MUSIC

MAGAZINE FEATURE

Garland Jeffreys

  Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad

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Duckwrth

  Duckwrth cannot be pinned down. The 28-year-old rapper, born Jared Lee in South Central, landed like a splash of mixed paints with his debut full-length I’m Uugly in fall 2016. Its 10 elastic tracks stretch across hip hop, chill wave, funk, and punk, all shrouded in a soft-focused haze. He aptly calls this impressionistic concoction “psych rap.” Early last November, Duckwrth released An Xtra Uugly Mixtape. Whereas I’m Uugly exalted the beauty that lives within the harshness and griminess of everyday life – from the physical to the political to the socioeconomic – An Xtra Uugly Mixtape encourages being unapologetically you. It is, as Duckwrth writes on his Soundcloud page, “the anthem for your rebellion.” Fittingly, the tape is higher in energy; the guitar sounds are cranked. An Xtra Uugly Mixtape is his attempt to put hip hop and rock on equal footing within the same piece of music. An Xtra Ugly Mixtape is also a gradual step towards fulfilling his stadium rock ambitions. Duckwrth had one of his most formative musical experiences at a stadium show. “I used to do the whole protest [thing] and be more politically driven,” he says. “But then there was a time when

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Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was

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  Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change

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  Québécois singer-songwriter Gabrielle Shonk locates a raw vulnerability within an indie-folk sound on her debut self-titled LP released this past September. Tracing through her own experiences with a voice that pierces and taunts in equal measure, the 29-year-old has earned comparisons to the likes of Alicia Keys, Fiona Apple and Adele. To kick off the new year, Georgie caught up  with Gabrielle by phone at her home in Quebec City. G—Could you tell us a little about your background? Gabrielle Shonk—I am French Canadian. Actually, I was born in the States in Providence, Rhode Island, and we moved to [a suburb of Quebec City] when I was five or six. My dad is American and my mom is from Quebec City. G—Is French your first language? GS—Yes. I went to school in French and everything; my whole upbringing was in French in Quebec. G—Your English is absolutely perfect. GS—I would say English has always come more naturally to me; I love both though, but my main musical expression language is English. G—Who would you say are your greatest musical influences? GS—I like a lot of old stuff, from the folk scene: Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I

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  Three years after the release of his first EP, Augusta, Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman has unleashed his debut full-length LP, Hôtel de Ville, a collection of 12 alt-pop coming-of-age tracks. The 22-year-old Toronto native who successfully broke into the music industry in his mid-teens earned himself two Juno Award nominations, certified gold status for his hit, Bungalow, and began quickly fielding comparisons to the likes of Vance Joy and Jeff Buckley. With a new level of acclaim awaiting him, Helman has recently finished his cross-Canada Scott vs. Ria tour with fellow Juno nominee Ria Mae. We thought it would be the right time to ask him about his momentous musical journey. G—You got your first guitar when you were ten. Was this what led you to become a musician? Scott Helman—I used to mess around on my friend’s guitar, and really wanted to learn how to play. So, I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I remember coming down the stairs and seeing it, and knowing instantly what it was because of its shape. I never put it down after that. G—What kind of music did you listen to growing up? SH—My parents are British immigrants, so

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Swedish electro-pop mainstays Little Dragon have been around the block. The four-piece band first formed over a decade ago and in that time steadily rose to become one of the world’s biggest indie electro-pop acts. Touring in support of their fifth studio album, Season High, we spoke with bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin about evolving band dynamics, love of music and inspiration behind their latest release. Georgie—You released your fifth album, Season High, earlier this year. How do you feel about this record in comparison to your previous one? Fredrik Källgren Wallin—It is different, but it is hard to pin down how. We worked a little bit with a producer for the mixing parts, and we have never done that before. We have also become better at communicating and making decisions. I think we fight less; it’s more civilized [laughs]. G—You’ve also worked on some interesting collaborations with other artists, but these tracks didn’t make it onto any of your albums. Was this a conscious decision? FKW—It was a conscious decision; it is such collaboration between the four of us. We did have a friend who appears on the first track of the album – he’s an old high school friend,

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Los-Angeles pop artist Billie Eilish began writing and recording music at the young age of 14, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to her. Her lyrics are seasoned with insight carried by a voice that softly and soulfully stretches over dreamy soundscapes. The result is a compelling collection of contrasts, both musically and lyrically, which is on full display on Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Interscope Records/Universal Music Canada)). Co-written and produced by her brother Finneas O’Connell, the Eilish siblings prove they have no shortage of talent. When we spoke to Billie she was on the road and had just begun her North American tour. G—You started singing at the age of 4, what at that time got you interested in music so early on? BE—I started singing before I could talk, and since then I have been singing all the time, every day. Music has always been part of my family, I guess a part of the way that I think, so it has never come as something separate from my brain. Music and my brain are just one and the same. G—Now, at the age of 15 you

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  Allie X began with a vision: of a blank slate. The multimedia electronic pop artist chose the letter “X” to signify infinite possibility – an attempt to strip herself of any pre-existing identity. Yet she feels the presence of multiple versions of herself: good ones, bad ones, and everything in between. “I think I’ve always had this self-awareness of the bad parts of myself,” she reflects. “I remember feeling as a kid like I hadn’t suffered enough, which is kind of a strange feeling. And then I remember in middle school feeling like I wasn’t being nice enough to people.” Her self-awareness has only expanded with age: “As I’ve gotten older, sometimes I just feel like I’m watching myself from somewhere else and think, ‘Who is this person?… Who am I, and is it good or bad?’” Unsure of who she is, anything does seem possible. The cover of Allie X’s latest album and full-length debut, CollXtion II, features her literally reassembling herself, slotting cubed pieces of her shin back into her leg. The visual perfectly captures what The Story of X, the name she has given the narrative that arches across all of her creative output as Allie

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In her role as Valerie Brown on Riverdale, Hayley Law is one of the show’s most charismatic characters, standing confidently behind the keyboards as one fourth of Josie and the Pussycats. In real life, outside of acting, Law is a burgeoning recording artist who makes playful pop and soul-inflected music under the stage name Hayleau (pronounced Halo). In November of last year she dropped her first self-titled EP, and since then the 24-year-old, who’s based in Vancouver, has been working on her sophomore release in between filming two huge Netflix series. We spoke with Law about being Hayleau, her creative catharsis, and of coarse, Riverdale. G—You’ve had an impressive start to 2017. How has your life changed in the last year? HL—It’s changed a lot. A year ago I was working at a job that I hated, serving at a breakfast restaurant. Now I get to do something that I have been working so hard to do, every day. I’m so thankful I don’t have to do what I was doing to get to where I am now. G—Parallel to your role as Valerie on Riverdale you have a blossoming music career. Could you tell us a bit about your

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Ria Mae

Over the past four years, Halifax pop artist Ria Mae has accomplished dreams she has openly spoken about: being produced by fellow Nova Scotia success story Classified and touring with Tegan and Sara and Coleman Hell. Since creating her self-released demo of “Clothes Off” in 2013, she has signed with Sony Music and Nettwerk Management. The former has helped develop the careers of Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Coldplay, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and many more. The finished version of the song – her major label debut – earned Mae her first Juno nomination, for “Single of the Year” in 2016, which put her in direct competition against Drake, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. From Mae’s new home in Toronto, only two days removed from a cross-Canada tour with Scott Helman, she spoke with Georgie about her sudden rise, working with Classified, stepping up as a voice for LGBTQ groups, and more. G—As you’ve discovered, you can make a lot of unexpected connections in a small town. But that can be a good thing because working with people who differ from you in their approach forces you to create from new perspectives. Do you ever have reservations about working with people who

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Millennials — a generation the mainstream media loves to tarnish as entitled, lazy and self-absorbed. But stereotypes like these fail to speak to the extensive research that proves millennials are driven by much more than a desire to capture the perfect selfie — in fact, on the whole, they’re well educated, civic-oriented, progressive and incredibly entrepreneurial. Look no further than 23-year old Cari Fletcher, otherwise known as FLETCHER. A self-described “power pop” artist, she represents the kind of fearlessness, unbridled ambition, self-determination and desire to change the world that has catapulted so many millennials to success. Ever since “War Paint” was included as part of Spotify’s Spotlight on 2016 list — a song she wrote and self-published online while studying at NYU — Fletcher has become a viral sensation. “War Paint” has amassed over 19 million Spotify listens to date, and the video for “Wasted Youth” — from her debut EP, Finding Fletcher — has already racked up 1.3 million views since being released in March 2017. Even more impressive than her level of notoriety is the absence of a major label to credit for her success. Instead, hard work, honesty, and an entrepreneurial approach — and irrefutable talent, of

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Starley’s path to platinum status has been filled with starts and stops. After years spent trying to launch her career in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, and later in London and the United States, the popstar hopeful grew depressed. Her anxieties heightened. She was ready to quit. But before she decided to shift her focus onto her next passion – fitness – she made one final attempt at music. Telling herself that God works in mysterious ways but to remain faithful in his process, Starley penned the personal salve, “Call on Me”. The song caught the attention of Australia’s Central Station Records. Since then, everything changed for Starley. Central Station’s subsidiary, Tinted Records, released “Call on Me” as her debut single last July. Epic Records re-released the track later in October. To date, the song has peaked at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its remixed version by Aussie producer Ryan Riback has garnered over 338 million Spotify streams. Starley is currently touring North America for the first time supporting British electronic group Clean Bandit. Georgie got some time with the budding singer to talk about her mainstream ascent, dealing with mental health, and the importance of fitness

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Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch first met in the 11th grade, when they started performing together in a jazz quartet known as the Flown Tones. Although the band later disbanded, Rehbein and Dausch stuck together, and the pair went on to experiment with folk, reggae and electronica sound combinations. Eventually, this led to the formation of Milky Chance and the 2014 release of their debut album, Sadnessecary, which later went on to become a multi-platinum success. Now, three and a half years later, Milky Chance is ready to embark on a new adventure with the release of Blossom. The album’s first single, “Cocoon”, continues to climb the charts as the Blossom Tour makes its way across North America. Lead vocalist Rehbein spoke to Georgie about touring, writing and how being close friends with Dausch has benefited the band. G—It’s been about 3 ½ years since the release of Sadnecessary. How has your approach changed between your first and second albums? Clemens Rehbein—I wouldn’t say it’s changed in the way I write songs, but rather how we’ve developed as musicians. The songs are made of the same foundation, but they’re influenced by our experiences on the road and playing on stage.

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Jacob Sartorius’s path to fame has become an increasingly familiar story: teenaged internet sensation breaks out into mainstream pop stardom. But what sets the 14-year-old Virginian singer apart is his self-awareness and early career savvy. In 2014, Sartorius began uploading clips of himself singing and dancing to Vine. After amassing around 500,000 followers, he switched to musical.ly, where he began uploading videos of himself lip-synching to his own songs. Whereas Vine allowed him to show off his musical theatre background, musical.ly allowed him to show off even more of his lighthearted side. Musical.ly became a new way for him to promote his music and connect with his fans. Sartorius’s fan base has grown so large that he is currently touring internationally for the first time, across seven countries, in support of his debut EP, The Last Text. Georgie caught up with him by phone in London, England a day before he performed in front of 2,500 fans at the O2 Arena. In preparing for The Last Text World Tour, Sartorius has already started developing the work ethic necessary to endure major pop stardom. For 15 to 20 days leading up to the tour, he worked with his voice and movement

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Every so often, an artist bursts onto the scene, seemingly out of nowhere, with a song so catchy that it dominates the charts for weeks on end. Before too long, that song will have muscled its way onto playlists at every party, wedding and club dance floor – and, love it or hate it, there will be no denying its success (or the fact that you and everyone you know can sing along, word for word). But the pop music world moves fast, and it can be a fickle friend to many musicians on the rise. To make it big, an artist not only has to navigate the onslaught of social media commentary, relentless publicity engagements and repeat performances of that hit song, but also must provide proof of staying power to the critics and sceptics wagering on short-lived success. Enter Meghan Trainor, who doo-wopped her way to pop superstardom with her 2014 track, “All About That Bass”. As an accomplished 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Nantucket, Trainor was no stranger to creating smash hits for others, like Rascal Flatts and Sabrina Carpenter. But when “Bass” failed to be picked up by any of the labels, record executive L.A. Reid named Trainor

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  “You just have to be a go-getter, man. You have to just figure it out and get it done.” Through hands-on music-making, tireless touring, and providing unique, personable experiences to his fans, Vernon, BC rapper SonReal has seemingly “figured it out.” SonReal has made his name as a live performer. The Juno and MMVA nominated artist has played at premier venues across North America, including Webster Hall, and he has no plans of slowing down. “Live is really who you are… I take a lot of pride in my live show. I love doing it. I’ll always be a touring artist… You can’t hide anything. It’s also the realest depiction of your songs.” Touring also gives SonReal unmatched opportunities to connect with his fans. But he goes beyond looking into their eyes and singing them a line; throughout his most recent tour, he has invited fans in each city onto his bus and played them his upcoming EP, The Name. Sometimes though, it’s the smallest experiences that bring fans the greatest joy. “After the show [in Portland] last night, I took a fan out and just bought him a bunch of doughnuts, and they were stoked; they lost their

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    To say that Australian-born artist Grace Sewell – known simply as ‘Grace’ – has had a busy year would only be telling part of her story. Widely known for her smash remake of Leslie Gore’s feminist classic, “You Don’t Own Me”, she’s been active in writing and performing music since the age of 14. Raised in a family of performers, the 19-year-old descends from grandparents who once served as openers for the Bee Gees, and grew up with an older brother – Conrad Sewell – who’s had his own massive success in music with a number one hit in 2015. Speaking to Grace over the phone, she also fondly describes her mother’s role in her creative upbringing. “My mom was always very artsy – always painting, or writing books – and that rubbed off on me. I’ve always loved music and she had really great taste in music. So, I was always around soul music growing up, listening to artists like Etta James, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin.” Just five years after beginning her own artistic endeavors, Grace landed in a studio recording with legendary producer, Quincy Jones. Jones, who first heard her music through a management connection, signed

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It’s been almost a decade since Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna began her career, but it’s taken until 2016 for the 29-year-old to finally break through North American soundwaves. This year also saw Yuna – who draws inspiration from love, relationships and loss – appear on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts with her Usher-assisted single, “Crush”, and marked the release of her third, and most personal, album to date, Chapters. “I think I’ve been making music for about eight years now, and I’ve learned a lot throughout the years,” she says casually as she reflects on her career thus far. “When I started out as this small-time singer-songwriter in Malaysia, I realized my forte was just singing from experience and expressing my feelings and singing about real stuff – like something very human. I’ve always been that kind of songwriter, and for Chapters, I just wanted to write about the same stuff I wrote about when I was 19 or 20, but more mature. I have a more mature outlook on life now, and I’m not 19 anymore, I’m 29, so the way I see love or relationships is different,” she continues. Yuna isn’t shy about revealing her insecurities, her struggles or her

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