Colleen Brown and Major Love
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Colleen Brown and Major Love

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF | AFM

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Pop Folk




"Colleen Brown digs deep in Dirt"

Her penchant for expressing sincere emotions pays off in a big way on her acclaimed third album “Dirt,” and it doesn’t stop at songwriting. The soulful folk- pop singer’s growing national profile has been helped along by CBC Radio 2, which would likely not be the case if she hadn’t e-mailed a certain radio show host. While she was tearing up nationwide college radio charts with her second album Foot in Heart, Brown often listened to CBC radio show Drive, hosted by Rich Terfry (a.k.a. “Wicked and Weird” rapper Buck 65). But she had beef with the show – it never spun artists from her own back yard.
“They were playing basically all Toronto and Vancouver artists,| she says. “I really don’t hear one artist on the whole show that was from Alberta or Saskatchewan ... I was kind of mad about that. In my audacity, I sent a very nice e-mail saying: I’m from Edmonton and I know it’s kind of isolated, but I have come across so many artists whose music I absolutely love and am inspired by regularly. You should know about these artists, and also you should play my music.”
She laughs as she recalls her e-mail to Terfry, but the rapper/radio host took it to heart and fell in love with Brown’s songs. The two have since become friends.
Colleen Brown will play The Artery on Boxing Day Monday (tickets here).
Brown caused a stir this past summer when she penned a poignant letter to Sun News, and specifically Sun TV commentator Ezra Levant, blasting his
program’s hostile coverage of arts funding.
She lays her emotions bare on more personal issues across the thirteen tracks on Dirt, which are accompanied by personal narratives in the liner notes explaining her headspace when writing each of the songs. The album details a painful breakup and a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, Brown finds solace in close friends and nature – in particular, gardening.
“I was going through some rough times personally, big ups and downs and I was trying to figure out how not to be worried and stressed out all the time. So I figured some stuff out for myself that helped me,” she says, explaining the album name’s double meaning. Directly, one part is nature – dirt, the things that come out of the dirt. A lot of it is really personal, so (it’s also) dishing the dirt in that kind of way.”
Musically, Dirt melds Brown’s smooth piano and powerful vocals with guitars, horns and a huge vintage pop vibe most evident on the track Good Girls.
Splitting her time between here and Ontario, she has become something of a local celebrity. Brown took home the Best Female Artist honour at this year’s inaugural Edmonton Music Awards and her punchy track Fight! Fight! Fight! won a $20,000 New Music West 2011 Songwriting Award.
Her latest video for Happy Love Song, an ad for the Edmonton Transit System, features city council heartthrob Don Iveson; while her soon-to-be-released video for Fight! Fight! Fight! was shot by local filmmaker Mike McLaughlin, who has worked with David Suzuki on The Nature of Things.
Her ultimate aspiration, funds permitting, is to one day assemble a traveling Vegas-style variety show that would accommodate the wide range of styles and instruments found on Dirt.
“I have this grand vision of sort of a variety act evening where there is a comedian MC and costumes and lights and stage set-up and everybody’s fed and
there’s awesome drinks and local organic food, and just touring around cities and spending several days in a city with a bit of a rotating cast of different bands – a couple of acts of original music that builds in intensity and arrangements, and a final set could be all covers, a danceable kind of set,” Brown says of her grand vision. “I’m starting to write with that intention in mind.” - GigCity

"Colleen Brown - Dirt"

Edmonton, AB-based songstress Brown gained a deserved national profile last year with the re-release of her second album, Foot In Heart. Look for that momentum to continue with this strong new record. If you just read her lyric sheet before hearing her, you'd likely place Brown in the rather crowded category of introspective female singer-songwriters. Her work transcends that niche, courtesy of her bright, powerful voice, one that has a widescreen pop feel, and instrumentation that's often heavy on the horns. There are a couple of musical personalities on display. Tunes like "Happy Love Song" and "Singing in the Garden" definitely bring '70s-era Joni Mitchell to mind, while a vocally and lyrically more assertive persona is shown on "Fight!Fight!Fight!" and "Good Girls." The rather raucous, horn-fuelled former cut is catchy as hell (it has already won a New Music West Songwriting Award), although the chant of the title verges on stridency, while "Good Girls" is similarly brassy and bold, with a distinct disco vibe. Strong closing track "This Love is Growing" was co-written with Pierre Marchand (Sarah McLachlan). It'd be nice to hear Brown attempt a full album of upbeat, R&B-inflected pop songs, but there's plenty to enjoy while frolicking in this Dirt. - Exclaim

"Colleen Brown - Dirt"

Colleen Brown - A strikingly diverse collection of vibrant, colorful (sm)art-pop from this Canadian singer and multi- instrumentalist deftly balances classic songwriter appeal with some inspired and energized -- and dare we say just plain fun -- tunecraft ...Brown says that the title of her new third album, the follow-up to her exquisite Foot In Heart in 2007, is utilized as a concept for both "dishing the dirt" on a personal and human story-telling level as well as the organic theme of growing in the soil, of the "authentic" and "honest" aspects of the natural world, taking creative risks and finding one's own voice..."I'm open to whatever comes out when inspiration strikes", she tells
DC // Release: Dirt (October 25, Canada) // Sounds like: Brown's background in theatre and dance, cover bands and her current rock-trio side project all help set the stage for Dirt's wide-ranging array of spirited, twisting, turning melodies, punchy rhythmic thrust and richly distinctive vocals reminiscent of Joni Mitchell in her Court and Spark days... - Direct Current

"Colleen Brown dazzles Arden crowd"

Last Friday night Colleen Brown’s rich, distinctive vocals filled a nearly sold-out Arden Theatre with confidence and cool.
The celebratory evening was the official release of Dirt, a 13-track CD that marked the folk-pop songstress’ phenomenal growth as a leading singer/songwriter, and reaffirmed her winning Best Female Vocalist Award at the 2011 Edmonton Music Awards.
The brown-haired vixen dazzled – not in a glittery way – but with a big, big voice that went straight for the spine: deep emotion, insightful lyrics and compelling music.
Had she chosen, Brown could have played all the songs on a stripped down piano. Instead she put on a lush party bringing a cadre of eight support musicians from an impressive array of musical backgrounds including St. Albert guitarist Stephen Tchir.
Brown organized a beautiful parade of songs that was as heart-warming as her acrobatic voice. Whether sitting at the piano, standing at the keyboard or pickin’ guitar strings, she demonstrated the poise of woman completely comfortable in her own skin.
Displaying the song-writing depth of Mary Chapin Carpenter, the lilting charm of Olivia Newton-John and the vocal power of Cher, Brown totally dominated the evening.
The 30-year-old opened with a springy dance number, Baby Blue Eyes that swept you off your feet with hot-blooded yearnings.
Next she visited, the sensual Happy Love Song while playing on the keyboard as Laura Craig (sax), Greg Hutchison (trumpet), Moni Matthew (viola/violin) and Ian Woodman (cello) heightened the intensity.
Displaying a haunting quality to her music, Brown started Strangers Know Better with a ghostly ethereal chant that segued into the bouncy energetic Fight! Fight! Fight!.
Halfway Heart was a slow poignant ballad with a surprisingly uplifting trumpet solo in the middle, while the more restrained and elegant Ignorance Prayer revealed Brown’s pitch perfect voice as she accompanied herself on piano.
Teetering on the edge of rock and roll was 7 Hours and 15 Days, a blazing mantra for independent, forward thinking women sung with gusto even as Good Girls spooned out a silkier, jazzier vibe.
With an upbeat, girl-next-door charm and a soothing, supple voice, Brown connected on a personal level with the audience. But it was the songs that made the concert truly memorable – numbers that found the pulse and touched the heartbeat of every man and woman in the audience.
Opening the concert was U-22 artist Lucas Chaisson, a newbie singer/songwriter who gave the crowd an extra nibble with his six songs. Perhaps his most endearing song was the slow, melancholy ballad Whisper Sweetly. And while Chaisson is still a diamond in the rough, he put a lot heart and soul into his half hour set.
But the evening definitely belonged to Brown, and as several fans in the lobby later were overheard to say, “She’s one to watch.” - Gazette

"Brown dishes some DIRT"

It can be tough to form an impression of a person just by talking to him or her on the phone for 30 minutes.
However, Colleen Brown, 29 comes across as the genuine McCoy – a woman with a sunny, breezy outlook on life tempered by self-confidence, a sublime wit and the sense of being in a balanced headspace.
A countdown is on for this charming Edmonton-based songstress. Known throughout the industry for her melodic folk-pop, Brown is releasing her third album at the Arden Theatre on Friday, Oct. 21.
DIRT, a 13-track CD recorded by producer/engineer Ian Martin, is a lush ode inspired by sixties and seventies recordings, a contemporary throwback if you will.
“Half of the concept for DIRT was dishing the dirt, telling secrets. But it was also a search for authenticity and being grounded and finding a peaceful place,” said Brown.
The Lloydminster-raised singer specializes in romantic relationship numbers. Part of the reason she partnered with Martin, (he also produced her second album, Foot in Heart) was to create a well-crafted album.
“I like to listen to an album all the way through and some of the most beautiful albums were produced in the sixties and seventies. Today there’s a lack of that. There are lots of albums, but with many singers you get the sense the craft of putting together an album is not important to them.”
To string the tunes together, Brown has written additional individual narratives that link the lyrical content and illustrate context.
Of Brown’s three albums, DIRT has the biggest sound and on concert night she will be backed by a 10-piece band. In addition to Brown, a core group of Peter Hendrickson (drums), Patrick Michalak (bass), Amy van Keeken (percussion/back-up vocals) and St. Albert’s Stephen Tchir will perform. Add-on musicians include Graham Guest (organ), Moni Mathew (violin), Ian Woodman (viola/cello), Laura Craig (bari/tenor sax) and Greg Hutchinson (trumpet/sax).
“This is the kind of music I want to perform live and I feel those are the kinds of songs that call for big production numbers.”
Her instincts are quite solid. In July, one of the album’s singles, a feisty pop-rock Fight! Fight! Fight! won the New Music West’s Song Search contest. The prize was a cool $20,000.
“I was about $20,000 in the hole with this album so it was really good timing. It was an amazing boost to the project. I had already overspent my budget and it was getting tight and stressful,” she chuckles.
“Fight! was a song that came out in a flurry. I was in a good space. I plucked it from the ether and there it was. In some way, I feel like I was channelling it. And that’s probably my greatest accomplishment – getting out of the way of a song and not forcing it.”
One tune that came naturally is Ignorance Prayer, a song that is closest to her heart.
“It illustrates my personal struggle and the catalyst for DIRT. Once you dig deep and look at your relationships, it’s difficult to go back and pretend everything is fine. You have to deal with how destructive it is. It was my journey and the journey of the album.”
At the concert, Brown will perform her album start to finish. In addition, the audience will receive a linking narrative.
“I want them to experience it with that perspective. There are some big pop songs and some quiet introspective stuff. We had a rehearsal with the strings the other night and it made the hair on my neck stand on end. This album has legs and I’m going to do my best.” - Gazette

"Folksy Brown"

Halfway through a thought, Colleen Brown is interrupted by the waitress. "The guys at the front want to know how much your CDs are," she asks, oblivious to our conversation. Brown sheepishly explains the prices, and the waitress leaves. Brown looks up, her lips puckered in a kind of mischievous meekness. "This wasn't staged for your benefit, by the way," she points out, before letting out a throaty giggle.
It would have been the perfect crime. We're talking, after all, at the Atlantic Trap & Gill, where the rising singer-songwriter still pulls the odd shift, and where regulars and staff greet her like an old friend. But then, Brown hardly seems like the type to pull something so cunning. For starters, her look has all the deviousness of a stuffed animal. Her light brown hair is cut into a bob, that frames her brown, anime eyes and is usually clipped by a bright, plastic barrette. She talks in a kind of baritone lilt, and is prone to smirks and childlike funny faces, though when you touch on a subject close to her heart - like what her music means to her or what she owes to family and friends - she looks almost on the verge of tears, her appreciation still in full bloom.
Even on stage, where she projects a rustic glamour in personally hand-sewn dresses and dangling earrings, she's refreshingly forthright. She almost babbles with excitement, and is quick with jokes and mocking self-effacement. All of that fits perfectly with her music, which is not so much confessional as it is emotionally raw, powered by her soulful voice and backed by folk- and rock-tinged hooks big enough to fill concert halls. In the smaller clubs she still haunts, her music can be overpowering.
"I'm an open-hearted person, and I wear my heart on my sleeve," explains Brown, whose 2008 self-released album, Foot in Heart, shadows that sentiment in its title. "If I was a guarded person, I probably could have saved myself a lot of hurt feelings, but then, it's not who I am. I wouldn't be true to myself if I was like that."
If there is a common thread through Brown's ascent from a demure teen steeped in piano and voice lessons to a musician about to embark on a national concert tour, it is remaining true to herself. Performing is innate for her, evident in the times she would entertain family friends visiting the Lloydminster home she grew up in by putting on her best clothes and twirling around the living room.
Her creative streak is equally deep. In her childhood, she relieved boredom by baking or sewing (hobbies she continues to this day because they "help her feel like a whole human being"), and she wrote her first song at 11, just to see if she could.
After graduating from Grant MacEwan's music program, Brown found her footing at open mics and as a singer in the Kit Kat Club, a high-energy show band that performed pop standards. Her 2004 self-released solo debut, A Peculiar Thing, made her a name on the local scene (and started up the Joni Mitchell com-parisons that follow her to this day). Her rep-utation has been bolstered by her turn in The Secretaries, a collaboration with long-time friend Amy van Keeken that sees Brown indulging her more rock-ish and raucous tendencies.
But it's her second solo release, Foot in Heart, that has started perking up the nation's ears, especially those of Dead Daisy Records head Emm Gryner, an accomplished singer-songwriter. Gryner heard Brown's voice for the first time on CBC Radio. This past March, Gryner's label re-released the album through Outside Music, a far-reaching Canadian distribution company, pushing Brown further into the spotlight.
"I love her voice and the complexity of the songwriting. It appeals to your heart," Gryner explains from her home in Toronto. "I think indie artists are sort of too cool to go for it sometimes, and I love that Colleen, her music, is really bold. It's not small, it's not quaint."
You can sense an undeniable satisfaction from Brown, but she seems more humbled by her recent success than anything. She is appreciative but aware that it's only one more step down the road. Which seems rather apropos, very true to her nature.
"It's success I can tell my parents about so that they know I'm actually not going to live in poverty for the rest of my life, so that's rad," Brown jokes, before turning more pensive. "When it did come up, it was great. But it was kind of like the next step. I wasn't ecstatic. I wasn't jumping on the couch or anything. I wasn't acting like I won the lottery, because I didn't - I've been working at this for a decade."
She stops, thinking for a minute, her face once again pulling into a kind of childlike, puzzled look. "No, what am I saying? I've been working at this my whole life." - Avenue

"Colleen Brown's latest CD is a declaration of independence"

At the end of a prairie winter, the crusted old snow seems to recede like the latest ice age, and the dirt underneath shows through. It can be a bit startling to see how raw the earth looks when it has been out of sight for a few months, but you know that that muck is where the life is.

That natural sequence is a pretty good metaphor for what happened to Colleen Brown over a year or so. The Alberta singer-songwriter realized that much of what she took for the whole of life was happening up on the snowdrifts, and when those started to clear away, the mucky solid ground came up under her feet.

Dirt is the title of her latest album, and she’s not shy about connecting the dots between the songs and her life. The lyrics are preceded in the CD booklet by a short written account of what was happening in her life that needed to be sung about in those lyrics and that music.

You don’t need to read the notes to perceive the good bones in Brown’s songs, or to appreciate her fluid, powerful voice. She’s one of the best singers in Canadian pop, and a superb maker of music for her own voice. Her talents as singer, writer and instrumentalist – she’s also terrific on keyboards – are well known in Alberta, where she performed with two bands (the Kit Kat Club and the Secretaries) before striking out her own.

Dirt is a declaration of hard-won independence, from some kinds of relationships and from many of the expectations Brown absorbed while growing up. She was a good Catholic girl from a big family, an overachiever who aimed to please, and it took her years to discover how punishing it could be to play that role as an adult.

“A lot of my relationships were failing and being really hurtful to me, because I was trying to be this perfect, good woman,” she says.

When she started to question that goal, her perspective changed radically. The CD cover visualizes the change: It shows Brown in a pretty dress and jewellery, kneeling in the dirt, her legs and arms grimy. “I like the idea of this woman dressed up pretty, falling into a normal social profile of a good, respectable attractive woman, and then something occurs that allows her go back into this liberated animalistic state,” she says. “This woman doesn’t care how she’s perceived any more.”

Growing up in Lloydminster, a town right on the boundary between Alberta and Saskatchewan, Brown was one of those kids whose every moment was booked for some kind of extracurricular activity: ballet, piano, crafts, singing in church or in school musicals. When she was done with high school, she veered away from teachers college (her mother’s preference) and studied music at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton.

She learned much there that she had to unlearn later, she says, but she got a lot of technical grounding, and discovered a different kind of musical community, which made its own music and played in bars. She waited on tables, performed a lot of shows and conquered her stage fright. She wrote and recorded an excellent solo debut album, Foot in Heart, that singer-songwriter Emm Gryner heard and relaunched on her Dead Daisy label in 2009. Dirt is an independent release – incredibly, Brown is still not signed to a label.

Her variable pop idiom has room for a bit of R&B and rock, and has a pleasant retro feeling to it. Distinctive as they are, her songs usually connect in some way with the best radio pop of the sixties and seventies. Her voice has a pure soaring quality that at times recalls the young Joni Mitchell or Anne Murray. Still, her music can be a bit hard to place in the current scene, which may be a hindrance or a virtue.

Dirt was obviously a record that had to be made, for reasons that weren’t just about music. Brown talks like an explorer who still has other destinations in sight, though she is happy to have reached a place where she feels less swayed by illusory goals and unsustainable expectations.

“I think my dad was a little put off by how personal the record is,” she says. “He said something like, ‘You sure are brave for putting this out like that.’ I’m grateful that that was his response, that I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my emotions and this struggle.”

You can hear the struggle in the lyrics, but not in the songs. They come out smooth and strong, like a natural process that can’t be restrained, like something that heals even as it measures the wound.

Colleen Brown performs at Hamilton’s This Ain’t Hollywood on Jan. 19, the Dakota Tavern in Toronto on Jan. 20, Jimmy Jazz in Guelph on Feb. 2, London Music Club in London, Ont., on Feb. 3 and Ottawa’s Elmdale House Tavern on Feb. 8. For western tour dates in March and April, check - Globe & Mail

"Album Review: Colleen Brown's 'Direction'"

Posted by:
Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal

Album: Direction
Artist: Colleen Brown
(Northern Gateway Kickline Records)
Four stars (out of five)
Colleen Brown’s heady fifth effort is all over the map. Lyrically speaking, that is. The Edmonton folk-rocker sings about flying to New Brunswick (Moncton Flight 179), heading west on “the next train” (Direction) and warming up in the south (Come to Arizona). Of course, all these destinations are nothing more than a ruse. “Direction’s not a place at all / Only forward or backward,” the acrobatic vocalist, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, confesses on the title track, a sparse yet jubilant piano ballad. Forward seems to be Brown’s main, um, direction — at least on two of the three tracks produced by singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett. “I’ll follow where you lead,” she admits in huskier tones on Lead Me On, a ‘70s-flavoured number warmed by the throbs of an organ. “I’m ready again / Ready to fall in,” her voice soars on Soap and Denim, which bubbles with driving guitar riffs, and eerie back-up vocals that initially sound like synths. Or, perhaps, trying to move forward isn’t the point? Maybe YOU are the direction? “Getting ahead is a lie / You can only ever be where you are,” Brown speculates on The Cost, a sparkly yet fuzzy ’50s rocker, and one of three tunes produced by Raymond Richards. Written and recorded over several years and in various cities — Los Angeles, Toronto, Dartmouth and Edmonton — Brown refers to Direction as her “Frankenstein monster.” Oddly, it’s her most cohesive — and rewarding — effort since  2007’s Foot In Heart. While she was never able to capitalize on the momentum of that album, which was later reissued on Emm Gryner’s Dead Daisy Records, Direction should help Brown’s career move forward again. She’ll perform Friday, April 10 at CKUA Radio’s Performance Space as part of a live taping. For more information, visit her website. - The Edmonton Journal

"Colleen Brown: 'Direction' album review"

8/10 Is Colleen Brown too stylistically diverse for her own good? That may be one reason why this extremely talented Edmonton-based singer/songwriter has remained rather under the radar. As demonstrated on three earlier solo albums, she is the rare vocalist that impresses equally on vibrant soul and quiet folk. Despite the album's title, Direction is also highly varied, something partly attributable to the fact it was recorded separately in four different locales (some songs appeared last year on her EP Direction 1: Major Love). Three cuts apiece were recorded in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (with Joel Plaskett at the console) and L.A. (with Raymond Richards), two in Toronto (with Taylor Kernohan), and one was self-produced in Edmonton. All three Plaskett-assisted songs (he plays all over them, too) are winners: "Soap and Denim" is the kind of spirited rocker he does so well, as is the rousing "Randy Newman" (inspired by Brown opening for the pop auteur at the 2012 Interstellar Rodeo festival).
Horns and strings are used mostly judiciously on different tracks, though the production on the powerful ballad "Don't Forget About Me (When You Know Who You Are)" is a mite over the top. Early Joni Mitchell remains the most obvious reference point for Brown's more folk-accented material, both vocally and lyrically, as on piano ballad "Direction" and "I Asked In The Night." Like Mitchell, Brown makes poetic use of different locales, from Moncton ("Moncton Flight 179") to (Arizona) ("Come To Arizona"). Brown reportedly wrote and recorded the killer closing song, "I Asked In The Night," in one late-night attic session. The success of this sparse and haunting song will hopefully instil confidence for a DIY approach next time around. A narrower stylistic focus is also recommended, but for now travelling in Brown's Direction is one very pleasing trek. (Independent) -

"Colleen Brown, Direction on CBC Music First Play"

Edmonton's Colleen Brown is one of Canada's premiere songwriters. With a voice like a clarion call she's one of our premiere singers, too.
Direction is the latest album from this vastly under-appreciated artist. Recorded in Dartmouth, Toronto, Edmonton and Los Angeles, each song on the album sounds as varied as those locations, and yet the album still holds together as a complete work, exploring themes of love and fate.

"Lead Me On" opens the record with a bluesy groove laid down by Brown as she wrote the bass line and played keyboards on the track. "Soap and Denim" changes gears quickly and the craft behind the hooky tune "Randy Newman" would be appreciated by the man himself. The album closes on the compelling slow burner "I Asked In The Night," featuring Brown's beautiful, bright voice over swirling, sinister guitars.

Direction could very well be the album that garners Brown massive national recognition. She deserves it. - CBC Music


Direction (full album) - March 2015

Direction 1: Major Love - Feb, 2014

Colleen Brown's DIRT - Oct 25, 2011

Foot In Heart, re-release - March 2010

Foot In Heart - Jan 2008

A Peculiar Thing - Jan 2005


Colleen Brown & MAJOR LOVE - fall/winter 2016



“The talents of this Edmonton-based musician shine like a beacon. Her boldly written originals… have the good bones and great melodic rhythm of classic big-screen pop songs from the sixties and seventies.” The Globe & Mail

Colleen Brown & MAJOR LOVE bio:

Colleen Brown tears at our hearts as she does her own. With versatile songs and a voice akin to Joni Mitchell, she is relentlessly unafraid. Having won over audiences opening for Frank Black, Randy Newman, Don McLean, Jim Cuddy, Rufus Wainwright, Buck 65 and Hawksley Workman (to name a few) her 4th album, ‘Direction’, co-produced by Joel Plaskett saw Brown topping college radio charts in 2015, achieving rotation on CBC radio, and touring Germany and the UK.

In a London bar far from their respective Edmonton homes, a bond was born between she and the boys of Scenic Route To Alaska. Drawing from 1960's Motown and the soulful pop-rock anthems they inspired, an album was tracked a month later during a summer heatwave, with Jesse Northey (Jesse and the Dandelions) on keys and faders. These songs thrive at the intersection between Brown’s resonant vocal expression and SRTA’s spirited swagger. It is music to move body and soul.

‘One of Canada's premiere songwriters. With a voice like a clarion call she's one of our premiere singers, too.’ - Judith Lynch, CBC's First Play

Band Members