Canadian Musician - March/April 2023 - Page 39

prostitution and gang violence and needles and , you know , quite inappropriate things for kids . But certainly seems to just be okay , to the greater city . So , between all that , you start to think about different kinds of human rights and of the people who are ill , but also the neighborhood that has to , is forced to deal with that . Anytime I drive or walk outside of my home by any number of meters , it ’ s just in your face . So the thoughts that you thereby have are going to be related to that . And then of course , it ends up inadvertently in what you write and what ’ s on your mind .”
Recorded in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic until 2022 , Everybody Matters is rooted in the golden era of early 1970s soul which gifted such righteous landmark albums as Marvin Gaye ’ s What ’ s Going On , Curtis Mayfield ’ s Superfly soundtrack , Aretha Franklin ’ s Young Gifted and Black and Stevie Wonder ’ s Innervisions . It ’ s also her funkiest , most soulful and mature offering to date .
Such an appreciation for vintage sounds shouldn ’ t come as a surprise , given Vriend ’ s upbringing . “ My parents were not fans of contemporary pop culture at all ,” she explains . “ And so we weren ’ t allowed to watch TV growing up . Except one show for half an hour on CBC . Very important fact , I was a big fan of Mr . Dressup .”
“ And the same with pop radio ,” she continues . “ I don ’ t have the same pop songs and influence in my head as everybody else of my generation . But my parents did have a vinyl collection . And it was mainly classical music , which as a kid , I didn ’ t really love that much . I didn ’ t really relate to it that much . But I did listen to their assortment of vinyl they had bought when they were in university . So a lot of Cat Stevens , Paul Simon , a bit of Bob Dylan ; Gordon Lightfoot was the big one .”
A collection of Gospel records by Mahalia Jackson and the Edwin Hawkins Singers procured by Vriend ’ s mother while living in an African American section of Chicago also marked a significant formative influence . “ I really got into that as a kid , a lot of power there . So all of those things , I think , influenced me . Almost all of them were male singers and male performers . I didn ’ t really get into Aretha and some of the soul singers until later , honestly . So maybe that ’ s part of it . So I wasn ’ t styling my vocals after any particular person who actually had a voice like mine . I mean , it just comes out . But I think more importantly , [ it ] was just the genres that I was listening to that influenced me .”
A Fisher Price xylophone was Vriend ’ s first entryway into music , which progressed to violin lessons , yet it was with the piano in her house that Vriend found her wheelhouse . I was sort of always playing it , but not officially ,” she says . “ You know , it ’ s not very hard to actually play a piano — sound comes out . So I was just always fooling around on it and eventually asked to have piano lessons when I was nine .”
She admits that deciding to pursue music as a profession was a somewhat controversial decision on the home front , but Vriend received a two year performance degree following an intensive program at the former Grant MacEwan Community College in Edmonton .
“ It was a great program that was started by a bunch of jazz musicians including the late Tommy Banks ,” she remembers . “ The philosophy for it was to be very hands on and not too academic , more doing music with people writing , rehearsing bands , and putting on shows . So it ’ s a really intense school but really well respected .”
After releasing a popular demo that won radio-play across Western Canada in 2000 , Vriend released her debut album , the well-regarded Soul Unraveling , which was funded following a trip to Nashville in 2003 . Modes of Transport followed two years later which spawned the single “ Feelin Fine .” When We Were Spies , Closer Encounters ,
Love & Other Messes and For the People in the Mean Time followed in 2008 , 2009 , 2011 and 2014 , respectively . She ’ s also built up an impressive international following on the festival circuit while also receiving two Maple Blues songwriting awards , an Edmonton Music Award and an Alberta Centennial award .
While Everybody Matters was recorded pre-pandemic , Vriend says it was produced in a non-linear , piece meal way . “ It ended up being almost like a pandemic made record in the sense that I didn ’ t do it all at once together ,” she explains . “ I met a producer in Toronto through another person I was working with who thought we would be a good fit with each other . And his name is Chris Birkett who is really good at recording vocals , good microphones and vintage instruments .”
Recording Everybody Matters proceeded as Birkett sent various takes over the phone . “ So we sort of produced it that way remotely ,” says Vriend . “ And then the vocals I did with Chris in his apartment in his little home studio . The vintage key that I recorded , I recorded at Revolution in Toronto . So I did it all in pieces . I think it sounds like it was recorded live off the floor and an acoustic kind of a setting but it really wasn ’ t actually .”
A thing called covid scrapped plans for a tour but in an odd twist it allowed Vriend greater focus and care for her album .
“ I did get to take more time with this album , because suddenly , I didn ’ t have to have it done for a tour . And so I got to redo a few things like especially on the rhythm side , I took my , my sweet , sweet time getting it mixed , so I could take a big break from it , and sort of