Breagh MacKinnon
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Breagh MacKinnon

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Established on Jan, 2009
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter

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How come musicians with some sort of jazz inklings, whether its training or love, make great pop records? I'm thinking of Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones, Steely Dan, those kinds. Man, they make some great singles at times. Free Man In Paris, Josie, Don't Know Why, you put their chops into three minutes, and they can be so memorable and rich. I think it's because these artists have a sophisticated knowledge of melody and composition, they know more chords, and how different instruments combine in arrangements.

I bring this up because Cape Breton's Mackinnon has a jazz studies background, and you certainly hear it all through her confident, intricate debut album, Where The Days Went. The melodies, the phrasing, the instruments used, it may be popular vocal music, but it's so much more involved than songs based around three chords. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT! There's room for it all in your listening, but when a singer as pleasurable as Mackinnon swoops up instead of down, hitting a surprise note, creating a new and unexpected line, well that's just the kind of moment I love.

Mackinnon's debut sees her already in control of a sound for her thoughtful words and gorgeous melody lines. Co-producing with engineer Mike Shepherd, her voice soars above each track, as a grand bed of piano, acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, strings, brass, and sweeteners such as mandolin and fiddle compliment her singing. Wisely, she's the lead instrument through it all. The songs are bright, but tinged with melancholy. Long ago "blue notes" were identified, bending a note slightly lower to create that bluesy feeling. Is there a melancholy equivalent? Uplifting music with a sad tinge? I'm no composer, but Mackinnon's picking the right sounds.

Album opener Harbourtown comes in shining, a harmony chorus of ooh's, a gently-picked mandolin (say hi to Breagh mentor Gordie Sampson), and a great twist on the Maritime hometown number: "I don't know what love is in this harbour town/that's what six years in Alberta does to you." In My Heart, she has some great observational lyrics, new lines on classic subjects: "My heart, it pounds before it breaks...I like that beat, and the sound that it makes/a warning sign you were my first mistake." On White Picket Love, a nasty break-up song, she chides an unfaithful love with blowing what could have been a white picket fence, two kids and a dog, 25-year relationship: "While you were messing around, I was trying hard not to mess up/I guess my white picket love was never enough." But don't come away with the idea this is sad stuff; there are so many great licks and moments, uptempo grooves, and some happy lyrics along the way as well.

Catch her if you can: Mackinnon's launching the album in Fredericton this weekend, with a show Saturday night at the Cedar Tree Cafe. And a special bonus, the ever-excellent Babette Hayward opens. - CBC New Brunswick-East Coast Music with Bob Mercereau


Breagh Mackinnon’s Where the Days Went is a snapshot of personal experiences told through soft folk tales.

Sometimes all it takes is some inspiring friends and fresh perspectives for a creative breakthrough. This is something folk-pop singer-songwriter Breagh Mackinnon particularly agrees with. The young talent plays a release show Where the Days Went Saturday, November 17 at the Company House, with a set that will feature a few of the special guests who have inspired her.

Where the Days Went shows a new direction for the Mackinnon, a more mature, developed sound she attributes to working with others. "I think with this record it definitely kind of shows me growing up a little bit as a musician and songwriter," Mackinnon says. "How I choose to portray the songs and instrumentation is I think partly due to co-writing with Gordie Sampson, or Carleton [Stone] and Molly [Thomason] and Dylan [Guthro]. You learn from their style and it helps you develop your own voice. That's what partially helped me develop as a songwriter."

Mackinnon's musical background shows a lot of range. A folk fan by nature, she's in her third year studying jazz piano at St. Francis Xavier. "Being able to play these years at X and devote myself to learning the style of jazz I think has kind of broadened my musical horizons," says Mackinnon. "By allowing myself to sink into this type of music I think it's inevitable that it would effect my pop stuff as well, it effects some of the arrangements, a few tunes are just a little more jazzy."

Honest, autobiographical lyrics run throughout Where the Days Went; Mackinnon describes her songs as odes to important moments---and people---in her life. "As I listen to the songs and think back to when I wrote them, they're like snapshots of all the experiences I've had in the last couple of years: going away to school or living away from home for the first time," she says. "A lot of it seems to be about making connections, whether to a place like home or to a person, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, or within yourself you're always growing or making connections with other people." --Stephanie Johns

- The Coast


This city can be known to grab you and pull you into all sort of events. That’s why I like it. You never know what is going to come next, or what sort of wonderful thing is going to be going on.

I recently got to put my left leg in the circle of the Halifax Urban Folk Festival (http://www.thecarleton.ca/huff-festival). This was the 3rd year for the festival, created by Mike Campbell, owner of the Carelton, as a way to bring some folk music and great artists into the downtown area.

I was lucky enough to get to volunteer the first night, when Bry Webb and Daniel Romano and The Trilliums played. Jesus, I love these two men. Their voices cut chills right through my neck, into my heart. I have probably listened to the new Daniel Romano record 700 times, because the lyrics are so approachable, and he sounded just as wonderful and heart wrenching in person.

One thing that struck me about all of this was that everyone was so damn nice. Bry Webb was nice, Daniel Romano and his whole band were nice, the staff were nice, Mike Campbell was nice. It was just all so damn nice!

I got to go back on Tuesday to work the door for the Ana Egge and Breagh MacKinnon show. Damn! Oh ! How these ladies can sing. I did not know much about Breagh before arriving, other than she was a Cape Breton singer songwriter who came highly acclaimed. The acclaims held up. Her voice is striking, and I was not the only one who thought so. Numerous people coming in remarked to me, “what a voice” “she reminds me of Norah Jones” and she sold out of CDs at the merch table by the end of the night.

Ana Egge was also amazing. Her voice kind of breaks your heart a little bit. She has lots of friends in Nova Scotia, so it was a nice treat to hear some of her favourite friends on stage with her, Rose Cousins and Joel Plaskett. The other thing about Ana, is she is really sweet. She was super appreciative of our help, and even gave me a copy of her new album, produced by Steve Earle, “Bad Blood”. It’s amazing.
I leave you with love for HUFF, for this city, for people coming together for the love of music, and with Ana Egge’s new song, “Hole in your Halo”.

-Laurie Burns
- LoRoPR Public Relations Blog


MONCTON, N.B. — Breagh MacKinnon had two sound checks and two shows in four hours Friday, but that's all in a night's work for artists looking to make their mark at East Coast Music Week.

Topics :
Cape Breton

The up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Sydney performed at the Plan B Lounge in Moncton, N.B., early in the evening, and later in the night on the Cape Breton Embassy stage, alongside an impressive lineup of island talent including Carleton Stone, Sprag Session, Jimmy Rankin, the Tom Fun Orchestra and Slowcoaster.

“Those are some pretty big names and some pretty influential artists to me growing up in Cape Breton, listening to Slowcoaster and Tom Fun, and of course, The Rankins and Jimmy Rankin,” said MacKinnon.

MacKinnon made her East Coast Music Week performance debut in 2011 and said that this year she’s a little more relaxed and hoping to enjoy every moment.

“Now I’m more excited because of how great the shows went last year and how much fun I had,” she said. “It’s definitely a great opportunity, especially for someone who hasn’t played a whole lot outside of my home province, to come to another province where there’s representatives from all over eastern Canada and all over the world really. It’s a chance to reach some new audience members and meet some new people.”

MacKinnon, who is currently in the process of recording her first full-length album, plans to attend some conference workshops and panel discussions today, and will close out her ECMA weekend with a performance Sunday afternoon at the SOCAN Songwriters Circle, where she and Dylan Guthro will perform a song they wrote at Gordie Sampson’s song camp in Ingonish last year.

On the awards side of things Friday, Sydney native Keith Mullins picked up his first East Coast Music Award in the world recording of the year category for his album “Localmotive Farm.” The award was handed out during the rising star stage showcase, late Friday night. Mullins is also nominated for rising star recording of the year, and for children’s recording of the year, to be handed out later this weekend.

Mullins is the second Cape Breton artist to pick up an ECMA so far this week. He joins Ian McKinnon who won Thursday in the roots traditional group recording of the year category as a member of Rawlins Cross for their album “Heart Head and Hands.” McKinnon and his company, Groundswell Music, are also up for two industry awards, which will be presented at today’s industry awards brunch.

One man surely to add to Cape Breton’s award count is Mabou native Jimmy Rankin, who is nominated for a leading eight awards following the release of his latest album “Forget About the World.”

“This album has really surpassed my expectations. To be here after a four-year hiatus of not putting out a solo record, and then to come back and have eight nominations, which I guess is a record they tell me, so it’s very exciting,” said Rankin.

Despite his record nomination haul, Rankin was modest when asked about his expectations.

“I’d like to win at least one,” he said. - Cape Breton Post Newspaper


Release party for first CD set for Sunday

SYDNEY — Breagh MacKinnon may be getting a break from school music projects but she’ll be preoccupied with a music project of a different kind this Christmas.

Topics : East Coast Music Association , St. Francis Xavier University , Upstairs Club , Antigonish , Ferry , Sydney

The 19-year-old Cape Bretoner is currently studying jazz at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, but is returning home for the holidays and the release of her first recording, the self-titled “Breagh MacKinnon.”

The release party will take place Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Upstairs Club at the corner of Ferry and Dolbin streets in Sydney. Copies of the CDs will be for sale at the event for $10.

MacKinnon — who learned just last week that she has earned a showcase spot on the Discovery Stage at this year’s East Coast Music Association’s East Coast Music Week taking place April 13-17 in Charlottetown, P.E.I. — said she’s thrilled to have her music out there in the form of a CD.

“It’s pretty exciting. I definitely didn’t expect it to look so great and turn out so well, but it definitely makes me excited for my ECMA showcase coming up, and all the shows I’ve been playing, it kinda gives me something to feed off of now,” she said.

Raised in a musical family, MacKinnon has been surrounded by instruments from a young age, and began playing classical and jazz piano at the age of six. But it wasn’t until two years ago, that she added guitar playing and songwriting to her musical repertoire, and soon after won a high school talent search.

“I didn’t really start writing my own songs until Grade 12, and from there that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing — the singer-songwriter thing,” said MacKinnon, who’s been performing regularly at local pubs, festivals and musical events ever since.

MacKinnon describes her style as folk-pop, influenced by the Cape Breton music scene and her own jazz studies.

She said she’s performing a bit while attending university, but is hoping to do more shows and a tour of Nova Scotia later this year. But up first is this weekend’s release of her seven-track EP, which features special guest performances by musicians Jennie MacDougall, Redmond MacDougall, Max MacKeigan, Emi Xidos, Eric Pushie, and Todd Mercer. MacKinnon said many of them will be joining her for the release party performance.

MacKinnon’s CD is available for purchase at the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop and Wentworth Perk in Sydney.

For more information go to www.breaghmackinnon.com.

- Cape Breton Post


Local singer songwriter Breagh MacKinnon released her self-titled debut recording in January. The EP is a surprisingly strong effort for someone who left their teenage years behind only a month after the album’s release. With limited performing experience under her belt, MacKinnon has quickly developed a knack for melody and lyrics, and her guitar playing and arranging skills are compelling and even refreshingly unique. Joined by guests Jennie MacDougall on cello, Redmond MacDougall on percussion and banjo, Max Mackeigan on bass, Emi Xidos on bass, Eric Pushie on electric guitar and Todd Mercer on drums, the instrumentation is kept sparse and simple for the most part, but serves to create an accessible listen that puts the songs front and center.

The album begins with the haunting “Layers” that features a syncopated guitar trading off on a tasty lick with the bass guitar and vocals. Banjo and hand percussion join in to help drive a more straightforward pulse that frames the sophisticated and catchy chorus.

“Knees” is driven by staccato plucking of the stand up bass, while a muted guitar sound adds an almost ukulele-like exoticness that complements the playful lyrics.

“Heartstrings” is an accomplished full-band pop-rock production, whose anthemic chorus and string-section infused climax would sound right at home blasting from a car window during a late Summer “Top Nine at Nine”.

The guitar and bass of torch song “Pretty Lies” slink, creep and run along like the sly thief who makes off with the heart of the tune’s protagonist. The noir tone of the music and the vocals combine to form a chilling backdrop to this tale of “lazy days and crazy nights”.

“Encore” offers a more straight up, upbeat folk feel with a lone lo-fi guitar strumming out a whimsical tale of the “garden girl” and her friend the fortune teller.

“Inhale Exhale“‘s minor chords bring the focus back to a more sophisticated sound. The sparse instrumentation and laid back feel are still rooted in folk, but a lyrical and sonic darkness adds a touch of mystery and maturity. Hand percussion kicks in near the mid-point of the song and provides a rhythmic lift.

“Good Man” provides a modern take on the Cape Breton working song, exploring the life of the breadwinner who must commute the length of Canada to provide for his family.

With local music scene fixtures Mike Shepherd providing album design, Nathan Boone supplying photographs and Chris Jones engineering the audio, this debut is a thoroughly professional effort and one all participants should be proud of.

Catch Breagh Saturday, March 19 at Governor’s Pub & Eatery with Inverness County’s indie rock trio Pioneer Video and local songstress Colette Deveaux.

- "Whats Goin' On-Cape Breton's Go & Do Guide" in Arts and Entertainment, Reviews.


I took a hot tip from a friend and checked out some live tunes by local songwriter Breagh MacKinnon. A new voice on the scene, MacKinnon has depth of character both in her voice and her songwriting style.-Joe Costello - whatsgoinon.ca


"Breagh MacKinnon has yet to release an album, but is a prolific writer and a poised performer. A unique voice, Ani DiFranco-esque, but still with a quality all her own". -Norma Jean MacPhee
- What's goin on: Cape Bretons go & do guide


“Heartstrings” treats you to the extraordinary vocal ability of a young Breagh MacKinnon. There’s no mystery as to why she would come out on top of the recent Next Big Thing, an island wide high school talent competition. Expect to hear this name for years to come. -Wanda Earhart
- What's goin on: Cape Bretons go & do guide


Discography

"Where The Days Went" (2012)
"Breagh Mackinnon" (2011)
"This is the Sound the Fox Makes: CFXU Compilation CD" ft. "Good Man" , "Sleep Soundly" (2010)

Photos

Bio

With a voice that digs deep into your heart, smooth guitar lines, and jazzy interludes, Breagh Mackinnon's debut album Where The Days Went, released September 25, truly flaunts the timeless sound that sets her apart.

As a Cape Breton singer songwriter, Mackinnon's age is unrecognizable in her sophisticated lyrics and thoughtful arrangements. Where The Days Went, which Mackinnon co-produced at Lakewind Sound Studios along side sound engineer Mike Shepherd, draws inspiration from her extensive songwriting collaborations, as well as her formal Jazz training.

White Picket Love, a song that propelled the young artist into a finalist position at the Ottawa Bluesfest Shes The One Contest and recently, the International Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, demonstrates Mackinnons ability to express melancholy in beauty. The pop infused melodies of "Secret" and "Call You Mine" continue to demonstrate her versatility. Whiskey, the albums stripped down, piano bonus track, completes the package with a soothing quality unmistakably reminiscent of a young Norah Jones.

Part of gaining life experience is interacting with other people and learning how that shapes who we becomeThe album was inspired by my experience of different relationships- whether it be with a place, another person or within myself.

Nowhere are Mackinnons insights reflected more clearly than on stage where she creates a personal relationship with her audience. Backed by strong musicality and a charming demeanor, it's impossible not to feel at home with this up and coming songstress.

Since releasing her self-titled E.P, Mackinnon has been busy playing shows and festivals across the Maritimes, as well as participating in The Winnipeg Folk Festival Galaxy Young Performers Program. She has had the pleasure of working closely with both long term and emerging musicians, including Dylan Guthro, Carleton Stone, Natalia Zukerman, Gordie Sampson, and Steve MacDougall. Mackinnon has also shared the stage with numerous Maritime favorites including Rose Cousins, Mo Kenney, Carmen Townsend and Meaghan Blanchard.

The new album explores Mackinnon's experiences and inspiration, while highlighting the alluring sound that is uniquely her.

Where The Days Went is an elegant debut for Breagh Mackinnon.

"Breagh is that rare combination of voice, song and musical strength. The writing is breathtaking and the voice is strong medicine" Gordie Sampson

Breagh Mackinnondisplaying intricate piano/guitar chordal-work and unique arranging in her promising musicality. Todd MacLean The Guardian

The acclaims held up. Her voice is striking.. Numerous people remarked after the show, what a voice she reminds me of Norah Jones Laurie Burns in LorOpr Halifax Urban Folk Festival 2012 Review