips and encouragement.

Having said that, hash tags do seem to attract people to the themes of my books when it’s something the individual has a personal connection with, and I’ve found Facebook helpful for advertising and promotion. I am rather oblivious when it comes to any social media platforms outside of those two!

Me: I saw online that the first book you wrote “The Garden Thieves” is no longer available.  Can you explain why?

Kelly: The Garden Thieves was originally written a year prior to publication under the title Princess Akeeba and the Night Thieves. The first edition was created as a gift for a little girl who I loved very much, and I re-designed the illustrations of the book as a part of my grieving process when I lost her. Removing the book from circulation was a tough decision, because I really liked the book, but ultimately I realized that it was an important step in that process for me.

Me:  I am very sorry for your loss and hope that your book has helped you heal.  I love that you allow people to contact you with special requests for book topics (a note at the end of each of your books).  For “The Deer” – you mentioned that you were asked by a mom to write a book about miscarriage, after she suffered the loss of her baby and didn’t know how to explain to her son why his sister would not come home. 

There are so many sensitive issues that we might experience early in life, so I am thrilled that you have found a way to address them in your books using very simple language and illustration. Reading, “The Den” brought tears to my eyes – children not feeling ‘loved’ because of a new addition to the family.   I believe that life is uncomplicated from the view of children, so parents paying more attention to the ‘baby’ is equal to them no longer being loved.  But in real life, this is not true at all, yet it takes growing up to learn this.

I have two suggestions for book topics: 1) death of a parent/sibling 2) divorce of parents.  I have seen the impact on friends/family who experienced these traumatic events as children.

That being said, are you working on your next book?

Kelly: Thank you for your feedback – those are definitely important topics, and I’ll see what I can do with them.

I’m taking a bit of a break over the summer (I can’t believe I ever took sunshine and warmth for granted! Living in Canada makes me want to LIVE outside between April and November…), but I’ve started putting some notes together for the next stand-alone book. I’ll be diving back into my counselling study notes for this one, but it’ll be an easier read than The Woodland Family books, in more ways than one!

Me: Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  It’s been great learning about your creative process and hopes of helping children deal with real life issues.  I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours!

Kelly: Thank you so much, Monica! It has been an absolute pleasure interviewing with you.

In this thing called life, you never know who you might touch with your words.

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Interview with author, C Fong Hsiung

Interviews
photo of author Fong Hsiung
Photo credit: C Fong Hsiung

C Fong Hsiung is the author of Picture Bride and recently launched her new book titled, New Land Same Sky (Publisher: Mawenzi House).  You can check her out online at www.FongHsiung.com.  

I purchased both of Fong’s books at her recent book launch. I just finished reading Picture Bride and have lots of wonderful things to say about it.  Check out my upcoming post for a review of Picture Bride.

Old friends

I met Fong for the first time through a mutual friend. We connected instantly – just like an old friend. The three of us enjoyed a conversation-filled lunch, chatting about my upcoming book launch and Fong’s as well. Considering I never met Fong before, I thought it was really nice that she was interested in going to my book launch.  Recently, the three of us met up for dinner and discovered that the three of us are both in September AND we each have three kids! How interesting is that?

I am so lucky to have an opportunity to interview her on this blog.

ME: Fong, as many people ask me, “Where do you find the time to write?”. I ask you the same thing.  You are an accounting and systems consultant, and you lead spinning, and yoga and meditation classes.

FONG: There’s a saying, and I’m paraphrasing as I don’t know who said this. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I wrote my first novel while I was working full-time as VP of Business Processes and Systems. I wrote at every opportunity—on vacation, on my commutes to and from the office, every evening, and just about anywhere I could open and balance my laptop. Driving was how I used to commute to work, and then in 2010 I switched to public transit so I could write more. By March 2017, I’d quit my full-time job and finished my second novel. I started my third. But then a year later, I started consulting. As a result, my third novel has taken a backseat lately. What I’m finding out now is that when I had a steady routine I knew exactly when I would write. But now that I have flexibility, the writing is suffering because my work time is leaking into my writing time. I’m procrastinating more. So now I’m waking up at 5 AM to write for three hours before anything gets in the way. After that, I go to the gym and then later, I start working on my consulting projects.

ME: How did you begin your writing journey?  Writing is quite different from the accounting field!

FONG: Left brain versus right brain stuff. I’ve always liked to write, but I fell into accounting when I was floundering and looking for my first job in my early twenties. Once I started down the accounting path I couldn’t stop, and I built a career out of it. Still, the urge to write never left. I actually started a website during the nineties. I wanted a place to showcase my stories about the Indian Hakka community. The site is now probably in a cyberspace blackhole! Then I tried to write a novel, an earlier version of Picture Bride. It was awkward and didn’t read like any novel I have read. I borrowed a book from the library to learn how to write, but the book was dense and I gave up. The year I turned fifty was when a sense of urgency took over. I had to write and I needed help. I was browsing the net one Sunday and happened upon an online writing school. Before the day ended I had signed up, and that’s how it all started.

ME: Was it difficult to find a publisher to take on your book?

FONG: Once I started my writing journey, I devoured books, magazines, online articles, online courses, and anything connected with writing and publishing. I was prepared for lots of rejections. Still, after being rejected a few times I decided to explore the assisted self-publishing model. Halfway down that path, I received an email from TSAR Publications, now rebranded Mawenzi House. They were interested in my book. I had sent my manuscript to them several months before and had assumed that silence meant rejection. Now, not only did Mawenzi House publish my first book but they’ve also published my second book.

ME: Where do you get your inspiration?

FONG: I wish I could be more dramatic and say that inspiration hits like a bolt of lightning. But no, it’s really quite mundane. I sit in front of my computer and I start typing. I’ve learned that if I write enough, something will come out of it. When I follow a train of thoughts as I often do when I’m typing random stuff, it is inevitable that ideas will formulate. With my first book, the idea had been percolating in my head for a long time. With my second book, it was just my random typing and the resulting ideas. I’m struggling with my third one right now. Every time I travel, I bring my laptop with me and keep my story outline handy. The change of scenery often brings new ideas. When that happens, I update the outline, and then edit, re-write scenes or add new ones.

ME:  When I interviewed Toronto Star’s, Tony Wong, I asked what happens when you get writer’s block?  He eats junk food.  How do you tackle writer’s block?

FONG: If I eat junk food every time I encounter writer’s block, you’d need a crane to lift me off my chair. Thankfully I’ve developed a less weight-enhancing way to lift the block. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to type anything on my computer without regard for the content. I consider it a warmup to exercise my writing muscles. If I get my fingers moving, my brain will catch up eventually…hopefully sooner rather than later.

ME: What are your upcoming projects?

FONG: I’m writing my third novel. The working title is Learning Dangerously. It’s a somewhat cynical view of the corporate world following a young man’s experience at his first job. I have another novel in my back pocket. It’s going to be loosely based on my parents’ lives.

ME: Thank you so much for your inspiration and time! And best of luck on your third novel. For me, inspiration actually hits me like lightning! Ideas are always floating in my head, but I need that bolt of electricity to hit (i.e. creating of that first sentence in the book) to get the ball rolling. The “hook” came to me while I was driving on my way to pick up my son last week. I am now on page 7 of my book, and ideas are following freely.

In this thing called life, one needs to go with the flow and ride it.

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