This week I chat with Indigenous singer Carsen Gray, who hails from Haida Gwaii. She won the award for “Best New Artist” presented by SiriusXM, at the Indigenous Music Awards earlier this year and is about to release some brand new music in the coming weeks.
The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.
It’s rare these days to see the heritage of properties and venues across the city of Toronto being preserved. However, when Rexall decided to open up their new flagship store in Toronto’s iconic Brunswick House, they made sure to not only preserve but also celebrate the venue’s musical past.
The Brunswick House is without a doubt one of the coolest landmarks in Toronto. What initially started off as a saloon in 1874, evolved into many things over the years including a hotel, a dance hall, a jazz and blues place as well as a concert venue and bar more recently.
I have a personal connection with this iconic place, as Brunswick was the first street I lived on when I first moved to Toronto back in 2009. I frequented the Brunswick House on several occasions for drinks and to watch hockey games during my first couple of years in the city. What I did not know is just how much musical history there was in that building.
“The Brunny” as locals like to call, served as a concert venue for heavy hitters such as Etta James, Buddy Guy, Gordon Lightfoot and even Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey. Artifacts, instruments and old gig posters from these concerts are all featured in the music exhibit and memorabilia collection currently on display inside the Rexall.
In addition to preserving these items, Rexall worked closely with the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Service to restore the building’s outdoor façade and many interior elements that made this place so unique, such as the chandeliers, the tin ceiling, signage and the infamous keg barrel bar. All have been included in the drugstore’s new design.
Rexall‘s new flagship store will offer residents of the Harbord Village and surrounding area high-quality health services and personalized health experiences. There will also be a health centre, which will include a family physician and walk-in clinic in addition to providing drugstore and pharmacy products all under one roof.
Make your way over to the new Rexall store to check out the Rexall Brunswick House Music Artifacts Exhibition before it moves to its permanent home at Calgary’s Studio Bell in 2018.
The new Rexall flagship is located at 481 Bloor St. West in Toronto.
This article was written in collaboration with Rexall but all opinions are my own.
Listening to good tunes while doing a road trip is a must! Prior to leaving on this travel adventure, I was still working full-time in the music industry. Immediately after I left my network television gig I was in need of a “music detox” from the 10+ years I spent working in the music biz.
Living in an Escape Campervan these past two months has reignited my love for music. Driving around has allowed me to discover great new artists and has opened my mind and heart up again for music. Though I will no longer be pursuing a career in the industry, I’m happy to be reconnecting with music as “fan” instead of a critic.
I have decided to share with you today some of the songs that have been playing in the Escape Campervan these past couple of weeks in hopes that you might also discover something new!
Speaking of enjoying music, I’m doing a giveaway on my Instagram profile right now that allows you to win a brand new LG Bluetoothspeaker! You can check it out here.
It’s officially festival season and when you work in music like I have been for the past 10+ years, it’s basically like Christmas or your favorite time of year. Festival season is a great time to be outdoors, hang out with friends and also discover new music.
Growing up, I would save all the money I would make working at camp to be able to buy Vans Warped Tour tickets or outdoor concert tickets. When I started working in music and started obtaining media passes, I was so incredibly stoked to be able to spend my summers traveling across North America at some of the raddest music festivals. Some of the most memorable festivals that I attended were Festival d’été de Québec, the inaugural Osheaga festival and going on tour with Vans Warped Tour for a couple of dates.
These days festival season also means festival fashion. Come to think of it, I would always pre-plan my festival outfits even as a teen. I would pick out my favorite pair of skate shoes, pants, tee and accessories. I guess not much has changed over the years, except for the actual clothes I wear to a festival have evolved quite a bit 😉
If I were to put together my favorite festival outfit for this year, this would be it! Dressing for a cause is also pretty cool. I love incorporating a few TOMS pieces into my festival wardrobe. Their One for One policy of giving back makes me feel good about wearing these pieces. For each eyewear purchased, sight is restored for a person in need and for each pair of shoes purchased, a pair of shoes is given to a child in need.
My week started slow as I was out of the country and on vacation for a few days. Though I didn’t do much running in Miami, I did do a lot of swimming and also wake surfed, which was a really good workout in itself. Because of my travels, I unfortunately missed my first run with the #betterforit ladies training group last Monday morning. The weather in Toronto this past week has been less than inspirational for running, with it being so cold and rainy. It did get better as of Friday, so I kicked my runs into high gear by going for a speed run on Friday evening, running 7k and accomplishing my fastest ever 5k under 26mins! Not going to lie, the special doorstep delivery I got from NRC on Friday night was a good weekend motivation! I also ran another 5k on Saturday and 11k on this beautiful Sunday in SHORTS!! Wohoo!
How I’m feeling:
I don’t know if it was the change in weather between Miami and Toronto or just the fact that most of the week was cold and damp, I felt like I was battling some sort cold or virus. I’ve been doing everything in my power – getting sleep, getting my vitamins, drinking lot’s of fluids and eating healthy, to make sure that I don’t get sick. Otherwise, I don’t have any noticeable aches and pains this week.
What I learned:
–Good socks are a necessity! I’ve been testing out these cool new socks from Stable 26, that were designed specifically for running. They help with stability and comfort in your shoes while also enhancing function in the lower leg, including knees and ankles. One thing I’ve noticed, is that they don’t give me blisters. Most of the socks I’ve been wearing when I run, tend to rub on my toes and the palm of my feet, giving me blisters if I run for a while, but these ones don’t. I also definitely feel very comfortable in them and feel like the little silicone pads they’ve added keep my feet from slipping around in my shoes. Now I just need to get a few more pairs for training!
–Incorporating juices and getting lot’s of hydration is really important. I tend to not drink very much before I run, especially if I’m going for a shorter distance and especially if I run not too long after I wake up in the morning. I realized though that I should probably drink a bit during and a lot after my run. This week, I got a doorstep delivery from CEDAR Juice, and after learning what I did from Ashley through my 5 Questions With interview (read it here, if you haven’t already!), I’m realizing that I should make sure to drink a lot more, and strategically, in order to give me body all the proper nutrients before, during and after the run. It will help with endurance, recuperation and energy overall.
–My body craves lot’s of protein after runs. For the first time ever last week, before I left for Miami, my boyfriend challenged me to run 15k with him. It was both our first time ever running that distance and I have to say it wasn’t that easy. What I also realized is that after a long run, my body craves SO MUCH protein. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, but it seems to be one of the only things my body wants after a longer run. My go-to post-run meal has been the Nonna’s Frittata at the Drake Hotel, it’s the yummiest and always makes me feel so good!
Looking for some extra motivation for your upcoming training week? The super talented DJ FeelGoodSmalls, is releasing a series of motivational mixes for runners and gym go’ers leading up to the Nike Women 15k race in June. Her first instalment entitled The Start-Up, has just been released. Read about her inspiration behind the mix and get a free download here. Her 45-minute mix is also available to stream on Soundcloud here. Stay tuned for 4 other mixes coming soon!
Pink, Cher and Moby are just some of the artists superstar bassist Eva Gardner has played with thus far in her career. I first saw the Los Angeles native play bass on Pink’s DVD Funhouse tour that came out a couple of years ago. I then saw her play on several television shows and became captivated with her effortlessly cool playing style. Eva not only shreds bass but also looks great while doing so. Recently, she has also been writing a lot of songs on her own and hopes to release her own record in the near future. I’m extremely honored she agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her career and style. Here are my 5 Questions With Eva Gardner:
1) When did you start playing bass? What drew you to this instrument?
My father, Kim Gardner, was a bass player. He was from London and part of the British Invasion of the 60s and 70s. He played in bands like The Birds, The Creation and Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. Dad always had his musician friends over at the house when I was growing up – guys like Mick Taylor and Ron Wood hanging out, playing music, laughing and just having a blast. Dad was always telling me stories about his adventures touring as a musician – playing with bands like the Who and Deep Purple…sitting in on jam sessions with Jimi Hendrix. I remember calling myself a bass player before I even really knew what that meant. When I was in 2nd grade I sat in my Dad’s studio with some school friends and told them I was a bass player like Dad. I went to lift one of his basses and it was so heavy I think I just kinda dragged it along the floor! It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I really actively pursued playing. I was writing songs and performing shows with my first band by the age of 13.
2) Can you talk to us about your style evolution from your teens until now? How would you describe your style today?
Dad and his friends essentially got me started playing bass so I was very influenced by the music of his generation – Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, Led Zeppelin, etc. As a teenager in the 90s, I was listening to bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins. So my musical experiences at that time had been mostly in the rock/alternative genre.
After 2 years at an all-girl Catholic high school, I decided I wanted to take my music career further. I auditioned for the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) and it was the best decision I ever made. I became part of the jazz band there and had many live performances in a big band setting. I was exposed to and playing various genres like Latin jazz, salsa, blues, progressive rock, reggae and African percussion. We studied different types of Classical music and performed pieces in our guitar ensemble. It was an unparalleled experience.
After LACHSA, I went on to study Ethnomusicology at UCLA. I continued formal music courses but was playing different instruments in world music ensembles – for instance, I was playing Balinese music in the Balinese gamelan and playing upright bass in the Middle Eastern orchestra. As an Ethnomusicology major I was exposed to so many different kinds of music from around the globe.
I was playing with the Mars Volta while I was finishing up college and it was such an amazingly creative time for me. It was like I had learned all these rules in school and now it was time to break them or use them or whatever I felt I needed to do to express myself. I like to look at everything I’ve learned in school and on the road as tools in my toolbox – to use if and when I need them. I am grateful that I have had all these various experiences because I believe they turned me into a well-rounded musician.
3) How do you pick out your clothes for tour and stage? What are your tour must-haves?
When touring for artists like Pink and Cher there are usually stage attire requirements for the musicians such as wear all black But normally it’s not a uniform so there are opportunities to express your unique style. Luckily, living in LA allows for some great store options. I often go to vintage shops like Jet Rag and Wasteland. Sometimes if I’m out and about and see something that may be great for stage at some point I’ll grab it – shows/tours sometimes come up last minute and there’s no time to shop so it’s nice to have options at hand. Being comfortable on stage is important so I love having the freedom to put together my own outfits.
Some tour must-haves would definitely include sock slippers like Muk Luks for the tour bus. We usually travel to the next city right after a show so I love getting comfy for the ride. Lip balm is essential – Flora Metaphor has some awesome natural products. I keep my V-Moda headphones handy at all times as well. It’s the little things that go a long way on the road.
4) In addition to playing with some of the world’s biggest artists (Cher, Pink, Moby), you also have your own band called Telstar. How do both of these aspects of your career feed your creativity and help you grow as an artist?
I’ve been so fortunate to work with some truly incredible artists. And I have been blessed to share the stage with some of the world’s most talented musicians. I learn so much from these experiences, spending time on the road with some serious tour veterans – people that had even worked with my Dad back in the 60s, 70s and 80s. When I have a break from the road it’s a great time for creative projects. Telstar was formed a few years ago. We do everything ourselves – Chris Unck (vox/guitar) is also a fantastic engineer/producer. So we record everything on our own, do all of our own artwork, etc. It’s a lot of fun, and brings you back to why you started playing music in the first place.
5) What are some of your favorite moments thus far in your career?
I have had so many incredible moments in my career. I have worked with some amazing people, been to some incredible places and created relationships with people that will last a lifetime. One of the things I am most proud of is having a signature bass with Fender. Fender had always been a household name for the Gardner Family. So to now have a Fender with my name on it is absolutely huge for me! It’s a combination of all my favorite basses that I’ve played. And to make it personal I added some of my tattoo artwork on it. You can check it out here:
Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Starting my week off with these colorful treats to brighten up the start of my work week. Long day ahead! I’ll be co-hosting the Polaris Prize pre-show livestream starting at 7pm EST this evening on AUX.TV. If you’re a fan of Canadian music, make sure you watch tonight’s show! You can tune in live here. Jay Baruchel will be hosting the main gala that starts at 8pm EST.
A few years ago, while I was working at Indica Records, my boss at the time dropped an EP on my desk and wanted me to tell him what I thought. He had been sent an EP from a band in Saratoga Springs, NY called Phantogram. After my first listen, I was right away drawn to their unique blend of dark cinematic electro pop and the singer’s dreamy voice. I had the chance to go see them live not long after and immediately knew the band was poised for greatness! I was incredibly lucky to work with the band at the beginning of their career in Canada. Not only are Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter incredibly talented, they’re also some of the nicest people in the biz. Fast forward a few years later, with the release of their second full length Voices, Phantogram is now headlining every big festival, selling out venues around the world, playing on all radio formats and taking the world by storm! I couldn’t be prouder of what these guys have accomplished over the past couple of years! One thing that I noticed since I started following the band, is that Sarah always has the best style on and off stage. She always has the coolest moto jackets, leather pants and accessories. Sarah and the rest of Phantogram will be keeping busy this summer playing festivals across North America and Europe. Make sure you go see them live if you haven’t already, they will blow your mind! I beyond thrilled to present to you this week, my 5 Questions with Sarah Barthel of Phantogram:
1) Who were some of your role models or people you looked up to growing up?
David Bowie Prince Mariah Carey Whitney Houston Aaliyah James Brown
2) Can you talk to us about your style evolution from your teens until now? How would you describe your style today?
I spent a lot of time at Salvation Army as a teen looking for old t shirts and jackets. Usually went for classic jeans and chucks. I tended to dress like a Tom boy growing up. I always wanted to pierce my face somewhere but was too much of a pussy to do that so I ended up piercing the hell out of my ears haha. I always loved keeping a classic look and dressing it up with accessories. I still think that way now. I’ve definitely evolved my footwear by graduating to heels from chucks but I like to keep my look simple with dark colors and dressing up my look with a cool leather jacket and heels with some cool jewels.
3) Has the band’s increase in popularity influenced or changed your personal style? If so, could you tell us how?
Yes definitely. I love the opportunities I get when brands or designers want to dress me. I never got those opportunities before because we weren’t a recognized. Now people want me to wear their clothes so I get to have fun with my style
4) How do you pick out your clothes for tour and stage? What are your tour must-haves?
I usually like a few different looks for a tour. I definitely like to walk out of stage with a cool looking jacket with intentions to take it off after a few songs. Must haves: heels that aren’t too scary to run around in! Bold gold jewelry Hair straightener Dry shampoo
5) Who are some of your favorite designers and/or brands?
All Saints leather Jeffrey Campbell J brand Jeremy Scott St Laurent Modern vice Kill City Oak
Back when I still lived in Montreal, I hosted a Canadian music radio show called We.Are.Canadianon CJLO and PunkRadioCast. I first heard of Hey Ocean while researching new Canadian bands to play on the show. At the time, they had released two independant EPs and one full-length record called Stop Looking Like Music. I was right away captivated by the lead singer Ashleigh Ball‘s voice. I got to see them play live not too long after and it marked the beginning of my love affair with Hey Ocean. It’s been such a joy to see the band grow over the past couple of years and also having the chance to work with them a bit. Ashleigh is not only an amazing singer, songwriter and performer, she also has the sweetest personality and the coolest style. I love her laid back west coast vibe and also the fact she surfs! In addition to fronting Hey Ocean, Ashleigh is also a successful voice actress, having voiced characters in the Barbie film series, as well as many characters in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magicand was most recently featured in a documentary called A Brony Tale. You can catch Ashleigh on tour with Hey Ocean across Ontario in June and out west this summer. In addition, she’s currently working on recording her own EP, which should come out soon. Here are my 5 Questions With Ashleigh Ball:
1) Can you talk to us about your style evolution from your teens until now? How would you describe your style today? (you can provide us with photos if you’d like)
There were 4 kids in my house growing up and my parents were never that well off so there were loads of hand-me-downs. Lucky for me my older siblings had really cool style so I drew a lot of fashion inspiration from them. I was definitely a tom boy in my early teens. I would shop at value village and buy oversized men’s slacks and little boys t shirts. I remember at a point in high school when name brands were really cool and I shop lifted Tommy Hilfiger tops from the mall but that phase passed, thank god! ( and luckily I never got caught…) I got really into the rave scene in my later teens. Lots of baseball caps and fat pants (yikes!). My style these days is pretty varied… I’m gonna go with 70’s summer camp meets 90’s beach party 🙂
2) Who are your style icons?
My sister Melissa! She has the most amazing eye for vintage fashion. She runs a vintage clothing store in Toronto called Chosen. I love going there cause she always has “ash” items that she’s saved for me. She’s seriously the coolest. So effortlessly stylish.
Bjork ( two words -Swan Dress)
Stevie Nicks ( gypsy goddess- those sleeves!)
Patti Smith ( Tom boy badass)
3) How do you pick out your clothes for tour and stage? What are your tour must-haves?
Packing for tour is always tricky. I always over pack and often end up rotating outfits. I tend to wear bright, colourful dresses on stage and I always pack extra booty shorts so I don’t give the audience a peep show. I move around a lot when I perform so it’s important for me to wear clothes that move with me. I must have comfy shoes or boots. Heels are my nightmare.
4) You’ve had the chance to travel a lot with Hey Ocean and also for pleasure, what is the most magical place you’ve been to and why?
My best friend makes amazing jewelry and has been living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the last two years honing her craft and learning from some of the top silversmiths in the world. https://www.facebook.com/armourjewelry
I finally had time off from work and touring in February and went to visit her and was completely blown away. Its this beautiful village in the mountains and its filled with artists and musicians and so much history and the most amazing tacos I have ever eaten! We went horse back riding in felids of yellow flowers and floated in hot spring pools in the sunshine and walked through the winding cobblestone streets. It’s the most magical place I have ever been.
5) For those who don’t know, you also surf. What is your favorite surf spot?
The west coast has some beautiful surf spots. Tofino is probably one of my favourites, even though it’s freezing and you have to wear a full wet suit, booties and gloves. Maui also has some of the most beautiful surf spots. Way waaaaay warmer. And surfing in a bikini is the best.
The long weekend is just around the corner!! And the countdown to my next big trip is fast approaching. Europe in T-2 weeks! I’m so excited!
I can’t wait to share with you all my next 5 Questions With interview on Sunday. I’ve got another amazingly talented lady that I’ll be profiling. Make sure you check the blog on Sunday to see who it is! I’ll give you a clue: Vancouver!
Last night, I was lucky to attend the HAÏM concert in Toronto at the Kool Haus. I’ve been a big HAÏM fan ever since their first couple of singles, before any official EPs had come out. One of my friends in LA had introduced me to them during one of my many trips. I was right away drawn to their infectious mix of pop and rock! Every time I wanted to see them live, I just missed them by a day or so. Yesterday, they finally came to Toronto. Though there aren’t too many bands left on my “To-see list“, they were definitely one of them. Last night, they absolutely SLAYED the Kool Haus. I’ve seen them perform on a whole bunch of television shows, livestream concerts, etc. and always thought they gave a good show (though lately, I had seen a few more so-so performances) but last night, they went above and beyond my expectations. Anyone who’s ever doubted their musical chops, their ability to sing, etc. was silenced at the show. My ears are still slightly ringing and my voice is pretty shot today from all the singing I did last night but man was it worth it. Wow! One of the best shows I’ve seen in a while!
Over the years, I’ve amassed a ton of band shirts either via work, friends, etc. Though I have given most of them away now, I’ve kept a few that are more meaningful to me. When getting dressed this morning, and still on a high from last night, I figured it’d be fitting to plan my outfit around a band t-shirt. I happened to find this old Phantogram tee (one of the bands I personally can’t wait to see live again!!) I got when I was working with the band at Indica Records. I paired that with my rad new Modern Vice White Handler boots, some rock n’ roll Springsioux jewelry and my off-white moto jacket. Voilà!