We first heard Halifax-born producer, Ryan Hemsworth, back in 2012, when he dominated music blogs with his impressive remixes of Grimes, Lana Del Ray, Cat Power and Frank Ocean (the last of which has garnered over 9 million YouTube views). His latest album, Alone for the First Time, led Hemsworth on an extensive North American tour, “Sucker for Punishment,” supported by Edmonton-based electronic musicians, Tennyson. Recently, we sat in on a conversation between Luke — one half of the Tennyson duo — and Hemsworth, getting an insider’s perspective on the modern phenomenon of today’s ‘bedroom’ musicians.
Luke Tennyson—I creeped all your old Facebook photos. Back to about 2006.
Ryan Hemsworth—That’s good to know. [laughs]
L—There are pictures of you with folded baseball caps and an acoustic guitar.
R—I started out playing guitar. It was my first instrument when I was 12 or 13. My cousin was in a band and I thought he looked cool. I never took lessons and I can’t read music. I understand chords and can read tabs though.
L—Was that the basis of your music theory then?
R—I taught myself as much as I could through that, recording myself and messing around with different production programs. My first audio program was called Goldwave — on a PC — and it’s pretty much a shitty Audacity.
L—How old were you?
R—I started doing that in junior high, so 13 or 14. Then I got GarageBand in grade 11 and that’s when I tried to record songs. I started recording myself making covers.
L—That’s how it started for me. A friend showed me Aphex Twin and at first I thought… I can totally do that. But when I tried it wasn’t as easy as I thought.
R—So you started with piano then?
R—I’m interested because there’s definitely a blend in your music. You have pop sensibility but it’s also super jazzy and at the same time very electronic. Where does the jazz come from? Would you say that’s a big part of your music?
L—Mostly recently, same with the pop thing. After we started getting plays on SoundCloud I wanted to focus on what people want to hear. Maybe that is the death of art.
R—When was that?
R—So in 2013 you stopped making music that you liked to become a sell-out?
L—[Laughs] That’s when I found I could do both.
shirt – Hugo Boss (Holt Renfrew)
It’s a good time to be eclectic because everything seems to be dividing off into super sub-sub genres now. An amalgamation of different sounds is good.
R—You’ve got an interesting middle ground right now between all the sounds. It’s a good time to be eclectic because everything seems to be dividing off into super sub-sub genres now. An amalgamation of different sounds is good.
Let’s talk about the tour. I think I’m probably learning more from seeing you guys play than you watching me.
L—No, I’ve been in the dark for a while when it comes to newer music so it’s nice being immersed in it. You’ll play a rap song and everyone will know it and scream the lyrics out. It’s usually something I don’t know.
R—I’m in an in-between place where I make a lot of my own music, but I like to play others, like a DJ-live hybrid set. Trying to establish yourself that way is difficult, though, because that’s what 90 percent of DJ producers starting out are doing now.
I think you guys have a foot in the door more than most because you can play all your own stuff. You have a live presence and people can see what you’re doing on stage. It’s harder to be a producer just starting out on a laptop and not performing.
L—It’s the opposite for me. I kind of wish I had the ability to just drop some rap song and watch the crowd get into it.
R—It’s exciting to play something that surprises people that they may not know — it gives them the chance to appreciate it for being new. It can be a bit scary to play your own music but eventually you gain fans that start knowing your songs.
L—At this point just a few people in the front know our songs.
R—This is your first tour, so that’s already exciting. My first tour I was the first of three DJs opening and there’s no way to make yourself stand out.
L—What is the process like for writing a vocal song? Do you write the melody and then do the production afterwards?
R—It’s different each time. For my album I made demos and sent them to certain people. We didn’t have studio time together. I emailed back and forth. It’s so easy now with Dropbox. They would record a verse and I would add to the production, make something for a chorus and then they would add their part. The vocalists that I work with would make the melodies and lyrics and we would figure out the concept beforehand.
L—Just the thing I really want to do.
R—I’m not a studio person. It’s fun to just make something, to have someone in mind for it, figure out the concept and let them do their thing — and then get that back and play with it until it sounds good. I like working with introverted singers who can record their part at home. In a way we’re the same kind of artists just performing in different ways.
dress shirt – Comme des Garcons (Holt Renfrew), dress -Helmut Lang (Holt Renfrew)
I’ve been asked if I want to try moving out of my bedroom and see if I can write in a studio setting. I would give that a try but I have everything that I need in my bedroom right now.
L—I’ve been asked if I want to try moving out of my bedroom and see if I can write in a studio setting. I would give that a try but I have everything that I need in my bedroom right now.
R—I think the transition into a studio is probably easier for someone like you. You can play your full song on a piano and compose traditionally whereas I’m composing on my computer. Do you initially approach a track by making melodies on a piano?
L—For the longest time, a chord regression would work and then I would turn into a song. But recently, I need more than that. I need a melody or an idea.
R—Do you always start with the same thing or sometimes do you start with a progression or a sample?
L—I’ll have an idea on the piano and then I’ll try and find one sound to play it on. And it will probably be a guitar note but in the middle of some sampler. And then that will turn into something totally different.
R—I’m similar. I start with one thing and then it becomes something completely different.
L—Yeah, or I’ll build up as many tracks as I can and, once it’s too much, slide it over, work on an intro and then by the time you get back to it, it’s totally different. Some people can start with just a drumbeat but I can’t.
R—I don’t think there’s a set way. I don’t know how people just start with the same thing every time. For me, making music is a completely random thing. It’s different every day.
Named for the Toronto area they grew up in, The Beaches are a far cry from a placid day on the lake. Led by singer/bassist Jordan Miller—with her sister and guitarist Kylie Miller, guitarist/keyboardist Leandra Earl and drummer Eliza Enman-McDaniel—the Canadian four-piece burst out of Toronto with their 2018 debut, Late Show, and have since built up an aura of dissident swagger. Taking home this year’s Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, the all-fem rock quartet is bringing grunge, gloss, and 70s glamour to a predominantly male genre. Georgie caught up with Leandra to talk about the band’s latest music video, taking charge of their music, and three simple ways to keep women in the industry. G—Did you grow up together in Toronto? LE—Yeah, I met the girls in high school. Jordan and Kylie are sisters, so they’ve known each other a bit longer, but they grew up with Eliza in Toronto’s Beaches area. G—What kind of music were you listening to at that time? LE—We grew up listening to all of the music our parents listened to. That definitely influenced us while writing our debut album since we drew from a lot of the 70’s music that our
Tyler Shaw is going through a renaissance. After exploding onto the scene and the charts in 2012 with his hit single “Kiss Goodnight” and a wildly successful debut album that followed, it’s hard to imagine what the Canadian pop singer could possibly need to reinvent. But after two years of writing and exploring, Shaw has taken the reigns on developing a new album and a new sound that’s better in tune with his growth as an artist. Just before the release of his new single “With You”, Georgie caught up with Shaw over the phone to talk about his upcoming album, mental health, and the feelings he’s harnessed into a musical renewal. G— What were some of the biggest differences for you between making the upcoming album and making Yesterday? TS—Yesterday was more so “I’m a new artist, I don’t really know what I want to do. This sounds cool on my voice, so does this.” With this album on the other hand, I know what I want. I know what melodies I want to go to and what I want to talk about. [Yesterday] came out in 2015, and ever since then, I mean, you go through life experiences
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while