December 4th, 2013 | Comments (0)
“I’m polishing a piece of coal into a diamond,” declares singer, songwriter and country hero Jaydee Bixby about his sophomore full-length Easy to Love (On Ramp Records/EMI Music Canada). “I found my niche.”
When last we heard from Bixby, the Drumheller, Alberta native was a young, modestly green sensation touring from coast to coast in support of his debut effort Cowboys and Cadillacs. He worked hard. Harder than most young men his age.
In two short years, since the release of his debut cd, what a diamond he’s become. Founded on an exquisite voice and randy hip-shaking stage prowess, the 19 year-old Bixby has taken over hearts and stereos across the nation. His career trajectory is set for the stars and “Easy to Love” is the fuel for that incredible journey.
Bixby’s career began at childhood through the schooling of his ardently musical family. Following dreams of taking the big stage, Bixby paid many dues, most notably during a stint on Canadian Idol’s fifth season where he quickly captured the adoration of the television audience.
Issuing Cowboys and Cadillacs as an assertion of his career beyond Idol, Bixby builds upon that bedrock with Easy to Love, an effort that finds an epiphany helping him blossom into both a complete, confident songwriter and international performer. Penning virtually all of Easy to Love’s songs, Bixby has found the vehicle for both his voice and ambition.
“I always thought you had to be born a writer,” Bixby admits about his formative song writing days. “I was a frustrated 14 year-old kid trying to write songs, not understanding why they didn’t sound like the ones I loved. I was trying to write about what I thought people wanted to hear.”
“But the secret,” he reveals wisely, “is to write about what you go through; what you want to hear. Everyone will have had those experiences and they can relate. That’s what Easy to Love is all about: I just had to find what I can write about: life.”
Tapping into that untouched wealth of inspiration, Bixby immediately began to create track after track of honest, captivating songs. The resulting 10 tracks confirm the emotion and grace Bixby exuded on Cowboys and Cadillacs but propel it to new heights via genuineness, experience and the inimitable way in which the crooner can relate to what he is singing when it holds such personal significance.
“I’m way more excited for every song” he reveals about Easy to Love’s inspiration. “Some of them are about ladies ’cause I’m still 19. I have ladies on the mind. But for me to have the opportunity to take the experiences I’ve had, sit down with some of my values, looking at things that happen in the world and what I garnered from my parents and put it into music makes it way more personal to me.”
Certain of his abilities but not so audacious as to eliminate the advice of mentors, Bixby immersed himself in the epitome of country’s impressive legacy in order to realize Easy to Love. Committing time in Nashville solely to collaborating, Bixby quickly completed nine of Easy to Love’s 10 tracks co-writing with the likes of Anthony L. Smith, Gill Grant, John Higgins, Ralph Murphy and David Klinger. Surrounded by fellow country music luminaries, Bixby ensured while he is a competent, enthralling writer, “Easy to Love” benefits from teamwork.
“I’m a big fan of it,” he asserts. “The album features so much great stuff because we were bouncing ideas off one another. Something that didn’t connect with one of us inspired the other. It’s a lot smoother and I find I’m the hook-line guy. I can come up with a hook and build a song around it, which was how a lot of Easy to Love came about.”
Songwriting complete, Bixby entered Vancouver’s Armoury Studios with Cowboys and Cadillacs producers John Webster and Bill Buckingham, a duo he refers to as his “personal motivational speakers” for drawing out Easy to Love’s earnestness and intensity.
Moreover, he feels that with their attention to detail, Bixby accomplished his intentions with Easy to Love: entertain, enlighten and ensure fans feel fine. Tapping into that respectful, familial essence that has made him a charming heartthrob across the globe, Bixby offers sage gratitude for his fortune while intimating that the album’s title reflects how life should be embraced.
“Music is a stress-release; escapism from the realities of life,” he asserts. “When you go to a concert, are you worrying about paying your bills the next day? When people hear this album, they won’t be thinking about responsibilities and life. They’ll have a great time with some honest music. If everybody leaves my shows or hears my albums forgetting about their difficulties and feeling great, I’ve done my job.”
“My fans, family and friends mean everything to me,” Bixby adds wistfully. “I could make a hundred albums but if nobody came out to support and listen to my music, it would be pointless. I’m grateful I have these fans and as long as they’re around, I’ll keep performing if they let me with all my heart. I’ve got food to fill my belly, gas to fill my car and friends to fill my heart. I know where my roots lie and what I’m about. That’s what Easy to Love is about.”
November 27th, 2013 | Comments (0)
Fun, family, friends and faith.
They’re the cornerstones of life for Jason Blaine. So no wonder they inspired the title — and the music — of his fifth album Everything I Love, out July 9 on eOne Music Canada.
“I just wanted to share all the sides of my personality,” explains the 33‐year‐old singer‐songwriter, husband and father from Pembroke, Ont. “I like to cut up with friends and play a little too loud. My family’s really important to me. And in recent years, I’ve had a kind of spiritual awakening. Entering my 30s, I finally found balance in my life and got my priorities right. I learned you can have a little bit of fun on Saturday night and be at church on Sunday morning. That’s really where I’m at. In fact, I toyed with the idea of calling the record Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. But really, there’s much more Saturday night than there is Sunday morning on the album.”
“At the end of the day, when the stage lights come down and I get off the plane or the tour bus and I come home, I’m just a husband and a father.”
He ain’t whistling Dixie. Fun comes first and foremost on the upbeat and celebratory Everything I Love, as anyone who’s heard the leadoff single Rock It Country Girl knows. Driven by a lightly funky hick‐hop groove, laced with a twangy guitar lick and a plucky banjo hook, and topped with cheeky lyrics like “All that caboose on your choo‐choo train ’bout knocked me off my tractor,” the song — co‐written with frequent collaborator Derek Ruttan and Nashville ace Jim Beavers — sets the tone and tempo for the 12 song disc. Make no mistake; from the southern‐friend country‐honk of Get a Little Wrong Tonight to the afternoon‐delight ode Way Too Pretty and the twangy shuffle Friends of Mine, this is an album that knows how to crank the guitar and kick up its heels.
But in keeping with Blaine’s balanced approach, it also knows when to set both feet firmly on the ground, with songs that celebrate simple joys, universal truths and down‐to‐earth values. “At the end of the day, when the stage lights come down and I get off the plane or the tour bus and I come home, I’m just a husband and a father,” says Blaine, who lives in Nashville with his wife and three children. “And I can never make a record without a song for the people I love most in my life: My wife and kids. You’ll find that in songs like Always You.” And you’ll find the Sunday morning element in Tears on a Bible, an episodic ballad of faith during strife that closes the disc on a moving, tender note.
Of course, that brand of personal, no‐bull honesty is nothing new for Blaine. It’s been his stock in trade since his first single in 2003: The tellingly titled That’s What I Do. His independent full‐length debut, While We Were Waiting, came out in 2005 and included the Top 25 singles Heartache Like Mine, While We Were Waiting and What I Can’t Forget. The follow‐up Make My Move arrived in 2008 on Koch (now eOne) and hit the Top 5 on the Canadian country chart thanks to singles like the Top 10 Rock in my Boot and Top 5 Flirtin’ With Me. On 2010’s Sweet Sundown, he dug deeper, thanking overseas peacekeepers on Heroes. And on 2011’s Life So Far, he pushed himself even harder with heartfelt songs like You Can, Til’ the Sun Burns Out and They Don’t Make Em’ Like That Anymore, a tribute to his grandfather. That song helped turn 2012 into a banner year for Blaine, who earned CCMA nominations for Male Artist, Single of the Year, Songwriter, & Producer. Life So Far turned out three Top 10 singles, including On a Night Like This, Cool and They Don’t Make ’Em Like That Anymore, who won Single of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards, and whose video hit No. 1 on CMT Canada.
Ultimately, the success of They Don’t Make ’Em Like That Anymore and the introspective stocktaking of Life So Far set the stage for the fun‐filled Everything I Love.
“That album was really a time of reflection for me. I covered all the personal topics I wanted to cover—there was a song for my wife, a song for my children, the song for my grandfather. I poured my heart into that, and was so overwhelmed at the way it was received. So after that I got to thinking, ‘Where do I go from here?’ I really just wanted to hand it back to the fans and make an album that I, as a country fan, would want to hear. That’s why the overall tone of this album is entertaining. I literally made a list of themes I wanted to cover. I wanted to write as many up‐tempo, crowd‐friendly songs as I could. I wanted to have a lot of singles. I wanted to breathe new life into my set list. I wanted songs that people could sing along to. I wanted something that would surprise people—something they might not expect to hear from me if they only know me for They Don’t Make ’Em Like That Anymore.”
To achieve that, he enlisted the services of some of Nashville’s top musicians, along with producer/engineer Scott Cooke, whose resume includes everyone from Nickelback to Jake Owen and Florida Georgia Line. “I lean a little bit more country and he leans a little bit more rock ’n’ roll,” explains Blaine, “so he really brought an edge to this record — an excitement in the music that worked well and that I was definitely looking for. I wanted to make a record that was competitive and relevant for where country is at as a genre right now, and that would stand up and hold its own with stuff that’s really happening on the radio now. So the guitars are beefed up with a bit more crunch and energy. But I still love the sounds of traditional country — steel guitar and banjo and mandolin. Those tones and colours are what make it country for me. So it’s got both those elements.”
And if the raucous energy that drives Everything I Love might surprise some who only know Blaine from They Don’t Make ’Em Like That Anymore, that’s just the way he likes it.
“I felt last year like some people might have come out solely to see me perform that song and seen a different show than they expected. Don’t get me wrong; that song is completely special to me. It’s a career song. But it’s just three minutes and 40 seconds long. And it’s just one part of me. I also like to play my electric guitar loud. I feel like I come alive on stage when our band is really connecting and I’ve got my guitar in my hand and take a solo. That sets my soul on fire. And this album most closely reflects my live show, more than any other album.”
But more than that, it reflects his growth, maturity and confidence as a singer, songwriter, performer and person after 17 years in music — more than half his life.
“That’s been dawning on me lately,” says Blaine, who picked up a guitar at age 8, joined his father’s hobby band at 16 and has a business degree from Ottawa’s Algonquin College. “I’m getting to where I feel qualified to be doing what I’m doing. A lot of things about it are starting to make sense, and things that were harder before are coming much more naturally and easier. I’ve toured enough and been around enough to know that there is no pleasing everybody all the time. And I’m OK with that.
“But I think that this album represents me well. I think that it’s the closest I’ve come to capturing who I am and where I’m at. I think I constantly improve with every album, just from playing shows and getting better at singing and delivering vocals and expressing what I want to express. But often, within six months after you record a record, you think: ‘I would do this or that differently.’ Not this time; I wouldn’t change a thing. I know it’s cliche to say, ‘This is my best album.’ But from top to bottom, from track 1 to track 11, this is a really solid album.”
November 20th, 2013 | Comments off
Some songs grab you right away, while others sink in over time and won’t let you go. Autumn Hill’s music does both. Beyond the immediate hooks – the vivid imagery, the effortlessly catchy choruses, and the passionate harmonies – are surprising depths. On their debut album, Favourite Mistake, Tareya Green and Mike Robins tell compelling stories of loss and love from two distinct perspectives, and build soaring pop on a strong Nashville foundation.
Tareya and Mike took very different roads towards an unexpected common goal. Growing up outside Toronto, Mike listened to his father’s classic-rock collection and decided he wanted to be Jimi Hendrix. He gigged throughout high school and university as a singer/songwriter and all-action frontman, and eventually his axe skills landed him a spot in 2010 backing up singer/songwriter Hope on a year-long tour through North America and Europe.He also worked with producers on his own solo songs, first in L.A. and then in Nashville. There, a newfound passion for country guitar led to the 2011 solo single “No Mercy,” which topped the
Adult Contemporary chart on music-streaming service I Heart Radio.
Meanwhile, Tareya, who had studied graphic design in the Canadian country hotbed of Calgary, was developing websites for famous entertainers, and feeling, she says, “like I was on the wrong side of the glass.” As a girl she developed a passion for songwriting, playing the piano while singing into an empty coffee can she’d rigged to her bedroom ceiling for reverb. She eventually began posting homemade performances on YouTube, and when Wax Records cofounder Jamie Appleby heard her smouldering vocals online, he invited her to Toronto to explore her musical talent further. In January 2012, packing little more than her guitar and her keyboard, she made a leap of faith across the country.
It was there that she met Mike, who had recently begun working with Wax as well. They found instant chemistry: when they first played together at a label party, Mike started harmonizing with Tareya on a song they’d been writing for her then solo project, and something clicked. “We stopped playing and turned around,” Tareya recalls, “and everyone was like, ‘That’s it!’” That song, “Favourite Mistake,” went on to become the title track from their debut album. There and then, Autumn Hill was born, and ever since, Tareya and Mike have been musically inseparable. Over the next six months, they made numerous trips to Nashville, working with a who’s who of local songwriters, and recording bed tracks for their album with producer Dave Thomson (Lights, Kalan Porter, Tyler Kyte) at the legendary Blackbird Studios. Returning to Toronto with a suitcase full of roughed-in songs, they began fleshing them out with producer Tawgs Salter (Josh Groban, Lights, Walk Off The Earth). Some tracks, like the intimate “Battle Scars,” show off their voices’ uncanny blend, and others, like the guitar-driven new single “Fire,” sparkle with spirited energy. Each one resembles a short film, with the precise details characteristic of country music – “the best kind of heartbreak,” according to Mike – made fresh by both female and male points of view.
Advance singles “Anything at All” and “Can’t Keep Waiting” have found favour on country and pop radio alike. Together, the nine songs on Favourite Mistake reveal new layers to Autumn Hill’s talents, and prove once and for all that opposites attract.