~ MARY-RAE KNAPP ~GODMOTHER OF CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC ~
Our 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of August is a very special lady who has been dubbed 'The Godmother of Canadian Country Music'! Mary-Rae Morris Knapp is a grandmother with a huge passion for country music. It all started for her in elementary school when she bought her first compilation of country music album and she was instantly hooked! Over thirty years ago, her & her husband began attending festivals, taking her children and now grandchildren.
She joined the fan clubs of Loretta Lynn & Ricky Skaggs and attended Fan Fair in Nashville in the mid-80s with her whole family which helped seal the deal on her love of this genre of music. She had the joy and privilege of starting Johnny Reid's 'Tartan Army' Fan Club and traveled the country with him promoting it. She started attending the Canadian Country Music Association Week in 2005 where her passion for, and knowledge of, the Canadian country music scene grew. She attended two golf/concert trips to Nevada with Johnny and his band, went to Vegas with Brett Kissel for his 21st birthday, and traveled by bus on Brett’s Ultimate Road Trip. What an experience that must have been for her!
Over the years she has had the good fortune to meet many fans and music industry people, some of whom she now considers dear friends. As a guest reporter for Sound Check Entertainment, she has interviewed artists and covered events. Emceeing, covering festivals, and volunteering at merch tables continue to bring her immense joy. Mary-Rae is also a proud member of the Canadian Country Music Association and the Country Music Association of Ontario.
Over the years several artists have asked her to help them start a fan club. But, it was Erik Dylan, lead singer of Black Mountain Whiskey Rebellion, who dubbed her the 'Godmother of Canadian Country Music' and sparked her interest in starting her own website and informative Facebook page to help introduce and promote primarily new artists and to keep fans updated about artists they already followed.
Mary Rae is also a former member, and now chair, of the Joshua Bates Centre Performing Arts Committee, in Athens, Ontario who brought Brett Kissel to his first Ontario show before anyone in Ontario had heard of him. She's also hired Abby Stewart for her first soft seat theatre show.
A big thanks to 'The Godmother of Canadian Country Music' for continuing to inspire other media outlets in Canada and for your ongoing support of Canadian Country music artists across the country. Your dedication to being a continual source of up-to-date information doesn't go unnoticed and is appreciated by all you've helped to promote over the years! We hope you'll take a second to shoot her a 'follow'!
Our 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of June is well versed in every aspect of the Canadian country music industry so he was definitely a stand out to us for this month's feature!!
Shawn Moore is a producer, mix engineer, songwriter, and session drummer based just outside of Toronto, Ontario. He began his journey in the music industry as a session drummer, performing at shows and in studios all across North America. While touring Shawn began producing demos for the artists he was playing with which lead him to attend The Blackbird Academy in Nashville, TN. While at Blackbird he graduated from the Studio Engineering/Recording Arts Technology/Technician program and was a Platinum Award Winner & Valedictorian of his class in 2017. He still makes time to support his alma mater! Shawn has served as a mentor during student session week for studio students at the Academy multiple times since his graduation.
Shawn is also known for his impeccable songwriting skills, co-writing with a large number of other songwriters from all over North America. He also specializes in track/demo building.
After his time in Nashville, Shawn moved back to the Waterloo area and opened his personal production studio, known as 'Moore Music'. His goal has been to bring a high-quality, Nashville-style recording process to artists in Canada. He can also record remote tracks in his studio for any project around the world! Artists Shawn has worked with can be heard consistently on Country Radio, featured playlists at Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify, as well as on Netflix.
This year Shawn has achieved industry recognition from Country Music Association of Ontario! Shawn has been nominated through the 2021 CMAOntario Awards as 'Record Producer of the Year' which is absolutely incredible! He is nominated for his work with Canadian artists including Ben Hudson Music, Matt Teed, Emily Clair Music, Evan Farrell, and Emily Kate Music. The CMAOntario Awards will be held on September 5, 2021 in Hamilton Ontario, and we wish Shawn the best of luck during this awards season! It's great to see him being recognized for all his hard work in the industry!
Shawn is always staying extremely busy working on various projects in all of the different facets of music with a wide variety of artists all over North America, and his name is definitely one you should remember as he will continue to make his mark on the music industry for years to come!
When it comes to our featured 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of May, this lady is a woman that wears many hats in the Canadian music industry! Laurie Brown is the Executive Director of Country Music Alberta, stepping into the position in 2019 after serving on the Board of Directors for 3 years. In addition to her Country Music Alberta duties, Laurie is also the owner of Porch Swing Entertainment which has been in business for over a decade. Her company is an Alberta-based artist management and consulting company with clients stretching across Canada and the United States. She is often called upon as a speaker on music industry panels, as a workshop facilitator, and as a juror/judge for music industry and grant funding organizations.
With a professional designation in "Music Business - Artist Management' from Berklee College of Music, and having completed Canada's Music Incubator's ten-week 'Artist Manager' Program in Toronto,' she brings a wealth of industry knowledge, funding and showcasing experience, and organizational skills to Country Music Alberta and Porch Swing Entertainment.
The official Porch Swing roster keeps her busy as she handles day-to-day career management responsibilities for multi-award-winning, triple JUNO nominated singer-songwriter Don Amero, charming folk duo Flint & Feather, Celtic Americana duo Over the Moon and the 2015 Edmonton Folk Festival Emerging Artist of the year and three-time nominees for the ACMA's Duo/Group of the Year 'The Doll Sisters'. She considers herself blessed to work with and nurture some of the best talent in the country. Her clients have become her friends and family and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Porch Swing's relationship always starts at the consulting level and builds organically with the artists that are the best fit for their brand, have a similar work ethic, music industry business sense, similar values, and, of course, talent and creativity. Additionally, her company also offers artist management consulting, career planning, grant writing consulting, and project management, and teaches workshops on grant writing and DIY management. Porch Swing has found there is a real need for independant artists, who don’t necessarily need full-time management, to have someone they can consult with and afford financially for advice, questions, career planning, and direction, without being tied into a management contract.
If this wasn't enough, she is also often called upon as a juror for FACTOR and Alberta Music, and as a judge for other industry-related competitions and events such as The Road to Big Valley, ACMA Horizon Stage at Big Valley Jamboree, and Road to Indie Week Alberta. Laurie is a member of the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA), Western Canadian Music Association (WCMA), Alberta Music, Music Managers Forum (MMF), Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) and Country Music Alberta.
Laurie was inspired to start her own business after being a stay-at-home mom for many years. She was in a position to decide what her next chapter was and, thanks to a very supportive husband, was able to pick anything in the world and follow her dreams. She was already managing her own quartet & her daughter who was a vocalist at the time. She was able to take what she loved to do and turn it from volunteer work into a business venture - and years later she is still doing what she loves! Even though she works tirelessly in the music industry she has proven the old saying 'if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life' to be true! She attributes a lot of her success to her good friend Brooke Woods who is her long-time Artist Management Assistant at Porch Swing Entertainment Brooke herself is a musician with a passion for marketing, promotion, and a head for music business. She's completed her 'Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Business' at Berklee College of Music, performs in and around Alberta and works as the Artist Development Consultant for Porch Swing Entertainment. They are both fortunate to work from their home offices or from wherever the road takes them.
For those that are curious there really is a Porch Swing which is Laurie's favourite place in the world which also doubles as her outdoor office in good weather when she's not traveling to Toronto or Nashville. She's written many full grants and business plans on that 'Swing'.
Funny enough, she's been busier than ever during covid times despite the pandemic. She's managed to adjust as necessary to various restrictions both at Country Music Alberta and Porch Swing. Her main goal as a manager is to make sure that she is doing everything she can to ensure that these artists have a career to come back to once the pandemic has passed.
Laurie is known in the music business as a 'helper at heart'. There are bigger management companies handling “superstars” and there are moms and dads and friends helping out artists as they are starting out. She looks to fill the void in between and help guide and develop independant artists as they try to navigate the music industry. 'Be nice' is her motto..she wants people to realize you can be nice and still be effective to get stuff done! Living these words daily in her professional life will take her far as Porch Swing Entertainment continues to gain momentum and will for years to come!
~ LOGAN MILLER ~
Our 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of April has a bigger passion for music than most. He truly believes that music brings people together and has made it his life ambition to help connect artists and music lovers everywhere! Logan Miller has always been interested in the media side of the music business. So much so that he started his career in radio where he completely fell in love with country music ... and more specifically the country music industry as a whole. It wasn't long before his passion had him leave radio and started freelancing in marketing and publicity for music festivals and artists.
While he was freelancing he noticed that there was something missing in the industry. There were so many publications dedicated to talking about music, but none of prominence that were dedicated to exclusively promoting Canadian country music. That's where his idea for starting his new business came from. Front Porch Music was quickly born! In country music, the 'Front Porch' has long been a place of reflection. A place where you can look at the life you have inside that front door. A place where time almost seems to stand still, where you can get away. It’s also a place where you can go to observe the world as it passes by you. To think about your place out there beyond the driveway. That’s why his business is here. They want this to be the digital Front Porch where music fans can come to get away from their lives and take a look at what’s happening out there in the world of country music. A place where we can sit together and talk about everything this great world of music has to offer.
He was already doing marketing and publicity for artists and Canadian country music festivals, so it was natural to bring his marketing business under the Front Porch Music umbrella. So That's how Front Porch Music + Marketing came to be. Canada hosts some of the greatest country talent in the industry, and he wanted to help artists reach more people
.Front Porch Music offers full marketing and publicity for artists, music festivals, and venues. This includes website development, graphic design, logo design, release publicity, advertising, and everything else in between. They help aid artists with Digital marketing which his company feels is the best way artists can reach their fans by meeting them where they are – online. They are the pros that can help an artist build a website, get more YouTube views, streams, and much more. They also specialize in Influencer management~helping artists that have built their audience begin to start monetizing. They can work with the artists to help them be more profitable can help you make more money, and help them to grow their influence!
Last year the pandemic hit the industry hard. Artists' marketing budgets were put on hold, which put a lot of Front Porch's plans on hold. 2020 was rough. But Logan tried really hard to change his attitude about the year ... he tried what a lot of people in the music industry attempted to do and that was to find the positive in it. He and his team took the year to connect with people. He started connecting with as many artists and industry professionals as he could. In the past year, he's been on countless hours of zoom calls, phone calls, and Instagram direct messages with so many great artists across the country. While 2020 has been a tough one, it's arguably been one of the best for Front Porch Music.
Logan is happy to announce Front Porch has a lot of big plans for this year. They have a new website in development, more great plans to feature Canadian country music, and so much more. They've also been hosting several 'live stream' shows on Facebook featuring up-and-coming country artists and are helping these artists get their music heard! 2021 is going to be a busy one and he and his team can't wait!
Here on the 'front porch', they love working with musicians and music festivals to help with their marketing initiatives and reach new audiences. Their driving force is to help people discover great music, and experience the joys that music can bring. And in the end that is Logan Miller's biggest goal. From what we've seen he's achieving that and is doing a fantastic job for artists and growing his company as a whole! Congrats Logan! We look forward to observing and learning more from you!
March is 'International Women’s Month' in which women are recognized everywhere and all the advancements that have been made for female rights and representation. But as we know equality and balance in gender representation have a way to go in both music and society at large. In the music industry, women made up only 12% of the songwriters so we thought it would be fitting to have our March 'Featured Industry Person' be a female songwriter who has left a mark in the country music industry and no one fits this description better than our fellow Canadian Victoria Banks!
Hailing from Muskoka, Ontario, Victoria originally moved to Nashville in 1997 after completing a degree in zoology at the University of Toronto and finding out that the job in fisheries research that was waiting for her after graduation had disappeared due to a new provincial government having shut down research. When one door closes another usually opens, so in a way the universe granted her a clean slate that allowed her to take the leap and follow her songwriting dreams. She had studied classical voice and piano until she graduated high school, but pursued science in university. As a teenager, she picked up a guitar and taught herself how to play and write contemporary music, but she never had any formal training in songwriting. She just read books on the subject, listened to a zillion songs, and tried to figure out how the writers crafted them to affect the listener the way they do.She knew that if she wanted to learn how to craft a song from the best that she needed to be inMusic City' to do it so she packed everything she had in the back of her car and left Canada. Six months later she landed her first contract as a staff songwriter for a publishing company on Music Row and since then she's been working non-stop as a professional songwriter in Nashville’s Music Row community.
Her artist career began in 2009 when her self-produced debut CD 'When You Can Fly' was released on the EMI Music Canada label that year. The album earned Banks a 2010 Canadian Indie Award nomination and six nominations at the 2009 Canadian Country Music Association Awards including 'Album of the Year', 'Producer of the Year', 'Single of the Year', 'Songwriter of the Year', 'Female Artist of the Year' and 'Rising Star' making Victoria the most nominated female artist of 2009. 'The Wheel' the album's first single, reached the Top 20 on the country singles chart earning her a 2010 Canadian Radio Music Award nomination. Music videos for "The Wheel" and "When You Can Fly" also received airplay on CMT Canada. She was named both 'Female Artist of the Year' and 'Songwriter Of The Year' at the 2010 CCMA Awards and was nominated in the 'Female Artist of the Year' category again in 2011. She has been labeled “one of the best songwriters in the business” by Nashville’s MusicRow magazine.
She has released 4 self-produced albums, including 2020’s 'Uncovered', for which she engineered and played every instrument on every track. She has toured with artists from Reba to Wynonna, and has written ASCAP, SOCAN, CCMA and Covenant-award-winning songs for more than 50 artists. In May 2010, Victoria penned the song 'City Of Dreams' while traveling back home to the devastating and historic Nashville flood. Her song came to life in a video, when two weeks later, over 40 Nashville legendary artists and musicians joined forces with a production team and film crew to record it as a flood relief song. All participants and facilities donated their services and all proceeds from the song and music video benefited the American Red Cross.
Her cuts include Jessica Simpson’s single 'Come On Over', Sara Evans’ solo-written hit 'Saints & Angels', Lauren Alaina’s 'Queen of Hearts', Carly Pearce’s 'Dashboard Jesus', Johnny Reid’s CCMA Song of the Year 'Dance With Me', Doc Walker’s smash hit 'I’m Gonna Make You Love Me' & One More Girl’s BCCMA Song of the Year 'When it Ain’t Raining'. She's also written several songs on Grammy nominee Mickey Guyton’s newly released 'Bridges' EP, including her cowrite 'What Are You Gonna Tell Her', which Guyton performed - backed by Keith Urban – on the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards. Guyton made award show history that night as the first Black woman ever to perform an original song.Victoria has also had songwriting success in Australia in 2019 with multi-week #1 "Flamethrower" recorded by Christie Lamb, and again in the same year with two #1 singles released back-to-back by Amber Lawrence.
Victoria has had songs featured in film and television including Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, Nashville, and was recently featured last May on an episode of NBC’s Songland pitching her song “That’s A Country Song” for Florida Georgia Line and an esteemed panel of song wizards. Most recently she became a podcast host with the launch of 'The Table Women' with cohost Sarah Defors, spotlighting on some of the most notable women in music & interviewing them about their challenges and victories in navigating their realm of the industry.
When the pandemic shut down the touring and performing side of the business, she began focusing on Zoom songwriting sessions. Her home that she shares with her husband and 2 young children was hit in the Nashville tornado right before COVID came to town, so it has been quite a handful to juggle it all! But somehow she's found the time to release her 4th record 'Uncovered' released in May 2020. Along with her podcast, she's also been writing virtually with various artists, and focusing a lot on Mickey Guyton, who will be releasing more music soon to follow up on her Grammy nomination. In fact, one of the first Zoom songs she co-wrote was the title track of Mickey's “Bridges” EP that came out last fall.
She used to think that songwriting was an innate process…a talent that you were just born with. But now that she's been doing it for over 20 years, she realizes it’s a lot more than that. Songwriting is something that anyone can learn and the process of writing a great song is not just something veteran writers do instinctively. She believes that if it's broken down into steps than anyone can write a song! That thinking is what has led her into what has now become a big part of her career, which is coaching. She's coached songwriters through one-on-one collaboration, developed masterclasses for aspiring writers, and she's even taught songwriting as an employee team-building exercise for major corporations like Pfizer and Amex. And no matter whether it happens in the boardroom of a a skyscraper, a cabin retreat in the woods, or across the world via Zoom from hery own house, one thing amazes her: it never fails to be magic. And what the world needs right now is more magic, so thank you Victoria for everything you've done to represent women and amazing songwriting all over the globe!
For February's 'INDUSTRY PERSON' of the month we have a gentleman that has gone to the ends of the earth this year during the pandemic to keep music alive in the province of Alberta! Rob Cyrynowski is well known in the Canadian country music world but he is a promoter of all types of music.
With over 25 years of talent buying, booking agency and promoter experience, Cyrynowski is enjoying for his next career chapter with Livestar Entertainment Canada which is a live music entertainment company, providing specialized Talent Buying & Booking Agency services for venues, promoters, corporate clients & artists. Rob came to his new role working with acts such as KISS, Def Leppard, RUSH, Alan Jackson, Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion, Rihanna, Pitbull, Bryan Adams, and The Tragically Hip. He is joined by his partner Leslie Cyrynowski who holds the position of Director of Marketing and Development.
Over his career in the music industry Rob has collected an astounding 13 Canadian Country Music Awards including being named a recipient of the Ron Sakamoto Talent Buyer/ Promoter of the Year at the 2015 CCMA Awards in Halifax, alongside respected mentor, Jim Cressman.
Since 1993, Cyrynowski has also been the talent buyer and a founding member of one of Canada’s most successful nightclub empires Penny Lane Entertainment, who own Cowboys Calgary Dance Hall, picking himself up a CCMA Award there in 1997 for 'Club of the Year'. Most recently, Cyrynowski was Vice President at Canada’s top country music booking agency, Invictus Entertainment Group and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Canadian Country Music Association.
Back in June 2020 amidst the covid pandemic, Rob announced the launch of Hotels Live, a promoter arm of Livestar Entertainment Canada in collaboration with ticketing company Showpass. This exciting entertainment concept gave concert-goers a safe new way to experience live music, utilizing hotel rooms with balconies overlooking centralized pool deck, atrium or courtyards, where hotel guests can enjoy live entertainment from the comfort of their own private balcony and then stay the night.This innovative concept developed by Showpass, reinvented the venue model as we all know it, offering an exclusive safe concert experience with Hotels Live being the first to bring this idea to life.
There is nothing that compares to the live music experience, but their hotel balcony concerts are as close as it gets right now. By adding more value to each package, such as a VIP box suite, room service capabilities and a hotel night stay, this concept has the ability to get people excited about seeing live music and the hotel experience together. Patrons can eat, drink and dance the night away all from the convenience of their own balcony and hotel room, which is something that we could all use more of these days.By design, the hotel layout provides a safe social distancing environment with staggered, contactless check in & check out, and a room to stay for the night, alleviating drinking and driving concerns and complying with all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. As people continue to adjust to the new normal they will be looking for ways to get out of the house and have some fun again, whether it’s a well-deserved date night, a live music experience, a family getaway or staycation and Rob has succeeded in bringing this new way to see live music to life! He helps provide a temporary bridge for music fans until concerts can resume normally, while at the same time giving hotels a much-needed boost.
For months, the shows have lit up downtown Calgary with bands blasting sets from the Ramada Plaza Calgary Downtown’s outdoor pool area for audiences safely sequestered on their private hotel balconies. So far it's included a Stampede concert featuring a Garth Brooks tribute act, the Diesel Bird Music Festival starring Dan Davidson, Clayton Bellamy, JoJo Mason, Kristin Carter, Shawn Austin, Andrew Hyatt and many more. He also held a concert series on Canada Day featuring a Tragically Hip tribute act and a Pride Week show featuring drag queens.
More than 7,000 calgary residents have experienced in-person Live music concerts from July 2020 to the end of January 2021. In this time he has sold out 2100 hotels rooms to date with these concerts being held at the Ramada Plaza Calgary and the Delta Hotels by Marriott Calgary South Atrium . He's already spearheaded 27 safe live concerts and has 9 more confirmed for March & April 2021. These concerts have grossed over $600,000 in ticket sales creating hundreds of jobs in the live music, hotel and hospitality sectors. During this time they have had ZERO reported cases of Covid 19!! Because spectators were all in their own hotel rooms, social distancing was automatic and the event didn’t break any group-gathering restrictions.
Thank goodness for innovative people like Rob. In a year that literally brought music to a dead stop and people hanging up their cowboy boots he continues to think outside the box to continue to bring live music to the masses. As Livestar Entertainment Canada continues to evolve with Rob at the helm of it we can't wait to see what else he has in store for continuing to bring us live music in 2021! Thank you Rob for giving Albertans hope in unprecedented year full of challenges in the entertainment world!
~ TIM DEEGAN ~
If you're a multi-genre fan of music you have most likely heard of our January 2021 'INDUSTRY PERSON' of the month by name, through television or have seen him behind the scenes taking pictures at a music event over the last several years. Tim Deegan has an impressive media resume and is versed in all things photography and videography.
Tim grew up in Oshawa, Ontario and he attended O'Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute. Tim joined a band during high school, which played handfuls of shows over southern Ontario during their high school years. After high school Tim went to Durham College to study fire fighting. After graduating from the fire fighting program Tim worked as a Fire Protection Officer at an automotive factory before deciding to go back to school.He moved to Kitchener and attended Conestoga College until his life took an unexpected turn when he decide to enter a contest to be Canada's Next MuchMusic VJ in 2006.
He quickly rose to fame as the heartthrob of the search. The Series which aired on Citytv, set record ratings for a reality show in Canada. Leading the pack from the beginning as the fan favourite, it was no surprise that Tim won the contest. He spent the following years interviewing the biggest stars from movies, music, and television, from Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, The Spice Girls to Jerry Seinfeld and Katy Perry. With literally thousands of hours of live and taped hosting under his belt, it's no wonder that he would have an instrumental role in some of Canada’s biggest event television, including hosting numerous shows including Much On Demand, Much Adrenaline, Much Take Over, New Years Eve on CityTV, the MuchMusic Video Awards, Live Earth, and MuchMusic’s 2010 Olympics coverage. His appearance on the 2011 and 2012 MMVAs had him trending worldwide on Twitter.
Tim also hosted 'Rugged', an action sports show for Rogers Sportsnet. He toured all over North America Interviewing sports superstars like Carey Hart, Jesse James, Tony Hawk, and Travis Pastrana as well as trying each of the sports featured on the show. With experience in scripted and improvised programs, Tim thrives on spontaneity and excitement. His approachable and genuine personality reflects in his loyal fan base that stretches around the globe.
Tim began his career working in front of the camera but quickly became interested in the creative process that happens behind the scenes. After being on countless music video sets, studying and researching music videos as part of his job, he began to develop an eye for behind the camera.
Tim is now a director, videographer, and host who has worked with renowned artists and brands across the globe with his production company ' Deegan Digital '. Tim has directed and produced videos for both online and TV projects such as "Vlogumentry", campaigns for Coors, Contiki Tours, Womens Network, and multiple music videos which have received rotation on CMT. With years of experience working in live television creating unique, captivating, compelling content Tim truly understands what it takes to make a video stand out.
His business resume includes doing corporate work for large companies like eOne Films, Corus, The Canadian Country Music Association, The Country Music Association of Ontario & 360 Insights. He's also worked with artists Canadian country artists Leah Daniels, Eric Ethridge, Beverley Mahood, Kira Isabella, Robyn Ottolini, Kris Barclay, Jason Benoit, Nicole Rayy, Mike Robins and many more.
2020 had a lot of things come to a standstill in the music industry during the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic but it was one of Tim's busiest years yet! In the summer work began picking up again doing a lot of videos and video work jobs with strict protocols in place. On Thanksgiving weekend he married his best friend and the love of his life Canadian country music artist Leah Daniels. The 2 of them have purchased an old church this past year and in their free time have been fixing it as as their first home as husband and wife. We've enjoyed watching the progress on it through their socials!
Keep your eyes and ears open for big things coming in the new year from Tim & Deegan Digital as his business continues to expand and the music industry continues to takes notice of all of the contributions he makes in the music world! Thank you Tim for exemplifying such great work ethic & for your continual efforts to bring the very best to the Canadian country music industry.
~ AJ ASTLE ~
We had originally considered this talented young man as a great choice for a monthly musician feature but once learning more about him and seeing how well rounded he is in the music industry he became an easy choice as December's 'INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE MONTH'.
Born in Thunder Bay Ontario, Aj Astle was surrounded by music from a young age. He began playing bass at age 12, which quickly developed into a full time passion as he was inspired by the classic rock bands his parents had listened to while he was growing up. By the age of 15 he began to play in local venues with different local bands and artists. He was fortunate enough to play full time in rock bands The Other Colour and Maraday Park. As he and his friends progressed through the music scene, they were offered many opening slots for large touring acts such as The Arkells, the Sheepdogs, Marianas Trench and Faber Drive. With actively playing roughly 100 shows a year, Aj honed his craft and decided to take his music career to the next step.
AJ’s time playing on the Thunder Bay scene encouraged him to pursue his career in music further and he decided to move to the big city of Toronto in 2011.He studied at Humber College and after years of hard work and dedication he completed and earned his Bachelor Of Music with Honours in 2016.While studying at college, AJ met singer & musician Mackenzie Leigh Meyer and talented guitarist Chris Bray and formed the country cover band “The Dukes”. With them all studying during the week and gigging on the weekends, they quickly sharpened their skills at country bars and clubs across Ontario.
Also during his time at college, AJ received his first camera as a gift from his father. Love for photography runs in his family and had been a passion of his grandfather’s. With photography as his initial focus, he quickly branched into videography after producing music videos for friends. In 2016, while working as an assistant engineer in the Humber studio, he decided to start Roadhouse Productions, a mobile recording studio co-founded by his good friend Jonathan Diano and Aj himself. Their company specializes in live off the floor recordings, videography, and photography. They've quickly gotten their name out in the Canadian music industry and become a very popular videography and audio team that specializes in music videos, corporate, narrative, and creative filmmaking. Their aim is to create professional content for up and coming independant artists and musicians at reasonable prices. Aj explains, “We wanted to make sure the music and the artist always come first. Our first priority is to provide a service that helps the music and artist grow.”
Since then, Aj and Jonny have released more than 70 music videos and live off the floor audio/video sessions. Their professionalism has earned them rave reviews amongst their peers and word of mouth has kept them very busy especially in the Canadian country music world. Their work has garnered hundreds of thousands of views and even netted them awards and nominations. They were nominated for Country Music Association of Ontario Music Video Of The Year in 2018 for Kansas Stone’s “Blaze Of Nothing” and recently won this year’s 'Music Video Of The Year' at the Mississauga Music Awards for Elyse Saunders’s single “FREE”.
Aj is looking forward to ramping things up in 2020, balancing his video work with his musical endeavours. You can catch him playing alongside Canadian country artists such as Kansas Stone, Mackenzie Leigh Meyer, Elyse Saunders, ᗷᖇIᗩᑎ ᒍOᕼᑎ ᕼᗩᖇᗯOOᗪ, Greg Williams, Jess and Tay Music, Suzi Kory as well as pop artist Sam Louis.
We believe this is just the tip of the musical iceberg for AJ. With Roadhouse Productions creating such a buzz so quickly in the Canadian music industry and watching AJ moving full steam ahead as a musician we look forward to watching he & his company take off to new heights in the coming years!
~ EMMA-LEE ~
Known for her powerful voice and melodic, highly personal brand of music and incredible songwriting skills our featured November 'INDUSTRY PERSON' Toronto-born artist Emma-Lee has released several impressive bodies of work. Before she became a household name in the Canadian country songwriting world Emma-Lee worked a number of jobs including being a receptionist, bartender, waitress, movie extra and telemarketer while trying to establish her music and photography careers.
She started playing guitar at age 14 and credits her father for teaching her and she soon began writing her own music. Prior to songwriting for several artists she had quite the blossoming music career of her own in Canada. She released her debut album 'Never Just a Dream in' 2008 to critical acclaim from the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. The album was picked up by Bumstead Records and re-released on March 3, 2009. Her other 2 full-length albums, 'Backseat Heroine' & 'Fantasies' garnered successful singles 'Worst Enemy' and 'Not Giving Up On You' and has steadily gained fans from around the pop world since her debut.Her vocal style is frequently compared to K.D. Lang, Norah Jones and Feist.
With a knack for writing emotional songs that truly connect, Emma-Lee’s songs have charted multiple times on Billboard radio and have been featured in many film and TV placements such as CBS’s “Beauty & The Beast”, NBC’s “ Saving Hope”, MTV’s “ Teen Wolf” and "Degrassi: The Next Generation".
After establishing herself as a popular member of the Toronto singer-songwriter community, Emma-Lee packed up her pen and guitar and re-located to Nashville in February of 2017 to pursue her songwriting career fulltime. She has no regrets about the move and she was welcomed with open arms! She describes Nashville as the city that inspires and 'feeds her hunger' to write. Living in Music City has actually opened up more opportunities for work with other Canadian artists and songwriters. In Toronto she would write with country artists but it’d just be a select few going there to write for their record. Sooner or later all the Canadian country music scene comes to Nashville so she gets to write with more of them which she considers pretty awesome.“I’m still a self-published writer,” says Emma-Lee, “but working with a publisher is something I’d like to do in the future. I do think the more you can do on your own, before that happens, puts you in a better position.”
If for some reason her name doesn't reasonate with you yet then the incredible songs she has written or cowrote for top Canadian country music artists will. Just a few of these are 'She Drives Me Crazy' & 'Anthem' for Brett Kissel, #1 country charting song 'What A Song Should Do' and 'Wreck This Town' for Tim Hicks, 'Country Thunder' for The Washboard Union & 'Crush' for Madeline Merlo. A few others are 'A Little Bit Goes A Long Way' for the River Town Saints, Kira Isabella's 'I’m So Over Getting Over You' & 'I Don’t Wanna Know' and Ryan Langdon's singles 'Lit In The Sticks', 'Buck Wild' and 'Crossfaded'. A few artists she regularly co-writes for in the Canadian country genre are Leah Daniels, Alee, Nicole Rayy, Kelsi Mayne, Nice Horse, Dan Davidson & The Abrams resulting in numerous top 40 radio singles and number ones.
What can we expect in the future from this talented Marham, Ontario raised singer songwriter? Well at this rate the sky is the limit for this talented lady..her list of #1s seemingly continue to grow at a fast rate and her songwriter skills have quickly made her a force to be reckoned with in the Nashville music circle. Her god given talent is going to take her a long way and we can't wait to enjoy many more musical cowrites that she has in her future!
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C To C Canadian Country Music Insider
Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada