Article by: Chad Hutchings
Allow us to introduce you to Andy Brown.
With our official CMW showcase happening tonight, we're down to the wire on our introductions to the great acts we have lined up. Luckily, we have time for one last handshake, this time with New Brunswick native Andy Brown – arguably one of the nicest guys coming through the city this week.
With his third album Tinman rearing and ready to make its Canadian debut next month, its tracks are already in rotation around the world and getting the attention they deserve, including nominations for the International Songwriting competition (an honour that he's held twice before with his past work). No surprise, with two other albums under his belt, Brown's not new to the attention, with a resume shining with his fair share of accolaides and awards. Hell, we even had to steal him away from the East Coast Music Awards last week to punch in a little phone time. Lucky for us, he was more than willing to oblige and we got him talking about the new album, artistic sincerity and, well, cream sauces.
Sticky: so, this question is going to seem really Toronto-centric, but since you're coming here really soon, I'm going to go ahead and ask it anyway. Since you're situated in New Brunswick with a population that is much lower, do you find you have challenges with your career, being on the east coast instead of in one of the country's larger hubs?
Andy: Well living in a smaller area has its limitations, but everything is what you make of it. I try to spend as much time as I can touring through Toronto – I'm represented by The Agency Group which is based out of Toronto – and with social media, there's certainly a lot that you can do, given where you're at. That being said, you do miss out on opportunities that are offered. But the great thing about the east coast is that we have an amazing music scene here, so those opportunities come up and I'm able to fulfil those and connect with artists that are really growing and building into Ontario. Actually, I just got back off an Australian tour that I was able to secure just from living on the east coast and working up that pipeline. So, it's really what you make of it.
Sticky: I was actually going to ask you about that Australian tour. You just got back, and I see you have booking and management representation there. How did you throw yourself into Australia?
Andy: I met with a couple people here who have worked at the East Coast Music Awards and came as international delegates from Sydney, Geoff Trio and Josh Daly. They work very hard at building a pipeline between the east coast and Australia. A lot of the artists I've looked up to for a long time like The Trews and [Joel] Plaskett, Tim Chaisson, Matt Barber and Jill Barber, a lot of these artists have utilized this pipeline and went to Australia and had great success. So, I had the opportunity to meet them a few times and build a relationship with them and a girl named Chloe Goodyear who runs a folk festival in Australia called the Woodford Folk Festival (it is an amazing folk festival, they get about a hundred thousand people every year). The funny thing is, the one-on-one meetings I had with them went okay, but really where things progressed, as they often do, is from the smallest of moments, and mine came from buying them pizza with donair sauce on it that they'd never had before. Really, that was the moment that made them remember me from one year to the next, and the next year was the year that I actually signed. When they came back, the face time I spent with them discussing what donaire sauce actually was... it was the best twelve dollars I ever spent.
Sticky: Wow, I'd actually forgotten about donaire sauce on pizza! I'm from Newfoundland, and we used to get them all the time, but I haven't seen one in about a decade.
Andy: Do they even have them in Toronto?
Sticky: No, I'm pretty sure it's unheard of up here.
Andy: Oh, man, it's so good!
Sticky: I've gotten through it. So, you've done NXNW and CMW before, plus Indie Week. But this time you're not passing through on tour, just coming for the festival, is that right?
Andy: I'm actually just coming out for the show. I really love Canadian Music Week; I love the conference and it's great to get out there and spend some time with the wonderful friends and musicians I've developed relationships with. It's just the energy you get off of it, right? The best thing about a lot of these early festivals, including East Coast Music Week which is happening right now, is that they give you some energy that you can use constructively for the rest of the year. If they happened in maybe June or July, I'd kind of wish they'd happened earlier because I could use this momentum... I coulda used this refreshing new music in my ears and new friends and new opportunities a bit earlier. So CMW is a great opportunity. I've never played The Rivoli before either, so I'm really excited to showcase there, and I know North Lakes from PEI are playing, so I'll get to see some good friends.
Sticky: I hear you're working with a band a bit these days. Is that going to be a permanent fixture, or is that a backing arrangement you've just got going for now?
Andy: In the east coast, I do most of the shows with a band, but I do a little bit of theatre shows. The CMW show is just myself – that's the package I bring to Toronto. Normally it's two hired musicians, but typically the same ones. They play with a lot of great players - they play pick-up with other musicians like Tim Chaisson - so it's a lot of like-minded people who care about the music they're playing. With The Rivoli the way it is and with the new album coming out that's a bit folkier, I decided to bring a more intimate show to CMW.
Sticky: It's a good space for it, too. It's great for those solo, calmer sets.
Andy: It looks amazing. I mean, I love playing with a band and if I had it my way and if I had the finances to pay for the band to constantly be around, I'd die for it because I love that energy. One of my favourite things to do is to sing loud and to rock, because I've been influenced by bands like Big Sugar and The Trews, but one of my inversely favourite things to do is to really try to let people know what you're saying, have everybody listen to the lyrics, and take whatever emotions they're able to walk away with.
Sticky: You spoke about the new album – your third. When can we expect to see it drop?
Andy: Well it's actually available in Australia, and it's out in Canada in the middle of April. I just waited on getting a few things in order and made sure I ran a presale with some cool packages. I wanted to add a couple of extra, unique things to those packages, so I held off a bit. I'm really excited about it, and the title track was nominated for the International Songwriting Competition. It's an album that means a lot to me, because it speaks about everything I was going through while writing it; it's about reaching a breaking point and finding your way back and it holds a lot of personal things that happened in and around the album. I don't typically listen back through my records after they're done because I just nitpick, but this one in particular I'm really proud of, and listening back to it brings up some very real and very deep emotions. So hopefully everybody can feel that I meant every word I said on the record.
Sticky: Do you think this one is more reflective of your real feelings than the last two?
Andy: For sure. I invested a lot of time into making sure that every word mattered. I mean, it's not like they didn't on the last one, but obviously, through the evolution of a songwriter, the more you work at something, the better you get. And I felt on this record I really had something I wanted to say and I had a lot of messages outside of love and companionship that I wanted to deliver about never losing hope and never giving up. I think those are things a lot of people struggle with, myself included. Not getting down on yourself and remembering that every day is a new day. When I went into it, with the songs that I had... well, I can't wait for everyone to hear it, essentially. It's the story of where I'm at in my own life, and so it's an anthem that I hope people can connect with and will enjoy for a long time to come. Putting out a record is one of the hardest things to do, because once it comes out, that's it forever. Once it's in the plastic, there's no going back on it.
If you just can't wait for his set tonight, pacify yourself with the links to his work below and, if there's still a little daylight to burn, check out his CMW profile.