~ THE AGENDA ~
We're happy to start 2021 off with a bang! For our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' of the month for January we have not 1, but a 4 pack of musicians! Each of these guys not only help support several country artists but their own band itself is starting to really make a mark of their own in the Canadian music industry! “The Agenda” is a production team and band based out of Toronto, made up of members Al Rowe, Mark Rynkun, Rich DaSilva, and Will Hebbes. The boys met while attending Humber College’s Music Program and became friends right away. With Will on guitar/vocals, Rich on drums, Mark on bass/vocals, and Al on vocals, guitar, and keys, their skills aligned with one another rather well. They started working together and playing for various artists soon after meeting, quickly realizing how well they worked with each other. From cutting their teeth playing in bars to eventually stacking their resumes by playing for artists on tours, festivals, and records, the boys continue to create and develop their production company, “The Agenda.”
Over the last five years, “The Agenda” has produced for many names such as Leah Daniels, Beverley Mahood, Kris Barclay, Alessia Cohle, Graham Scott Fleming, Justine Chantale, Dylan Wallace and many more. They have played for various artists every year at Boots & Hearts Music Festival, are the annual house band at the Magna Hoedown Showdown, have been nominated twice for Country Music Association of Ontario Producers of the Year, and most recently played as the house band for HarmoniaFest. Here’s a little info on each of the members!
Mark Rynkun, the bassist of “The Agenda,” is from Mississauga and has been playing music professionally for well over a decade. He comes from a wide background of genres, including rock, soul, world music, jazz, and country. His hard work and dedication to his craft have led him to many exciting opportunities, like playing for Deric Ruttan, Gord Bamford, The Abrams, David James Music, Genevieve Fisher, Leah Daniels, Small Town Pistols, and more. Currently, Mark is part of an original up and coming rock band called “My My Sugar.” Mark takes the lead on the admin work for The Agenda, speaking directly with clients and booking studio time and sessions.
Originally from Whitby, Will Hebbes has made Toronto his home for the last several years. During that time, he has worked his way to the top as a well-known guitar player, working with acts like Amanda Marshall, Jim Cuddy, Steven Page, Jarvis Church, and Beverley Mahood to name a few. You can always count on Will to make you feel 100 times better. His energetic personality goes a long way with the artists he works with. He’s a bucket of fun to be around, and you can always find him in the studio or on stage making music with his three best friends.
Rich DaSilva, the drummer of “The Agenda,” is a highly respected player in the country music scene. From Cambridge, Ontario, Rich has been nominated four times for Canadian Country Music Association drummer of the year. You can often find him on the road with Jess Moskaluke, or playing with artists like The Reklaws, David James Music, Deric Ruttan, and High Valley. The energy Rich brings to the drums is electric, and he is the backbone of the band. His leadership helps to keep everyone in check, and his mixing and editing skills are a key role in The Agenda.
On top of his own musical journey, Al Rowe spends a lot of time in the studio mixing music for The Agenda. He’s a wizard on the computer and often takes the lead on running a session. Originally from Scarborough, Al’s first band, “Aberdeen” toured Canada multiple times and appeared in the movie Camp Rock 2. From there Al has toured and played for acts like Genevieve Fisher, Beverley Mahood, Amanda Marshall, Leah Daniels, and David James Music. Al is also a solo artist and is currently releasing his own original music. It’s hard to find something Al can’t do, which is why he wears many hats in The Agenda.
Together, Rich, Will, Mark, and Al form a pretty great team and are continuing to make a name for themselves in the music scene. They love what they do and feel pretty great about being able to work with their best friends in a field that they love. We've been blessed to see them several times backing artists making them shine on any stage they're on and together they are unstoppable. With some exciting new artists in the works, The Agenda is looking forward to 2021 as they continue to grow their production team and create music!
~ DAVE KIRBY ~
Our December 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' of the month is someone the 'Two Christines' have been following and watching grow for the last several years! Dave Kirby grew up in a very close knit family in Oakville Ontario, has resided in Nashville for a time and is currently back living in Toronto living with his longtime girlfriend Amanda. He's been playing guitar for as long as he can remember and decided to pursue an education in it graduating with Honors from the Bachelor Of Music in Guitar from Humber College in Etobicoke Ontario in 2012.
Since graduation he has been working as a freelance guitarist for artists of all levels. He's played everything from bars and coffee shops to arenas and large scale festivals for over a decade now. You may recognize him as he's been Madeline Merlo's lead guitarist for a number of years now and he chalks his experience playing with her as musically the best time ever in his life so far.We've seen him play with Madeline several times over the past few years and being a front man in her band always makes her show sound amazing with his guitar playing always on point!
The first time we really noticed this talented young man was about 3 1/2 years ago when we started following a country/rock indie band called Kentucky Rails. If that name sounds familiar it's because they were a finalist in the Boots & Hearts Music Festival Emerging Artist contest in 2017. The band resinated with so many fans gaining momentum very quickly. They played a few festivals in Ontario including Trackside Music Festival in London Ontario. They even had the opportunity to move to Nashville and write & work with a well known manager/producer recording several singles. Unfortunately as fate would have it things didn't end up working out but all of the guys from Kentucky Rails are still a band of brothers musically.
Dave has also had the opportunity to work with up and coming country indie artist Alli Walker and country sweetheart Kira Isabella. He was also given the fantastic opportunty to work with the talented Shawn Austin once and stated it was probably one of the best experiences he's had performing. Dave understates his musical talents. As a master in electric and accoustic guitar he is also accomplished singer. He is versed in multiple genres - jazz, pop, rock, funk, blues and country music. He even transcribes music creating charts for multiple parts.
With Covid 19 turning everything upside down in the music industry this year there has been a positive side for Dave. He started his own business/website www.davekirbymusic.com which has become his platform to exhibit and share his passion for playing the guitar with the widest audience that he can reach. For his entire career as a guitarist he's been teaching guitar lessons privately but was always really frustrated by the fact that every time he went out of town for a gig or tour he would have to sub out his teaching. So being the creative young man that he is he moved all of his teaching online offering online video courses as well as virtual one on one lessons as a way to modernize his teaching and maintain a higher level of commitment to the growth of his students. He's developed an online teaching community where students can sign up for courses that he's written so they have access to lessons whenever they want to learn. Since March, he's had nothing but time to focus on his side business and it's really taking off for him. There is of course a massive learning curve whenever anything with computers are involved, but it’s been fulfilling and challenging in an interesting way for him to develop this whole online teaching idea. Lately, he's learnt a lot about Ableton which is software designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering. He's been able to help artists with backing tracks, as well as provide guitar tracks for various recording projects all through his own setup.
He draws his inspiration mainly from several of his musical peers with a few of them being Graham Mallany, Justin de Graaf, Ben Miller, Mark Wilson, Jason Barry & Geoff Torrn. Along with these talented musicians he really looks up to Madeline Merlo.
Whether as a part of a band, or as part of a musical event or as a musical backdrop to a corporate event, this young man gives an artful fantastic performance and brings his professional A game .... every time. It's been a privilege to watch Dave follow his dreams thus far and we're wishing you the best in your future musical endeavours!
~ JEFF BROWN ~
November's 'Featured Musician' of the month is a young man that we've been wanting to showcase for some time now. Over the last few years we've probably seen Jeff Brown play at least 2 dozen times with several different artists all over Ontario and we're always in awe of the growth he's had during this time. Originally from Beamsville, Ontario and now based out of Toronto, Jeff predominantly identifies himself as a Country-Rock-Blues player, working as a session player and side-man for various artists throughout the GTA and Canadian Country music scene.
It was clear from an early age that Jeff was meant for a career in music. He got his first guitar at 10 years old and by the age of 12 he was already performing at fairs and festivals and playing local bar gigs in the Niagara region where he grew up.
During his early years of learning the guitar, he was mesmerized by rock and blues guitar heroes such as Stevie Ray Vaughan Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads and Slash. As his musical tastes evolved in his teens, he was exposed to Scotty Moore, Brian Setzer, Vince Gill, Albert Lee and Brent Mason, influencing a big passion for country guitar.
By 16 he had begun touring professionally with Rockabilly group “The Memphis Cats” accompanying several 50’s impersonators such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. What an amazing experience this must have been for him at such a young age and learning the music of these legends has probably helped make him the well rounded musician that he is today.
After graduating high school, Jeff attended York University majoring in Jazz Guitar but left after two years to focus on performing and touring. He began building a reputation in the studio and on stage touring and working Indie Country Artist Mike Lynch, Canadiana Country music singer, songwriter., and tribute acts such as Steve Michaels “Elvis - Comeback to 68” and “Aloha from Hawaii”, Scarecrow “The Best of John Cougar Mellencamp” and Take It Easy “The Story of the Eagles”.
Networking in the Canadian country music scene over the next few years, Jeff has had the pleasure of working as a side-man for Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, Ryan Langdon, JoJo Mason, Kansas Stone, Marshall Dane, Kris Barclay, Jess and Tay Music, Kelsi Mayne, Suzi Kory, Alessia Cohle and Nicole Rayy. Most recently Jeff performed in the studio playing guitar, banjo and mandolin on Chris Labelle and Genevieve Fisher's duet “Rhinestones” produced by Paul Giggliotti.
Jeff has since returned to school to complete his Bachelor of Music Degree at Humber College. Over the past three years he is proud to have studied with notable Toronto guitarists Emile d'Eon, Nathan Hitz, Tony Zorzi and Lucian Gray.
During the time off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jeff’s well-rounded country/rock roots were noticed by The Washboard Union, in their search for a new guitar player. He was invited for an audition and soon after offered a position in the band. Jeff is overly excited to join the Washboard team, and can’t wait to get out on the road and start the next chapter with the band! When we heard the news of him joining The Washboard Union we were extremely excited for him and very proud of him! We can't wait to cheer him on as he accompanies this CCMA Roots Artist Of the Year and 3 time CCMA band of the year as soon as it's safe to hit the road in 2021.
Currently Jeff is in the process of recording a multi-genre instrumental guitar album. Stay tuned for its release in 2021! We wish Jeff the best of luck in his music endeavours in the coming year and have no doubts he'll be soon be up for his own CCMA award in the next few years! Watch for great things coming down the pipe from him VERY soon!
~ CHRIS BRAY ~
When it comes to musicians we're very blessed to know this amazing young guy whose immense talent is as big as his enormous heart. Our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of October is Chris Bray. Hailing from the suburbs of Etobicoke, Ontario, Chris is a guitarist/vocalist best known for his electric guitar playing and background vocals accompanying many acts in the Canadian country music scene. From the early age of 12, when he first picked up the guitar, his heart longed to have a career in music. Starting a band was a huge goal for him in his teens and he formed one with his friends playing mainly pop punk songs from bands like Blink 182 and Sum 41. It wasn’t until Chris heard the guitar wizardry of Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen, and many other influential 80’s guitar players, that he became infatuated with becoming better at his craft. In his 20s, Chris started to discover fingerstyle, bluegrass, and country guitar playing citing Tommy Emmanuel, Brent Mason, Vince Gill & Brad Paisley as his influences to name a few. He spent countless hours learning songs and solos from guitarists in a variety of different genres. Ultimately guitar became Chris’ passion as he began to explore the many styles and techniques the instrument had to offer and this ending up forming him into the well rounded guitarist he has become today.
In the pursuit to learn more about music and production, Chris attended Humber College in Toronto where he graduated from the Bachelor of Music program. From his time at Humber he was fortunate to meet Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, and shortly after enrolling, starting a country cover band called ‘The Dukes’ that they both fronted. “After hearing MacKenzie’s amazing voice in the auditorium I knew I needed to start a band with her”. Being out of the live scene for some time playing with ‘The Dukes’ along with 2018 Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase winner Kris Barclay helped Chris hone his craft, both singing and guitar, playing many of the popular country bars across the GTA. Playing with both Mackenzie and Kris were huge influences on him becoming a better singer. If it wasn’t for MacKenzie encourging him he probably would still be super shy about singing so thank you Mackenzie because Chris has one of the best voices we've heard in the Ontario music circuit!! And Kris Barclay brought such a cool phenomenal attitude behind everything he sang that Chris tried to make sure his harmonies matched that attitude and that definitely motivated him to become even better.
Chris has since gone on to accompany many live acts over his past 7 years in the country music scene, as well as doing studio work as a guitarist/ vocalist. He accompanied 2019 Boots & Hearts Emerging Showcase winner David Boyd Janes on his entry of a Kane Brown cover 'Good As You' that got noticed by the festival that helped seal the deal for David winning the contest last August. It currently has almost 25,000 views on Youtube. With his biggest studio achievement to date being also working with David Boyd Janes alongside the legendary Nashville producer Jamie Tate on David's song “Ready for a Good Time” which was picked up by the Montana's BBQ's food chain as their theme song in a nationally aired commercial. Besides his music career, Chris also owns and operates an online/in-home music school where he teaches guitar called: “Six String Guitar Lessons” which keeps him exremely busy when he's not on the road touring.
Chris has remained very busy is the past few years building his musical resume playing with Canadian country artists David Boyd Janes, Kris Barclay and up and coming acts Dean James, Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, Dustin Bird, Evan Farrell, Suzi Kory & Jess and Tay Music. His most recent and biggest recent accomplishment is joining the band of 2020 CCMA Male Artist nominee Jade Eagleson and even though the threat of Covid 19 has hit the music industry extremely hard this year he has still been able to get in on several 'Drive In' concerts this summer in Edmonton & Toronto performing with him as his lead guitarist.
'The Two Christines' are blessed to have gotten to know Chris on a personal level over the past two years and are fortunate enough to consider him a good friend. We've always been so impressed with his musical work ethic and its always evident at any show we've see perform him at whether it be an acoustic performance in a small venue or with him shredding with his electric guitar on a big stage that he helps push the artist he's performing with to shine to the best of their ability. He always exudes such an air of confidence performing and always adds a special element of excitement to any stage he graces and with that we know this is going to help take him much further in his musical journey. We can't wait to see what's ahead for Chris and we know he'll succeed in everything that comes his way! This is JUST the beginning for him!!
~ ROB SHAPIRO ~
Our 'Featured Musician' for the month of September is not only a well rounded musician but is also an artist, a producer, songwriter and promoter! Hailing from Edmonton Alberta, Rob Shapiro has been in the music industry for over 20 years playing in one of Canada's top bands 'Hey Romeo'. In 2008 they won 'Top New Group Of The Year ' at the Canadian Country Music Awards and since then have won Canadian Country Music Association's 'Group of the Year' twice and Association of Country Music in Alberta Song of the Year and been nominated for Video of the Year!
Rob on his own has won 'Keyboardist Of The Year' for 5 consecutive years from 2009-2013 which is an incredible feat and we're pretty sure that his record will go untouched! His magic on the keys is a force to be reckoned with!!! Currently he has been playing keyboards with Canadian country sensation Aaron Goodvin for the past few years. We're sure Aaron feels very lucky to have the very best with him at all his shows!
When Rob isn't playing with Aaron he's very busy behind the scenes with 2 other projects he's working on one of those being a duo that he shares with his good friend Darren Gusnowsky from his previous band 'Hey Romeo'. The two have solidified a solid fan base already and we're sure are going to make waves in Canadian country music with their new band 'JayWalker'! They combine their natural chemistry formed over a decade of writing, recording and performing together to create a musical duo that showcases their outstanding abilities. Watch as they are about to bolt onto the music scene with a fresh sound that puts a modern twist on 90’s country. Made up of the heartbeat from their previous award-winning band, JayWalker will cross musical boundaries to deliver songs that are catchy, heartfelt and authentic. Currently the Edmonton-based duo is working with producer Jeff Diesel (Dan Davidson, Washboard Union, Brett Kissel), to produce a new record where modern country, roots and 90’s country music collide all at the same intersection. The new JayWalker single is guaranteed to have music lovers gladly crossing the street to hear.
As if that wasn't enough Rob has a promotional business that he started up with acclaimed entertainment reporter and comedian Graham Neil from CTV and Etalk. GNR Entertainment combines their passion, artistry and experience to stage exceptional events. Their business is dedicated to providing outstanding live events for audiences of every size! Based out of Edmonton Alberta they are a full service media, music and event production company that goes above and beyond the ordinary to deliver exceptional and engaging experiences. They were the key contributors to Canada's first online music festival 'Diesel Bird Music Festival' during the height of the Covid pandemic this spring which raised over $50,000 for the Red Cross and the Unison Benevolent Fund.
We got to watch Rob in action last September at the CCMAS in Calgary as he was the keyboardist in the all star band for the CCMA after party and were blown away! We're looking forward to what great things are ahead for this talented gentleman..don't forget the name 'Rob Shapiro'...you're going to be hearing a lot from him in the coming years!
~` JORDAN HONSINGER ~
Our August 'Featured Musician' for the month is hands down one of the most personable and talented young men we've come across in the Canadian country music industry. Jordan Honsinger is a producer, song-writer and multi-instrumentalist from Burlington, Ontario with a music career that has allowed for continuous transition between the stage and the studio!
Formerly a member of the chart-topping Canadian country band Cold Creek County playing lead banjo, and having played guitar with acts like Thousand Foot Krutch in the past, Jordan has accumulated a vast array of live performance experience. With Cold Creek County he's had the opportunity to tour with such acts as Old Dominion, The Washboard Union, Dallas Smith, Emerson Drive, Kira Isabella and JASON BLAINE just to name a few. The band released their debut single, “Our Town”, in April 2015 which was the most added debut single by a Canadian country artist and has reached the top 10 on the Billboard Canada Country charts. With the addition of Jordan in the band they have had several Canadian Country Music Association nominations and walked away with the 'Group Of The Year' Award at the 2017 Country Music Association of Ontario Awards. Over the years he's had the opportunity to play some of the biggest festivals & stages such as the Boots & Hearts Music Festival & Cavendish Beach Music Festival. With having had several Juno/CCMA nominations and CMAO/CRMA awards in his background, Jordan understands the importance of working hard at a music career while having a blast doing it!
In the last few years Jordan's life experiences & love of music have led him to augment his true passion of music production at his Burlington-based studio with an added role in artist development. He's had the opportunity to write and produce for several of Canadian country music's emerging Indie artists like Patrick James Clark, Alessia Cohle, Rich Cloke and Taylor Wilson. Jordan asserts that “to grow as an artist it’s extremely important to create music that personifies you as an individual and is supported by knowing where it is you want to go in your career.” His approach to music production holds this principle in high regard which has led to working with artists in both Canada and the USA.
In 2020 Jordan made it to the second ballot for 'Record Producer Of the Year' for the Country Music Association of Ontario which we're sure is the first of many stepping stones in being recognized as a serious producer in Canada in the foreseeable future. To hear and see more of Jordan’s latest projects you can visit his website at http://jordanhonsinger.com .
We've gotten to know Jordan quite well over the past few years as we've had the opportunity to run into him many times at different concerts whether he's been performing with Cold Creek County or backing up other artists. We've also spotted him out many times attending other artists shows just to show support as a fan or friend. He's one of the biggest supporters of other artists and widely respected in the Ontario country music circle. We wish the best to Jordan on his producing career and look forward to seeing how this new direction will take to him to new heights in being noticed in Canadian country music!
~ JUSTIN KUDDING ~
Our featured 'Musician Of The Month' for July is so much more than just a musician! Justin Kudding is a Juno Award winning bass guitarist and music producer, and has risen to become one of the most in-demand live & studio musicians in Canada! He is Musical Director and Band Leader for Canadian country music superstar Brett Kissel, who owns rights to two certified gold albums and is a two-time Canadian Country Music Association Male Artist of the Year & 2017 and 2019 CCMA Fan’s Choice Winner. He was also the recipient of 2017’s Allan Slaight Award on Canada's Walk of Fame.
Justin has also held the bass chair for fellow Country stars George Canyon and Warner Music-Nashville recording artists High Valley. Within the country music genre, Justin has an incedible musical resume of his own and was named a Top 5 finalist for CCMA Bass Player of the Year Award in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Beyond country music, Justin has achieved success across multiple genres. He toured extensively throughout theU.S. with Nashville-based multiple GMA Award Winner Mark Schultz and travelled with Dove Award and Juno Award winner Amanda Falk. Also, within the GMA sphere, Justin has performed on multiple occasions with Grammy Award winning legacy artist Steve Archer.
Aside from being on stage, Justin can be found playing in-studio regularly. He played on the entirety of Brett Kissel’s Now or Never album, and both played and produced on Brett Kissel’s We Were That Song album, which won the 2019 Juno Award for Country Album of the year. He can also be heard on MacKenzie Porter's 2015's self-titled album and Juno nominated 'Pick Me Up' by Brett Kissel as well as a 2017 Canadian Country Music Awards nomination for single of the year for Brett Kissel’s “Cool With That” which went on to become a certified Canadian gold single!
In addition to those performers, Justin has played either on stage or in-studio for the following select list of artists in the country genre. A few of these artists are Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Emerson Drive, Chad Brownlee Music, Tim Hicks,
Tebey, The Washboard Union, Madeline Merlo, Dan Davidson, JoJo Mason and Aaron Pritchett. Quite an incredible list of artists to be able to have the opportunity to play or record with!!!
A few of Justin's accolades include being named a Top 5 finalist for CCMA Bass Player of the Year Award in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. What an incredible feat to be included in Canada's top 5 Bass players for 5 consectutive years in a row! Justin can also be heard on dozens of Top-50 radio singles, including the #1 single 'Drink About Me' by Brett Kissel, 4 other Top-10’s and 2 Top-5’s. In 2018 alone, Justin tracked on 11 Top 50 singles, and in one particular week’s release, the BDS Country Charts included 4 singles in the top-50 featuring his bass tracks. A select list of recorded bass tracks with Brett Kissel alone include 'Drink About Me', 'Guitars & Gasoline', 'Cecilia', 'Drink Cuss or Fish' and 'Cool With That'.
He's also recorded tracks with Dan Davidson on his hit singles 'Barn Burner', 'Say We Did', 'Let’s Go There', 'Cinderella' and 'Can’t Help Myself'! Another artist his bass is featured on is The Washboard Union's 'Shot Of Glory', Head Over Heels' and 'What We're Made Of'! He's also featured on up and comer Adam Gregory's singles 'Dirt Road Therapy' and 'Why Don't Cha'.Justin has also established himself as a music producer, working in a co-production role with platinum selling producer/mixer, Spencer Cheyne - Mixer. Together, several select production credits include the entire self-titled EP for powerhouse duo Leaving Thomas, which features the Top-20 single, “Blame it on the Neon”. Other releases include Boots and Hearts 2019 Emerging Artist finalist Brad Saunders' single 'Play it by Beer and the 2019 Association of Country Music in Alberta female artist of the year Mariya Stokes single 'Hands on My Body'.
While he calls Canada home he's broadened his horizons with years of professional experience in Nashville, Tennessee working alongside some of the most in-demand musicians in North America. He's been very fortunate to share the stage with Chris Rodriguez (Keith Urban, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins), Boh Cooper (David Foster Band, Rascall Flatts), J.D. Blair (Shania Twain), Paul "TFO" Allen (Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson), Jimmy Herman (Carrie Underwood), Brian Oaks (Lonestar, Tiffany), and Derek Wyatt (Kelly Clarkson, Nick Carter, Nick Lachey) amongst others.
We've seen Justin play several times over the past few years with Brett Kissel and he never disappoints. He and the rest of Brett's band put on such an energetic show that it always leaves you wanting more! Last year we saw him perform with Brett when he headlined at Havelock Country Jamboree in August and a special post Christmas show at the Scotiabank Centre in Niagara Falls Ontario in December. Recently he has been on tour with Brett doing the first ever of it's kind series of 'Drive In' concerts in Edmonton, Alberta and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We have our fingers crossed that Brett, Justin and the band decide to include Ontario in a few of these shows! C To C Canadian Country Music Insider will be first in line to grab tickets!! Best of luck to you Justin in your incredible career. You are on a musical path of super stardom and we're really hoping our paths cross in the near future!
~ ANDREW MACTAGGART ~
We might be a bit bias when it comes to our 'FEATURED MUSICIAN' for the month of June. Enjoying a growing friendship over the past 12 years we've experienced first hand watching Andrew Mactaggart grow into an accomplished musician with one of the ost versatile musical resumes we've ever seen. We first met Andrew when he accompanied Canadian Idol winner Brian Melo back in 2008. Anyone who has had the pleasure to meet Andrew knows what a big heart this soft spoken musician has and we instantly became friends. He's a very talented self-motivated musician who has taught guitar and been a sought after studio musician for over 13 years.
Previously to touring with Brian Melo, Andrew as lead guitarist and backup singer, has toured across Canada with Juno winner Tomi Swick playing at all major venues & arenas such as Roy Thomson Hall, Massey Hall & the Scotiabank Arena opening for the Goo Goo Dolls and Bare Naked Ladies. In 2009 he joined the 'CMT Live Tour' with performers JASON BLAINE, Steven Lee Olsen, Tara Nichole Oram & The Higgins. He also toured exclusively with Tara Oram for several shows over the next few years and had the amazing experience of accompanying her to Afghanistan to play for the troops. Adding patriotism to these impressive performances, he’s also played for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Parliament Hill.
Andrew is among a very small group of musicians who is the 'first call' for most of the country artists in Canada. He has played with Jason McCoy, Dallas Smith, Kira Isabella, Suzie McNeil, Small Town Pistols, Tim Hicks, Tebey and Madeline Merlo just to name a few. His years of performing in this genre has made him an incredible master of his trade. He has analyzed and picked apart every aspect of country guitar which makes him an expert in the country music genre, and the first choice for many pop artists as well.
In 2013 Andrew became engaged to fellow Canadian musician Suzie McNeil in Las Vegas on a special trip to celebrate her birthday. If you're Canadian you're sure to know who Suzie is as she too has an incredible list of musical accomplishments. She finished fourth on the TV show 'Rockstar INXS' when the band INXS was looking for a new lead singer. She's had an amazing list of singles of her own such as 'Hung Up', Super Girl' 'Merry Go Round' and the 2007 Olympic themed explosive hit 'Believe'. Andrew and Suzie (known affectionately as 'Druzie' when they perform together) wed June 7, 2014 have one son Findlay born in November 2017.
Together the 2 of them were a part of forming the Nashville country-buzz Loving Mary Band in 2013 while Andrew was touring with Canadian country music performer Tim Hicks. This turn saw them moving their lives predominantly to Nashville while they wrote and recorded with their new band. Lovin Mary Band then caught the eye of rocker Steven Tyler who had recently decided to record a more country sounding album as a solo artist and he instantly wanted them as his back up band.This gained them the opportunity to travel with Steven on his 'Out On A Limb Tour' which resulted in them touring North America and doing television appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Seth Meyers Show, Ellen and Good Morning America.This tour also set the stage for Steven Tyler to put together the part biopic, part concert film 'Steven Tyler: Out on a Limb' which was available for streaming on Netflix in which Andrew and the Loving Mary Band have appearances in.During this time Loving Mary released their first EP 'A Little Bit Of Love' and they had radio success with the single 'Drinking With You'.
In summer 2019 Andrew was approached about rejoining Tim Hick's band again as Tim was gearing up for a 2020 spring and fall tour. Seeing Andrew performing again at CCMA fan Village and the Canadian Country Music Association Awards in Calgary last September felt like he'd never left and made our hearts happy as we'd been missing him playing the country circuit. Unfortunately due to Covid 19 restrictions Tim's tour has recently been postponed but Andrew is currently enjoying his time at home spending quality time with his wife and son. This down time has also given him time to write and explore new music out of his home based studio in Burlington, Ontario.
With so many years of experience on the stage, in the studio and in TV appearances Andrew is most comfortable when he’s behind a guitar. Growing up his musical inspirations have been The Beatles and Buddy Holly. He may be young but he's a old soul when it comes to his musical roots. Andrew is also a multi-instrumentalist and when he's not playing the electric guitar he is also proficient at playing the mandolin and lap steel guitar. Music is not just a hobby for him, it is his life and any artist that lands Andrew to play for them should be considered lucky. And as his personal friends we consider ourselves pretty lucky to have watched him grow into an incredible musician over the past decade. We look forward watching our friendship grow with him and to seeing him perform for many years to come!
~ MITCH JAY ~
Our 'Featured Musician' for the month of May is one of the most top hired guns in the country music scene. Known for his purveyor of tasty licks and vast quantities of facial hair he has become a stand out in the industry and one of the most sought after musicians in Canada! Mitch Jay started playing guitar when he was 11 years old and only started playing pedal steel guitar about 5 years ago.
Born and raised in Charlottetown, P.E.I. he grew up on the Island but made a decision to make his way to Calgary. There he attended Rocky Mountain College and he now resides out of Calgary permanently. He originally wasn't a country or bluegrass fan or even had it on his musical radar when he moved to Alberta but he quickly developed an interest in in it. His father was a really big fan of older country music so he was exposed to it as a kid, but he come around to it until he was in his twenties.Growing up he was very much into blues music and still is but he has always tried to approach country music from that angle. He'd been playing the electric guitar for a long time and a couple of other folk like instruments like banjo and mandolin when a couple of friends in Calgary suggested that he buy a steel guitar and try it out. He had always loved the sound of it so he took a leap of faith and self taught himself to play it. What he lacked in experience he gained with great work ethic and soon word got out which lead to a lot of work for the freelance musician. Even though he was originally playing electric guitar at gigs he would bring his steel guitar to play on a few songs with artists who loved and embraced it and that eventually his name got out and he started playing it a lot more outside of Alberta.
Learning to play this instrument has been one of the best decisions he says he has ever made in his music career. But he has to work hard to pick up gigs, playing for as many different acts as he can, on an instrument that doesn't have the biggest demand. For many acts it's considered an auxiliary instrument and one of the things these acts don't add to their band unless they have a budget for it.
Some of the artists he's played or recorded with are the likes of Madeline Merlo, Kelly Prescott, Meghan Patrick, Tebey and Drew Gregory.He's also got some amazing recording credits on the songs 'Gold Ole Days' from The Abrams, 'One Thing Right' by The Jim Cuddy Band ,'Now Or Never' by Brett Kissel and the huge top 10 country hit 'Shine' from The Washboard Union.
Mitch has picked up some pretty serious hardware in his short time playing the pedal steel guitar. He was nominated for a Canadian Country Music Association Award for playing Steel Guitar in 2016 and won the award in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He also won the Specialty Instrument Award at the CCMAs in 2019. Along with those awards he picked up the 'Musician of the Year Award' for the 2018 Association of Country Music in Alberta Awards. What makes the nomination and awards even more impressive is that people know his skills completely by word-of-mouth, as Jay is a freelancer, not a name from a famous band like most other Country musicians in Canada.
Earning these awards has put his name in front of a million more eyes in the Canadian country music world and has made him become quite the respected musician that so many other musicians look up to and so many artists want to record with. Lately we're sure he's been spending a lot of time with his wife Laura and 2 children in isolation during this pandemic & recording from his home studio. We're positive that he's hoping that he's back on the road playing live shows and beautiful music on his pedal steel guitar very soon!! And when that happens we know we can't wait to meet him!
C To C Canadian Country Music Insider
Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada