Cover Story

Andrew Cole #No Joke

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Submitted by Don Graham

We caught up with Canadian born singer/songwriter at his home in California and he wants you to know he’s no joke, that nobody is a joke and bullying is not a joke. Every living person deserves respect and to be treated with dignity no matter what their station in life. Andrew was born in Toronto, Canada but he and his family left when he was only 6 months old for Liverpool, England. “I went to about 20 different schools and I was always a little different, an outsider. I’m not really sure why my parents moved around so much. Dad was a truck driver and Mum was a nurse so it wasn’t like their occupations required travel and relocating. But I remember always moving, I guess they were looking for the best place to be for me to grow. We had moved back to Canada and Mum decided I needed to get a British education so we moved back to the U.K. And so it went.”

Andrew is now living in sunny California as he pursues his project #No Joke. “As I said I was always moving as a kid so I always felt like an outsider and I was always the newbie. For whatever reason, I became the target of bullies and was constantly being harassed and made to feel like I was a joke. I used to say ‘Do think I’m a joke? Am I a joke to you?’ It triggered something in me and I had to find ways to combat it.”

I Just Called Him Dad Don Graham

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Cover Photo Credit: Fiona Lawson Studio 22 Photography

Singer/songwriter Don Graham has written hundreds of songs in his long career about dozens of subjects. He’s written songs about good love, bad love, lost love, unrequited love, songs about war, about his friends, about his travels and his mother and sisters. But one topic has eluded him all these years, until now. “I could never write a song about my Dad. I tried. But I didn’t want a ‘punch in the shoulder, good ole boy hey Pops song and I didn’t want a song about ‘my old man’. Dad hated that term. I wanted to write something from my heart like I’d done for Mum. So I made a deal with myself to try every Father’s Day to write a dad song. I had zero success until this year. “

On Father’s Day 2017, Don sat down with his guitar and being true to his promise to himself started to try and write a Dad song. “I figured I’d at least try. I started to play and the first two lines came and I liked them! Then within an hour, I had the whole song. All I could think at the time was – finally! ”

With the song completed, Don never had any inclination to record it but thought he’d play it at a couple of live events, “ The reaction was overwhelmingly positive,” and soon started thinking about maybe doing something with it.

Levi Hart Have a Heart

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Submitted by Don Graham

We all have a road we’re destined to travel on to take us where we’re supposed to be. Sometimes that road has obstacles and detours that we have to deal with and then we can carry on to our destination. That’s exactly what happened to Levi Hart. The up and coming artist from Ottawa came from a large musical family, his Uncle Bob Webb is a Canadian Bluegrass mainstay and was well on his way with his band and his music including a slot as an opening act for Kid Rock.

“That was a strange one. I had entered a contest to open for Kid Rock. I had more or less forgotten all about it when I got the call that I had won and to get myself to Colorado for the show.” But he ran into a bit of a detour, a bump in the road that I will explain in a minute.

But in the beginning, Levi grew up surrounded by music and the bug really bit him when he saw one particular artist. “When I saw Garth Brooks I was immediately in awe. Watching him perform with such passion and intensity and having so much fun doing it was a real life-changer for me. This is what I wanted to do.”

Catching A Break Al Brake

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Submitted by Don Graham

Fort McMurray resident, Newfoundland native Al Brake has traveled halfway across this great country to be where he is supposed to be. The 11th of 11 children that includes 8 boys and 3 girls is “foot off the brake, pedal to the metal ready” for his moment in the spotlight. He is making all the right moves and feels like now is time. | Music has always been a huge part of my life, especially growing up in Newfoundland. Everybody plays music and it bonds together families and friends.”

Al Brake started playing guitar when he was about 8 yrs, drawn to the music from watching his brothers, sisters and parents. His Dad was an accomplished and great fiddle player, his mother was a great singer, with his brothers and sisters picking on one instrument or another, there was rarely a time when there wasn't music in their home. This soon moved out of the home as the family began performing at local Festivals and Garden parties. Al had his own band by the time he was 18 years old. He began writing his own material around 2008 and in 2010 began working on his songs in Nashville. In 2012 he traveled to Nashville to begin recording a full-length album which he finished at Metalworks Studio in Toronto.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from All Of Us at Cashbox Canada

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

As the year 2017 comes to an end, I am still amazed by the fact that I get to work with such an incredible staff at Cashbox Canada.

To my tireless Editor, Lenny Stoute, thank you for always sticking by me and being such a creative force every week.  His column BTW celebrates so many diversified artists and gives the indies a chance to shine. Lenny has an incredible background in journalism and I am grateful to have him.

To Don Graham, who somehow in between his own musical career as a recording artist, songwriter and performer, takes the time to do the personal interviews with fellow country artists and beyond to get some of the most memorable stories we have on CB. I truly believe his own career and background is what makes even the most wary artists feel comfortable in their interviews.

To Chris Wardman, my wizard of the web, who takes it upon himself to make Cashbox Canada work and continues to keep our archives available for all to go back and revisit. When you Google Chris Wardman it is quite the eye-opener to see his career; as a musician, a record label guy, a producer and so much more. I have such respect for Chris and what he does for us.

Barry Stagg From the Carolinas to Canada Barry Stagg’s Christmas Grace!

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Going back to my Montreal roots, there are always artists that say in my memories, Gino Vanelli, Ken Tobias, Andy Kim, Pagliaro and of course Barry Stagg –one-half of the ever popular Green and Stagg.

Barry Stagg, singer/songwriter, musician, playwright and musical entrepreneur is a prime example of what tenacity and talent are all about when it comes to the love of music.

Born in Montreal, Quebec he graduated from Université de Montréal and started on his musical path with Tony Green to become Green and Stagg. The duo was signed to Gamma Records out of Montreal under the tutelage of manager Ben Kaye.(who also managed Celine Dion) Their debut single, "To Love Means To Be Free", became an instant hit when released in February 1970. The song won the Canadian Business Music Industry writing award.Green and Stagg rode the charts for the better part of the early '70s.

Signed to Gamma at the time, they were offered a deal with London Records which had a better reach for them on a distribution level so they made the decision to move to the ill-fated label, which went bankrupt not long after. Stagg would have success with a number of solo releases on RCA before starting his musical and magical journey from theatre to playwriting and scores.

Matt Dusk Offers Old School Yule!

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Every year we hear all the standard Christmas songs hit radio again; Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Bing Crosby with David Bowie, Elvis and Frank Sinatra.

Then we start receiving new product here at Cashbox Canada and we always enjoy the fresh offerings of new artists or at least their new Christmas albums.

But on this rare occasion when this new CD came in, it was a perfect combination of the old tunes offered by a young artist, Canadian icon Matt Dusk.

A Christmas album that embraces the festive swagger of the 1960’s, Old School Yule! is an up-tempo, cocktail party album that will have you feeling a little “Ring-a-Ding-Ding” while you croon along to “Fa-La-La-La-La”.

“It’s supposed to feel like a classic variety show,” says Dusk while on tour in America. “I wanted to record an album that you would have sitting on the turntable right next to your Bing Crosby Christmas records.”

If retro is what you’re looking for, Dusk’s new album has everything you need. The sixteen tracks contain many of the most popular holiday classics, from White Christmas to Jingle Bells. Along for the (sleigh) ride are some new songs and a few twists on some old favourites. The album also features an original holiday hit, Snowed In With You, penned by Dusk himself.

Freddie Hart From the Heart

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Submitted by Don Graham

Freddie Hart was born in the tiny town of Loachapoka, Alabama and moved to a sharecropping farm in Phenix City, Alabama when still an infant spending his childhood in nearby Phenix City, Alabama.

Freddie Hart has come full circle. In 2001, Hart was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. And a few years later, Phenix City declared a major east-west street Freddie Hart Parkway in his honor

Freddie has seen it all in country music and after 7 decades on the scene not only has he seen it all, he’s met them all. “I remember meeting Hank Williams at the James Robertson Hotel in Nashville, just up from the Ryman, in 1949. What a nice generous and talented man,” Freddie said from his home in California. “What really changed everything for me was when I met Lefty Frizzel in 1951 in Pheonix Arizona. He took me under his wing and took me on the road with him. He’d get me up on the stage to sing a couple. I had to sing covers cause I didn’t have any of my own, and I would introduce him on stage and then I went back to California with him.”

Steve Oriet Diggin On You

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Submitted by Don Graham

Probably the most competitive genre in country music these days is the young male artist. It is not for the faint of heart, only the talented and driven need apply. Steve Oriet is up to the task and has his eyes fixed firmly on the prize. He has formulated a plan and is methodically plotting his course and making the right moves.

Steve was born and raised in River Canard/Lasalle, Ontario and currently living in Windsor, Ontario, across the bridge from Detroit, USA, growing up listening to all genres of music; everything from rock, Motown, Rap and of course Country music. This talented man credits his father for being his biggest inspiration, balancing a solid business life with being a guitar player and singer on the side. Steve would listen to him play at weddings, churches and family gatherings, clearly deepening his appreciation and love of music. He is a big fan of Florida Georgia Line and would love to duet with fellow Canadian Shana Twain.

Tribe Royal Colours of the Sun

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Submitted by Don Graham

‘Wasting Time’ is the title of the current single by Tribe Royal, not a description of the band. If anything it’s the exact opposite.  This Ottawa based band is anything but wasting time.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a new band that has a sound so unique that it’s hard to label them. The sound is retro but blended with a rawness and originality that stamps them with a current sounding musical offering. You know you want to listen to more of the tracks.

On their sophomore CD, “Colours of the Sun”,  there are shades of The Beatles, a little Lovin’ Spoonful and on the current single ‘Wasting Time’ some Green Day. Add some Everly Brothers-type harmonies spiced with some Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar sounds and you get the idea.

The band consists of Terry O’Brien, voice and guitar, Chris Kerwin, voice and guitar, bassist and vocalist Bram Al-Najjar and drummer Mike Giamberardino.  

In O’Brien’s words, “I love playing 60s-style pop songs that are done in under two minutes but I also love longer, jammier deep-feel stuff. With us, it really is a balance trying to get everything in there without compromise.”

The highlight for the band to date was a live performance was a billing on The Ottawa Bluesfest getting to share a stage with Canadian stalwart Sam Roberts. : That was definitely a fun gig for us!’, said Kerwin recently over lunch in Toronto. 

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