Michele Stephens
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Michele Stephens


Band Blues Singer/Songwriter


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"The Jazz Singer"

The Jazz singer:
Michele Stephens will release jazz and blues themed debut CD today

The Cape Breton Post

BADDECK — A versatile musician who plays everything from weddings to pubs to piano bars, Michele Stephens has never been afraid to try something new musically.
But jazz and blues have always been at the heart of her performances and it’s that which she wanted to showcase on her first CD.
The Baddeck singer-songwriter and pianist’s debut album, Bucket of Honey, is being officially released today and a CD release party will be held Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. at the Bras d’Or Yacht Club in Baddeck.
Stephens said she’s excited and proud of the CD — recorded at Coda Recording Studio in Sydney River with recording engineer Kim Lantz — and is anxious to get it out there.
“I’ve always wanted to put my music out there in a recorded way but at the same time, yeah, you’re nervous. I hope it’s well-received and I hope that people see that there is a good presence of blues and jazz artists on Cape Breton Island kind of working in the fringes. I have a lot of them on the album,” she said, noting guitarist Terry Edmunds from North Sydney, drummer John Hawkins, bass player Ed Woodsworth, as well as bassist Danick Clavel of Isle Madame, who hails from Switzerland but has been living and working here for years, all play on her CD.
In fact, it was Clavel who Stephens credits with encouraging her to perform her own original material more.
“Once I met Danick, she and I sort of linked up and created a duo with piano, bass and singing and really started playing originals,” said Stephens. “I’m so fortunate to have her as my co-musician. She knows no matter what, what we’re doing, what songs we’re playing. She has them internalized almost like I do.”
Bucket of Honey features 10 tracks, eight original and two covers.
“I describe it as jazzy with unique vocals and piano. I perform piano and singing on all the tracks. I love jazz and blues and I’ve tried to be unique about it where I don’t come out looking contrived. I want to have my own style as a jazz artist,” she said, noting she’s always looked up to strong female performs like Bette Midler, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Diana Krall and Holly Cole. “I used to always love the idea of Vonda Shepard on Ally McBeal, and stuff like that.”
Stephens has been involved in music since she was a young child and went on to study jazz music at St. Francis Xavier University. She travelled for a number of years after university, working and playing music abroad in places like Prague, Antigua and the West Indies. She returned home to Baddeck four years ago, eager to continue spreading her musical wings. She now maintains a home studio, teaches piano and music lessons, and manages the Yellow Cello Café, where she often performs.
Bucket of Honey will be available at the Yellow Cello Café and Blue Heron Gift Shop in Baddeck, at the Oct. 9 CD release party, in stores like HMV and Chapters across the country, as well as various online music stores in the coming weeks. Stephens noted she’s been working with Indie Pool, a Toronto-based company that supports independent artists in producing albums, to get her CD out there.
“For me to be able to say my original music is going to be available for sale coast to coast on iTunes, and online and internationally like that is just like ‘wow’,” she said.
In addition to her upcoming release party, Stephens also has a number of other gigs including Oct. 3 at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 in Baddeck, and at the Inverary Inn’s Thistledown Pub in Baddeck, Oct. 16.
For more about Stephens visit www.myspace.com/michelestephens.

- The Cape Breton Post

"Double Your Pleasure With C.d. from Michele Stephens and Linda Brooks"

The Cape Breton Post

Two distinct styles of music by two very talented female singers gives me two very good CDs to talk about. Both are creative in their approach: one soft and subtle, the other hot and smokey.
“Bucket of Honey” is the new release from Baddeck’s Michele Stephens. At times this CD reminds me of pianos played in smokey bars, savouring a rusty nail on ice. At other times it’s fine wine in front of a fireplace, a release after a hard day.
Her voice has a certain growl to it that creates an almost sensual sound in spots. She hints at hurt and anguish, perhaps best exemplified by her rendition of Tom Waits’ touching and dramatic “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis.” She rebounds with her own uplifting “Learnin’ How To Love You,” a bright and bubbly piece that should receive airplay on the right station. One cut on the CD did receive airplay this year. Her composition, “Red Letter Day,” served as the theme song for the festivities connected with the anniversary of the flight of the Sliver Dart.
Michele is a wonderful pianist and three of the cuts really showcase her talents on the ivories. “Ode to Helen Hill” is tranquillity itself, as is the quick little piece “Bucket of Honey — Bye.” On the other hand, her version of Dizzy Gillespie’s Birk’s Works is done more traditionally, with a perky and lighthearted swing to it that keeps you in the jazz mood.
The CD is beautifully presented, creative and colourful, highlighted by some of Carole Kennedy’s lovely photography. The production (done at Coda Recording Studio in Coxheath) is delightfully minimalist with no cut overburdened with anything to take away from the vocal or piano lead. Michele provides all the vocals, most of the writing and much of the music, with assistance here and there from people like Danick Clavel, Terry Edmunds, John Hawkins and Ed Woodsworth.

Both Michele Stephens and Linda Brooks are wonderful singers and both CDs are well worth noting. If you look, you should find both of them in the local area.
And speaking of Michele Stephens, she received a pair of nominations for the Independent Singer Songwriters Association Song Contest. Other Cape Bretoners nominated include Jason MacDonald and Carmel Mikol. Good luck to all of them.

Dan MacDonald (BA Celtic Studies, Cert. Heritage Studies) is a former Inverness County resident who now resides in the Sydney area. Involved in the Cape Breton music scene for more than 20 years, he operates his own company, Creignish Hills Entertainment. Contact him at creignish_hills@hotmail.com.
- Dan MacDonald

"CD Review- Bucket of Honey"

Michele Stephens- Bucket of Honey
Review by Suzy Miller
I have been listening to this jazz soaked CD for a number of weeks and it leaves me wondering why I have not spent more time in this world. Not only can this gal play the heck out of the piano but she can put the words to the music. This from the song "Royale Blue" "Someone should have told me the moat was full of serpents before I decided to dip in my toes" a real metaphor for a troubled relationship where there are no knights, no damsels. Terrific job!

To do this review Michele and I did an email interview back and forth, I will include some of it here.

SM: "Buckets of Honey" the title track which opens with the line "Life is sweet,such a treat" both opens and closes the CD, whats up with that?

MS: I have had many people ask me why the title track is so short and that they wished it was longer. My idea for tracks 1 and 10 was that it be an Intro/Outro to the album that created interest and left the listener wanting more - mission accomplished there but I should add that at my gigs I play the %#@! out of this and it always goes over very well. I wish I had maybe done a longer version of the Intro in hindsight but I still love both of the tracks as well.

SM:I know you wrote all but two of the songs on "Buckets of Honey" Why did you include covers?

MS: I chose to put two covers on my album and it was not because of a shortage of originals - I have lots of songs that didn't make Bucket of Honey. The Tom Waits was a deliberate choice and I love performing from the perspective the song implies: regretful, desperate, wistful, manipulative, romantic, raw etc. it's like character acting with the piano and voice intimately exploring and revealing the mindset of this hooker in jail!

Dizzy Gillespie "Birk's Works" was unplanned but we nailed it and buried the click on one take and it was so cookin'. Both covers are unconventional, obscure, lend real feel and mood - a shout out to my jazz background and what it's like to hear me live. The cover rights licensing process was a bit of a drag and I often said it would've been less hassle if I had not included the covers. I definitely have more to give to my audiences and listeners but I never want to sound like I am holding back. I am 100% committed to every song and every performance. I plan to make the next recording all original tunes and I will be focusing on choosing which of my songs come together best as an album and what I compose between then and now too!!

SM: I love what you have done with the Tom song, you have done him proud. I bet he listens to this cover. And what strikes me with the Dizzy song is the drums are up front and yet you have to pay attention to them as they flow so well. Great work on both.

MS: I am so humbled by your comments about the Tom Waits cover. He is a huge influence and I almost cut this track for various reasons. After great feedback from several musician friends, Tom fans and now you I am glad I kept it.

SM: It is understood that artists need to keep growing and evolving,and taking risks. And with that said, I wonder why you wrote "Right Away" with parts of it out of your range? And why you chose to put it on this album?

MS: "Right Away" is a song I wrote in 2005.... it is a highly requested tune and I generally get great feedback ... I love how it turned out with the Hammond etc. I do this song at every gig and it does take on a very sultry, smooth and great jam quality in a live setting. I have been listening to Right Away with great intensity and ... I feel like ... in the last choruses it is slightly strained.

I love the last line I sing and the last note - subjective opinion.

SM:Why is "Red Letter Day" a hidden track? It could have been up front as it is a real gift.

MS: I released the Red Letter Day earlier this year in commemoration of the centennial of the flight of the Silver Dart in 1909 over Baddeck Bay (my hometown). I received great exposure and airplay from the song and wanted to extend the life of this otherwise souvenir type song by including it on the album. I was slated to perform this song for l'Hon Michael Jean but the event was canceled due to inclement weather. It has been chosen as musical background for two films that are being made about the Silver Dart and I performed it live on local radio and t.v. I wanted it to be separate from the tracks on the album because of it's prior release but I wanted new fans to hear it as well.

SM: Red Letter Day is in your words "souvenir type song" NOT! I love it and am glad you put it on here and stand true to thinking it could have been more upfront, but am thankful for it at all.

This CD leaves me wondering if I am in a piano bar or at a intimate cocktail party, listening to an act I would expect to see on the main stage of the Montreal jazz festival and feeling so lucky she is playing for us. Thank you Michele for giving us your best.

I have left the last word for Michele

MS: I have cut my teeth as a performer playing in piano bars, lounges, hotels, weddings etc. and I really appreciate that you can hear this in my playing. I like to reach people's guts and evoke emotion from myself and the audience when I play. I was very scared that this would not translate in the studio.

"Life moves on and I set the Pace!"
- Suzy Miller- thesuzyygroup artist mgmt


Michele Stephens- Bucket of Honey- debut LP- Release date: September 23, 09
Michele Stephens- Red Letter Day- single- Release date: Feb.23, 09



Michele Stephens is a well known jazz pianist, vocalist, songwriter and indie recording artist from Cape Breton Island. She has been performing around the Maritimes and also internationally for many years as a solo act as well as with her own jazz duo and trio settings in piano bars, corporate gigs and venues that suit her musical style: a sultry torch singer who can play! "I am always working on my own sound vocally as well as improvising and accompanying on piano in a jazz style; adding my own inflections of Rickie Lee Jones meets Diana Krall, and edgy, unique tone" says the artist in her own words. Michele's debut solo album Bucket of Honey dropped in September 2009! It features original tracks as well as two remakes of tunes by Tom Waits and Dizzy Gillespie. Bucket of Honey has received extensive global airplay on radio stations such as: KanalJazz- Paris, France, Women of Substance Radio- California and CBC Radio Canada to name but a few. The song Red Letter Day was first released as a single (nominated for 2009 Folk/Roots song of the year by the Independent Acoustic Music Awards)received much buzz as the theme song of the 100th Anniversary of the flight of the Silver Dart in 2009 and Fuss (the debut single from Bucket of Honey) was named in the top songs submitted to Billboard song contests in 2009. Michele has also shared the stage with musical greats such as: Bill Cobham(Miles Davis), Bernard Purdy(Steely Dan), Carmine Appice(Vanilla Fudge), Denny Seiwell (Wings)- further strutting her musical prowess! Michele is currently working on her sophomore recording and hoping to release in late 2011 and will be playing all around Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia for a busy summer 2011 gig calendar.. Watch for Michele Stephens as she continues to leave a big impression on her audiences- jazz, blues and soul soaked!!