Madeline Merlo  photo supplied
Madeline Merlo photo supplied

Music News Digest, Jan. 21, 2021

Maple Ridge, BC pop-country singer/songwriter Madeline Merlo has struck a worldwide deal with Nashville-based BBR Music Group, home to Jason Aldean, fellow Canadian Lindsay Ell, Billy Ray Cyrus, Craig Morgan, Kid Rock, and others. The signing caps what is turning out to be a stellar year for Merlo, who has co-written the three-weeks-at-No. 1 Lady A Country Airplay smash Champagne Night. In fact, it was her appearance on the NBC TV series Songland that grabbed the attention of BBR Music Group execs. 

"Getting the chance to be on BBR Music Group’s impressive roster is a dream come true,” said Merlo in a statement.  “They are incredibly kind and hard-working individuals, and I am thrilled to be working with them. They see my vision and respect the artistry we have built. I know this next step will be the most exciting yet in my career.” Manager Ron Kitchener of RGK Entertainment says the business acumen of BBR - owned by the revived BMG - "aligns nicely with our business vision, Madeline's artistic vision and all the paths to the wider international market, which is what we strived to accomplish." He also says Merlo is currently writing and poring through outside material in order to get a single ready for mid-year release. No producer has yet been attached to the project. (Nick Krewen).

– MusicNL is presenting the virtual edition of its 28th  Awards and Conference that runs Feb. 1 - 7. This year's annual will feature an array of digital high-quality showcases, industry conference sessions, and a boutique export development program. Participating in showcases, conference sessions and one-on-one meetings are more than 25 Canadian and international delegates including festival and venue programmers, presenters, agents, music supervisors, sync representatives, publishers and industry tastemakers from Canada, the US and UK. A complete list of Export Program delegates can be viewed here and conference schedule can be found online at

In other Music NL news, the org has launched its new website. Members are asked to visit the site and update their profile allowing for maximum exposure.

– The Globe and Mail reports that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is backtracking on its message to artists that grants cannot be used as income in the calculation of eligibility for emergency coronavirus benefits. The initial ruling had caused major concern amongst artists who were being told by the CRA that they needed to repay thousands of dollars in emergency benefits and were cut off from future payments.

– Ontario's recently adopted stricter stay-at-home orders are having a damaging impact on planned live-streaming concerts and theatre shows in the province. CP reports that Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music has either postponed or cancelled dates for 19 different ticketed live-stream shows that were booked over the next 28 days, and the City of Toronto has delayed the Jan. 14 launch of its free City Hall Live Spotlight concert series designed to support local musicians and venues.

– Held annually in Brighton, England, The Great Escape is a notable showcase festival for acts around the globe. It is planning to proceed this year, May 13-15, with 450+ acts in over 35 venues. Given current travel restrictions, this opportunity would best fit Canadian artists based in the UK. The deadline for artist submissions (here) is March 17. 

– The Besnard Lakes have announced three live-stream shows in support of the forthcoming album, The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings, out Jan. 29. In conjunction with Noonchorus, the shows stream on Feb. 5, March 6, and April 6, at 7pm EST for each show. Tix available here.

– A major furor has erupted in Toronto over provincial government plans to demolish The Foundry, a registered heritage property in the West Don Lands area. The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA) has been working together with the Corktown communities to regenerate the site into a thriving cultural, innovative and communities centre for the city. Details here. Ann Summers Dossena, IRCPA founder and an area resident, noted, “Our joint project addresses immediate and future economic, cultural and social issues. The need for a centre for Canada’s musicians has grown more urgent every year and become dire during the time of Covid. The Foundry will create two much-needed performance venues, spaces for discussion, exhibitions and inter-disciplinary cross pollination with innovators, and affordable housing for musicians. A number of musical organizations have already expressed interest in moving their offices here." A Changeorg petition to stop the demolition is here.

– In 2006, Strippers Union, fronted by Rob Baker (The Tragically Hip) and Craig Northey (Odds), released its debut LP, Strippers Union Local 518, and then followed it up with The Deuce five years later. Now the band is ready to share a third LP, The Undertaking, a double album recorded at The Bathouse Studio with the Odds rhythm section of Pat Steward and Doug Elliott. Disc 1 of the double LP comes out digitally on Feb 5 and Disc 2 will be released March 12 (vinyl for both comes Feb. 5). Here's the first single. 

– The Western Canadian Music Alliance (WCMA), BreakOut West, and Byta, the platform for securely sending digital audio files and streams, are partnering to present a five part series titled #HowWeListen. Beginning this month, these will be conversations focused on music discovery with representatives from within the music industry. The five discussions each focus on different genres of music creation: Folk, Country, Hip-Hop, Francophone and Rock/Indie. The resulting insights will help artists properly craft pitches and  target how potential audiences might hear about them. Byta founder, Marc Brown hosts, and industry notables involved include Jordan Sowumni (Boosie Fade), Jim Cressman (Invictus), Nathan Stein (Dine Alone Records), David ‘Click’ Cox (CLK Creative Works), and artists Mariel Buckley and Cartel Madras. More info here.

– For the past 20 years, much-loved Toronto rock ‘n roll veteran Paul James has played a mid-Jan. hometown birthday show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. For obvious reasons, that wasn’t possible this year, so instead James taped a solo show at the El Mocambo which he’ll present as a free live-stream on his YouTube channel on Sat. Jan. 23, at 8 pm. More info here. James turned 70 on Jan. 18. Congrats!

– MNB (Music New Brunswick)  is launching a new pilot project aimed at Indigenous musicians. The Indigenous Artist Development Program, sponsored by Mi'kmaq Hip-Hop artist Wolf Castle, will award one recipient chosen by an all-indigenous jury a $3K grant to complete a music-based project. Artists can propose a project before Jan. 29.  More info here

– Toronto recording artist turned producer David Bendeth has enjoyed major commercial success working with US rock bands, including Hawthorne Heights, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and Breaking Benjamin. The latter group just scored another US platinum single for the Bendeth-produced Blow Me Away. The band has a string of platinum singles and albums to its credit, with the 2019 hit The Diary of Jane certified triple platinum.

– Hamilton Winterfest presents local singer/songwriter Illitry (Troy Witherow) at the Music Hall in a free Facebook Live live-stream on Jan. 30 at 8 pm EST. Expect material from his latest release, Dalinean Horses. Winterfest will also feature recorded concerts from Clerel and Monowhales.  More info here.

– Best known for his work in platinum-selling combos Philosopher Kings and Prozzak, James Bryan (McCollum) will show off his formidable chops as a guitarist with a solo Facebook Live live-stream on Jan. 23 (3 pm EST). He promises "an hour of funky and feel-good finger style covers and originals to soothe your soul and lift you up." A free event, with donations welcome.

– Emerging Australian star Gabriel Vargas has released a version of the Tea Party 1999 hit Heaven Coming Down as his new single. A friend and touring partner of The Tea Party’s lead singer, Jeff Martin, Vargas was hesitant at first to cover a track written by someone he considers a mentor. “My cover of Heaven Coming Down was a beautiful accident,” Vargas states in a press release. “During rehearsal, I was running through a chord progression that reminded me of the song and, next thing you know, I was singing the lyrics." Of note: The Tea Party became major stars in Oz and toured there regularly. 

– On Feb. 10, MMF Canada presents a Community Chat entitled Challenges + Resources for Self-Managed Artists. Facilitated by noted singer/songwriter Leela Gilday, this event is free to all self-managed artists and managers. Register here

– Billboard-charting Canadian world music group Sultans of String present a Zoom live-stream on Jan. 23.  Expect a ‘Best of the Sultans’ set. Tix here.

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