Category: Profiles

Divine Brown – Something Fresh

Watching Canadian R&B singer Divine Brown perform at the recent Whiskey Rocks benefit concert confirmed that she is truly a gifted artist with huge stage presence. The audience had the privilege of hearing some new material from her up-and-coming album Something Fresh which should be hitting the radio waves in the summer of next year.

Still a work in progress, Something Fresh has a nice flavour – a mix of dance, reggae and R&B. “I worked with The Runaways, a production group out of Toronto, for most it. I am still recording a few more tracks and I am just lining them up right now. So far, the title track is one of my favs and there’s a song called “I Need Somebody to Love” which is pretty dope – it’s a slow jam but it’s wicked.”

An established songwriter, she finds inspiration from life around her, “It could be as simple as a conversation with friends or people that I work with or if I happen to see something funny on the streets.”

With today’s industry saturated with so many different artists, Divine believes that it takes a lot of creative ingenuity to be recognized, “You have to be very creative about your approach, your image, your sensibilities. I think these days people tend to identify with how real you come across musically.”

We asked Divine if she enjoys watching any of the TV singing talent shows, “I absolutely love the X Factor because it opens up the demographic on who gets to audition … and there’s always a comedic outlet. It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to be seen and heard. And great artists, who have gotten really big careers, started with that. My advice is always dream and dream big and don’t stop taking the steps to make your dreams a reality.”

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Tré Armstrong – Born to Dance

Known as a judge on CTV’s popular show So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Tré Armstrong has worked hard her whole life at something that she loves … dance. This acclaimed choreographer, artist and actress now shares her strong passion for the art of dance through her not-for-profit foundation “The Tré Armstrong Gives Back Foundation” and her dance company A New DAEI (A New Dance Academy for the Entertainment Industry); both offer programs and events that make dance and creative artistic expression available to communities across Canada.

One of Tré’s missions is to use the medium of dance to positively influence the youth of today, “I want to make sure that I provide them with accessibility to dance. But I am going deeper than accessibility; I am also enabling them, empowering them and mentoring them to be leaders not just in dance but also in life in general.”

Her urban dance program, D-Tour, attains this mission by using dance as a tool to build life-skills in youth. What makes this 12 week program so powerful is HOW it is done. “We allow the kids to actually take control, create and direct the projects themselves. They then perform on stage in a showcase at the end of the program.” It started in the Toronto Parkdale community for girls aged 14-20 and has now expanded into a program for boys. Tré hopes to bring D-Tour to every city across Canada and the US.

Her dance academy is presently offering summer programs. “We have over 60 kids registered which is a big surprise for us because we are opening up a dance studio in Brampton in September.” Another program is “The Give Back!” which is a one-day free day of dance offering different styles; classes are taught by teachers in the professional industry. And you can even take a free seminar with Tré herself!

And what is Tre’s favourite dance style? “Hip Hop – it is the culture that I have identified with the most in my life being a tom boy too. It speaks about a lot of the struggles that I have encountered. The culture itself is something that I have grown up in and I have been nurtured by it naturally by people around me. And just the influence of the music itself on my life growing up – it is pivotal in creating who I am today.”

When asked what comes to mind when someone says the words ‘born to dance,’ Tre’ responds thoughtfully, “Wow – freedom! You can do what ever you want. It also reminds me of me; that’s who I am – I was born to dance.”

Kovak Plays the El Mocamba at NXNE

Like every band attending the NXNE year after year, Kovak wants to “blow away the industry and get a big fat deal.” Across the pond from Brighton, UK, the four member band just may get what they are wishing for. With its contagious high energy electro dance sound and trashy pop image they are poised to take stardom on – and have fun doing it.

Lead vocalist Annelies, who has been with Kovak for two years, explains that originally the act started off 10 years ago as an indie rock band and over the years the music has evolved. “It doesn’t roll off the tongue that easily but I would describe our music as electro dance pop disco with balls – I will have to make an abbreviation of that one day,” she adds jokingly.

With so many bands vying for attention in the music market just getting noticed can be challenging. Annelies knows that it helps if you have something that sets you apart from the pack. “What we have in our favour is being quirky – this is so important because we don’t want to be a clone. Also, if you look at the top 40 in the UK there are a lot of fabricated acts out there where the people fronting it are just the performers and there is a whole team behind them writing the material. Whereas Kovak – we do it all ourselves.”

Their formula must be working because their dance track “Sex Electric” from their debut album Heroes and High Heels is featured in Michael Madson’s new film The Big I Am and their single “I’ll Be Good to You” video has already had over 30,000 hits and still climbing. They are also organizing their next video with legendary producer Tim Pope and they are months away from finishing their second album which they are recording with dance producer Andy Gray.

Kovak will be performing at the El Mocambo on June 16 @ 10pm. “Come out and see us, if you can and have a look at our facebook page … we would really love to come back to Canada again.” After NXNE the band, which is managed by Andy Hollis, will be returning to the UK to do a host of gigs and festivals. Then in August they will be appearing on MTV – it sure looks like this little band from Brighton is garnering enough momentum to get their big break…and deservedly so.

Silver’s in the House with a New Single

Having been a hip hop performer/producer for most of his career, Toronto artist Silver, aka Solitaire, likes to inspire fans with his positive lyrical content. His upcoming album, The Departure, will continue to showcase this trademark along with his versatility and development as an artist.

“Because of the title, some people mistake this album as me leaving the hip hop game … I am a rapper, but I also write R&B. Recently, I have been writing a lot of rock and pop songs, so this album is a departure in terms of my approach to my music and what people primarily know me from.” The Departure blends traditional hip hop elements with rock, pop and alternative genres and styles. You can view his new single “Come True,” which features Kardinal Offishall, on his youtube channel.

An already established force in the Canadian music arena, in 2000 he cofounded, with Kardinal, the independent record label Black Jays. Producing many hip hop and R&B artists such as Glenn Lewis, Jully Black, Choclair, along with Kardinal’s hit “BaKardi Slang” and his own Juno nominated hip hop classic “Easy 2 Slip,” Silver has also collaborated with other elite artists including Lil Wayne, Estelle and Nina Sky.

With all this experience, he has seen first hand how hip hop culture has emerged over the years and its impact on the quality of current music. “When it first came out during the Golden Era, there was a heavier emphasis on the skill of the emcee, the talent of the producer and the lyrical ability of the artist. Now, the shift is on being a more marketable character, the music is secondary. Hip hop has really suffered at the hands of its own materialism.”

He’s got some words of wisdom for artists who are just breaking into the biz, “be true to who you are and what you want out of the music. If you want the fame and you want to be a character there’s definitely a blueprint for that. If you’re trying to be a conscious artist and be about positivity and have a real serious message just accept the fact that in the current climate, you won’t get fast media … that’s just the nature of the music right now.”

Positively influenced by many artists including Jay-Z, The Police, Cold Play, Stevie Wonder and Mos Def, he also feels that listening to the bad artists can be a good thing. “It’s just as important in knowing what you want to be, as knowing what you don’t want to be.” Silver adds, “I am a product of all my influences … this is where I am at.” The Departure’s much anticipated release will be early spring 2011.

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Interview With Ron Hynes

The Man of a Thousand Songs is the acclaimed feature-length documentary which premiered at last week’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and finally bestows upon Ron Hynes, Canadian folk singer and prolific songwriter, the exposure and prominence he so richly deserves.

Ron’s journey has not been without a singular nightmare and many risks. In a candid half hour conversation, he readily admitted to the demon which has been a brute force to wrestle with in his personal life and in the laborious process of song writing, “He’s always wanted to be in charge and along for the ride, but I’ve got no time for him anymore and I’m far too strong now.”

Thankfully, that demon hadn’t been present in his childhood when music was constantly on his mind, having written a song for his mother at the age of nine, followed by his father’s gift of a first guitar. The pioneering rock ‘n’ roll of Buddy Holly and the appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 64 struck a life-changing chord and determined that music would forever be Ron’s one and only pursuit, in spite of his mother’s passionate plea, which echoed the protests of parents throughout North America, “No, no, no, you’re not going to wear your hair and sing like those four guys!”

Ron’s most difficult career decision was to continue living in Newfoundland in his late father’s house, fifty feet from the Atlantic and remain Canadian in loyalty and in song, “By not heading for Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville, you’re never going to get rich, but you’ll create great songs and be a songwriter instead of an industry writer. I’ll follow song writing to my grave.”

“Necessary” is the one word that sums up and defines anyone’s journey and life-long search, whether it be for the perfect song, a fulfilling career, a guiding faith or a longing for true love. It resulted in the monumental contribution of Shakespeare, Bach, Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, the Beatles and the infinite number of influential artists who have made a difference. It definitely drives the life and music of Ron Hynes.

Photo Credit Kent Nason

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