Open Mind
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Open Mind

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""Over Oceans" nominated for Hamilton Music Award 2010"

"Over Oceans" nominated for the best Female Adult Alternative Recording of the Year - Hamilton Music Awards


"Ain't no ocean wide enough"

In the Internet age, not even 16,200 kilometres can separate close musical friends.

Chantal Chamberland and Cynthia Kerr were even able to write and record an album together while they were that far apart.

Which is why the title of the first Open Mind CD in 16 years makes a whole lot of sense.

It's called Over Oceans. The pair had gained a national audience in the early '90s as a harmonizing folk-duo called Open Mind through the single Give Us Back the Night. The song, written to protest violence against women, took on anthemic proportions after the Dec. 6 Montreal massacre.

In 1995, Open Mind split up when Kerr moved to start a new life as a nurse in Australia. Chamberland stayed in Hamilton, embarking on a new career as a jazz singer. The parting was amicable and the two stayed in touch.

Last year, a friend suggested the pair reunite to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the recording of Give Us Back the Night.

It made sense.

The two started talking long distance, usually over the Internet. Chamberland started to work out new arrangements of the old songs in the studio of her Dundas home. The harmonies, in particular, were important to get right. They started singing them together over the live Internet video system Skype.

Kerr hadn't performed in public or written a song since Open Mind had last performed at La Luna in Hamilton on Feb. 11, 1995. Not long after they had started the Skype sessions, however, the songs started flowing from Kerr's pen. What started out as just a reunion concert was now turning into a CD of mostly new songs.

"We started working on our old material, then it all came back, bang, and I started writing," Kerr explains. "I always write songs with Chantal's voice in my head. It's never my own. It's always hers."

As the songs progressed, Chamberland started to record bed tracks with drummer Danny Lockwood and bassist Mark McIntyre at Grant Avenue Studios in downtown Hamilton. With the help of Grant Avenue co-owner Bob Doidge and sound engineer Amy King, Chamberland would then transmit the recordings to Kerr's home near Melbourne, Australia. Kerr would then take the recording in to her own studio with an Australian sound engineer and record her vocals over it. The process continued until 11 tracks were completed, all but two previously unrecorded.

Time zone differences -- Melbourne is 14 hours ahead of Hamilton -- presented some problems especially during the sound mixing.

"It would become crazy especially at crunch time when we were finalizing everything," Chamberland recalls. "I'd have to be up at about two in the morning to about seven (a.m.) for when Cynthia was at home back from work."

Kerr arrived in Hamilton two weeks ago to begin rehearsing for the upcoming Open Mind reunion show Saturday at the Westside Concert Theatre. Chamberland met her at the airport. It was the first time the two had been together in 10 years.

"She came running down the concourse at me," Kerr said about their meeting at the airport. "She nearly knocked me over."

The next day they started singing together in Chamberland's Dundas studio. The harmonies came back instantaneously.

"Fifteen years of not singing together and then just picking up where we left off," Chamberland says. "It was amazing."

For the concert, the pair will use the same backing musicians as on the record. Doidge will help out on percussion and King will add keyboards and backing vocals.

Kerr was looking forward to meeting the band she had recorded with but had never met.

"I haven't met Bob, Amy, Danny or Mark," Kerr laughs. "I've seen them on Skype, but I haven't met them in person."

The Open Mind CD will be available on iTunes as well as on the group's website -- openmindtunes.com -- which will open the day of the concert. Currently, the duo has only one other appearance lined up -- an acoustic show without the band at One Duke pub on July 10.

Kerr took a leave of absence from her job in Australia for the concert and returns home in mid-July. The pair has not ruled out the idea of more Open Mind shows, however.

Perhaps, even over an ocean.

"We're looking at the possibility of booking festivals in Australia," Kerr says.

grockingham@thespec.com
- The Hamilton Spectator (Jun 23, 2010)


"Sarah McLachlan"

"The kind of music they play is sensitive. It's a higher class of music. They have great songs and their voices are very beautiful." - Quote


""There is a magical chemistry between the voices of Chantal Chamberland and Cynthia Kerr.""

"Their voices ring out with some of the sweetest harmonies this side of the border."

- Nick Krewen - Hamilton Spectator


""Imagine Simon and Garfunkel at their best:"

"Imagine Simon and Garfunkel at their best: put a female voice and consciousness to that and you'll realise that these women are good - nay great!" - Walter Cordery - Nanaimo Daily Press


"Spirit of the West"

"Excellent grooves, voices, songs. Great material, performances and personas." - Hugh MacMillan


"RPM Magazine"

"The music and lyrics have no barriers, crossing easily into folk, rock and pop."
- RPM Magazine


"Harmonies and Excellence"

"Together their harmonies and excellence on both six-string and twelve-string acoustic guitars enchant the attentive listeners non-stop through the night." - Jean Tomczak - The Expositor


"It's an inspired thing"

"It's all right there in the vocals. It's an inspired thing when two voices so well matched find one another." - Montreal Gazette


""Open Mind, two of the sweetest voices in Canada.""

. - Ann Rohmer - City TV


"Open Mind Live At the Westside"

It was hot. Scorching hot.

A standing room only crowd had filled the Westside Concert Theatre on June 26 for the long-awaited Open Mind concert reunion in the Steel City where it all began, Hamilton (also known among music circles as “the Hammer”).

When singer/songwriters Chantal Chamberland and Cynthia Kerr walked onto the stage to a standing ovation, the humid Southern Ontario summer night was quickly forgotten as the popular duo kicked into their fan favourite “Lions Den”.

“I don’t know why I spent three hours on hair and make-up when it’s all wrecked after three seconds onstage,” joked Chamberland after their opening number. “And why did I wear leather pants? What was I thinking?”

The onstage bantering between Chamberland and Kerr is as fresh and entertaining as it was when the folk-rock duo first took the local music scene by storm in 1989 with their anti-violence against women anthem “Give Us Back The Night”.

In the early 1990s, Open Mind was a popular fixture across North America on the folk festival and college campus circuit, and even secured an opening spot on the Western Canada leg of Sarah McLachlan’s Solace Tour. But Open Mind disbanded in 1995 when Kerr relocated to Australia. Although the duo continued to do some songwriting collaborations as Chamberland branched off into a successful, solo jazz career, they hadn’t performed together in years.

Then last fall, they started recording songs over Skype, Garageband and in separate home studios and sending each other’s parts by courier. It was a challenge with time zones, different seasons and schedules, but a process that proved fruitful with the creation of a new CD.

Old meets new

During their first live show in 15 years, Open Mind skillfully performed a collection of songs from their previously released CDs – The Stones We Carry, Suspect Terrain and Live at La Luna – including “What Are We To Do”, “This Much”, “Heartbeat” and “Touch The Water” – along with a number of new songs from their recently released 20- year anniversary CD Over Oceans. Highlights included “Open Hands”, “Why”, “Telephone” “Londontown” and “Hope You Know”.

Joined by producer/guitarist Bob Doidge, drummer Danny Lockwood, keyboardist Amy King and bassist Mark McIntyre, Open Mind re-arranged several old favourites like “Mississippi River”, “Wishful Thinking”, “One More Night” and “Space In My Heart” with funky rhythms, pulsating bass lines, and beautifully layered harmonies.
But newfound and long-time fans were particularly mesmerized when the duo stripped their sound down to the basics – their old roots – with just guitars and vocals.

And concertgoers got a special treat when Chamberland sat behind the piano and Kerr took centre stage for powerful renditions of “Don’t Let Me Down”, and their debut performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the encore.

While getting settled on her piano stool and rearranging the microphone for “Hallelujah”, Chamberland realized she had left her glass of wine on a table across the stage. She looked pleadingly at Kerr, who hilariously looked out at the audience, rolled her eyes and said, “Here we go again, just like old times,” as she sauntered over to deliver the glass of wine to Chamberland, to the crowd’s delight.

Open Mind’s timeless appeal is largely due to their songwriting content – they write about relationships, politics, social events, love affairs gone well or gone wrong – songs everyone can relate to. But the duo’s affable onstage presence draws the crowd into their inner circle, making each person feel like he or she is sitting in their living room having a drink and being serenaded in an intimate environment with a bunch of old friends.

“This is such an emotional night for us,” announced Kerr, “thank you all so much for coming.”

Open Mind left the stage the same way they entered – to enthusiastic applause, whistles and a standing ovation.

Watch for more surprises from this dynamic duo in the months to come, as they’ve already recorded several tracks for a follow-up release.

Over Oceans is available through CD Baby Open Mind and iTunes. - open mind website


Discography

Give Us Back The Night - single 1990
The Stones We Carry - LP CD 1991
Suspect Terrain - LP CD 1993
Live At La Luna - LP CD 1994
Over Oceans - LP CD 2010

Photos

Bio

Popular acoustic duo Open Mind reunites for 20-year Anniversary

The title of Open Mind’s brand new CD, Over Oceans, is indeed a fitting one. Overcoming the tyranny of distance with the aid of modern technology, singer/songwriters Cynthia Kerr and Chantal Chamberland have again paired their formidable talents.

Creating Over Oceans involved eight months of recording on two different continents, numerous webcam meetings, and the dedication of countless hours to late-night collaborations on Skype and Garageband. The happy result of these labors is the first Open Mind CD in 16 years. Released in time to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their successful debut in Hamilton's burgeoning music scene, Over Oceans features reworked versions of some of the duo’s most popular songs alongside several new songs.

“Once we started collaborating again, the songs took on a life of their own,” says Kerr, who resides in Australia. “It’s very exciting, and we’ve been having a lot of fun working together again.” Chamberland concurs, explaining that “As soon as the process started, the lyrics and music poured out of us like we were on songwriting steroids. We have so many Open Mind songs that we couldn’t fit them all onto this CD. In fact, we have enough material to record another one, which we plan to do this summer while Cynthia’s in Canada for the CD release concert.”

Over Oceans was launched June 26 at Hamilton’s Westside Concert Theatre. For this highly-anticipated 20th anniversary show, Cynthia and Chantal were joined by Dan Lockwood (drums), Mark McIntyre (bass), Amy King (keyboards), and Bob Doidge (guitar/percussion).

Some of the musical arrangements on the “old favourites” appearing on Over Oceans add a contemporary edge to their renowned folk-rock mix, with beautiful layers of harmonies and haunting vocal effects. “I would describe the new sound of Open Mind as ‘contemporary singer-songwriter’ with some of the tunes possessing a pop twist,” explains Chantal.

Originally from St-Lambert, Québec, Chamberland had, post Open Mind, gone on to a successful solo career as a contemporary jazz artist. “I am so fulfilled by my musical endeavours in the contemporary jazz genre that I didn’t think I was looking for anything else, musically speaking,” she says. “But when I put my 12-string guitar on and got into it, it was like getting my musical ya-ya’s going. I could only compare the feeling to when you’re on a rollercoaster and you’re at the top of the hill anticipating the first dip.”

“The sound that evolved while we worked together on this project is best described as ‘edgy yet ethereal’,” adds Kerr, a Cambridge, Ontario native. “Our voices have matured, and I think the creative freedom of recording at home – any time of the day – also made us more uninhibited with both the musical and vocal arrangements.”

In the beginning...

The story of how songwriters Cynthia Kerr (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Chantal Chamberland (lead vocals, 12-string guitar) met is legendary in their old stomping ground – Hamilton, Ontario.

It was an early morning in the summer of 1987, when Kerr overheard her new neighbour playing guitar and singing on her front porch. A quick introduction and some jamming ensued – and Open Mind was born.

A popular fixture in Southern Ontario in the early-1990s, Open Mind’s career crossed borders even back then. In their heyday, the duo performed at Nashville’s renowned Bluebird Café, headlined at several Canadian folk festivals, toured college campuses across North America, and shared concert stages with the likes of Junkhouse, Crash Vegas, Spirit of the West, and the Barenaked Ladies. Open Mind was also invited to open the Ontario and West Coast legs of Sarah McLachlan’s Solace Tour.

But perhaps their most celebrated contribution to the Canadian music industry was the 1990 release of their video-single “Give Us Back The Night”, a protest anthem about violence against women, which was quickly embraced by women across the country after the Montréal Massacre on December 6, 1990. The song catapulted Open Mind into the national media spotlight, with appearances on Global TV, City TV, MuchMusic, CBC Radio, and high-profile interviews with respected journalists Vicki Gabereau and Peter Gzowski. "Give Us Back The Night" has been recently elevated to Anthem-status in Canada and appears in the newly published folk history book "With Knowing Eyes - Canadian Women in Song".

The duo released three CDs – The Stones We Carry (1991), Suspect Terrain (1993), and Live At La Luna (1994) – before disbanding when Kerr moved to Australia on a new adventure.

Chamberland branched off into the world of jazz, releasing four critically acclaimed solo CDs – including her most recent The Other Woman which debuted in the Top 10 at Canadian jazz radio. She’s also earned several industry award nominations, secured a licensing deal in South East Asia, and has performed three times as a mainstage artis