Brett Caswell is a folk rock singer songwriter hailing from Barrie, Canada. Equipped with fiddle, guitars, keyboard, and vocal harmonies from backing band, The Marquee Rose (including members of Bahamas and Indian Handcrafts) Caswell offers music that tells the stories of people and places through beauty and modesty and supported by a jaw-dropping live show. He has received a great deal of attention for his debut album, “A New Balance” including being hand picked by CARAS to play both 90’s and 00’s Juno Anniversary Decade Tribute events with members of Sloan, The Killjoys, Grapes of Wrath, Broken Social Scene, The Stills, Sarah Slean and more. Their album has been featured on CBC Radio 3 with Jay Ferguson (Sloan) and topped college radio charts.
Brett Caswell has showcased at JunoFest 2011, Canadian Music Week 2010, 2011, NXNE 2010, S.C.E.N.E., Mariposa Folk Festival, Kempenfest 2009, 2010, Barrie Blues and Jazz Festival, War Child Buskerfest, Promenade Days, Barrie Arts Awards, Music on Main Festival as well as countless shows throughout Canada, including two successful tours across eastern Canada. He has also shared the stage with the likes of Zeus, Bahamas, Em Gryner, Yukon Blonde, The Wooden Sky, and more.
Brett Caswell - vocal, guitar, keys
Dave Murray - backing vocal, guitar, keys
Lincoln Hamlyn - bass
Brandyn Aikins - drums
Sarah Morano - violin
Carleigh Aikins - vocals
A New Balance - 2010
Love Waiting - 6 song EP 2008
A Short Story - 4 song EP 2005
Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose
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Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose Brett Caswell brought along his backing musicians, The Marquee R...Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose
Brett Caswell brought along his backing musicians, The Marquee Rose, with him to The Horseshoe Tavern. Caswell’s sound is deep-seated in rootsy rock, taking cues from country, folk, and blues. There is something so raw and heart-warming about Caswell’s vocals, but when he’s joined by Carleigh Aikins (Fox Jaws), the harmonies reach a whole new level of magic. Brandyn Aikins (Fox Jaws) was behind the kit, with Nicole Clappison on the fiddle and Dave Murray on guitar. Watching this roster of musicians on stage, it is evident how much they simply enjoy playing together. Considering the lovely voices on stage, it was interesting to watch the band really jam it out on stage.
The energy on stage was electric, with the band members constantly exchanging smiles. That energy translates so well to the crowd and makes for a really captivating set, full of audience participation. “When it Rains…” is such an energetic tune, with Clappison really laying it out on the fiddle. The piano-rich “L.O.V.E.” had Caswell urging the crowd to sing along with Aikins. “A Friend in Need”, a beautiful slower ballad, had friends in the audience singing along, with arms linked, with Aikins’ harmonies shining. It was such a beautiful moment. Barrie-based Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose is certainly a band I urge you all to catch live. Their energy is contagious and I dare you to not have fun watching this band.
Interview: Brett Caswell vs. Pad Thai
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In between nose blows and yelps of pain, Brett Caswell is really quite charming. Allow me to clar...In between nose blows and yelps of pain, Brett Caswell is really quite charming.
Allow me to clarify. The sneezes were caused by an allergy attack, and the yelps of pain were caused by one incredibly spicy Pad Thai (he was having issues finishing it, although I suspect that was his hangover talking).
Yet somehow in and amongst all of the bodily chaos, Caswell was able to really make me believe in his music.
“I write with my heart on my sleeve,” he says. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but it’s the only way I write.”
It can be risky business, sharing such personal information with complete strangers. Caswell is aware of this, but does not let it stop him.
“For the most part I just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and just put it out there,” the Ontario native says. “I mean what’s the worst that could happen?”
Caswell and his back-up, The Marquee Rose, released their first album this year. A New Balance is hard to categorize; part folk, part pop, and part rock, it is a heartfelt, romantic, and heartbreaking record.
“We’d be hard to market,” he says. “You can’t pinpoint us toward a demographic or audience. I have so many influences I can’t just write in one genre.”
Writing music is something that has always come naturally for Caswell.
“The first time I could play a chord or a power chord on the guitar I was writing riffs,” he says. “I just thought that’s what you do; I didn’t know any other way. I thought that every musician wrote songs and was creative. It just naturally came and I didn’t really have to work at it. Obviously I have worked at it over the years as a craft but it’s just kind of come naturally. I got lucky.”
He started playing guitar when he was 12-years-old and started playing in bands once he hit high school. For Caswell, music was always more than just a hobby. And while he says he will keep on playing music whether or not it makes him a living, he really hopes it does.
“My biggest goal is to be able to pay my bills and feed myself playing my own music,” says Caswell. “I play some cover gigs and people pay a lot more money for covers. So the biggest goal in my life is just to make records and feed myself and put a roof over my head.”
But the money is not what drives him. One thing Caswell made blatantly clear to me in between sniffles and gulps of iced tea was that music is not his job, it is his life.
“I don’t think I’d be a happy person if I didn’t have music,” says Caswell. “I don’t know how people go through life just listening to music in the background, like on their mobile radio station, and that’s what they listen to. I don’t know how people go through life like that, without actually embracing music.”
“I hate the music industry so if I wasn’t a musician I wouldn’t want to be on the business side,” he continues. “It’s slimy. It’s all about power hits and who you know and this and that. I don’t even like the fact that there is a business side to music.”
Still, dealing with that business side is a price Caswell is willing to pay. He got so passionate when talking about his love for his art that at times I thought he would burst (and what a waste of Pad Thai THAT would be).
“I love the fact that it’s like a universal language,” Caswell says. “The other day I played a solo show and there was a violin player who was playing with the headlining act and she was a nice girl. And I’d never met her before in my life and I saw her and was like, ‘Would you mind joining me for a song or two at the end of my set? Could you improvise?’ Because any good musician can usually improvise.”
“So she said, ‘Yeah I can improvise,’ so she joined me for two songs and it was fucking unbelievable,” he continues. “She was incredible ... I didn’t know her, never met her, never talked to her, and we got on stage and made this crazy energy happen. And we communicated in a way that, if you’re not a musician, it’s hard to understand. It was just magical, really just a magical thing.”
Satisfied, I end our conversation and we get up. He never did finish that Pad Thai.
Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose @ CMW 2010
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Live Review * Date: March 12, 2010 * City: Toronto, ON * Venue: Sneaky Dee's ...
* Date: March 12, 2010
* City: Toronto, ON
* Venue: Sneaky Dee's
* Rating: 4 / 5
Songwriter Brett Caswell leads a crack squadron of backing musicians through songs that are alt.country by definition, but boast a sugary streak of folk-pop and a few heavy riffs. Strong vocal harmonies (provided by Fox Jaws' Carleigh Aikins) and plenty of instrumental breakdowns give the enthusiastic Marquee Rose a chance to shine.
Caswell may have solo billing, but live, The Marquee Rose are clearly a true team effort. The sextet were powered by Caswell's buoyant songs, and were firing on all cylinders at Sneaky Dee's — evidence of a live show that could sure take them a few places in the future.
Achievement of Rock 'n' Roll Expectations
80-100: Exceeds skill and knowledge expectations, i.e. rocked us so hard we peed our pants.
70-79: Achieves required skills and knowledge. Meets rock 'n' roll standard.
60-69: Demonstrates some skills. Approaches rock 'n' roll standard.
50-59: Demonstrates some required skills and knowledge in a limited way.
00-50: Has not demonstrated required skills or knowledge.
Learning Skills: E=Excellent, G=Good, S=Satisfactory, N=Sad Really
Oral And Visual Communication
Eye Contact: E
Stage Presence: E
Stage Banter: S
Use Of Stage: E
It's unusual to see a backing band every bit as into the show as their bandleader. While Caswell was the focus, lurching with practiced vigor behind the mic and showing off behind the keys, when the band hit one of their many fierce mid-song breakdowns, every head onstage was banging in time to the beat.
Even the skilled Sarah Morano pulled the kind of stompy rock moves (accompanied by Shredding Solo Face) usually not associated with violinists.
Caswell almost pulled a rock faux pas by announcing he had brought CDs with him at the top of the set — but immediately declared that they were free, and warned: "I don't wanna see a single one of those left by the time we're done this set." They went fast.
Level Of Participation: E
Problem Solving: G
Work Habits: E
Audience Participation: S
Caswell seemed at home with a guitar strapped to his person, but his prodigious, Ben Folds-ian piano skills were truly the secret weapon in his live show. Aikins' harmonies quickly overcame a little bit of shakiness at the start of the set, blending well with — and occasionally outshining — Caswell's likeable, if less showy, vocals.
Caswell invited up Rajiv Thanavathan (formerly of Oh No Forest Fires, Five Blank Pages, and pretty much every band in Toronto, at least once) to help out on "A Friend In Need," which is like "Lean On Me" except with a bigger buildup and more screaming, for an epic finish to the set.
Other Skills And Areas Of Interest
Problem Solving: G
Indie Rock Footwear: G
Nods To Disposable Fashion: E
Cool Equipment: S
Level Of Inebriation: G
Actual Ability: E
Their enthusiasm was plenty charming, but it was The Marquee Rose's combined note-perfect skill that sealed the deal. (That, and Aikins' satin Blue Jays bomber jacket.) Expect big things from Caswell and company in the future.
Caswell Releases New Album
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Caswell releases new album. Barrie’s own Brett Caswell and The Marquee Rose are set to release their...Caswell releases new album. Barrie’s own Brett Caswell and The Marquee Rose are set to release their debut album A New Balance. Contributed photo
BARRIE - While Brett Caswell may be well known in this area, the Barrie musician is set to release his debut full-length album to the world.
Backed by The Marquee Rose, Caswell’s new album, A New Balance, features two years worth of work.
“I was lucky enough to have some great friends who have given their time and believe in me,” he said. “We have been together and played in a few bands together over the years, so it was nice to have them backing me.”
A New Balance is a personal record for Caswell, especially the last song, Nicaragua, which covers his traumatic near-death experience.
“I was on vacation with some friends in Nicaragua, a friend of a friend owns some land down there and had these cabins built in the woods. The first night I was there, I fell off an eight-foot high porch onto a post,” he said. “It was a horrendous experience. I spent the rest of the week in a Nicaraguan hospital, until I was able to fly back to Sunnybrook in Toronto. But it made a great song.”
Caswell will celebrate the release with a tour that includes stops at Barrie’s Foxx Lounge on May 7 and 8.
“I’ll be playing most of the stuff off the new album, but I will get a few older ones in there too,” he said.
A New Balance will be available for download on iTunes starting May 18. CD’s will be available at Caswell’s shows.
Caswell will be joined by Sandman Viper Command on May 7 and Matt Paxton on May 8.
For more information on Brett Caswell, visit www.myspace.com/bcaswell.
The Re-birth of Brett
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If local bands like Trigger Incident and Fight Like Gentlemen ring a holiday bell in your ear, consi...If local bands like Trigger Incident and Fight Like Gentlemen ring a holiday bell in your ear, consider this an early Christmas present: Brett Caswell's first solo EP, Love Waiting.
While music is deeply entrenched in Caswell-he works as a music teacher by day and performs at night-it was the end of Trigger Incident that sent him on a journey of writing, passion and performing.
As spring rolled around, Caswell knew it was time for a fresh start. His backlog of more than 100 home- recorded demos got a spit and pollish, getting them prepared for a rebirth in the studio.
"I'd been writing songs for years," says Caswell. "Just making demos at home on my little four track."
With more than 100 demos, how does an artist pick their top six?
"It was really hard," says Caswell. "I narrowed it down to 20, burned cd's for my friends whose opinions I respected, and basically said 'tell me what you think.' From there, I chose the songs i thought would do the best in the studio. I picked some songs that would be ear candy to a record executive; something that sounded so good they couldn't say 'no.'''
A really fantastic element about Caswell's songs is his steadfas attitude. He refuses to alter his music to make it label-friendly.
"If you want to make being in band your career, you have to understand the business half of it as well", he says.
"So I've come to relize that in the last few years and I have no problems choosing my songs that way."
Love Waiting is a well-blended EP for just six songs. Not only does the record reflect Caswell's composing at its finest, it's crafted and professional. The rhythm and mood of Love Waiting is radio-friendly but edgy enough to show Caswell didn't comprise tenacity or style.
Songs like Vacant Heart offer a sound similar to Wilco and Son Volt, while others like Carried Away convey a more east coast sound with plenty of piano and harmonies.
One of the most impressive elements of Love Waiting is the strings added by violinist, Nicolle Clappison. The inclusion of Clappison adds a presence that makes this album hard to put away.
Caswell and Marquee Rose (consisting of Clappison, Brandyn Aikins on drums, Dave Murray on guitar, keys and backing vocals, and Darren Jacob on bass) will be hostin a release party for Love Waiting, -an all-ages event- at the Foundation, Dec. 20. Tickets are available at the door for $7 or $ 10 with a CD.
Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose - The Supermarket
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Melding elements of groove-soaked roots-rock, bouncy keyboard-laden pop, and a breezy singer-songwri...Melding elements of groove-soaked roots-rock, bouncy keyboard-laden pop, and a breezy singer-songwriter spirit, Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose serves-up a finger-snapping-carnival-like performance that straddles the middle ground between country-dipped swagger and rock and roll exuberance. Anchored by Caswell on vocals/piano bolstered by the presence of Dave Murray and the golden-voiced Carleigh Aikins (Fox Jaws), Brett Caswell deals a perfect mixture of soaring melodies, rootsy warmth, and unrivaled musicianship resulting in a kinetic live show filled with L.O.V.E.
Brett Caswell Launches New Album at Supermarket
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The Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose CD release party for the new album “A New Balance” was a very...The Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose CD release party for the new album “A New Balance” was a very pleasurable experience. The opening bands (Colin Moore, Bass Lions, and Half Full) and the environment of Supermarket set the appropriate mood for the evening. The night started off slow for me though. The opening bands played quite well, but this may have eluded the people who were obviously there to see Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose since they continued to eat and socialize throughout the sets. This is common for most shows, but it seemed slightly noisier than average. Good thing the sound guy cranked the volume. The only problem with the volume was that the instruments tended to drown out the vocals. I was disappointed when the Bass Lions were on, not because of their performance, but because the vocals were smothered by heavy guitar riffs, which should have been complementing the vocals rather than drowning them out.
I was slightly apprehensive when Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose took the stage because of their vast array of instruments (maracas, tambourine, fiddle, etc.), and there was even a horn section consisting of a saxophone, trumpet, and trombone! By this time, Brett and his band were setting up, and people were moving closer. Seats are being abandoned and the standing space was limited. I looked behind me only to see a few groups sitting at the tables, but their heads were all turned in anticipation. There were probably 100+ people attending, and all seemed anxious for Brett to start rocking.
Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose started with some oldies that had “nothing to do with the new album,” according to Brett. Oh, and the sound was way better than expected. Brett just knew how to make it work. The audience was emitting a good vibe after the first few songs, but the show really got started when Brett and the band performed the song “L.O.V.E.”, from their new album. Simple lyrics allowed for the audience to sing along, a catchy tune got everyone moving, and a powerful message: “Love, don’t hate” (Brett), had everyone feeling good.
It was a rollercoaster of a set. The band was way heavier than I expected, but they were all so tight and rocked the stage. But then Brett would slow it down, like he did when he performed “A New Balance”. Right after he calmed us down, he picked us all back up again.
As good as the set was, the highlight of the night was when they came back for their encore and performed a cover of “The Weight.” Brett pulled friends, other musicians, and basically anyone who wanted to sing up onto the stage. I counted about 14 people up there. The energy was high, and I was tired, but when they started this song I woke up. Everyone was singing and the audience loved it. It was the perfect way to end the night.
If you haven’t heard of Brett Caswell and The Marquee Rose, I recommend checking them out at http://www.myspace.com/bcaswell. Then, go out and pick up the new album! It’s called “A New Balance”, and it really is the perfect balance of folk/roots piano-riff pop/rock foot-stompin’ fiddle-laden excitement.
Brett Caswell "A New Balance"
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This is the Indie Track of the Day Giveaway. It’s just like it sounds—every day we spotlight a song ...This is the Indie Track of the Day Giveaway. It’s just like it sounds—every day we spotlight a song from an indie band/artist and we let you keep the track to do with whatever you like (within the limits of the law).
The song is part of our podcast, so if you want it (you do), search on iTunes for the ExploreMusic.com podcast, or just scroll down to the bottom of this page and click the links.
Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Brett Caswell has drawn comparisons to Ryan Adams, Ben Folds, Led Zeppelin, and Conor Oberst.
The Barrie, Ontario musician has shared stages with the likes of Jeff Healy, The Trews, Bahamas, and Zeus, and he’s performed at the Barrie Blues and Jazz Festival, Kempenfest, CMW, and more.
His backing band, The Marquee Rose, contains members of Fox Jaws and other Barrie staples.
For his debut album, A New Balance, Caswell drew inspiration from the tragic loss of his father and his own near-death experience. The effort—due out May 18th—was recorded in a secret location on the outskirts of the Bruce Trail with Mitch C.W. Hall and Marty Kinack (Feist, Broken Social Scene, Jason Collett).
Listen to the album’s title track, which features lap-steel from Cuff the Duke’s Dale Murray, and click here to check out Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose’s MySpace page.
Quick & Dirty: Brett Caswell
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Last year, Brett Caswell resolved to break a pattern he had succumbed to for the last four years of ...Last year, Brett Caswell resolved to break a pattern he had succumbed to for the last four years of his life: the rising and falling of the inner group dynamic, which resulted in a career littered with false starts. This year, he's got his show out on the road and he's ready to start fresh.
In early January '08, Caswell marked the beginning of his solo career by dropping his disc, Love Waiting, as well as a performance in maiden showcase at 'The Foundation' in his hometown and indie-haven of Barrie, Ontario.
Mellow and laid back are the typical adjectives to describe a sound like his, and they fit sure enough, but also sit lonely without an adverb like 'fucking' in front of them. From the time the first sound check runs through, he's clearly working through the stress that comes hours before launching one's first solo album, concert and career all in the same night. The whole process includes a level of entrepreneurship they don't teach with piano lessons and although he's struggling, at least it's within the confines of a club packed with friends and fans waiting for him to shut up and just get on stage.
"It feels like I'm starting over again from scratch," he says later on, after his blood pressure cools, "I still have a long road ahead of me but that's fine. Now it's just me, and that's reassuring."
The new set opens with a symphonic key solo under a spotlight while classical guitarists; a violin, drums and bass fill the rest of the stage. The energy projected through his first few numbers makes his sound much harder to pinpoint, falling somewhere between hard and southern rock. That 'why the hell is my foot tapping?' vibe creeps up on you as seductive, heartbreak-soaked ballads confuse themselves amongst various edgier influences ranging from punk and ska to progressive hip hop.
On the album, Caswell resurrects the emotionally sappy inspiration that fueled a similar sound in past projects, but breaks away early to incorporate noticeably improved folksy, parlor-piano-driven material. "My heart is on my sleeve on this one, it's a lot of 'wah wah, cry cry' stuff, but I don't mind putting it out there, a lot of people can relate to it," he says.
Aside from the playing on the percussion sections, he recorded and financed the entire project himself, choosing the content from over 100 numbers he's put together over the past year. "I'm always at home making demos on a 4-track, even with (former group) Fight Like Gentlemen, I was always at home recording on my own," he says, "I pressed about 20 onto burnt CDs and gave it out to my friends to help decide what would make the cut."
Jumping back and forth between the keys and guitar, he exploits the finer elegant notes from a classical piano in contrast to a recurring accelerating tempo to open up his more complicated efforts. They come off well prepared, too; snare drum shuffles under a twang-y slide guitar perfectly compliment each other alongside brief wails from the violin.
As the set closes out, a visibly relieved performer, he begins to exhibit all the hallmark signs of an indie musician; the sheer audacity to play two ballads in a row, no stories from the road or pointless diatribes about the new lyrics, just unrelenting, out-of-breath gratitude to the good people around him.
"I'm going to make it on my own terms," he says, as admittedly idealistic as it sounds. "I have no desire to live in the city, and I hate the politics of music. Maybe it's just me, but I love the people I'm playing with and I like nature."
Brett Caswell playing some solo shows in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick
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So, seriously, is there a better-named act right now than Barrie, Ontario's Brett Caswell and the Ma...So, seriously, is there a better-named act right now than Barrie, Ontario's Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose? We don't think so. And it's not just a for-today thing; we thought this last week and the week before and the week before, too.
Caswell himself will have a chance to win other people over to the cause soon, too, as he's about to embark on a solo tour.
From his bio, a write-up done by the lovely folks over at Audio Blood:
"A talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Caswell has drawn upon his innumerable influences and more than a few friends to craft the new album. Drawing inspiration from the tragic loss of his father and his own near-death experience, what he has given us is an album chock full of heartache and harmonies, compelling stories of loss, hurt, and self-discovery. Soaring piano ballads give way to twangy country rockers, but haunting violin, dulcet tones, and powerfully simple harmonies tie it all back together."
The album in question is called A New Balance, and it hit store shelves and virtual, er, store shelves earlier this year. Recorded with Mitch C.W. Hall and Marty Kinack (Broken Social Scene, Jason Collett, Feist). People have said many nice things about it.
Don't believe us?
"Perhaps half of being newly balanced is knowing when to cut and run. In the meantime, fans of silk-crafted songwriting should find plenty to love while Mr. Caswell sticks around." [The Take]
"A New Balance still manages to find a balance with sound instrumentals and Caswell's skilled songwriting." [Shattered Vinyl, with the obvious wordplay on "balance" FTW]
Caswell is certainly among the bevy of stalwart acts that are coming out of the Toronto scene these days, and it behooves you to check him out if you get a shot. Here are the remainder of his dates, where he'll have Ottawa's Old Crowns in tow:
Jul 21 @ The Phog Lounge, WINDSOR.
Jul 22 @ The Spill, PETERBOROUGH
Jul 23 @ The Elmdale Tavern, OTTAWA
Jul 24 @ Boom Nightclub, FREDERICTON
Jul 27 @ The Company House, HALIFAX
Jul 28 @ Uncle Larry's, SACKVILLE
Jul 29 @ Bar St. Laurent, MONTREAL
Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose @ the Horseshoe
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I'm not going to lie: I've been rather enjoying my concert going hibernation over the last month or ...I'm not going to lie: I've been rather enjoying my concert going hibernation over the last month or so. The brief spurts of time off have been refreshing as they've allowed me to indulge my other passion for classic foreign films, not to mention trying to find a decent recent movie to enjoy also, which was extremely difficult to do. "Not impressed 'cinema of 2009', not impressed at all!" (I'm talking to you Mr. Cameron! Give me my money back or I'll continue to hold these 3D glasses for ransom!)
Still, a concert goer has to hit the venues again at some time, and there was no better way to ease back into the show goings then with a brief and free (and not to mention early) show at The Horseshoe featuring a man whom I'd heard tons about, yet had never really taken the time to properly acquaint myself with: Mr. Brett Caswell. In preparation for the show, I had spent some time with his debut release Love Waiting, which came out almost two years ago. It's a very easy-to-digest collection of piano and guitar based pop rock tunes that bring to mind guys like Ben Folds or Elliott Smith. Although the material is far from earth shattering, the melodies in particular, are exceptional and there was no doubt in my mind that the man had the talent and capabilities to expand that sound even more. Well the performance that night proved that my assumptions were correct.
First of all, I was pleasantly surprised to see that his band consisted of some backing vocals by my favourite little Barrie-ite Carleigh Aikins of Fox Jaws, as well as some amazing fiddle accompaniment by the incredibly talented Sarah Morano. Still, the biggest surprise was the fact that the songs that were presented that evening went far above and beyond the standard singer- songwriter fare of the aforementioned album. His new album, entitled A New Balance, is coming out this spring and, judging by the songs that he played that evening, he's boasting a heavier, rockier edge that places greater emphasis on playing and musicianship while still keeping that gift for melody fully in tact. One would assume that a set so short (he only played six songs) would mean that it ended just as he was starting to find his groove, but the fact is that Caswell is obviously such a seasoned performer that he was able to hit the stage on a high and keep that going throughout. The evening's highlight was an explosive performance of a song called Show On The Road, which boasted a slightly country-ish vibe that built into a full-on country rock assault that was reminiscent of some of the impressive jams you would hear performed by The Allman Brothers or My Morning Jacket. There are few things more impressive than watching Caswell attack the keys the way that he does. I think it's safe to say that Caswell is one charismatic and electrifying performer and I'm looking forward to catching a full set before the year is through.
Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose are back in town tomorrow night opening for Clothes Make The Man at The Garrison (Ossington & Dundas). They'll be hitting the stage around 10pm.
Photos: My shots of Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose @ The Horseshoe are on flickr
Myspace: Brett Caswell
Interview with Brett Caswell
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Brett Caswell is a Torontonian singer-songwriter, the old school kind: confessional, classicist, wel...Brett Caswell is a Torontonian singer-songwriter, the old school kind: confessional, classicist, well-bearded. He recently released an album called The New Balance, recorded with his backup band The Marquee Rose and producers Mitch C. Hall and Martin Davis Kinack at a secret recording studio up north frequented by Arts and Crafts folk, and right now he's gearing up for a couple dates on the East coast. In Kensington Market venue Supermarket, where he was having a little album release show, Caswell took the time to tell me about playing in nu-metal bands, falling in love with guitar students, and nearly dying in Nicaragua.
M: Brett Caswell, tell me how it all began.
B: It started when I was 12 and I started playing a guitar an uncle gave me. From then on I played for hours and hours and hours in my room. I got into a band in high school – I used to be a jock but as soon as I started playing rock and roll that was it. It was over. I started smoking cigarettes, starting smoking pot. Then after high school I got into a serious band, then another serious band, then at 25 went solo, and now I’m 30. So it’s been about five years under my own name. Yeah, that’s where it started.
M: Can you elaborate more on why you went solo? The bands you were in before?
B: Sure, yeah, absolutely. Well, in high school I played in a heavy metal band, kind of like nu-metal at the time, kind of like when Korn and the Deftones were big. I played in a band called Porno Fuck and it was like nu-metal.
M: I don’t think my mom would’ve let me listen to that.
B: No, I was a guitar teacher at the time and I had to tell my students we were called PF, just PF. And Porno Fuck was pretty serious, like we had some label interest but we couldn’t keep it together personally. Creatively we got along but personally it didn’t click after a couple years. So I think around 22 I started a band called Fight Like Gentlemen, the drummer’s now in Zeus, and the bass player from Fight Like Gentlemen is now in my band as well. That band broke up when I was 25 and it was heartbreaking, at the time I was going through a rough time besides that. I was like “Fuck that, I’m going solo, I can’t take the heartbreak of another band breaking up.”
You know, you put a lot of energy and a lot of effort, and it takes a lot of creative and personal jiving to make a band go, so, I was kind of fed up with it. Now I’m going solo but I have the Marquee Rose [Caswell’s backing band], I was just doing solo stuff for a couple years. And again, the Marquee Rose has been through a couple member changes as well, but now we’re stronger than we’ve ever been.
M: And you recorded this album, A New Balance, as your solo debut. Tell me about that.
B: It’s my debut full-length record; I have an EP called Still Waiting that I put out two years ago with six songs on it, but this is the debut full-length record under my own name.
M: And what’s the story behind the record?
B: It’s been written over two years. Two years ago my father died and there’s a song about him on the record. And I almost died as well, I had a near death experience in a freak accident in Nicaragua, falling off a porch in the middle of the night, taking a piss. Nobody knows how exactly, it’s a mystery; it’s a long fucking story. Anyway, there’s a song called Nicaragua, it’s the last song on the record, it’s heavy, it’s a rock tune. And there’s a couple other songs on there inspired by life and death.
We recorded the record in the middle of nowhere, a beautiful, beautiful spot called Mono. You know where Alliston is? No? Nobody does. It’s Barrie-ish. It’s North-West of here. And I was lucky to record there, it’s a beautiful spot, they do a lot of great records there, like Broken Social Scene does recording there.
M: Is that the hidden place I’ve heard about? Still Life Still told me about recording at a place like that.
B: Quite possibly.
M: You can neither confirm nor deny this statement?
B: Well, I’m not sure, it probably is that spot. It’s like this hidden gem that…great things happen there. I was lucky to be able to record there.
M: How did manage to get in there.
B: A friend of mine, a bass player, is good friends with one of the engineers. I was scoping out some studios and I actually had my heart set on another place and my friend, the bass player, said, “Don’t, wait, come check out this other spot in Mono, my friend Mitch records there.” And good thing I didn’t make a decision and I decided to go check out this last studio and yeah, I was sold. It was secluded, you know? You’re in the middle of nowhere, like my cell phone didn’t work, there was nothing you could do but record, smoke weed, cigarettes, drink booze, and that was that. It was great, one of the great experiences of my life was making this record actually.
M: And how long did it take you?
B: About a year on and off. I just couldn’t afford to finish it all in one shot because it was independently funded by myself. It started last year in March and we’d do a week here, a week there, a couple days here, a couple days there. It was actually done being mixed in October I think, it’s just taken me this long to get my shit together and money together to have it out for people to buy.
M: And how are you releasing it, how are you getting it out there?
B: Right now digitally, like iTunes and what not. That’s happening on May 25th. Maybe we’ll get some distribution in the summer or fall. I don’t need it in stores yet because I’m not touring yet, but hopefully we’re gonna tour late summer or fall and then we’ll get it in stores, Sunrise and what not.
M: I definitely heard some love stuff on the album, is that for your father? Or some romance thing going on? Any story there?
B: There’s always romance things going on, whether I’m in or out of it, in or out of love. For some reason it’s pretty common for songwriters to write about love and I’m guilty of that too. I used to write about love almost all the time actually and on this record I’ve been trying to get away from that. Like there’s definitely some songs about love. There’s one about love in general, like “All You Need Is Love”, like one of those things. There’s a song about religion and how I don’t like people pushing religion on there, there’s a song about hard times, about my dad, lots of stuff.
M: But the songs that are about love, what’s the story behind them, give me the dirt.
B: Um, there’s a love song on there called “Guilty”, it’s kind of like Motown, it’s got horns. It’s a very simple love song about some forbidden love I had with a girl…for reasons I can’t get into. It was forbidden.
M: Common, nobody reads my blog, man.
B: (Laughs) She was young and her parents probably wouldn’t have appreciated it at the time. Um…and we just fell in love. She was a student of mine (I teach guitar) and the song is kind of about us getting together and the point where we actually were able to say, “fuck it,” we don’t care if anybody gives a shit or not.
M: Maybe I should get back into teaching guitar.
M: Going back a bit, can you tell me a little bit more about what happened to you in Nicaragua?
B: So, my friend Carly - she’s singing with me tonight, she’s a backup singer in our band – has a friend of a friend who owns some land down in Nicaragua and they built cabins in the middle of the woods. Close to a beach but it’s kind of in the middle of the woods. So we were able to go there for a week and hang out. The first day in Nicaragua we had a great day, ate some food, got drunk. In the middle of the night that night, nobody knows what happened, I woke up to piss or puke or something – I wasn’t even that drunk, I wasn’t drunk enough that I think I would’ve been puking – but in the middle of the night I guess I woke up to piss and the front porch was about eight feet off the ground, there was no railing, it was really low key, and I fell face-first onto a post. I was found a few hours later covered in dried blood by one of the cabin neighbors. They found me just like crawling through the woods. I crawled to their cabin and they came out with a baseball bat thinking that I was trying to rob them because they heard some rustling in the bushes and somebody on their porch. They found that it was me, fucking covered in blood from head to toe. Then it was a couple hours to get out of the woods and to a Nicaraguan hospital. I spent the rest of the week in a Nicaraguan hospital, which was actually very nice, it was a brand new hospital like a year or two old. It was really nice and I was in good hands. Luckily. Because people back home heard that I was in a bad accident in Nicaragua they were scared shitless, because they probably thought I was in some fucking shack, but it was actually very nice. My head bled for a week straight. It finally stopped on the last day, when I was supposed to head back, so I caught a plane back and went to Sunnybrook and spent another week there and everything worked out. I’m not dead, I can still sing.
M: And what was going through your mind after that near death experience. What did you realize?
B: I was in shock for a long time. I was just fucking blown away that anything can happen to anybody at any time. Like, you realize that it can happen to you. You always think, “Oh, that won’t happen to me, I won’t get cancer, I won’t get whatever.” You realize that you’re really fragile and anything can happen at any time. I’m really happy anyways but after that accident I’m a little more careful and I just try and live a happy, positive life. That’s what I’ve learned. I guess.
P.S. Brett Caswell's working with a great publicity company called Audio Blood Media. :)
How to Make a Deep Roots Rock Sandwich
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Whoever thinks the best folk-rock and country sounds emerge from the rural regions of North America ...Whoever thinks the best folk-rock and country sounds emerge from the rural regions of North America probably has yet to see Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose in concert.
The Toronto-based Barrie native and the talented members of The Marquee Rose took over the Horseshoe Tavern with their raw instrumentation, rooted in country and folk influences. The Marquee Rose combined the wailing electric twang of Dave Murray’s guitar with the drawl of Nicole Clappison’s fiddle to achieve a sound authentic in its nature and entertaining in its delivery.
Caswell and his band took the raw energy and passion featured on their recordings and emphasized all of their finest elements onstage; their live show is colourful, rich, and explosive. The bluesy chromatics of "Needle in the Grove" were vivaciously driven home, while the bright chords of "L.O.V.E." were perfectly juxtaposed with the rich and raunchy backing vocals of the incredibly talented Carleigh Aikins.
Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose deliver pure bliss at the Horseshoe Tavern
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There is something more than music going on onstage when it comes to Brett Caswell and the Marquee R...There is something more than music going on onstage when it comes to Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose. There is something to the song-writing and musicianship that doesn't come around everyday.
Start with the infinite appeal of the melange of male and female voices (enter Edward Sharpe, Fleetwood Mac, Arcade Fire, and on and on and on and on). Add to that a lady-fiddler, a swoon-worthy tambouriner/crooner, some serious shredding and a sense of unity and friendship that makes Barney's Backyard Gang look like a battlefield and you've got your audience purring and lulled into the sweetest trance. General swaying, peppered with spontaneous fits of crumping, fist-pumping and of course emphatic chanting of those four sweet letters, L, O, V, E, without a trace of your classic don't-wanna-dance-cause-I'm-too-into-the-vibe snobbery.
JUNO Decades – Songs of the 90s. Yes, we partied like it was 1999.
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JUNO Decades – Songs of the 90s. Yes, we partied like it was 1999. The Junos this year more than... JUNO Decades – Songs of the 90s. Yes, we partied like it was 1999.
The Junos this year more than ever are a huge deal: a 40th Anniversary with a list of nominees that just puts the Grammys to shame. Canada finally looks ready to take their rightful place as juggernauts in the world of music. Being the festivities are in Toronto this year they’ve really had to up the anti and bring out the big guns, and so far they are killing it with their lead-up events.
As a part of their on-going decade series, (80s held a couple weeks back) Saturday night the songs of the 90s were up and the bar of excellence was raised. Tickets were completely sold out and the Horseshoe was jammed full of people looking to have a gnarly time. Dine Alone Records/the Bedlam Music Management Group did a fantastic job covering all the genres and assembled a pretty phenomenal snap shot of Canadian Music circa 1990s. The night was hosted by former MuchMusic VJ Steve Anthony and the behemoth line-up included Chore, Michee Mee, Dream Warriors, Tristan Psionic and Rheostatics and heaps more!
While Choclair made my 13 year-old self all kinds of nostalgic, the big stars of the night were Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose. Acting as house band for Chris Murphy (Sloan), Steve Stanley (Lowest of the Low) and Mike Trebilcock (The Killjoys) they ended up completely stealing the show with their high energy and all around great vibe. While they technically may not have been around as a band in the 90s, Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose are definitely a must-see that you’ll be hearing a lot of very soon.
I’m super intrigued to see what’s in store for the 00s installment March 5th seeing as this night almost ended with Chris Murphy being escorted out via stretcher from a crowd-surfing related injury.
JUNO Decades – Songs of the 00’s: My Ears Are Still Ringing
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Despite the annoying interesting turn the weather took Saturday night, the Horseshoe was once again ...Despite the annoying interesting turn the weather took Saturday night, the Horseshoe was once again packed with a crowd eager to hear the music from a decade that has been especially important to Canadian artists. This spectacular edition was curated by Pheromone Recordings and while I had a blast “reliving” the past at the other decade celebrations this particular decade was more meaningful to me because these songs made up the soundtrack of my formative years. My trip down memory lane was made complete with my best friend in tow to help wail sing the songs with me; thankfully we weren’t the only ones! It just so happened the entire night ended up being one big interactive karaoke experience – albeit one with far more talent than you’ll ever find at XO Karaoke bar.
Let me start by explaining that I could probably write a screenplay from this night as there were so, so many amazing/hilarious highlights. The artists assembled couldn’t possibly reflect on all of the great music from Canada during the 2000s in just one night but they sure tried their darnedest. The steam-bathed enthusiastic crowd gave back just as much energy as they were given by each artist. This was just the perfect cherry to top off the well organized, executed and extremely awesome Juno leading events.
Here are some of the highlights from a night I’ll likely remember for decades:
-Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose kicking off the night by playing a holy trinity of covers by The Weakerthans, Arcade Fire and The Constantines
-Flash Lightnin’ facilitating a much needed high energy, hard rock n’ roll injection to otherwise indie drenched line up
-Sebastien Grainger inadvertently creating false hope that we’d get a Death From Above 1979 mini reunion
-Francesco Guidoccio’s (The Order of Good Cheer) hilarious all-white ensemble
-NQ Arbuckle leading a sing-a-long of Tegan and Sara’s ‘Walking with a Ghost’
-Sarah Sleen’s rendition of Metric’s ‘Combat Baby’
-Justin Rutledge and Royal Wood each adding just a pinch of Hawksley Workman to the night
-Royal Wood and Dave Hamelin (The Stills) both covering Sam Roberts
-Neil Quin (Zeus) covering Joel Plaskett
-Brendan Canning singing Hot Hot Heat’s ‘Middle of Nowhere’…even though I was secretly hoping he was going to pick ‘Bandages’
-Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning accompanied by Dave Hamelin (The Stills), Casey Laforet (Elliot Brood) and Neil Quin (Zeus) for an extended, bolstering sing-a-long to Jason Colett’s ‘I’ll Bring the Sun’
-k-os actually killing Billy Talent’s ‘Try Honesty’
And so brilliantly concludes the JUNO Decades celebrations but certainly not the Juno hoopla. Next up? JunoFest a 2 night, 100+ band bender leading up to the main event on Sunday, March 27. Check out the JunoFest site for wristband info, bands and venues. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be sleeping much until April…
Words by Kate Masewich
Photos by Courtney Lee Yip
Most Fun Ever…Canadian Music Week 2011
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Most Fun Ever…Canadian Music Week 2011 Alas, the week-long incredible music festival (gong show?... Most Fun Ever…Canadian Music Week 2011
Alas, the week-long incredible music festival (gong show?) known as Canadian Music Week has come to an end and what better time than now to reflect on the good, the bad and the mind blowing. The lovely ladies of Pink Mafia joined forces and took the city by storm to bring you the very best of the week. It was was non-stop amazing live music, great people and a lot of nights way past our bedtimes. Shouts out to the staff/volunteers/every soul that made this week possible, your hard work is much appreciated. Canadian Music Week, you’re the best!
WEDNESDAY MARCH 9th
Rouge @ The Gladstone Hotel- Words & photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
When I originally attended the Proud FM showcase, I had no intention of reviewing Rouge. However, something happened while I was there. This all girl 3-piece began playing their bubbly electro-pop and it was so infectious that I couldn’t help but grow over the course of their 30-minute set to love it more & more. Even as they were experiencing some technical difficulties, they took it all in stride and commanded the stage with such style, grace and presence. For me, I got a very Katie Stelmanis vibe from them, which is nothing but absolutely wonderful. Given that these girls played an earlier timeslot (9:30PM) and had an entire room moving, goes to show that they have a bright future ahead of them.
Creature @ The Gladstone Hotel- Words & photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
I have had the opportunity to see Creature a couple times now and each time I’ve really enjoyed them. One of the very first times was at a NXNE showcase at the ElMocombo. This Montreal group always plays very fun and energetic pop songs, so I knew I was in for quite the show. But something was different from every time I had seen them. As the group launched into their set, the two leads (Kim Ho and Lisa Ivy) seemed over-the-top and almost disingenuous. As they were trying to make group interactions, it seemed like it was just part of the whole stage “show” rather than part of what they felt like they wanted to do. Also, it seemed like their sound had evolved into the annoying bratty cousin of the Scissor Sisters. Which sucks because I love the Scissor Sisters. Overall, this performance made me hit the “Do Not Like” button for them. So sad.
Gentleman Reg @ The Gladstone Hotel - Words & photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
Sometimes I think Toronto doesn’t know what it has because we’re currently sleeping on a legend. His name is Gentleman Reg. All throughout the night, he was wandering around The Gladstone selling merchandise and interacting with fans. I was so sad to see that when he finally when on, the room was nearly empty. I felt like we had been invited to Reg’s own private listening party. It was raw and real and honest. He opened up by saying something along the lines of, “You can buy my merch at the back, I’d really like to make rent.” Then mentioned he would also liked to get signed. His set was filled with intensity and maturity. My highlight (and my friend Cody from The Little Red Umbrella as well) — when he dedicated Stevie Nick’s “Wild Hearts” to him. As I said on Twitter that night, GIVE THIS MAN A RECORD DEAL!
Mother Mother @ The Phoenix- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
My week got off to a rough start but with rain boots and umbrella in check, I headed over to the Phoenix for some Mother Mother who’s new album EUREKA is out March 15th. Rococode and Whale Tooth(who were joined by Scott Farmer from the Russian Futurists) were both fantastic. It could have been a combination of the wasted dude behind me falling asleep and using my back as a pillow and the music of Birds of Tokyo leading up to Mother Mother but I wasn’t totally blown away, although everyone else seemed to be eating it up.
THURSDAY MARCH 10th
Cadence Weapon @ The Opera House- Words by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
I have been diggin on Cadence Weapon for a bit now. So getting the opportunity to see him live, I jumped on it. He had a really great swagger on stage, mentioning that he wasn’t used to playing for an all ages crowd & relied mostly on newer material, such as tracks like “Come on James Brown” and “Jukebox”. The tracks themselves were danceable and had amazing beats. Cadence though seemed under impressed with the audience telling everyone to “dance and act like they were at a hip hop show”. Once he said that, it seemed to garner a reaction with the crowd as everyone got to moving. However, I did hear someone in the audience near me say that Cadence’s performance sucked. Well, sorry you didn’t like it bro. Sucks to be you. Seems like you’re the only one.
Behind Sapphire @ Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music - Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
After a solid 8 hours I was up and at them for some interviews, panels and brunch with Buck 65. Ok, well it was more Richard Terfry sitting at the table beside me, but still. I made my way over to the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music for some really cool living room sessions. Hands & Teeth, Paper Lions, Allie Hughs, Rich Aucoin, The Wilderness of Manitoba all took turns throughout the week but it was Behind Sapphire’s awe-inspiring raw performance that stole my heart.
The Balconies @ Sonic Boom- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
Next stop: Sonic Boom who seemingly booked every single incredible band for their in-store series. They did a nice job of mixing genres and giving a perfect little taste of each artist. James Vincent McMorrow, Sandman Viper Command, Bombay Bicycle Club, Dinosaur Bones, Humans, Pkew Pkew Pkew, to name a few, shared the three-day bill with J Mascis and provided you with a better way to kill time between shows than having a smoke. The Balconies rocked that basement hard and while Jacquie Neville admitted they hadn’t played in a while you’d never be able to tell.
Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose @ Sneaky Dee’s - Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
The Audio Blood showcase started on a sweet note with Charlotte Cornfield then Huron, Sandman Viper Command and Teenage Kicks kicked (ha!) the night into overdrive. My socks were officially knocked off by Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose though. I began my obsession with Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose after seeing them at the Juno Decade party for the 90s and even though they were the house band they totally stole the show. These are musicians who love being musicians and their energy fills the room until it swells. They pulled out all the stops with a Harry Nilsson cover and a horn section that somehow made their incredible sounding music even more incredible.
Yukon Blonde @ The Great Hall- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
I didn’t plan on leaving the previously mentioned showcase because the bands were all so amazing and it was a great crowd of people, but I’m glad I dipped to see Yukon Blonderemind me why I love music so much. I can’t say I’m in love with the venue only because it always sounds so muted to me but they played through a great set. My favourite moment was when Jeff Innes asked for the vocal assistance of Jacquie Neville (The Balconies) Mike Denby (Make Your Exit) and Lowell Sostomi (The Great Bloomers) on ‘Fire’. Amazing.
FRIDAY MARCH 9th
Audio Blood Party @ Toronto Underground Cinema- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
Because they throw the best parties in Toronto, we headed over to the Toronto Underground Cinema for the Audio Blood day party. As if the sheer joy of watching their mega ultra roster of bands alone wasn’t enough, we got to wash it all down with some St-Ambrose brew and snack on band-flavoured chips courtesy of The Galley. Yes, BAND flavoured. Dinosaur Bones have never tasted so good! The space was awesome, and so were the bands: Dinosaur Bones, Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose, The Balconies, Sandman Viper Command, who’s videos were also being shown on the big screen. Neato!
Girl @ Revival- Words and photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
When these guys walked out onto stage, the first thing I noticed were the matching suits and RayBans. All I could think was “Oh dear God, this is going to be terrible”. In fact, it wasn’t. What I ended up getting was entertained by four guys from Montreal who were playing very catchy indie pop. As I was telling a friend of mine later, it reminded me of The Killers. He said that was a terrible comparison. But I pleaded, “No – remember The Killers first album and how catchy and wonderful it was. How you just wanted to sing along with every song.” That’s the kind of Killers stuff I’m referring to. For playing to an almost empty room, they took it all in stride, playing for the audience. With supreme confidence and a great sound, these boys should do well.
Gabby Young @ Revival - Words and Photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
I think one of the biggest highlight and surprises of the week for me (personally) was Gabby Young. Playing at the early time slot of 8:00PM, hardly anyone was in the room. She came out onto stage with her vibrant red hair, a jacket made up of gigantic puff balls and told those in the audience to come a little bit closer. I honestly had no idea what to expect, as I hadn’t heard of her before. But as soon as she started singing, I completely blown away. She had so much range and so much energy. Her brassy attitude reminded me of one part Amy Winehouse, a little bit Regina Spector and a whole lot Kate Bush. Just brilliant. Promoting her new album, “We’re All In This Together” — she began singing a song of the same name and dedicating it to Japan. She is definitely one of the artists to watch in 2011.
Maylee Todd and Pegwee Power @ Revival – Words and Photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
Maylee Todd is the most adorable performer you ever did see. So I hopped at the chance to see her and her band perform and was not disappointed. Armed with her strap-on harp, leopard print jump suit and with her band each all colour coordinated, they started off their set sultry and jazzy. Her vocal range is killer and her band accompanied her so well on each song, making each journey seem dream like. Beautiful performance.
The Pack A.D. @ The Bovine Sex Club- Words and Photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
I have seen The Pack A.D. three times now and I have never been disappointed. You would think that with only two people in the group, they wouldn’t be able to achieve the loud and heavy sound that most full bands would. But let me tell you this, this Vancouver duo of Becky Black and Maya Miller assault your eardrums in the best possible way with blues driven, serious rock & roll. The two have such a way on stage (it reminds me of Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes) with their playful banter and how they say, “Should we play this song?” and they just know exactly what the other is thinking. They are heading back into the studio soon to record a new album, so if you have a chance see them live soon.
Berlin Brides @ The Painted Lady- Words and Photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
I had been recommended this group by a friend of mine. So I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought I’d check them out. It seemed like they had a bit of a following to begin with, which was awesome. The songs themselves seemed alright. Sometimes they sang in French, but 80% of the time in English. But it seemed like their show (all in all) needed a bit of fine-tuning. The girls in the group seemed super enthusiastic but at times, the show seemed a little lacking. It could have also had to do that the stage they were on was teeny tiny.
Middle Brother @ The Opera House- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
The only show I was truly bummed about missing was J Mascis with Kurt Vile and James Vincent McMorrow as I’ve heard through the twittersphere it was intense, but the decision was made to stay and hang with Dawes, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit’s super group Middle Brotherinstead. They were joined by the rad-ass Jonny Corndawg who was celebrating his birthday. I thought this show was going to be a revue but the awkward breaks in the night with no real changes on stage tripped me up a bit. It was still exactly what good ol’ American rock n’ roll should be.
The Meligrove Band @ Sneaky Dee’s- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
How does such a talented band that works so hard still seemingly go unnoticed? Ugh! I’m just going to continue to give their documentary to everyone I know for birthdays/anniversarys/bar mitzvahs. It’s their loss and our gain because we can continue to have these little moments with them in small venues where everyone is havin’ a time. Meligrove packed the room and literally every single person was singing, dancing then to end the set jumping and shouting along with ‘Ages and Stages’. As if that wasn’t enough awesome, Make Your Exit took the stage after and continued the love-fest with the crowd and had everyone signing along to ‘Leave This Town’. I woke up the next morning with blown eardrums and no voice.
SATURDAY MARCH 12th
The Zoobombs @ The Baitshop- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
After a quick chat with Shad, we headed over to The Baitshop (which is easily one of the best spaces in Toronto) for the Scion + Musebox day party with Russian Futurists, Dinosaur Bones, Diemonds and show-stealers The Zoobombs. Holy hell! Despite the tragic events over the week in their homebase Japan, they came out like pros and slapped the crowd in the face with their super-charged funk/psych style rock n’ roll. We had such an awesome time at the show that we caught them again later that night for an even better set at The Comfort Zone. Seriously, Zoobombs, you’re the best!
Diemonds @ The Baitshop- Words and Photos by Amanda (Ama) Scriver
Diemonds are a staple in the Toronto metal (glam metal) scene. It’s no wonder either because they put on a hard rocking show.
The Indies @ The Royal York Hotel- Words by Kate Masewich photos by Courtney Lee Yip
Awards shows aren’t really my thing but I was curious to see what it was all about. The sandwiches were delicious. But seriously though, the acoustics in the Ontario Room were tight and each artist had stunning digital visuals. Hannah Geroges got the short end of the stick with a shortened set, but at least I got to watch the talented singer/songwriter do her thing at all.
Everyone and their mother was talking about seeing Bombay Bicycle Clubduring the week for their first North American performance and since I didn’t make it in time to Lee’s for the Dine Alone showcase the night before I was super stoked to see them (Even if it was at a MuchMusic video dance party). They absolutely didn’t disappoint and I’m quite sure that they’re the reason my temporary horrible mood disappeared. So, thanks guys for being so amazing!
Hollerado looked like they were ready to play dodgeball but instead celebrated Dean’s birthday with a high-energy, crowd adorning performance. They nabbed the Favourite Video of the Year award for the too good video ‘Americanarama’.
Shadtook home the award for Favourite Urban Artist of the Year and a little piece of everyone’s heart with his easy charm and brilliance. I really wanted to leave and see Neon Windbreaker at El Mocambo but there was a rumor that Janelle Monae was going to come to the stage via tightrope…she didn’t because that actually would have been ridiculous, but she was spot on as always. Unfortunately I couldn’t see a thing as the room was packed and the world’s tallest men were having a convention in front of me, but she sounded fantastic.
Janelle Monae photograph courtesy of Kayely Luftig
SUNDAY MARCH 13th
Bathurst @ Parts & Labour – Words and photos by Courtney Lee Yip
I didn’t think it was possible to still be alive at this time in the game, but my broken body was hauled over to glamtown/Parkdale to see a nice quiet band from the burbs who played an easygoing acoustic set. KIDDING! Bathurst was LOUD and AMAZING. A blend of pop-punk that encapsulates what it means to be writing in CAPS LOCK! YES!
Modernboys Moderngirls @ Hard Luck Bar – Words and photos by Courtney Lee Yip
We’ve been meaning to see these Toronto studs for ages and we finally got our chance last night. Truly no better way to end this week’s hellrace festivities than with the more than enjoyable set by Modernboys Moderngirls. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and describe them through showing you their album cover from their album I Might as Well Break it.
Kind of a cop out for a writer, but bear with me here. MBMG: Heavy 50’s influenced rock and roll with soul, that makes you want to get it on and dance/drive right off a cliff into adrenaline-filled oblivion. Am I right fellow jivers?
Chatting with Brett Caswell of Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose at The Piston
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SUPERBOWL NIGHT and here we are sitting at the back of the Piston during soundcheck. Thank the Lord...SUPERBOWL NIGHT and here we are sitting at the back of the Piston during soundcheck. Thank the Lord (sorry, the Packers). Miles away from Fergie in ways innumerable, Brett Caswell shoots the shit with as much warmth and grace as his earthy-feel-good album would suggest (if you haven't listened, hurry up and do). Enjoy!
Describe your sound in five words
Passionate, soulful, energetic, original, poptastic.
Describe for me the best show you've ever played.
Last night! At the Horseshoe. It was mind blowing. The greatest night. Our faces hurt today because we couldn't stop smiling. We didn't play any of our own tunes, but we got to play with people who were our idols as teenagers. (The Juno Awards 40th Anniversary presents Songs of the 90s at Horseshoe Tavern - Michie Mee, Choclair, Ian Blurton, Chris Murphy, Chris Taylor, Bill Priddle, Steve Stanley, Dream Warriors...)
What's the absolute best reaction you could get to your music?
We've brought people to tears before, that was very flattering.
If you could score a film, which film would you choose? (Or... make one up).
Scarface. It has a terrible 80s soundtrack.
Which five cities would you include in a fantasy tour?
Montreal, Amsterdam (for many reasons), London or just somewhere in England, Chicago, New York.
Strawberry Fields or Penny Lane?
Where/what does your name come from?
The Marquee Rose is actually meaningless. It's just two separate words. We needed a name, and our old bass player wanted "rose" in there somewhere. Dave brought the "marquee". I couldn't have cared less, and it was their name, so I let them choose.
How do you take your eggs?
Only scrambled. Unless they're deviled.
What is your ideal rainy day activity?
What is your favourite childhood television series?
HeMan and Thundercats.
What's your best concert(-going) experience?
Mars Volta at Kool Haus. Kooool Haaaaus. It blew my mind. I was almost in tears. Also, The Low Anthem opened for Ray LaMontagne at Massey Hall.
Where is your favourite place to sing?
Pretty much only at the studio and my house. I like singing at the piano in the studio.
You have $1000 and ten minutes to spend it. What do you do?
Long & McQuade is right there... I'd buy a new acoustic guitar. Yeah. I could get a nice acoustic guitar for a thousand bucks.
What was the last song you listened to?
Pasamino by Bad Brothers, who are members from Zeus plus Bahamas. It's an unreleased record.
CMW 2011: Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose @ Sneaky Dee's
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CMW 2011: Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose @ Sneaky Dee's by Stephanie Cloutier THURSDAY - I woul...CMW 2011: Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose @ Sneaky Dee's by Stephanie Cloutier
THURSDAY - I would get wet for Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose again.
Their infectious and catchy songs dried out my wet spirits after getting drenched in the rain. As I stood snapping away among my fellow photographers, I watched how Caswell and his band mates masterly crafted a mood that elevated every soul who was present for the Audio Blood showcase at Sneaky Dee’s.
Playing the majority of their songs from their last album, A New Balance, the real treat of the night was inviting a horn section (a trombone and trumpet) on stage. It was something that Caswell said they hardly ever get to do for a live show and it created a mood that was mellow, light and joyous.
This high continued until the end of their set when they finished with “L.O.V.E”. Indeed, there was something in the air; people singing along, others linked arm-in-arm and dancing. Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose injected a dose of something good. Whatever it was, it kept my step light and heart happy as I ventured back out into the rain that night.
Brett Caswell: Better Than Sex. Snowballing and the Ecstasy of Playing Live
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How much would you sacrifice for a dream? What if that dream shattered right before the climax? ...How much would you sacrifice for a dream? What if that dream shattered right before the climax?
That’s what life was like for Brett Caswell just a few years ago. After riding a wave of modest success with a former band, the pressure reached an explosive juncture as multiple personalities and musical directions tore the band to shreds. Lost and heartbroken, Brett had to do something so he did what came naturally, he rebuilt a life bigger and better. Jump forward to the present and you’re graced with the presence of a rugged musician that has seen things…seen lots of things man.
Brett Caswell isn’t a big man, some would say his appearance is slipshod, his demeanour messy and derelict and they would be pretty accurate. That is, however, where the charm walks in. Some men require a $2,000 suit to make a favourable impression, Caswell merely needs to walk into a room and he becomes instantly gravitational; give him a guitar and a microphone and any males in the general vicinity may reconsider their sexuality.
His music is the product of angst, blatant mistakes, pop sensibility and love lost, but it still maintains the creative wonder and beauty of a first kiss. I had the chance to speak with Mr. Caswell about the transition from band to band-leader, building a brand on your own name and the ecstasy of seeing hundreds of people singing along to you live.
Aaron: So I’ve been reading some interviews with you, it sounds like you’re a pretty passionate guy when it comes to music and that you couldn’t be doing anything else.
Brett: I don’t know what else I would do man. I got lucky, I was able just to do it from day one, picked up a guitar and played a chord right away. I do work hard, I really do, I work my ass off, but it sorta came easily as well.
Aaron: You were already in tune with the creative side.
Breat: Yeah! Yeah, it’s such a gift that it just came naturally.
Aaron: You’ve managed to build a career as an underground name over the years, you had a couple of bands that did well and then broke up and then decided to take it forward with your name. Do you feel as you continue with this that there’s still excitement and no limit to what you can do?
Brett: Absolutely, I’m always doing exciting things; they’re getting better and better as the months go on. You work harder and there’s always excitement, right now we’re getting better shows, tonight we’re playing with Michou and they’re a great draw in Toronto. So slowly things are getting bigger and better so I’m always excited for little things like seeing my face on a poster, it just makes you feel good…it’s worthwhile and not a waste of time.
Aaron: Michou are talented guys.
Brett: I heard them at sound-check and holy shit! They’re really good man, they’re really tight.
Aaron: When you talk about your own band, it’s you plus the backing band, it’s a bit of different mix for musicians to get into, what’s the major difference for you?
Brett: No politics involved, it’s a straight thing, I’m kind of the boss and it seems to work that way. The last couple of bands there were always personalities clashing and creative differences and all that kinda politics sort of come along, so it’s been working well this way. I’m lucky that I have really good friends that will donate their extra time because they all have other things they do, so I’m really fortunate.
like to have a lot of control over the way my songs sound so I think that’s where it started from, I wanted to have control over what was happening, I’m not a control freak, but…
Aaron: So everyone has a little input?
Brett: Yeah! Certain songs wouldn’t be the way they are without the band. Some songs, when I write them I know how I want the drums to go, the guitar parts, the violin parts. Sometimes the song wouldn’t be nearly as good if I didn’t work it out with the band first. I’ll have a shell, I’ll have the lyrics written, verse, chorus and bridge, but we’ll build from these things. So we are still a band, sometimes we’ll have a fill-in member, once in a while a member can’t make it, tonight we actually have a bass player filling in. So it is a band still but I do all the writing. We have great songwriters in the band so sometimes we’ll toss their songs in during the set.
Aaron: That’s really important to have, if you’re trying to make a full time career out of this, having the best of the best in your band.
Brett: Yeah, I think going with my name is a more marketable way to go about it. It’s simple and it works.
Aaron: How has the switch been for you? Going from 4-5 big personalities in a band to something where you are the personality, what’s it been like? What’s been the biggest change?
Brett: It hasn’t been a big switch until lately, now I’m getting busier and trying to make a name for myself seriously. It is overwhelming, the amount of work that goes into it because when you do have a band, everyone contributes equally with the booking, this and that.
So now I pay for everything, I have the van that takes us around everywhere, I do all the interviews, it’s a lot of work man. I like it though, I do love it, I just recently have Heather as a manager and my friend Sari as a publicist so that takes a lot of the weight off, now that I have Heather on board I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.
Aaron: So you can focus more on the creative side.
Brett: Yeah, exactly! That’s the way it should be with artists, we need to focus on that and not the business bullshit, cause there’s a lot of bullshit that comes along with trying to make it in music.
Aaron: What’s the creative difference like going from that four person to that one person? Do you find yourself even more creative now that you have control or is it harder to piece everything together?
Brett: It comes both ways. I do miss writing songs with the band, I do miss that for sure, and I would like to collaborate in the future with some folks, maybe with some other people and some artists in my band, I do miss that. I don’t know if I’m anymore creative on my own than I was with the band…I don’t know, good question…sorry, I’m stumped.
Aaron: Haha, we can get back to that.
Brett: I’m a bad interview sometimes.
Aaron: Hah, it’s not often I stump people. Going forward, you said it’s recently snowballed for you with the publicist and manager, how important is it to tour compared to recording right now?
Brett: I think both are equally important to me, I want to get out and tour my ass off and make great records.
Back to the previous question for a second…I’ve actually made a conscious effort for the next record I make to be a little more defined. As I’m trying to write for the next album, it is a difficult thing, I always thought it was easy to just write folk songs or an album that has a general feel. I think I want to go in more of a piano direction for the next record, so it’ll be 95% piano songs. Not necessarily like Ben Folds, but it’ll be Ben Foldsish.
Aaron: Do you write a lot on piano?
Brett: These days, a lot! As I’m trying to write this piano record, I’ve been fooling around with songs that were written on guitar and taking them over to the piano and trying them that way, which is always fun to do. I’ve taken some old lyrics and brought some of those back and tested them on piano. So these days I’m writing a lot on piano, it’s usually about 50/50, the last album A New Balance was about 50/50…so…I don’t know if that answers your question.
Aaron: It’s close enough.
Aaron: That does bring up an interesting point though. A lot of musicians use piano and you can tell they sound much more broad compared to their counterparts that only use guitar. If you’re writing more on a piano, do you think your own compositions will become more complex?
Brett: Hmm…I don’t think they’ll become more complex necessarily. It’ll still be rocking, but it won’t be anything like Nicaragua which is a full-blown rock song. Even the opening song It Rains It Pours is a full-blown rock song. There won’t be any rock songs like that.
Aaron: I kinda found It Rains It Pours not so much rock as a blend…
Brett: Yeah, it’s pop chorus.
Aaron: The thing that sticks out in that song for me are the strings. The melody and the strings are beautiful. Is that what we can expect in the future or is it less poppy?
Brett: I always have this instinct to write catchy choruses and pop choruses so I’m always going to have that aspect. I like to write songs that people can sing along to and in the back of my mind I always have to remember I want to make money off this, I want to make a career so I like to always write a couple of songs that could be singles, so I don’t think I’ll ever lose that pop aspect.
Aaron: Going from recording to live, what’s the best part of being on stage?
Brett: These days if people know the words and are singing along that’s a fucking great feeling and I look forward to getting a little more successful and seeing that happen more and more because that’s a fucking great feeling…it’s better than sex, there’s no better feeling, I love playing live shows…I don’t know if I can pick one thing about playing live. It’s hard to explain to somebody that’s never done it.
Aaron: Your heart stops, everything seems timeless.
Brett: Yeah, completely, and sometimes it’s just magical, the energy between your whole band, the stars are aligned or something.
Aaron: So what is success for you?
Brett: Good question…to me right now success to me would be paying my bills and putting a roof over my head while playing my own music. So whatever level that would be, I’m not sure how far I’d have to go. My friends Zeus, right now, good friends of mine are killing it in Canada and they still have to work jobs.
Aaron: They’re probably more broke than you.
Brett: Haha, yeah! Exactly! It’s a little discouraging, like whose dick to you have to suck to make it in this business? I don’t care to be rich at all but if you want to gauge size…Mod Club, to me if I could pack that place it would blow my mind. To me that would be success.
Aaron: Cool, thanks for chatting today man.
Brett: Oh, thank you, cheers.
Juno Decades: Great Canadian Music From the '90s
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The third of the Juno Awards-produced tributes to Canadian music of the past four decades paid homag...The third of the Juno Awards-produced tributes to Canadian music of the past four decades paid homage to the '90s. Given that this was the breakthrough decade for both Canadian independent rock and homegrown hip-hop, it was fitting that these two genres dominated the show.
With a talent-heavy list of notable '90s stars waiting in the wings for their turn to shine, the evening kicked off with a raunchy take on Big Sugar's "Digging a Hole" from young trio the Coppertone. Former MuchMusic VJs Steve Anthony and Craig Halket, the hosts for the night, then introduced Tristan Psionic. After an early stumble, they locked into a groove with an opening instrumental and a cover of a tune by underground Calgary heroes the Primrods. Following them up, Toronto trio hHead were missing original bassist Brendan Canning (Broken Social Scene), but impressed on two of their era favourites.
Playing solo, the Grapes of Wrath's Kevin Kane did justice to "All the Things I Wasn't" and was backed by Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose for the Skydiggers' "I Will Give You Everything." Would have been nice to hear Andy Maize on this one, though. Caswell and his six-piece band then accompanied singers from four '90s-era bands, assisting Stephen Stanley on Lowest of the Low classic "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars," trading 13 Engines' wall of sound with a rootsier approach with John Critchley and the Marquee Rose, and helping nicely replicate the spirited power pop of Killjoys hit "Rave and Drool" with Mike Trebilcock.
"We grew up on his records," said Caswell when introducing Sloan's Chris Murphy. After responding with a joking "shut up," Murphy delivered a true highlight of the night with "Underwhelmed," a song that would win many votes as the best Canadian song of the '90s and elicited an audience singalong. Hardcore heroes Chore impressed with their Hüsker Dü-like blend of muscle and melody, and they backed up Alexisonfire's Wade MacNeil (a strong version of Rusty's "Misogyny"), Change of Heart's Ian Blurton (a ZZ Top-style and hilarious take on Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know") and Treble Charger's Bill Priddle, whose rendition of the classic "Red" was another high point.
Time constraints prevented an expected appearance of Bidiniband, sadly forcing the audience to miss out on any Rheostatics faves. Just as the parade of guitar-wielding male rockers was about to wear thin, Michie Mee added some welcome estrogen-laced energy to the night. After giving a shout-out to "all the ladies in the house," the hip-hop heroine looked and sounded great. She tore it up on "Jamaican Funk," then introduced her band Raggadeath, whose high-decibel sound fused Mee's intense raps with scorching metal licks to powerful effect.
Lightening up proceedings next were One, whose horn-driven ska/reggae hybrid remained a fun one. Clearly having a great time was frontman Chris Taylor, now better known as a top entertainment lawyer and head of Last Gang Records. Choclair delivered some free-flowing rhymes and shout-outs to T Dot in his short spirited set, and the night was closed out by fellow Toronto hip-hop heroes Dream Warriors. Versions of their three biggest songs, international hit "My Definition," "Ludi" and "Wash Your Face in My Sink," were strong, but the self-congratulatory comments by King Lou were a mite annoying.
A four-and-a-half-hour show cannot provide a definitive look at the decade, but this one was a timely and entertaining reminder of some of its musical richness.
Juno Decades: Songs of the 90's
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To celebrate "40 years of The Juno Awards" four separate concerts were scheduled at the Horseshoe Ta...To celebrate "40 years of The Juno Awards" four separate concerts were scheduled at the Horseshoe Tavern, each show a tribute to a different decade.
So on February 5th, a slew of musicians got together to honour the music of the 90's. Performers included Chris Murphy (Sloan), Chore, Dinosaur Bones, Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose, Ian Blurton (Change of Heart, C'mon), Noah Mintz (hHead), Steve Stanley (Lowest Of The Low), Bill Priddle (Treble Charger), and more.
The next and final installment of the Juno Decades concert series, Songs of the '00s, will be on March 5th at the Horseshoe Tavern. Expect to see members of Broken Social Scene, The Stills, Zeus, Justin Rutlidge, and many more.
Sudden fame ‘surreal’ for Caswell, Barrie-raised musician breaking into the limelight
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Brett Caswell was hoping to get lucky. He ended up winning indie music's equivalent of Lotto Max....Brett Caswell was hoping to get lucky.
He ended up winning indie music's equivalent of Lotto Max.
But the Barrie-raised musician's just desserts of late likely won't come as a surprise to those who have followed his career.
In fact, if the pace keeps up, Caswell — perhaps as well-known as traffic and box stores in these parts, only with a musical vibe — might have a household ring to it before long.
The big break came a few weeks ago when Caswell & the Marquee Rose — featuring Dave Murray, Brandyn Aikins, Carleigh Aikins, Lincoln Hamelyn and Sarah Morano — moved forward by going back.
Dine Alone Records representatives happened to be watching one of their shows in Toronto and, liking what they saw, invited them to perform as the house band for the '90s installment of the Juno Awards-produced concert tribute series at Toronto's historic Horseshoe Tavern.
The Juno Awards, celebrating 40 years, take place next month in Toronto.
At the Feb. 5 '90s Juno celebration, Caswell and his band backed a who's who of Canadian talent over five two-song sets, alongside Sloan co-frontman Chris Murphy, Mike Trebilcock of the once-mighty Killjoys, Stephen Stanley of Lowest of the Low, Kevin Kane of Grapes of Wrath, and John Critchley from 13 Engines.
"We got lucky, which is the way it happens in this business," Caswell says. "The (original house) band bailed, they dropped out three weeks before (the show).
"We happened to play a Sloan song (500 Up, at the earlier show) and I guess (Dine Alone) remembered that," Caswell adds.
The 31-year-old Barrie Central Collegiate graduate grew up listening to bands like Sloan and the Killjoys. He even carved the word Sloan into one of his first guitars. So playing alongside his idols was in line with something dreams are made of.
"It was surreal — a childhood fantasy," says Caswell, who plays a show in Barrie tonight. "We could have tried to play it cool, but we were all gushing like little girls."
Things have been going according to script over the past few months for Caswell, who moved to Toronto more than a year ago to be closer to the scene. And the breath of fresh air has been much needed for the musician, who suffered significant setbacks a few years ago.
Shortly after losing his father, Bob, to cancer, Caswell came face to face with a near-death experience of his own while vacationing in Nicaragua with friends. As he tells it, in the wee hours of his first night there, he awoke in a sort of sleepwalking state, went outside for some air and fell eight feet off a porch, face-first into a post. He suffered internal bleeding, a broken jaw and an assortment of other injuries and was forced to spend a week in the hospital.
Eventually, he wrote a song about the experience.
"I probably started singing sooner than I should have," says Caswell, whose jaw was wired shut for a few months. "I was on the couch for a few months. I ate soup broth for five months.
"I could have (died)," he adds. "Whatever, man. I dealt with it. It was a life-changing experience."
Caswell said the move to the Big Smoke, coupled with the high-profile Juno gig, have helped to increase his band's exposure tenfold since leaving Barrie, although he still owns a recording studio here and plays weekly cover sessions downtown.
"There have been a few (opportunities) that definitely wouldn't have happened unless I was down here," Caswell says. "But I won't slag Barrie. I went as far as I could go. Musically, you can only go so far, and Toronto is just down the street."
Caswell first teamed up with his Marquee Rose bandmates, which includes members of the currently-on-hiatus Fox Jaws, four years ago.
Caswell estimates they've played between 75 to 100 shows in the past year, and the chemistry couldn't be better.
The band just wrapped up a five-night residency at The Piston in Toronto, where they played alongside fellow Canadian folk/alt-country up-and-comer Pat Robitaille.
"More than ever these days, the chemistry is incredible," he says. "We're playing shows these days that blow our own minds. Our chemistry, you can't touch it.
It comes with hours and hours of spending time together.
"It's as much of a friendship as musicianship."
Caswell plans to release an acoustic EP in the coming months and hopes to lay down a full record follow-up to the band's debut recording, A New Balance, after that.
Perhaps, it won't be long before the band that caught its break playing at a Juno tribute will be hoisting a trophy of their own.
"Let's hope so," Caswell says.
Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose play the Foxx Lounge (46 Dunlop St. W.) tonight, along with Dinosaur Bones and Parlovr, starting at 8 p.m.
They'll perform at The Garrison in Toronto again as part of Juno Fest, a week-long festival leading up to the awards on March 25.
Now Hear This...Brett Caswell
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Now Hear This…Brett Caswell Brett Caswell is an immensely talented singer-songwriter with a hear... Now Hear This…Brett Caswell
Brett Caswell is an immensely talented singer-songwriter with a heart of gold that surrenders raw, emotional music. Honing his skills early and on his own, he is currently backed by The Marquee Rose and together they’ve attained a vast and adoring fan following with their energetic live performances. Sitting in the front rows of the Toronto Underground Cinema, Brett takes a break from his loaded CMW schedule to talk with me about his natural ability to connect with audiences, the Juno Decades performance and what lies ahead.
Since receiving his first guitar as gift from his uncle at the age of 12, Brett knew that making music was going to be part of who he was. While remaining entirely modest, he acknowledges the fact that he was given a talent that most would kill for. He maintains ‘I just knew right away that I wanted to play rock n’ roll’.
Since the release of A New Balance last year, a lot has changed in terms of his influences along with his maturation as an artist.
“Now that I listen back, is kind of all over the place. It’s got some folksy stuff, it’s got some pop-rock and the last song is a full-blown stoner-rock-country song. I just wanted to make an album that was raw and dirty at points.”
Given the nature and emotional content he deals with in his songwriting, Brett explains that he’s finding that people can really connect with the music itself, especially when performing ‘A Friend in Need’.
“One of the greatest compliments I could every get is when people cry and I’ve had about five different people tell me that song has made them cry, and that’s pretty fucking awesome to be able to make someone feel that much.”
The most memorable live performance so far, and a definite leap in the right direction, Brett explains was the Juno Decades 90s celebration.
“Being a teenager, Dave [Murray] and I were the biggest Sloan fans. [He laughs] I fucking carved Sloan into my acoustic guitar ‘cause I was such a huge fan.”
When you watch Brett solo and with the lovely Marquee Rose you can plainly see they genuinely enjoy making music and that they do so very well together.
“At the end of the day we’re doing it because we love it. It has turned into somewhat of a business once it starts moving forward like this. But we’re all very good friends which I think shows, ‘cause we’re up there having a good time.”
In Brett’s future he foresees a slight change in direction from his current path and a return to his original form as a solo artist journeying on the open road.
“I’d like to get on tour with Charlotte Cornfield; I think that’d be a good fit. My solo stuff is a lot mellower then what happens with The Marquee Rose, that’s for sure.”
Take a peek at the Southern Souls video for ‘A Friend in Need‘ for an idea of what just about everyone is talking about and the amazing vocals of Carleigh Aikins (Fox Jaws).
Canadian Music is Alive and Thriving
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When Arcade Fire won the 53rd Grammy Award for Album of the Year, it showcased to the world somethin...When Arcade Fire won the 53rd Grammy Award for Album of the Year, it showcased to the world something a little bit different than what most recognize as markers of Canadian music. There was something outstanding about how a Montreal indie band beat out some of the biggest names in the music industry, and it marked a change in how both Canadians - and the world in general - view Canadian music.
Gone are The Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLaughlin, Celine Dion, Diana Krall, Nickelback, Shania Twain and Michael Buble from the headlines of Canadian eyes, and instead they have been replaced by bands of a different stature. Now, bands that don't have millions of dollars for marketing and publicity doled out from the corporate machine are starting to receive just as much attention.
The 29th Canadian Music Week (CMW) - Canada's International Music Convention and Film Festival - took place from March 9-13 in Toronto, ON, and featured celebrity interviews from both Nikki Sixx and Sammy Hagar. There were also award ceremonies, keynote speakers and conferences and workshops that dealt with everything from songwriting to the ever-changing world of music and new media. The event crammed over 2,000 industry professionals and over 800 bands that performed at over 40 venues into arguably one of Canada's biggest "New Music" festivals.
"There are so many great conferences and so many great things you can learn. As a new artist, coming to this festival is absolutely brilliant," said Mike Hargreaves, singer and guitarist for the recent winners of the XM Verge Artist of the Year Award, Michou.
For audiences, festivals like CMW and Toronto's North By Northeast (NXNE) are a great way for music lovers to cram as many bands and events as possible into a busy four days. Whereas for bands, festivals like CMW offer them a chance to "get spotted" by the industry at large. Some bands will even perform every day of the festival - sometimes even performing twice.
"You have to take whatever opportunity comes to you, especially for bands from out of town. You definitely want to make an impact while all the industry is in the city," said Rob Janson, singer and guitarist of Sandman Viper Command, who are awaiting the release of a 7" record, titled Rough Love.
"So, at festivals like these, you see a band playing five times over the course of four days."
The U.K. group, Bombay Bicycle Club, visited Toronto as the event was unfolding and proceeded to play the Dine Alone Records showcase at Lee's Palace, an in-store at record store Sonic Boom, and then played the final night at the CMW Indies - the Canadian Independent Music Awards - all the while being swamped by industry and media folks alike.
"I'm just trying to wake up right now, we haven't been getting a lot of sleep," said singer and guitarist Jack Steadman. "We have been doing loads of press non-stop [since we got to Toronto] and we are flying to New York as soon as it's all over.
"We've been so busy that we haven't really seen any music, and we haven't really been able to see the city too much."
For bands like Bombay Bicycle Club, who haven't had the pleasure of visiting the great white north yet, the festival proved to be profitable - as they definitely made some fans as they played to a sold-out crowd at Lee's Palace, and then a packed Indies crowd at The Royal York hotel.
Dinosaur Bones, who shared the stage with Bombay Bicycle Club at Lee's, also spent their days and nights travelling from gig to gig, and from interview to interview - in attempt to promote their recently released full length album, My Divider through Dine Alone Records.
"There is this just general vibe that everyone has right now. Everyone is trying to catch one thing and get on to the next, and nobody is doing exactly what they want to be doing," said Ben Fox, singer and guitarist for Dinosaur Bones.
Dinosaur Bones played sets at two matinee shows during their CMW experience. One took place at Toronto's Underground Cinema, where bands played in the lobby of a theatre, and the other was at The Bait Shop, a skateboard store that houses a half-pipe that had a makeshift stage on one lip of the pipe.
"There is something special about these festivals. There are tons of opportunities for parties in weird spaces," said Fox.
Dinosaur Bones also shared the stage with The Balconies, Sandman Viper Command and Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at the Underground Cinema.
Caswell, who self-released his first album with The Marquee Rose, titled A New Balance, in 2010, was playing CMW for his second time.
"I applied for a few beforehand and got denied every year," laughed Caswell.
Caswell believes that a festival like CMW possibly offers a different view of Canadian music as a whole. He suggested that perhaps there is no truly unifying Canadian music scene, and that maybe our ideas of Canadian music are based around varying regional hub or hot-spots of music.
"I think that there are little cliques all around Canada. I'm part of the Audioblood Media family. We all hang out with each other, we play with each other and we support each other. So, I think that there is an example of one scene. I think that there are a bunch of sub-scenes all around Canada," said Caswell.
"We've been going back and forth through Canada for about four years now. I don't know if there is anything regional, because we don't sound like any bands in Saskatoon," countered Ewan Currie, singer and guitarist of The Sheepdogs, who are currently in the top 16 of approximately 1,000 bands running for a Rolling Stone Cover Contest that guarantees them a cover in the magazine, a spot at Bonneroo and an Atlantic Records contract.
"We just focus on doing our thing and making music that we like. I don't think it has anything to do with being from a certain part of the country, because there is good and bad all over the country - and I think that's how it rolls." (cont'd)
Backstage: A Tale from North of the Border
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There's an all-around good vibe that the Canadians exude, and it surely accompanied the Mariposa Fol...There's an all-around good vibe that the Canadians exude, and it surely accompanied the Mariposa Folk Festival, which just concluded its 51st year of operation in July. The festival gives equal credence to both traditional folkies such as Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary), Murray McLauchlan, John McDermott, Stan Rogers, and Ron Hynes as well as dynamic young rockers like Josh Ritter, Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans, the Beauties, and Yukon Blonde. Those who bridged the divide included Emmylou Harris and mystery guest Ron Sexsmith. Among the best at the event -- held in Tudhope Park in Orilla, Ontario, about two hours north of Toronto -- were Amelia Curran, Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose, Katherine Wheatley, David Myles, Del Barber, and Reid Jamieson.
The activity was spread among more than half a dozen smaller stages, a massive main stage for the headliners, and a beer tent -- which, not surprisingly, provided the most boisterous venue of all -- there was plenty of diversity and variety to choose from when it came to indulging one's musical preferences. But overall, the atmosphere was generally mellow, fueled not only by the festival's family-friendly tradition but also the idyllic locale on Lake Couchiching, which was generally hassle-free and easy to navigate.
The first evening provided an exhilarating intro. A riveting performance by Toronto-based band the Beauties set the scene, and by the time Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans took the stage, the crowd was already geared up for an electric evening. Bryson and the Weakerthans previously made their own individual music, but drawing songs largely from their recent collaboration, Falcon Lake Incident, the combination proved potent, with material divvied between bittersweet ballads and hook-heavy rockers. Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band was nothing if not mesmerizing, and his songs took on an auspicious aura that imbued a powerful sway. The set climbed from peak to peak and bathed in the multicolored hues of the spotlight. Unfortunately, a horde of bugs and mosquitoes also opted to swarm around the spotlight, prompting Ritter to lament the fact that "all the insects got in free" while vowing to keep playing "even if we end up as skeletons."
Saturday beckoned with the first full day of entertainment possibilities and some upbeat bluegrass. David Myles, a tall, lanky, good-natured singer/songwriter, hosted the genteel Katherine Wheatley and the instrumental ensemble Hard Ryde on the shady Estelle Klein Stage and got the festivities off to a boisterous start. Bryson and the Weakerthans followed, repeating their previous night's set but adding an intimacy that eludes most artists on the main stage. This being Canada, the next showcase set was devoted entirely to interpretations of Gordon Lightfoot songs from the likes of Katherine Wheatley, Reid Jamieson, and John McDermott, a former member of the Canadian Tenors whose lusty vocals and the fact that he was originally discovered during an impromptu recital of "Danny Boy" made him a somewhat obvious additive for a folk festival. The homage to Lightfoot was only natural, given the fact that he hails from Orillia and that one of his last major appearances was as last year's festival headliner. Reid's take on "Summer Side of Life" and Wheatley's "Early Morning Rain" offered impressive reminders of why Lightfoot is not only a Canadian institution but a veritable singer/songwriter phenomenon as well.
A return to the Estelle Klein Stage in late afternoon was rewarded with a double set of round-robin performances, the first featuring Amelia Curran, David Myles, a solo Jim Bryson, and a slightly more subdued Josh Ritter each trading original songs. The second starred Katherine Wheatley, Reid Jamieson, Garnet Rogers, and veteran folkie Marie-Lynn Hammond singing songs they wished they had written, or at least that's how the session was billed. Among the highlights: Jamieson's version of "Everybody's Talkin'" and Wheatley's cover of "Someday Soon" by Ian Tyson, another native son.
Our introduction to Saturday night's main-stage lineup began with 3 Gars su'l Sofa, a good-natured French Canadian combo (fortunately, none of them in man-briefs) whose jaunty, Cajun-flavored tunes helped spur the evening's energy. John McDermott followed, and his stoic presence loaned a certain austerity to the proceedings just as his renditions of "Loch Lomond" ("I'll take the high road, while you'll take the low road..."), "My Bonnie" and, of course, "Danny Boy" drew a hush from the crowd, which was clearly swayed by McDermott's reverential readings. When the so-called surprise special guest was announced afterward, few in the audience were actually surprised when Ron Sexmith ambled onstage to play a solo set. Appearing boyish and shy, despite his prolific 25-year career, Sexmith admitted he was amazed by all the anticipation. "I didn't think it would be much of a surprise," he said meekly. "You might have thought it was Bob Dylan or something." His set was typically low-key and low-gazed, leaving it to headliner Emmylou Harris to pull out the firepower.
"Sorry, I don't speak Canadian," Harris joked on taking the stage, "But I once married a Canadian." She then proceeded to entice the audience with a supple set of songs that highlighted her exquisite new album, Hard Bargain. Like the night before, the bugs swarmed as she defiantly carried on, even though she noted that several seemed to be attracted to her tea. "Good nutrition," she joked as she marveled at the infestation. Still, there was a certain solemnity to her set, particularly when she sang the album's two mournful centerpieces, "New Orleans," an ode to that devastated city, and "My Name Is Emmett Till," the tragic tale of a young black boy murdered in Mississippi by a merciless white mob. Not surprisingly, Sexsmith was brought back onstage to duet on "Hard Bargain," the track he contributed to Harris' current effort, and a beguiling version of Lucinda Williams' "Sweet Old World," a song that easily accommodated both artists' appreciation for tender sentiment. Harris' rousing take on the rugged gospel number "John the Baptist" and "Born to Run" wrapped the set up in style.
Sunday, we began our day early in the beer tent, which found the ever-energetic Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose trading their rowdier numbers with the Rucksack Willies, a fiddle-fueled bluegrass outfit whose two female singers looked like half the front line from the Mamas and Papas. We then made our way to the outlying Ruth's Stage to enjoy a folksy solo set by David Myles, resplendent once again in a white suit and broad-rimmed fedora. Prefacing a cover of an Anne Murray song, he told a story about being in China and chancing into a bar with a wall of photos saluting their take on rock 'n' roll royalty. There were the usual suspects -- John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix -- and, somewhat surprisingly, Anne Murray. "I must have missed that," he remarked.
Still, the highlight of the afternoon proved to be a showcase set featuring Peter Yarrow, Murray McLauchlan, and Garnet Rogers. McLauchlan began with a pithy take on his own "Sweeping the Spotlight Away," the title track from one of his early albums, followed by a raucous rap/rant from Rogers that was charged with political venom. "Oscar Wilde once said that an artist has to suffer for his art," Rogers observed. "Now it's your turn." It was then left to the exceptionally earnest Yarrow to put the performance back to the rails, or at least induce some solemnity. Deadpanned and determined, he seemed unable -- or unwilling -- to respond in kind to Rogers' cynical sense of humor. Instead, he reminisced about Peter, Paul and Mary, recasting a version of "Stewball," one of the trio's early standards. The next round of traded tunes took a sadder turn, however, and Rogers' song about two estranged brothers found most of the crowd reduced to tears. Yarrow coaxed the crowd into a sing-along of "If I Had a Hammer" and afterward idled over to the side of the stage where he and McLauchlan greeted fans and admirers, Yarrow happily embracing each devotee like a benevolent grandfather who's been reunited with his flock.
After taking a break from the proceedings, mainly to regain our composure, finish our shopping at the merch tent, and get something to eat, we decided to end our day at the beer tent for a final set by Brett Caswell and crew. It was an excellent opportunity to see the band in its own element, and there again, it excelled. It's a rollicking and talented young outfit, adept at swapping instruments and upping the energy with songs drawn from its impressive, self-titled debut. It was a high note on which to end our festival stay and one of many exceptional moments that made Mariposa 2011 a splendid showcase for Canada's musical craft and creativity.
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