Pro Member Interview – Annabelle Chvostek

Annabelle - SM
Annabelle Chvostek is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer. Americana, UK has described her as an artist “whose talent is so exceptional that [she is able] to explore and master any musical genre she wishes”. 

Annabelle released her first self-produced and self-released recordings while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts, specializing in electroacoustic composition. Between 2003 and 2005 she released the jazz-fuelled LP Water and the raw, angst-ridden EP Burned My Ass. 

In 2005 Annabelle joined the Wailin’ Jennys and toured the world with their award-winning album Firecracker, in which she wrote four songs. Upon leaving the Jennys, she released Resilience (2008), co-wrote two songs with Canadian legend Bruce Cockburn on his Juno-winning album A Small Source of Comfort (2011), and put out Rise (2013), which was nominated for a Juno Award. Both Rise and Resilience (Borealis Records) were nominated for Contemporary Album of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Her last album, Be the Media (2015), unleashed her inner rocker, playfully navigating the boundaries between folk rock, post punk and the Canadian singer-songwriter tradition. 

Her talent and versatility has also led her to compose music for independent films and dance productions. She has worked with NYC-based dance company Drastic Action for over a decade creating experimental music scores that integrate her interdisciplinary training and background. 

One of her most recent projects is a close collaboration with Toronto’s Echo Women’s Choir, where she has been artist in residence since 2016. She has composed and arranged her own songs for choir and conducted flash mobs and formal concerts. This work has been supported generously by Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. 

“The ex-Wailin’ Jenny performs with such strength and versatility that it’s hard to find fault … casting light in any direction the roots fuelled artist turns” – Exclaim Magazine, Canada.

Here is Annabelle’s take on the questions below:
  • What inspires you to create music?
  • Do you have a process to songwriting or when creating music?
  • How has your music evolved since you first became a recording/performing artists?

Throughout my life songwriting has proven itself time and again to be an incredibly productive tool towards navigating my own complex emotional landscape. Early on I learned that the more vulnerable I felt presenting a song to the public, the deeper the common connection would be with the audience. I remember, in my twenties, being terrified to present a certain song, and then the vindication of having an audience member come up to me after a show, tears in eyes saying “You just sang my life!” That gave me a lot of confidence in the power of song to not only get me through my things, but to touch on universals and hold space for other people too.

As my personal life became more settled I did find that writing relationship songs became a less urgent pursuit, and began to touch on more socially engaged subject matter. I was brought up in a family of folkies, so there were always rousing examples of songs that held power in a very positive way – worker songs, songs of uprising, songs of overcoming and uniting. I think my songwriting now has settled into a real blend of influences. A good song to me comes from an impulse to solve something, to unveil it, lay it bear, and offer some kind of resolution. I think now most of my songs are a deep intertwining of personal and political.

For example, I have a new song in the works called “I’ll Be Your Refuge”, which I had the chance to arrange and conduct as a choral work. It’s gone through multiple drafts and transformations. The lyrics have evolved with feedback from community. By the time I get to recording it, it will have shifted dramatically from its seed idea. I’m not a quick writer. Sometimes things spill out, but other times songs can take years. While initially I wrote “Refuge” as a kind of expression of welcome to refugees, what made it gel, and what I learned as I wrote, is that it was mostly about my own relationship to my partner who came to Canada as a child with her family, who were political refugees. So it was really about me trying to be ground for the unpacking of that experience out of love, and turning it back inwards is what finally made it work.

I think the beauty of being bold politically in songs is that you can create an atmosphere of feeling, contemplation and thoughtfulness to carry the ideas forward. You don’t have to be didactic or preachy. Good songs pull all the emotional elements of music and lyrics into an alchemical moment of transformation. They create a space in which to solidify ideas that dwell on the periphery of consciousness. They can uplift and affirm a collective humanity. Striving to touch on those ideals now and then is my motivation for making music.

 

Music Creators unite! #CreatorsCount 

Pro Member Interview – Victoria Banks

Victoria Banks - SM

 

Victoria Banks has been nominated for 11 Canadian Country Music Association 
(CCMA) Awards and was named CCMA Female Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year in 2010. She has been labeled “one of the best songwriters in the business” by Nashville’s MusicRow magazine. 

In addition to releasing three albums and touring with artists from Reba to 
Wynonna, Banks – who hails from Muskoka, Ontario – has written ASCAP, SOCAN, CCMA and Covenant-award-winning songs for more than 50 artists. 

Her cuts include Jessica Simpson’sBillboard record- breaking single “Come On 
Over,” Sara Evans’ solo-written hit “Saints & Angels” and duet “Can’t Stop Loving You” (featuring Isaac Slade of The Fray), Lauren Alaina’s “Queen of Hearts,” Johnny Reid’s CCMA Song of the Year “Dance With Me”, Doc Walker’s chart-topping “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, One More Girl’s BCCMA Song of the Year “When it Ain’t Raining”, and many more. In 2016, Banks performed with the Nashville Ballet as part of their Attitude program, for which several of her songs were choreographed including the program’s title song, “City of Dreams.” 

“This is an artist you absolutely need to pay attention to. Recommended without reservation.” – Robert Oermann,MusicRow.

“A powerful singer…a very impressive songwriter…definitely a name to look out for.” -Maverick Magazine (UK).

Read her interview with the S.A.C. below:
  • How did you get your start as a creator in the industry?

I’ve been a staff songwriter based in Nashville for over twenty years now. I moved south in 1997 after finishing a degree in Zoology at University of Toronto, and after performing at a ton of writers nights around town, was connected with my ASCAP rep, Ralph Murphy. Ralph set me up with some publisher meetings, and from those I was offered my first deal writing for Rick Hall at Fame Music’s Nashville office (affiliated with Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals). Since then I’ve signed with several other companies and have always maintained a writing deal over the years, even when I was touring heavily to support my Canadian record deals. 

  • How did you learn your craft – was it “formal” or “informal” music education?

I studied classical voice and piano until I graduated high school, but pursued science in university. As a teenager I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play and write contemporary music, but I never had any formal training in songwriting. I just read books on the subject, listened to a zillion songs, and tried to figure out how the writers crafted them to affect the listener the way they do. 

  • Have you faced any major economic, social, or political hurdles as a music creator?

I feel a bit like a survivor who is holding on somehow despite the odds. When I signed my first deal in 1998, royalty streams were alive and well. I have seen the decline of record sales and the rise of streaming basically obliterate all other income streams except radio play for commercial songwriters. There are now only 400 people doing what I do professionally in Nashville when there were 4000 twenty years ago. I’ve also had to deal with the lack of radio play for female artists in the country genre. Even though I naturally gravitate toward writing from a female perspective, I have had to learn to focus primarily on writing with and for male artists in order to stay marketable.

Music creators count! #thePROsofSAC 

Pro Member Interview – Kayo

Kayo - SM

Kayo (né Filbert Salton) was born and raised in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Inspired by the likes of Bob Marley, The Fugees, Kardinal Offishall, 2Pac, and Jay-Z, Kayo’s sound is a fusion of hip-hop, reggae, and R&B. 

Kayo moved to Canada to study marketing at Saint Mary’s University. While in Halifax, Kayo immersed himself into the local hip-hop scene. It was at this time that Kayo met Classified and after working together under Half Life Records & with EMI Music Canada, Kayo branched off to pursue his love for music independently. He has since released 9 projects, and most recently in April released ‘Winter in St Lucia: An Extended Play By Kayo’. 

Kayo’s music is all about creating a uniquely aggressive and penetrating sound, songs filled with substance and purpose, a little sugar with the medicine.

Below is our interview with Pro Member Kayo:
  • What inspires you to create music?

Life and experiences inspire me the most, whether my own personal experiences or the experiences of those around me. A spark for a song idea can come from anything, from having a conversation with someone, overhearing a conversation on the bus, to seeing a cool meme on instagram. I try to be a vessel and allow even the most seemingly trivial things to have value in my life through the inspiration it brings.

  • Do you have a process to your songwriting or when creating music?

My process varies. I jot down lines or phrases during the course of the day in a note on my phone called ‘Random Barz’. Some mornings I ‘free-write’. It doesn’t matter the topic, it doesn’t even matter if it rhymes. I put those in a different note called ‘Free Shmoke’. These notes are the ammo I take into my sessions. When in a session, I like to start by letting the music move me. It doesn’t have to be a fully produced beat. It can be a simple as some chords on a guitar or piano. I then freestyle and mumble different flows and melodies until I find something that moves me. I’d run a voicenote to record this process as to capture any idea that I come up with. I’d also skim through my ‘Random Barz’ and ‘Free Shmoke’ notes in hopes that something in there works or sparks more ideas. Or sometimes, I would record me freestyling over the beat about 2 or 3 times. Most of it would be jibberish but I usually get some good ideas from this process. I’d then go through those records and pick the melodies, flows or lines that I like. I’d then start cutting the parts I like and sequencing it all in the way I think sounds good. I would then take that reference track and ‘trace’ it by writing the lyrics to the jibberish.

  • How did you get your start as a creator in the industry?

I moved to Canada from St Lucia in 2008. I studied Marketing at St Mary’s University in Halifax. School was a means to an end. It was my way of moving legitimately to Canada to pursue my career in music. It was there in Halifax that I really got my start in the industry. I would perform at Open Mic at the pub on my Campus. Through that, I met Quake Matthews, and it was through the nurturing of that relationship, I eventually linked up with Classified. Class helped me take things to another level through touring with him and working on music with him through his imprint, Halflife Records.

  • How has your music evolved since you first became a recording/performing artist?

I think I have managed to find my voice. One of my greatest gifts as well as curses has always been my versatility. I think I’ve developed ways of making it all come together. My music is just a diverse and multifaceted as it was before, but there is more balance and cohesion.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC 

Pro Member Interview – Quake Matthews

Quake - SM

Quake Matthews is a hip-hop artist who first made a name for himself in the underground battle rap scene in his early teens. Harnessing the raw energy and competitive spirit found in that arena, he was able to transcend into the multi-layered artist he is today. His raspy voice and unfiltered emotion have given him a signature sound, creating a captivating listening experience for his audience. At the age of 28, with the knowledge of a veteran, the ambition of a rookie, and a career that has been on a steady incline, Quake shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

Here is our exclusive interview with this energetic music creator:

  • How did you get your start as a creator in the industry?

In the early 2000’s a friend of mine taught me the art of freestyle rapping. I enjoyed the fact that you had to be quick on your feet, creative and spontaneous. I worked on my craft for a couple years, then caught wind of Freestyle battles happening in clubs in my city. I was only 16 at the time, so often times I had to sneak in to these events or get special written permission from the liquor commission. I ended up winning a number of battles and my name started buzzing around the city. That led to me wanting to get into a studio and translate my battling skills to songwriting. I got hooked up with a few people that owned studios, and now I’m on my 6th album and haven’t looked back since.

  • How can S.A.C. help you?

I would definitely like to be apart of more songwriting camps. I find them very beneficial to my career. I love building relationships with new artists.

  • If the music community could do one thing better what would it be?

I can mostly only speak on the hip hop community but I’m sure what I’m about to say applies to all genres across the board. I think we have to focus on building each other up and working together more. We have to learn to pull each other up instead of trying to walk over people to get ahead. If we work together and support each other more it would push the culture forward, and evolution is key to survival.

Music creators unite! #CreatorsCount #ProsofSAC