I have been challenged by Vinnie Luis to do the 10 day 10 album challenge. I have been pondering this a long time. I have been a musician all my life but if I am honest, I have never been an “album” person. This will leave quite a lot of my musician friends shaking their heads. This is not to say I have not been influenced by musicians, there are so many I cannot count but I made mix tapes from the radio. Quite often I loved a song without even knowing who wrote or performed it. They didn’t matter to me when I was young. Only the music did. I did not care where it came from. I only cared about how it made me feel. I always knew I would be playing and writing music my whole life.
That being said the musicians that I really inspired were the ones I met playing throughout my life. So I have decided that is what I am going to share with you. The 10 indie musicians who have inspired me the most in my life.
Steve Katz Merida Yucatan
The last musical moment I am going to share with you had quite a lot of moving parts that fit together. So really my last indie musician is actually 5 musicians.
When I arrived in Merida I was asked to play at a fundraiser for Los Perros and it was requested that I perform a Fleetwood Mac song. I said I could but that song did require someone to help me out so it was suggested that I ask Russel Staines to join me on guitar. This really took the edge off as Landslide is not the easiest tune. His guitar playing was smooth as silk. He was already playing that night anyway as he was accompanying the headliner Steve Katz. Then it hit me that I was opening for one of the headliners of Woodstock. That is a milestone that I will put on my resume for sure.
The evening was a great success raising enough money to do another free fixing clinic for the dogs and cats in Merida. After the concert and the auction I met Boone Rock and Charles Fletcher. They invited me to join them at Boone’s studio to jam a bit later in the week. I was so happy to have found some musicians to play with as this was the one thing I was missing in my life here in Merida.
Each time I went over to jam I noticed that there were always many guitar players but not very many drummers. So the next time I went to Canada I came back with my Snare,Cajon set up. Our jamming in the studio turned into hosting a jam in a restaurant, which is where we first heard Vinnie Luis shredding on the electric guitar and knew we needed to add him to the mix. Then as our repertoire grew we decided to start doing gigs and Los Similares was born. Charles, who is the most talented bassist I have had the joy to play with, gently pushes me to become a better drummer and has helped me to slowly expand my little kit to incorporate other things to hit. Boone has chosen songs for us to perform that I never in a million years thought we could pull off. But we did and the crowds have loved them. Example: Aquarius Vinnie and I also started a side duo project playing some more current songs and a few of my originals filling another little piece of my life that I was missing since moving here. When he is in town Steve still performs with us occasionally too. I have such a riot playing with these guys. I don’t think I would still be in Merida if I had not met them all.
So thinking back if Karla Miller had not asked me to sing at the fundraiser things might be really different right now. So I guess it was not the musicians at all that started this chain of events, it was an indie visual artist Karla Miller (who has also taught me how to paint in acrylic but again that is another story) that should get the credit for this one.
Currently Los Similares is working on recording one of Boone Rock’s original songs Hijacked. I am producing and editing this which has also been really fun but challenging being no one can be in the same room right now. https://www.facebook.com/losSimilaresmusic/
Steve Katz has just released a book as well as a new cd. Both are well worth your time.
You can check out what he is up to here https://stevekatzmusic.wordpress.com/
The stories he shares about the 60’s and 70’s in his book are crazy and some are a bit frustrating. It always amazes me how some people are ok taking advantage of people who are trying to make the world better by sharing their music. Some might say sharing their souls. Still he has remained a kind and open person and musician, who is very supportive of others.
Vinnie Luis also plays with a wonderful Santana cover band so if you get a chance check these guys out. https://www.facebook.com/the.santana.experience/
Or come see our duo when all this craziness is over (shameless plug)
Charles Fletcher plays with too many bands to name them all. Here is a video of one of his other projects. You can go from there.
Side note: Buy him a beer and get him talking about his musical connections but be prepared to be there for a while. Maybe days. Just amazing.
Russell Staines also plays in a duo with Gary DeRose called The R&G Lounge. Hopefully when this madness ends you will see them again at Dzalbay Cantina.
Due to the pandemic I have found out that Russ is also a wonderful piano player. Keep your ears peeled as you are going to hear some of those ivory tickles soon.
Boone Rock is the founder of Los Similares and a wonderful human being. Peace Love and Rock and Roll is his mandate in life. He brought us all together and I for one am so happy that he included me in the merry band of musicians. If you get a chance to talk to him ask him about his time with the Allman Brother he was buds with. Wild ….just wild.
Currently I am producing and editing his new original song Hijacked with the help of Los Similares. We will be releasing that in the near future. Like and follow us here if you want to hear that news.
Ben Kunder Charlottetown PEI
In 2011 I moved to Charlottetown PEI to take a break from the big city. There I found a big old Duplex that needed renovating and I needed a project to pull me out of the dark place that I had landed in. (that is a whole other story) But once I got it sorted I started renting out the extra space as I am one person and do not need a whole house to myself. Ben was one of my first roommates and one of the first Confederation Centre of the Arts actors that I rented to. Ben seemed to have things pretty together. He was a human first as musician second and the acting was a little bonus. Or that is what it seemed to me. He was cast in the roll of La bamba singer Ritchie Valens for the musical The Buddy Holly Story.
One day he came home from rehearsals and told me that they were auditioning people for the Christmas musical that was going to be Sound of Music. (I frickin’ love that movie) I told him that I was not an actor. I was a musician. He said “it is community theater you should go for it. So I thought why not. I called for an audition. They told me to prepare a song and a monolog. The song I picked was How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. I found out after you never pick a song that is in the musical that you are auditioning for. And the monolog … Well I had never done one of those and memorizing something without music was a bit terrifying to me so I spoke the words to “I Will Survive.” The panel LOVED this. I guess no one had thought to do this before and the novelty of it got me the part. I was cast in the role of Sister Margaretta.
Since then I have been cast in a few musicals and plays and have discovered that I really enjoy acting. Each time I become part of a little family. And it pushes me to do things I have never done. (The time I got to be a flying monkey is still my favorite moment) But none of that would have happened had Ben not said “You should audition for the Christmas musical” So once again a little moment, a little push from a fellow musician changed my life.
Ben is currently in Toronto pursuing musical aspirations He has a gorgeous singing voice and his songs will have you contemplating life. I highly recommend you pay the cover if you see him on the bill for the evening’s performance.
If you would like to see what he is up to here is his website https://www.benkunder.com/
Don Kerr Toronto Ontario
Meeting Don was a pretty big deal but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was that he was a friend of Nigel’s. Don had offered to record some vocals and mix Nigel’s new cd It is “What It is”. I was singing some back up vocals for him so I went to Don’s home studio to record them then later to his studio on Toronto island to watch the magic of mixing. When we were there Don mentioned he was building a studio in the basement of his new house. Being I do a bit of construction and I was really interested in the process of building a studio, I offered my assistance which he took me up on about a month later. As timing would have it I was available when they were doing the insulation part of the job. The worst part of construction. Fiberglass sucks! However seeing the rubber being wrapped around the wood to make for a better sound and the carpet on the ceiling among other things, was well worth it. When the project was finished Don asked me if i would like to record at his studio. He co-produced and played many instruments while record my cd Slidin. Having the Rheostatics drummer playing drums and cello on my cd was quite an honor. At this point I had met quite a few musicians from the coffeehouse collective who were willing to work with me on this project. I am not sure if it was me or the opportunity to work with Dan that drew them in but I am so grateful to have found them all as the cd is one of the best I have produced.
Don has produced quite a few Toronto based musicians as well as playing in quite a few bands.
If you would like to see what he is up to http://donkerr.ca/
Colleen Costello Toronto Ontario/Sammy Sugar tour
When I met Colleen we were both solo singer songwriters who had released a couple cds each and were wanting to tour around to promote them. Colleen had already been backing people up with her vocals and percussion set up. (a snare and cajon) I asked her if she was interested in doing that for me as her harmonies were second to none. She replied “If you back me up on my songs too” So off we went I started trying to add guitar to her songs but quickly realized I really liked playing her percussion setup. The only reason I didn’t start playing the drums earlier in life was due to the fact girls at my school didn’t pick percussion. And I was too shy to be the first. But from the second I hit my first snare I knew this was something I wanted to do more often. Colleen and I started playing a few shows together in Toronto then the idea to do the Sammy Sugar tour came to me. I was going to cycle from Toronto to PEI with my dog, Sammy Sugar and asked if Colleen wanted to Road Crew as well as play shows along the way. She was in and we had a glorious 2 months of cycling, camping and playing music.
It was on this trip our band Taffy was born.
A few years later Colleen started dating Keith who became our bass player/producer/Colleen’s husband. The duo became a trio and Taffy became Sammmy. I still believe Keith liked this name to make me sound like the crazy dog lady. Which I guess if I am honest it is true.
In this band we would switch instruments and it really challenged me musically more than most bands I was in previously. I played guitar, drums and even bass for a couple songs. But the thing that Colleen gave to me was the courage to give it a go. And to know when I work on something I can achieve it.
Not only that, but because I started playing the drums I have been asked to play in quite a few other projects. I started drumming a bit in Some of the Parts my Toronto band.
When I moved to PEI I played regularly with the Dave Connolly band.
When I was passing through Toronto I was asked to drum for the McDales.
And now that I am in Merida I Drum for the Los Similares.
None of which would have happened if I had not met Colleen. So here is to you Colleen! My inspiration to hit shit. Soooo cathartic.
Colleen is hula hooping more than singing these days but if you want to hear some of her music https://music.colleencostello.com/track/lauralynn This one was my favorite that we performed as while under the title of Taffy. When I listen to it now I am still amazed we pulled that one off as a duo. Sammmy songs can be heard here http://sammmy.com/
Nigel Barnes Toronto Ontario
Nigel was one of the many musicians I met through the coffeehouse musician collective. He is the first person I co-wrote a song with. Up until this point I had a really hard time editing or changing my songs. They would fall out and that was that. Many times I was offered ways to change or improve a song but I was just not open to it. Well I had submitted lyrics to a songwriting contest. And typically with these contests you would have to enter a few times before being selected to perform. Not this time. My first time submitting and the song got selected. However, I had not finished the song. There was no music and I booked to perform it in 10 days. I was scrambling to get this song in the can. So I called up Nigel and we decided to try and finish it together. The song came out beautifully. Distant Sky is about how a prairie rain in my home town in Saskatchewan rolls in and out of town as well as about being acceptent to change. The music we wrote together for this tune was amazing and after that we wrote a few more songs together. I was much more open to collaboration after this experience. I have worked with other musicians since this and have allowed my songs to go in directions I would not have gone on my own. Some I have liked better, some I have preferred the original way, but what I have learned is that change is not forever. And working with someone always takes interesting twists and turns. A song (like people) can be perceived in many different ways.
Nigel Barnes newest project is Puppy Sale.
You can hear his music here https://nigelbarnesmusic.com/music
And here is the first song we wrote together. https://soundcloud.com/ellen-carol-1/distant-sky
I did the arrangement for this and recorded our song. I put it on my CD Slidin. Interestingly Nigel said to me when it was done “That is not the direction I would have gone, but I like it” I do hope someday to hear the arrangement that was in Nigels head.
Herb Dale Toronto Ontario
One of the first musicians I ment in Toronto was Uncle Herb Dale. He really was every Toronto musician’s uncle. He hosted at least 4 open mics in the city and had been performing his whole life. He told me about the coffeehouse group which was a family of musicians who gathered in the east end of Toronto to share songs and pints. This is where I found many musicians who I have collaborated with. Herb was not only a performer of music but a supporter of music. If he thought you had something to share he would share it with everyone he knew. And if he found an opportunity that might work for you he made sure to let you know about it. He wrote and played some of the best classic style country songs I have heard. But mostly he is remembered for the sense of community he instilled in all of us. We musicians can get wrapped up in ourselves so often. Uncle her reminded us that it is more fun when we share.
Sadly you can no longer see Uncle Herb Live. He passed away last year. But my favorite song of his was this one. https://soundcloud.com/herb-dale/insomnia-and-tears-herb-dale And these days it hits home. We are all struggling with sleep these days.
Tan Chiang Rai Thailand
Before heading to Toronto I decided to travel to Thailand for 3 months but knowing that I was planning to move east when I returned I packed everything up and put it in storage gave up my apartment and hit the happy trail. Which was a good thing as 3 months turned into 5 months.
In my last month I was spending a bit of time in Chiang Rai. When I arrived a fellow noticed I had a guitar. Tan was also a musician. Well my Thai was not very good nor was his English but there is a global unwritten code among musicians it seems as Tan not only took me to my hostel, we made a date to perform together that night. He had 3 regular shows he played in town. He picked me up and we drove on his motorbike to each show with both our guitars strapped on our shoulders. There was not much talking but the music was amazing. The crowds were very receptive to my English tunes even not understanding the words. After the last show, that was in an outdoor food court, a fellow that was watching us invited us over to dine with them. The spread was very interesting. At the end of the night Tan took me home and told me to enjoy the rest of my visit as I was heading up to the golden triangle the next day.
This is one of them many times my guitar has opened a traveling door for me. Now, I never travel without my guitar. If you are backpacking take an instrument you never know where it will lead you. Music is the language of understanding, kindness and peace.
I wish I could tell you more about Tan but we did not even exchange last names. It was a pure musical moment.
Kent Rock Vancouver British Columbia/Toronto Ontario
While in Vancouver the way I made a living was working in restaurants. So often people say to me “You are so lucky to be a musician for a living.” This statement would make me laugh and laugh. Very few musicians in Canada make a living at playing their own music. Back then people would gladly spend $100 a night on drinking at a pub but when they are asked to pay $5 to $10 cover charge for a band they are horrified. (unless they were your friends then they were there to do you a favor) Or they would offer to give you $5 for your $15 cd that you spent the year saving money to make. Ahh good times. However we didn’t stop. When you catch the music bug it is for life. I have known a few musicians who have given up music but they don’t seem to be very happy. It usually costs more that we make but we keep doing it because we have to.
So the restaurant I was working in when I met Kent was Carderos. Now this was a time in my life that I was in the “I need to plan my future’ mode and I had just bought my first house so work had taken precedent over music. Thus I didn’t even know he was a fellow musician when we first met. We were both little worker bees in the cog of consumption. But shortly after this I was asked to play at a showcase at a little bar in North Vancouver and as you do you ask everyone you know to come. It was at this time the two of us realized that we were both addicted to the life of music. But it was also shortly after this time that Kent was to move to Toronto. We did randomly stay in touch and on one of these occasions Kent mentioned to me that the music scene in Toronto was leaps and bounds ahead of Vancouver. Being I was getting the itch to move (which happens to me every 5 to 7 years) I decided that a move to Toronto might just be the ticket. I had been planning a trip to Thailand that year but I made my arrangements so that when I returned to Canada I could head straight to Toronto. I also asked Kent if he would mind if I crashed at his place while I set myself up. He welcomed me into his home, showed me the city and helped set me up in my rented room in the Annex. Once again if that exchange had not happened I do not know where my life would have taken me but my time in Toronto was quite wonderful.
Kent Rock now writes scores for movies. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9542530/
But if you ever get a chance to see him perform live take it.
Penny Vancouver British Columbia / George Washington
I wish I could remember Penny’s last name. But back then there was no Facebook and we were just starting to use the internet. Cell phones were still just phones not computers and texting was a pain in the butt as you had to use the numbers keys. Penny was a redhead spit fire from the east coast of Canada. She was confident and had the voice of a celtic angel. She also pushed me to join her at the open mic scene of Vancouver. Together we played a few shows that we put together ourselves at different venues. One of the pivotal moments of our time together was when we decided to drive to George Washington 450 km away to go to the Lilith Fair at the Gorge. We did not have tickets and it was a sold out show but we were going to somehow get in. I love road trips almost as much as I love playing music so this was a win win. We left right after work. I worked at a restaurant at the time so we left around Midnight and got there as the sun was coming up. We found a campsite and then had a little nap to recharge. Then when we woke we decided to play our guitars a bit before figuring out how to break into the show. As we were playing a fellow came over and asked us if we would like to buy some tickets. We debated this as we didn’t have much money. The fellow smiled and something about our situation touched him as he asked what we could pay. It was not much but he took the money and gave us the two tickets. As it turns out we were in the 8th row sitting beside a couple of women who had paid $350 a ticket. Natalie Merchant came out and danced when the Indigo Girls were playing. It was the first time I had ever heard Erica Badu. Hearing her speak was like listening to a river calmly flowing across the rock. Such a peaceful rhythmic voice. And then she sang and bam I was sold. Powerful and inspiring while remaining smooth and cool. And Sarah Mclachlan who put the show together gave a killer performance. It was so inspiring seeing these women come together and lift eachother up. This was an experience that has not only inspired me musically but in my everyday life. It only takes you higher when you choose to lift others up rather than stepping on them to get to the top.
I do not know where to find Penny or her music but if you see a woman performer whose first name is Penny and is from Nova Scotia roll the dice. If it is indeed her she will blow your mind.
Wade Rafuse Lake Louise Alberta
When I met Wade in Lake Louise Alberta so many moons ago I was a different person. Insecure and shy, I had a little mouse of a voice as I was scared to let it out. But every night after the bar we would meet at someone’s house and the music would start. The more I had to drink the more I allowed my guard to drop and I would sing. The harmonies would flow as freely as the wine. Then one evening I let “The Big Girl” voice out and the room silenced. We were all so high that no one spoke and I did not know that the silence was awe. I thought it was horror. So it was a long time before I let her out again. Not until one day someone asked me “Where did that voice come from” Thru that conversation I realized I needed to use that powerful sound more often and I began to work on it. This was all before I had picked up a guitar. Wade had the idea that we would start a band. So with Daryll, Wade and myself we became Cabin Fever. The three of us played in a talent show at the Banff Springs Hotel and came in 2nd place. It was a wonderful evening. After this at one of our rehearsal I was watching Wade play the guitar. Watching someone gifted at this instrument has always (and still does) completely consumed me. He looked up at me and said “You are learning to play guitar.” It was not a question in his mind it was a fact. I replied “I don’t think I can.” and he responded “You want it I can tell.” My guitar lessons started that day. This was a gift that I don’t think I will ever be able to repay. That moment in time changed my life. I am sure I would be a very different person today if it had not happened.
I don’t think there is anywhere you can hear Wade’s music these days but if you ever get a chance take the time. He is truly gifted.
More to come tomorrow.
Dance with me!
Vinnie and I are going to be kicking it at Dzalbay on August 14th.
Hope to see you there.
Really loving rocking out with Los Similares. We will be back playing in Merida in June 2019
The Lily Pad is ready for guests!
We are rocking out old school.
If you are in Merida Yucatan Mexico come join us at Panchos
Here is a little interview I did a few years back. Raw interview
I have set up a soundcloud account. Have a listen to the tunes.