ivy mairi
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ivy mairi

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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"Review in Exclaim! magazine"

Ivy Mairi
Well You
By Vish Khanna

With a devastatingly rich voice and "wise beyond her years" writing chops, Ivy Mairi is poised to break a lot of hearts with her music. Just out of her teens, Mairi was raised in a musical family on Toronto Island, where she eventually became enamoured with folk music. The songs on her Michael Timmins-produced debut showcase a powerful voice, whose force is bolstered by tasteful old-fashioned imagery about life and love, and a plaintive acoustic guitar with carefully arranged instrumental adornments. There are lovely melodies throughout: "Down" features a dramatic vocal take whose intensity increases from verse to verse and "I Watched You Reading" is teasingly sweet, with Mairi playing around with phrasing like an expert. While "This Quiet Heart" is cutesy and tender, Mairi's interpretation of Clarence Ashley's recording of "The Coo Coo Bird" — called "The Cuckoo" here — is fraught with pain and emotion. That old world of folk songs is a wonderful muse for Ivy Mairi and her amalgam of styles suits her voice perfectly on Well You. (Latent) - Exclaim! Canada (February 2008 issue)

"Belleville Intelligencer Reviews Well You"

Saturday February 16, 2008
review by David Reed

Ivy Mairi - Well You
(Latent Recordings, 2007)

Ivy Mairi grew up on the peaceful oasis of Ward’s Island which is a brief ferry ride from downtown Toronto. She began singing with her mother and sister as a small child, and at the tender age of nineteen she completed her first album of original music.

What makes Ivy truly special is the timelessness of her voice. In an age of Canadian Idol wannabes and shameless vocal acrobatics, Ivy Mairi is an old soul with a pure heart. The songs on Well You were mostly written in her final two years of high school, yet she has a depth and maturity of someone twice her age.

Well You was produced and recorded by Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, and features an all-star cast of Toronto musicians including Jeff Bird (bass), Peter Elkas (guitar), Peter Timmons drums), Anne Bourne (cello) and the hidden gem of Canadian music – Lewis Melville on pedal steel.

Highlights include Down, Daffodil, the delicate She Said, The Rest of My Life, This Quiet Heart and the romping sing-along title track. Two charming traditional songs are also included – Every Night When the Sun Goes Down and the Cuckoo.

Ivy Mairi also lent her voice to a few tracks on the duo album Dark Hollow by Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson of the Skydiggers. Her haunting harmonies gave a ghostly quality to the songs.

Watch for this rising young talent. In the coming years Ivy Mairi will surely take her place among the great female vocalists in Canada.
- Belleville Intelligencer

"Junkies take sweet, sweet Ivy under wing"

Twice a year, just a 10-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto, the people of Ward's Island strut and turn and look a little "silly" as they try their feet at square dancing.
About 100 of the 900 who live on Toronto Island, both young and old, have been showing up for the past couple of years at the event organized by 19-year-old songstress Ivy Mairi and her friend Maeve.
Now, Mairi's sweet, gentle vocals on her folk-influenced pop debut, Well You, sound more fitting for a lazy stroll through a park than a hoedown. But the square dance is just Mairi's way of getting the small, tight-knit island community to come together and have some fun.
"The square dancing's kind of a joke," she laughs. "But everyone is so bad at it together ... no one worries about looking stupid because everyone looks stupid."
Mairi, who grew up on Ward's Island, says the community's support has helped her as she takes the first steps away from singing at island fundraisers to doing shows in the city. Clearly the island's peaceful nature has influenced her music.
Mairi, who will be starting her bachelor of arts at Montreal's McGill University in the fall, grew up in a house filled with instruments – including a piano, a banjo and two accordions – and with a mom, Kathleen McDonnell, who loves to play and sing.
She began writing her own music about four years ago, after looking through her mother's old folk music song books. She wrote melodies to the lyrics she'd found before she began to write her own material.
Most of the 12 songs on her debut, released in June and available for Internet purchase and sampling at latentrecordings.com, were written in her final two years at Northern Secondary School.
Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies took notice of her in 2005 after cellist Anne Bourne told Timmins he should hear her.
"Literally, within two bars of her singing, I was just `oh my God,'" Timmins recalls. "I love her approach to a song."
Timmins signed Mairi to the Junkies' label, Latent Recordings, and produced Well You.
"I wanted to record her and capture her at this moment in her hopefully long career, when she's fresh and bursting with ideas," says Timmins. After the album was supposedly in the can, Mairi kept coming into the studio with new songs "and they just kept bumping out old songs," says Timmins.
Mairi will open for the Junkies at the Courthouse on Tuesday and later precedes Edie Brickell on the Mod Club stage on July 12.
Her music, focused on vocals that float at your eardrums like a lake breeze, wouldn't be out of place in a coffee shop, and sounds like something to put on with a cup of tea before bedtime.
Timmins says that in Mairi he hears "Mary Margaret O'Hara a little bit (and) Patty Griffin, but she's got a very unique songwriting style."
Mairi herself names folk and blues musicians Leadbelly, Nick Drake and Van Morrison among her favourite musicians, and says she thinks of her own songs as "good listening music."
Mairi always keeps a sketchbook with her to scribble down songs as they start forming in her head, which often happens late at night and seemingly out of the blue.
"There've been times where I've sat down and tried to write something in a certain style," she says. "But those songs end up being the ones that I don't want to play.
"The ones I end up liking, like the ones on the record, they just happen, sort of all at once."
- Toronto Star, July 01 2007

"No Depression feature"

Ivy Mairi: Missing the Ferry

At the southern end of Toronto, where the metropolis meets Lake Ontario, there sits a small chain of islands known to locals simply as the Island. There you can find sailing clubs, public parks, a hobby farm, and on the easternmost island in the chain, Ward’s Island - a community of quaint houses and close-knit neighbours. There are no cars on Ward’s Island and precious little commercial activity, just a verdant oasis ten minutes by ferry from city bustle.
This village-within-a-city has been the lifelong home of Ivy Mairi Farquhar-McDonnell, who at 19 has recently relocated to Montreal, where she’s studying at McGill University and adjusting to faster-paced student living in a dense urban neighbourhood. "It has been pretty weird not to have all the space," she says. "On the island, I would ride my bike down to this nice beach at the other end, every day, just to think about stuff. Here, I am always in transit, running off to other places."
How this change of environment and circumstance might affect ivy’s music remains to be seen, but the essence of her unique background is captured on Well You, a debut made when Mairi was barely 17. The twelve songs reveal a blossoming talent that reflects a youthful wonder of discovery and an ageless sadness and uncertainty. There’s nothing cloying or cute about her music; it sounds like what it is - instinctive artistry captured in its gestational phase.
Mairi was schooled on piano but switched to guitar in her mid-teens, then discovered her mom’s book of folk songs, Rise Up Singing. "Sometimes I would change the chords and I would make up melodies," she says. Well You includes two such adapted songs, "Every Night when the Sun Goes in" and "The Cuckoo" - the latter reinvented from its usual rollicking arrangement into a morose folk dirge. "That eased me into writing my own things and made me comfortable making up things," she says.
At 15, she undertook a school project on the folk process. "I talked about Pete Seeger and adapting songs, and songs belonging to everyone," she says. "i talked about how Weird Al Yankovic and parodies and sampling are part of the folk process." She also began performing Cat Stevens and Van Morrison numbers at Island charitable events and busking in Toronto, developing a wrenching vocal style that can seem at odds with her exuberance.
A neighbour on the Island, cellist Anne Bourne, who has played with a host of Canadian acts including Jane Siberry, Blue Rodeo, Sloan and Cowboy Junkies, heard her and took her to meet the Junkies’ Michael Timmins. Mairi had never recorded herself and certainly had never been in a recording studio. When Timmins offered her headphones, she wasn’t sure what to do with them.
"I was so scared," she recalls. "I had no idea if my songs sounded good or not." She performed Pete Seeger’s "One Grain of Sand" and her own "Please Let Me Get It", which includes these lines: "All I own are a few songs and myself/And who would listen to a fool like me...I just feel so old sometimes." Hard to believe, but as she delivered those weary lyrics, she was 16 years old.
Mairi recalls that Timmins’ initial response was subdued: "I think he said my songs were interesting." But Timmins confesses he was immediately taken. "Quite literally within a couple of seconds, I fell in love with her music. It was that instantaneous and that simple," he recalls.
Over th next year, Mairi kept writing, Timmins kept recording, and together they made Well You. The deftness of her burgeoning songwriting was an ongoing surprise and delight for Timmins. The unique covers and reinventions of folk standards were gradually supplanted from the record’s runing order by newer and better originals.
On one of those originals, "Down", she sings: "Down to the bottom of my coffee cup/But I promise I will leave a drop/But if you get there before it dries/I’ll be surprised." "I would listen back and go ’There are some amazing turns of phrase in there,’" says Timmins. "It comes from appreciating and listening to all the traditional music. She really knows how important the right words can be."
The key was to take the intimacy of her songs and draw them out with additional instrumentation - strings, xylophone, harmonica, unsettling stabs of guitar. "It was a bit of a tightrope, a delicate thing," Timmins says. "I didn’t want to lose that thing of her sitting on her bed singing to you."
Mairi says the notion of musical accompaniment for her songs was not something that came naturally to her, "I wasn’t able to think about arrangements at the time," she recalls. "Now, when I write, I do think about parts. But then, it was so weird to imagine anything playing under me."
The result has drawn favorable comparisons to, among others, doomed British singer Nick Drake, but also ome puzzlement about Mairi’s youth.
"I hear my voice as my voice," she shrugs. "I’m not upset by people talking about my age because...that how old I am. I like being 19, too. I wouldn’t want to pretend i’m not."

- Paul Cantin - No Depression magazine


Well You (2007), produced by Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies)

Yet Will I be Merry: Carols and Songs of the Season (2008), by kith&kin



Ivy Mairi grew up on Ward’s Island, which is a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto. She grew up in a musical family, and her home was often filled with the traditional music of the British Isles, and America that her mother loved so much. As a young teenager, she would make up melodies for the lyrics she found in her mother’s songbooks. This led Ivy to begin writing her own lyrics, too, and in 2007, she completed her first album, Well You, with Mike Timmins of Cowboy Junkies as producer. She released the album in June 2007 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, 13 days after her 19th birthday.

Well You is folk music and it is pop music. Ivy sings new and old songs. Her natural affinity for the music of Appalachia and the British Isles influences the contemporary songwriting of this heartfelt and joy-carrying young woman. Ivy’s songs combine her knowledge of traditional music with her pop sensibility and love of experimentation.

Currently living and performing in Toronto with her new trio – voice, guitars, double bass, and mandolin - she is getting ready to head into the studio to record her new album in winter 2011!

In December 2008, Ivy released the holiday album Yet Will I be Merry with kith&kin, a vocal trio she performs in with her mother and sister. Ivy also performs with Toronto’s 11-member gospel-rock outfit Bruce Peninsula, and has performed live with cellist Anne Bourne. She has been a happy participant in many of A Man Called Wrycraft’s series at Hugh’s Room. Ivy also moonlights as a square dance caller.

"I have been introduced to a lot up and coming artists over the past twenty years, but none have excited or impressed me as much as Ivy Mairi. Ivy�s voice, songs and interpretive skills are extraordinary: another welcome addition to that long line of quality Canadian singer-songwriters."

- Michael Timmins, Cowboy Junkies

"The twelve songs reveal a blossoming talent that reflects a youthful wonder of discovery and an ageless sadness and uncertainty. This music sounds like what it is - instinctive artistry captured in its gestational phase."

- Paul Cantin on Well You in No Depression Magazine (March-April 2008)

"With a devastatingly rich voice and "wise beyond her years" writing chops, Ivy Mairi is poised to break a lot of hearts with her music."

- Vish Khana, Exclaim! Magazine (February 2008)