Colin Priestner
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Colin Priestner

Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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Colin Priestner @ North Country Fair

Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada

Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada

Colin Priestner @ Sidetrack Cafe

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Colin Priestner @ Powerplant (Supporting Josh Ritter)

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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Looking more like an oversexed college student than a musician, Colin Priestner has the good looks that make school girls squeal and middle-aged housewives buckle at the knees. But this former tennis star and singer/songwriter isn’t just a pretty face…or pretty service victory, as it were. Blatant Hypocrite is his debut EP and it’s a super sounding six song slice of post-teen angst from this Edmonton-reared talent. Channeling the acoustic guitar and harmonica-drawn spirit of Bob Dylan, Priestner strums through six tracks of country-influenced folk rock with the vigour and professionalism of a musician six months his elder. His music works best when he blackens the shiny sheen, and slows things down a bit, as he does on “Save Me”, and “Born Again Virgin.” Both are plaintive mid-tempo swigs at the old love jug, and Priestner’s distinctive vocals make for good contrast to his rhubarb rhymes and plucky strums. But here’s the rub: a tune called “I’m Leaving You.” What may be seen as a clever post-modern romp for some will be a second coming of Billy Joel’s embarrassing “We Didn’t Start the Fire” for us cynical folk. Namedropping Madison Square Gardens, eBay or other pop culture touchstones in rapid successions may seem like a good idea on paper but on tape, it’s a squirm-worthy exercise. So yeah, five outta six ain’t bad. - Cameron Gordon

Colin Priestner, a very talented young singer/songwriter out of Edmonton has just released his debut EP, Blatant Hypocrite. He is gritty like Kevn Kinney or an acoustic Greg MacPherson, with a knack for marrying honest observations to catchy naive melodies. No heart-on-sleeve, I'm so in touch with my feelings nonesense, even his introspection is somewhat impartial. Much in the same vein as Steve Earle, Priestner takes responsibility for his actions, or at least acknowledges them. The title track, for example, is a
self-criticism for complaining about pollution and feeling guilty for
driving an SUV. For a young man just starting, Priestner really has it
together, but with only a 6 song EP instead of a full album, my concern is that Blatant Hypocrite will be undeservedly lost in the shuffle. A fine album nonetheless.

Written by: Mike Bruse - Mike Bruse

That he would be trading in his tennis racquet for a six-string hollow body probably wasn’t what Colin Priestner had imagined when he was a teenager.

With a scholarship at Eastern Illinois University and a shot at getting an NCAA ranking, music was probably the farthest thing on his mind.

But all of that changed rather quickly.

"It wasn’t the glamorous life I thought it would be," confides Priestner, now a political science major at the University of Alberta. "We were in a little corn field in the middle of nowhere. Imagine Leduc..."

While his life as a tennis player/journalism student in Illinois was nowhere close to the demented portrait sketched in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, tennis was put on the backburner fairly quickly once Priestner picked up a guitar and honed his singer/songwriter skills, writing satirical love songs that incorporate a sharp wit and biting socio-political commentary.

His first CD, Blatant Hypocrite, produced and arranged by Stew Kirkwood, is comprised of six pieces that make reference of everything from Nike to God, while still retaining a love-song feel.

And although Priestner himself will be the first to admit it’s kind of strange to try to illustrate the plight of the common folk when you’re a middle class kid, he says he simply laughs it off.

"That’s where the whole ‘blatant hypocrite’ idea came in," he admits. "I love to talk politics. Leftist politics is a big part of my life."

His hero remains folkster Dan Bern, another artist displaying self-reflexive humour. Priestner was so impacted by Bern’s work that he ended up following him on tour, playing tennis with him on several occasions (Bern is a known tennis freak), and even betting a full set list on a tennis game before one of Bern’s performances at the Sidetrack.

Priestner won after a hard-fought battle.

"I ended picking all these songs he’d never actually recorded that I thought were his best," says Priestner, laughing. "He wasn’t sure if he would even remember how to play them. I’ve heard some say it was one of his best shows ever."
- Fritz Francois

The new album Blatant Hypocrite is full of songs about “born-again virgins who were sluts in high school” and “funding the terrorists with my SUV,” but don’t get the wrong idea: Propaghandi hasn’t finally released a new CD. In actuality, the disc is the debut EP from local singer/songwriter Colin Priestner, and its smooth folk-pop sound seems at first listen to owe more to John Mayer than to Jello Biafra, although Priestner’s influences might help explain the music’s split personality.

“My dad raised me on Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, and my older brother got me into punk,” Priestner explains. “When I was 13 or so I got into Bad Religion and Propagandhi and stuff like that. I think I still know all the words. Punk bands pretty well made me the person I am now.”

Priestner’s punk-rock leanings were put on hold, however, by slightly more mainstream ambitions. Although he grew up in Edmonton, Priestner has spent the last few years attending Eastern Illinois University on an NCAA tennis scholarship. So jocks can like punk rock? “I don’t know if tennis players are that big of jocks,” Priestner laughs. “Even when I was training really hard and I thought I was going to be this pro tennis player, I was always into music.”

After he “fucked up the tennis part” of his career, Priestner decided to immerse himself in music, learning the guitar from scratch less than two years ago. “I just bought one of those guitar chord posters and put it up in my dorm room,” he admits sheepishly. “I learned how to play the guitar in late 2003 and I started writing songs at the beginning of 2004. I pretty much submerged myself in it.”

The 21-year-old Priestner acknowledges that his music is not as loud and angry as what is being produced by most of his peers, although the music’s folky tone belies its acid-tongued criticism of cultural institutions, notably religion. On “Born Again Virgin,” Priestner lambastes the evangelical notion that simply by renouncing your sexual sins, you can consider yourself a “virgin” no matter how slutty your past behaviour may have been.

“I thought it was hilarious that these people were throwing these empty semantics around to feel better about themselves,” Priestner laughs. Even though he readily admits that he is “pretty far from being religious,” Priestner says his goal is not to shock or offend, but merely to express himself. “I don’t want to write songs about nothing,” he says adamantly. “You have to write songs that are meaningful.” (RM) - Phil Duperon

Everyone dreams about becoming a rock star at some point in his or her life, either for the fame or the money, or maybe just for the groupies. Unfortunately, though, most of us will never get to live out our Entourage fantasies and will have to settle for playing lead air guitar.

There are a few lucky people who make it into the business, however, and singer-songwriter Colin Priestner is one of them. The University of Alberta student—and former nationally ranked tennis player—has traded in his air guitar and tennis racquet for a real six string, and as a result has officially entered the Canadian folk/alternative music scene.

"I wasn't liking the pressure or the stress of [tennis], and so I started writing songs to deal with it," Priestner says. "I always knew I wanted to play songs and write them, but I couldn't play guitar, so I learned how to do that and wrote a bunch of songs.

"Besides, music has always been the biggest part of my life. Long before I started writing songs I would tell my parents as a joke, 'I'm going to be a famous singer'—not that I'm famous in the least bit," Priestner adds quickly.

All joking aside, it seems as though Priestner really is on his way towards becoming a well-known figure, judging by recent audience reactions to his music. Not only have his songs been getting radio play on local stations, but he has also recently completed a tour of the northern US with one of his favorite folk singers, Dan Bern.

Despite gaining popularity with a larger fan base, Priestner says that the first audience he ever got approval from was his own father.

"I remember the first night I got back [from the US] I said [to my dad], 'I wrote a lot of songs; I want to play them for you,'" Priestner says. "I knew he was getting ready to cringe because, well, what did he know? To him, I didn't have any musical skills or talent or anything. He was shocked at first; I think he was expecting something bad. But it was immediate support."

After gaining approval from his dad, Priestner decided to take his music to the public. He started by taking the stage and playing open mic nights at venues like the Sidetrack Café.

"A guy who'd been playing me [in tennis] for years and years said it best after he saw me perform one night during the summer. He said, 'Well, you've been playing music for three months and you're way better at it than you are at tennis, which you've been playing for 15 years,' so I knew I wasn't embarrassing myself."

It was at this point that Priestner decided that it was time to cut an album with a band, and so he went into the studio to record his first full-length album, God and Wall Street.

Armed with an arsenal of songs and a great band to back him up, Priestner will be taking the stage at the Sidetrack Café again this Friday, not as a mere open mic performer, but instead as an artist releasing his latest work.

"It's going to be big, huge—I hope," Priestner laughs. "It's the first time I'll get to play live with the band who recorded with me. This show will be a whole new ball game. I do good impressions too, but you'll have to come to the show to hear those."
- Gateway Magazine - 10/19/06

Priestner's album would fit best into the folk/alternative rock genre, with its mellow but rock-ish tracks. However, while his album can be easily shunted into one musical genre, his distinct and impacting lyrics simply cannot.

Each track on the album stands alone as a beautiful piece of poetry. While Priestner may not have the prettiest voice, his emotion is always evident. From tackling issues like religion and politics, to dealing with bad days and lost loves, the album covers a broad spectrum of topics that provide us with Priestner's view of society.

Priestner has discovered a unique blend of songs, and with God and Wall Street, he's created an album that has a wealth of substance and relevance to important issues. Oh, and it simply sounds great.

- Lacina Desjarlais
- Gateway Magazine - 10/19/06

"Colin Priestner buries his self-doubts in worldly folk songs"

EDMONTON - Lurking beneath Colin Priestner's boyish, happy-go-lucky exterior is a grizzled old folkie with a jaded view of love, money and religion.

Much like teen soul singer Joss Stone, Priestner's rasp makes him seem decades older than his 22 years.

He sounds like he's done some hard living -- smoked a few too many cigarettes, downed one too many bottles of whisky -- but the former tennis prodigy hasn't touched a drop of alcohol or a grain of tobacco.

The local musician hadn't even picked up a guitar or written a song until a couple years ago, inspired by an unhappy stint at a U.S. college.

Yet Priestner always knew he'd end up onstage one day.

"Even when I was 18, I still didn't know how to play guitar and didn't sing, I knew I'd be a songwriter," he says. "I knew exactly how to perform live before I ever played."

In two short years, Priestner has recorded an EP, toured with folk hero Dan Bern in the U.S., and performed at the Calgary Folk Festival.

He's now about to release his second rockin' folk effort, God and Wall Street, filled with biting social commentaries, personal stories and hints of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Dave Lowery of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fame.

It's also startlingly self-assured -- as Priestner sings about born-again virgins, trips to Amsterdam or selling cars at his father's dealership, you sense that songwriting comes ridiculously easy for him.

Not exactly.

He's not terribly fond of his voice. He thinks he barely knows his way around a guitar. (AA Sound System's Lane Arndt provides the intricate, aching riffs on God and Wall Street.) Priestner also labours over his lyrics -- the result of growing up with two ardent music fans.

His father introduced him to eclectic singer-songwriters such as Nick Cave and Tom Waits while his older brother Jared turned him on to punk.

Subsequently, Priestner is always worried his words won't cut it with his family.

"My dad wouldn't listen to anything that wasn't well-written," he says.

"I knew that I didn't want to write anything boring. There's a couple of songs on the record that no one heard until they were recorded. I didn't even play them at concerts. They're incredibly supportive, but I still think, 'Will they think this is cheesy?'

"One of the songs on the record, Closer, I didn't ever want to play for Jared because I thought he'd make fun of me. Then I finally gave him some demos of it and he was like, 'You have to play that song at your next show!' "

In fact, Priestner is usually convinced most people will hate his songs -- which makes him all the more endearing.

It's a silly notion, considering CKUA is spinning four of his songs -- including Closer, a song about a "broke-down angel" on his bed -- and Bern invited him to tour through the U.S. earlier this month.

As the unknown opening act, Priestner wasn't expecting much reaction from Bern's fans. He ended up getting standing ovations at some shows and polite applause at others.

Yet, just as you can't judge his songs or level of confidence by his appearance, Priestner learned he can't evaluate an audience by its response. Claps don't always turn into cash.

For example, he consistently sold more copies of God and Wall Street than expected at those quieter, oh-my-god-the-crowd-hates-me gigs.

In contrast, potential new fans who asked him probing questions after his sets would usually walk away without picking up a disc.

"They'd talk to me for 20 minutes -- you'd swear it was the greatest thing they'd ever seen -- making references to specific lines in specific songs. Then they don't buy a record. C'mon, it's $15."

Naturally, that won't be the case at Priestner's CD release party on Friday at the Sidetrack Cafe, 10238 104th St.

by: Sandra Sperounes, The Edmonton Journal

- Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal - 10/19/06

So, you may have heard of Colin Priestner. You know, he's the Edmonton singer/songwriter/former university tennis player. Well, with the release of his first full-length album, Priestner is well on his way to having the "tennis player" moniker stricken from the record. He's a full-time songwriter now.

Take some Dylan, some Propagandhi, some Bad Religion and add it to a week's worth of tutelage from Priestner's musical hero, Dan Bern, and you end up with God and Wall Street. These 12, tightly produced tracks offer everything from scathing social commentary to ruminations on long-lost love. It's sunset-folk at its finest.

Although Wall Street was produced and mixed with a full band, the song I ended up listening to not once, not twice, but thrice was the sparse "Use Your Head." This smart and bitter acoustic/harmonica ditty serves as a pulpit for Priestner to lambaste everything from "Diesel-wearing-13-year-olds" to "pills for erections." The rhymes are slick and the stripped-down melody is refreshing.

A fantastic follow-up to the EP Blatant Hypocrite, God and Wall Street will do nothing but elevate this young songwriter.

VERDICT: This Rocks

by: Jared Majeski - Vue Weekly, 10/19/06

How did they end up becoming friends?

It’s a legitimate question to ask; history has churned out its fair share of odd couples in its day, and when it comes to the tennis-playing, song-singing friendship of Dan Bern and Colin Priestner, there’s nothing normal about it.

Sure, popular folk artist Bern and local musician Priestner might share a few common threads–like chatting on the phone about movies, playing a match or two of tennis (Priestner once had an NCAA scholarship), or singing about politics–but personality-wise, they are two of the most different people to ever cross paths.

For the soft-spoken and reserved Bern, being buddy-buddy with Priestner meant recently organizing a rendezvous in New Mexico. There, they delved into their most prized pastimes, and even though there’s about a 20-year age difference separating the two, both Bern and Priestner found themselves connecting in a way that not all musicians do.

"It was really fun," Bern explains over the phone. "I was working with one of the local tennis players there, and when Colin came, he brought a lot of expertise and energy. He was like a visiting tennis dignitary.

"We ate well, played a lot of tennis, and played a lot of music. He knows all of my songs, so he was teaching me some of my old songs, the ones I’d forgotten. I got to hear some of his [songs], too."

Bern may be quiet and shy, but on his upcoming album, Breathe, set to be released mid-September, there’s a lot to be said. Religion is just one of the themes brought up, yet unlike some of his previous works (like My Country II, which openly criticizes the Bush administration), there’s a different tone to Breathe that Bern says is a result of his taking a break from touring to focus on other aspects of his life.

Like all passionate musicians, though, Bern’s back on the road, this time with a friend in mind. Bern requested that Priestner open for him in Edmonton, not because he feels obligated to mentor the young, ambitious singer-songwriter, but because Priestner is, in his eyes, a great performer and musician.

"I know him, and I want to give him every chance to play," Bern says. "I don’t know if I’ve necessarily taken him under my wing. I mean, he’s flying pretty well himself. We’ve become friends outside of anything; we connect in several ways musically, and with tennis, and with the general outlook of things. He’s just a good guy. A very talented guy."

Priestner, on the other hand, might disagree with the term "talented." According to the outgoing U of A political science student, "talented" would be someone like Bern, not some kid who rushed to release an EP entitled Blatant Hypocrite without putting in much effort last year. However, like Bern, the 22-year-old Priestner is also on the brink of releasing his next album, a 13-track collection of topical references to Nike, Van Gogh, and Jesus, that he hopes is more mature and comprehensive than his EP was.

"I had no idea what I was doing at the time [of Blatant Hypocrite]," Priestner laughs. "I had just started writing songs, and I’ve kind-of grown to hate that record. It’s just too poppy, overproduced, and it didn’t match my sound live.

"I don’t have a nice voice or anything, so I’m never going to wow anybody with melodies. Because I’m a singer with a more raspy voice, I need to be saying something. If you’re not saying something and you don’t say it well, you have to sing well; you need something else to bring people in."

Priestner is definitely more open about his album and future than Bern is, but when it comes to talking about his upcoming show, the butterflies in his stomach are nonetheless evident.

From Priestner’s perspective, he’s not just opening for a friend and tennis-buddy; rather, he’s opening for his favorite musician in front of hundreds of people, a situation he’s not yet used to, despite all of the other oddities between them.

"It’s going to be pretty nerve-wracking," Priestner says. "On the one hand, you’re opening for your idol. On the second hand, it’s going to be the first time I’ll play for a jam-packed crowd, which is also a tailor-made audience. Obviously, my favorite singer is Dan Bern, so anyone who likes him will recognize his influence in my music. There could be four hundred potential new fans for me here in Edmonton."

by: Amanda Ash
- See Magazine, 07/20/06

"god and wall street" is currently the number one played alberta record on CKUA radio which is heard thoughout the province on both FM and AM radio!

it ranked #14 overall for the week, five spots ahead of the previous week. big thanks to all those who have requested it and supported it at CKUA!

11:17 PM - 0 Comments - 0 Kudos - Add
- 10/28/06


November 22/2004 - Blatant Hypocrite (EP)
October 19/2006 - God and Wall Street (LP)

Toured the USA in Fall of 2006 with folk-icon Dan Bern. Will be supporting Josh Ritter in Feb. 2007.


Feeling a bit camera shy


In just over three years, Colin Priestner has transformed from internationally acclaimed junior tennis star to one of North America's tallest and most critically acclaimed singer/songwriters.

Born in London, Ontario in 1984, Priestner was raised on equal parts Dylan and backhands, spending his youth competing on the JTP (Junior Touring Professionals) Tour. By age thirteen, Priestner completed the elusive JTP Grand Slam, winning all four major tournaments in the same year.

"He was good, I mean, real good", says current world number one Roger Federer. "My lifetime record was 1-13 against him, and the only time I won was when he was defaulted for throwing a racquet at a linesman" .

Despite his unprecedented success on the court, Priestner yearned for something more, something new. He bought a used left-handed acoustic Martin guitar and began to learn the songs of his musical heroes Dan Bern, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.

While the sporting community reeled following his shocking two word Bjorn Borg-esque retirement speech ("I'm done"), the music world looked upon his new focus curiously. He began work in 2004 on Blatant Hypocrite, a series of demos ultimately released as an EP. College radio networks around the world were inundated with requests and the EP was heralded: "a masterpiece: the poetry of a young Dylan with the painful delivery of post-Yoko era John Lennon" by Rolling Stone Magazine. While Born-Again Virgin became an international hit, it also signaled the end of his tenuous relationship with most major religions.

Through the help of several high powered agents and entertainment lawyers, Priestner landed two coveted opening slots in early 2006 after recording his much anticipated full-length debut album God and Wall Street in his hometown of Edmonton, Canada with superstar producer/guitarist Lane Arndt. A dream come true for the ambitious Priestner, his first opening was for childhood idol Bob Dylan, but did not go as crisply as his segway from sport to song.

"It was alright, but confrontational. It was obvious Dylan had not approved me to open and he seemed to take offense when I opened my set with Like a Rolling Stone (unplugged) and All Along the Watchtower. By the time I got to my audience-participation version of Its Alright, Ma, I could see him poking his head out the curtain gesturing madly to the sound guy to cut my mic. Not only that, he demanded 25% of my merch sales and threatened to sue me for plagiarism," Priestner recalls.

Asked to leave after his first opening slot in Reno, Nevada, Priestner was undeterred, and when a phone call from The Boss came, he realized his big chance of playing large football stadiums and hockey arenas had arrived.

"Opening for Springsteen was alright, but I mean, it was only a half hour spot. That kind of sucked. Also, I tried to use his teleprompter so I wouldnt forget any words but that ended up backfiring when the last line of Born to Run got frozen on the screen. I mean, he should know the last line by, its the same as title of the song," Priestner laments.

Alas, on October 3, 2006, the long awaited God and Wall Street will be released internationally through his own Blatant Records after months of media speculation over song orders, track times and song selection. You are among the first to hear it.

Priestner will support the release opening for yet another musical hero, a US tour opening for folk-icon Dan Bern beginning in October, 2006.