Monday, May 12, 2014

CMW Aftermath: Chatting with Blue Sky Miners

Canadian Music Week is over at last - and, realizing that I won't be able to hop around to dozens of venues each night uncovering endless sounds is a little bittersweet. While I'm excited to catch up on shut-eye, I'm more excited to revisit some of the fantastic conversations I was able to have this past weekend with participating bands. Everything felt alive last week; music was an undeniable, pulsing presence in Toronto - in everywhere from secret lofts, to hat shops and concert halls - and there was no way everyone involved didn't feel totally inspired in the process.

Myself and these guys included.

I was lucky to see Toronto-based Blue Sky Miners not once, but twice, on Friday night. The folk and roots group (made up of Jena Gogo, Jay Mitchell, Eric Duquette, Mark Lavoie and Stefan Hegerat) span from Canadian coast to coast and have already made a name for themselves less than a few years after finding each other in venues and Craigslist ads. Having played hot spots including Cameron House, Lee's Palace and Silver Dollar, the Miners are about to get back in the studio and pen more of those feel-good ditties for audiences to two-step to. Check out my quick Q&A with lead vocalists Jena Gogo and Jay Mitchell below - and take a listen to their heartwarming single "Three" while you're at it.

In The Round: How has CMW been going?
Jena: Honestly, so amazing. This time last year we didn’t have anything together – and this year we didn’t have much together either – but the Silver Dollar offered us a spot and we decided to just go for it. Then, we decided to make the most of it by including another semi-secret show at the hat shop and a secret loft show.

ITR: And how did Blue Sky Miners even come together?
Jena: Jay and I kept finding each other in the weirdest settings. Jay has literally been writing his whole life, and I’ve been performing my whole life. It just made sense – and then I posted a Craigslist ad looking for the rest of the band (laughs) and thankfully, a guitarist like Eric came along.
Jay: This is something very natural for Jena. It’s in every fiber of her being, and that shows when she comes on stage. She picks me up and inspires me as a vocalist – and I’m able to be a better lyricist because of that.

ITR: You two have been through a lot as co-vocalists. What can we say about that?
Jena: We’ve had real ups and downs this last year and a half, and tested each other. It hasn't always been pretty. But, it’s come down to finding the real, honest beauty in each other and making things work - really hustling to get music out there. And, this whole thing would have broken down by now had it not been for Eric coming along, and then Stefan coming along, and then Mark coming along.
 Jay: We've definitely been at each other before, but this is such a solid, inspiring, genuine musical partnership. Our band as a whole is just a lot of really creative people coming together.

ITR: Tell me about the song "Three." I mean, that's a hit and a half. I've listened to it so many times this past week - it's ridiculous.
Jena: I thought I noticed a huge spike in our Soundcloud!
Jay: That was the first song that the three of us ever wrote together. We were sitting up on the third floor of our apartment and Eric started playing that guitar groove. I remember walking down the stairs and yelling at him to record that right away, and the rest is history.

ITR: What’s next?

Jay: To the studio!
Jena: We have our studio, engineer and we’ve decided on the songs for a second EP. We’ve been writing more prolifically than ever before.
Jay: CMW has been a great platform to test out the new songs and put those to work. People have been so receptive.

ITR: What music have you been loving in 2014?
Jena: We’ve been digging Half Moon Run and St. Vincent. And Beyonce. I’m just so inspired by the feminine uprising. I don't mean women rising up and being better - I mean just collaborating and celebrating all of these different sides of women. When women are wild and different, it's now no longer just a "mood" they're in.

ITR: Agreed! What’s an instrument you need to incorporate that you haven’t already?
Jay: Trumpet.
Jena: Harmonica

ITR: A song you need to cover immediately?
Jena: Joga by Bjork.
Jay: The Chain by Fleetwood.

ITR: Essential late night, post-CMW food in Toronto?
Jay: Sneaky Dee’s!

ITR: A famous musician walks into a bar and decides to play a song with you. Who?
Jay: Jack White, no questions asked.
Jena: Oh, f*ck yeah.

ITR: Where’s the spot to grab a drink post-show?
Jena: Bar Radio for a beer.
Jay: Cameron House - my all-time favourite venue.

ITR: Should you get involved with a musician, yay or nay?
Jena: (Laughs) Yes and no.
Jay: Yes... if you are not a musician.

ITR: Best advice for new musicians?
Jena: If you don’t know what your intuition is – start listening to it and let it push you forward.
Jay: Keep putting out creative energy and you’ll attract likeminded people.

Thanks for the chat, guys!

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