Music News Digest, June 17, 2021

On June 15, the Long List of 40 contenders for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize was announced virtually. Previous Polaris nominees, including winners Owen Pallett and Haviah Mighty, helped read out the list, and the event was capped off by a short performance from one of the new nominees, Cadence Weapon. Some 199 music media members considered over 200 albums this year. Jurors will now vote for a Short List of 10 nominated albums to be named on July 15, and the winner, as determined by a select Grand Jury, will be announced in the fall. The Polaris Music Prize awards $50K to the artist who creates the Canadian Album of the Year, judged solely on artistic merit, without consideration for genre or record sales. Additionally, the nine other nominated acts whose albums make the 2021 Short List will receive $3K each courtesy of Slaight Music. See the full Long List here.

– SiriusXM Canada is calling on Canadians once again to help choose Canada's next big country music star for the third annual SiriusXM Top of the Country competition, produced in partnership with the Canadian Country Music Association. The popular vote helps determine which three of the eight semi-finalists artists move on to perform at one of the biggest country music events in Canada and have a shot at the $25K grand prize plus a performance opportunity at Country Music Week 2021. The Top of the Country semi-finalists are: Don Amero (Winnipeg, MB), Raquel Cole (Vernon, BC), Carolina East (South River, NL), Nate Haller (Toronto, ON), Brittany Kennell (Beaconsfield, QC), Kalsey Kulyk (Hudson Bay, SK), Tyler Joe Miller (Surrey, BC), and Kelly Prescott (Almonte, ON). All semi-finalists benefited from the annual mentorship program, From now to June 28, country fans can watch all studio sessions and vote here once daily.

– Coalition Music and Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI) have launched the CoHo Creative Hub, a place for artists, producers, content creators and creative businesses to produce and collaborate on their art. The recording studio spaces at 1731 Lawrence Ave. E (Toronto) have been reimagined to include an infinity wall, a large green screen on stage, and  video equipment to create world-class media and content. CoHo also has an extensive props department. New meeting and co-working spaces have been built and are also available for content creators and CMI-supported artists and managers to use.

– The Summer House Party virtual music festival on July 1, presented by Canadian Tire, features a stellar lineup of all-Canadian artists, including Serena Ryder, k-os, Tim Hicks, Jesse Gold, Shawnee Kish, Skye Wallace and Witch Prophet. The event will benefit the MusiCounts BandAid Program, Indspire City and Colour Indigenous Student Bursary and Indspire Alexisonfire Indigenous Music Bursary. The fest is available to stream online through the festival's website, or via Cottage Life TV

– POP Montreal has announced the lineup for its National Indigenous Peoples Day event, set for June 21 at Square Cabot. It features Jeremy Dutcher, Buffalo Hat Singers , Scott Sinquah, Shauit, Geronimo Inutiq, Moe Clark, and Corey Diabo. The show runs 3-7 pm, and is free with a reservation here and also in virtual form at POP Montreal.

– In other POP Montreal news, the 20th anniversary of the fest will run Sept. 22-26, with lineup info coming this summer. PM is also presenting concerts at The Rialto Theatre, with Chili Gonzales performing there on Jan. 24, 25, and 27, 2022, and Kiwi songstress Aldous Harding in on June 6.

– Barenaked Ladies recently announced that their 16th studio album, Detour de Force, will be released on July 16. A graphic novel illustrated video to accompany new single New Disaster was created by Marvel Comics illustrator Enis Cisic, and award-winner Toni Huml. BNL frontman Ed Robertson says of New Disaster, “It is about the distraction of modern politics coupled with the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle, which is so sensational, un-vetted and un-researched." 

– Montreal singer/songwriter Leif Vollebekk has announced new North American and European concert dates. The pandemic forced the postponement of his New Ways tour, but he returns to the road, starting with a 7-city tour of Western Canada, Nov. 19-28 (preceded by a solo Quebec City show on Oct. 14). Check the tour dates here. Tix go on sale June 18. Vollebekk was recently invited to the Late Late Show with James Corden for his debut late-night performance in the US, featuring his most recent single Long Blue Light, which now has over 7 million streams.

– After being postponed twice, The Trews' live-stream from The Horseshoe Tavern is ready to roll on July 3. The obviously frustrated band complained on social media that "You can shop in a store and drink on a patio, (or shoot a movie with 200 people on set), in Ontario but ya can’t livestream any music - Good one @fordnationdougford!" The rockers "will revisit the first album House of Ill Fame, and play a bunch of other stuff." Tickets on sale now here. The show is part of the Horseshoe Hootenanny Livestream Concert Series, designed to financially support the bands, their crews, local technicians and videographers, and the venues, while the lockdown continues.

Indigenous Music is connecting emerging Indigenous artists with music industry mentors for the National Indigenous Peoples Day Music Meetings & Artist Showcase. Running June 21-22, the accelerator project will offer emerging artists an opportunity to learn from pros working in music festivals, booking, and independent labels. The session will include one-on-one meetings and roundtable discussions, and a showcase of performances from three artists, Caid Jones, Ethan Lyric, and Jade Turner  on June 21 at 6 pm via Facebook. Mentors include Matt Maw of Red Music Rising, Gilad Caroll of First Date Touring and Real Love Summer Fest, and Michelle Szeto of Paquin Entertainment Group.

– Author, musician, painter and proud Hamiltonian Tom Wilson is the 2021 City of Hamilton Arts Awards lifetime achievement honoree for his work over the years as an author, musician and painter. Wilson’s award was one of 16, including nine “creator awards” in a variety of disciplines and four “arts champion awards,” announced in a series of online webcasts during Hamilton Arts Week, June 3-12. Best known for his work as a singer-songwriter fronting rock groups such as Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Lee Harvey Osmond, Wilson is a five-time Juno Award winner, and is also an acclaimed visual artist and author. Watch the presentation here. Wilson is donating his prize money from this to the Indigenous Scholarship Award in Honour of Bunny Wilson he has set up at McMaster University Earning a creator award was Daniel Edmonds, a Hamilton singer/songwriter who coincidentally was in a band, Harlan Pepper, with Tom Wilson's son Thompson.  Source: Hamilton Spectator.

– Music Managers Form (MMF) Canada is conducting research and developing a music management mentorship program for managers and self managed artists, including emerging music professionals. The aim is to help advance opportunities for Black, Indigenous, or People of Color who wish to work in this sector of the Canadian music landscape. MMF is requesting that  music managers and self-managed artists complete a survey here to assist it in this task.

– Veteran singer/songwriter Marc LaFrance's latest single, Northern Lights, will be available on June 25, but fans can now pre-order the track as a download from iTunes, from which all proceeds will be donated to Canadian Forces families via Support Our Troops. The song draws upon LaFrance’s experiences from the road, entertaining the Canadian Armed Forces in remote locations around the globe. LaFrance has toured internationally with Randy Bachman, Bachman & Turner, and his own bands for five decades. More info here.

– Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and Epiphone have partnered to present the new Alex Lifeson Epiphone Les Paul Standard Axcess electric guitar. Created by Lifeson and the luthiers at Epiphone in Nashville, TN, the guitar is now available worldwide here.

– Toronto singer/songwriter Melanie Doane pivoted into music teaching with major success with her ukulele-based Uschool, now with 900 students. To keep them engaged during lockdown, Doane put on virtual song contests that encouraged them to perform covers and write original songs. The ‘Great Uschool Song Contest’ entries impressed  Ron Sexsmith who sent a congratulatory video message to all students and to the two top winners, Matea and Charlotte. Both their songs will be available as play-along videos on Doane Uschool’s social media channels.

– The inaugural BIGLAKE Festival will take place in and around Wellington, Prince Edward County (ON) from Aug. 20-27,. The festival, formerly known as Wellington Water Week, has a strong musical lineup featuring jazz, classical and world music artists. That list includes Russell Braun, Cheng2, Ryan Davis, Drew Jurecka and Rebekka Wolkstein, Rita DiGhent, VC2, Andrew Downing, Tara Davidson, William Carn, and Rebecca Hennessy and Michael Herring. Tix and info here

After selling out its Dec. 1 show at Bronson Centre in Ottawa, Toronto rock band July Talk has added another show at the same venue, set for Nov. 28. Tix here

– This evening (June 17), the Art Gallery of Hamilton and Zula Music & Arts Collective Hamilton partner to present Something Else Online, a free virtual event (7-8 pm EST). The event features two area acts, veteran NZ-born improvising guitarist Chris Palmer and pop surrealists glassEYElashes. More info here.

RIP

Tim Thorney, a noted Canadian musician, songwriter, composer, recording artist, and producer, died on June 15, after a long illness, age 66.

Thorney began his career as a recording engineer and songwriter. He started out in Winnipeg, prior to moving to Toronto. In 1981, he co-wrote most of Lisa Dalbello's Drastic Measures album, and he then worked as a singer, songwriter and keyboard player with The Front, a pop-rock band that released two albums, 1983’s Gina's at a Party (Duke Street) and 1984’s Underworld.

In 1995, Tim and his younger brother Tom Thorney were taken on as partners in Great Big Music, which later became Tattoo Music. Through their studio work, the Thorney brothers won advertising awards for many commercial campaigns in both Canada and the U.S., including a Gemini Award and three Daytime Emmy Awards for the hit show Rolie Polie Olie. They have produced jingles for many high-end clients, including FedEx, Sympatico, 7up and the Ford Motor Company.

Thorney remained active as a producer, working with a wide range of Canadian artists. He produced Vancouver-based punk/folk band Hard Rock Miners' 1992 album The Final Frontier (Einstein Bros./Epic/Sony), Jimmy Rankin albums Song Dog (2001) and 2003 album Handmade (he also co-wrote a track with Rankin), and co-produced Alanis Morissette's 2004 album So-Called Chaos.

In 2008, Thorney produced country artist Alex J. Robinson's debut album, Never Say Never, which featured the hit single Breakin' on the Love Thing. In 2010, Thorney continued his association with Robinson on her album, The Getaway. Also in 2010, Thorney was involved in producing a solo album by singer-songwriter Andrea Ramolo, The Shadows and the Cracks. Albums for both Robinson and Ramolo were released on Thorniac Records, co-owned by Thorney and industry veteran Kim Zayac.

Thorney also recorded three solo albums, Some Other Time (1993), Extenuating Circus Dances (1999), and Villa Freud (2011). The list of those who have recorded Thorney songs includes fellow Winnipegger Burton Cummings.

Recording engineer and long-time Thorney associate Adam Fair tells FYI that "Tim and I started working out of his Toronto apartment together in 2010 and we built the studio from the ground up over the next several years. We had 3 different locations in Toronto production rooms and then moved into his house up in Collingwood in 2012. That’s when we officially named it Villa Sound. In May 2015 we moved the studio into its current more permanent location in Singhampton, Ontario.”

"The  most notable projects for me were Tim’s own solo album Villa Freud, Andrea Ramolo’s album, an album by Devi called A Moment of Clarity and a bunch of stuff with Canadian Indigenous artist Shawnee. We helped Shawnee develop over the last eight years and she’s starting to really breakthrough at the moment."

As word of Thorney's passing spread on social media, his peers and comrades were quick to respond with loving and eloquent tributes. Here are excerpts from some of those:

Erica Ehm on Facebook: "My longtime songwriting partner Tim Thorney passed away after a long illness. I'm gutted, as so many others are. Tim was one of a kind. I'm pretty sure he was my guardian angel: a beautiful, profound soul who brought out the best in everyone around him. Non-conformist, unapologetic, poetic, musical genius and deeply loyal, I can say with 100% certainty, the decade Tim and I were creative collaborators shaped who I am professionally and personally.

"We were different, but somehow our differences is what made beautiful music together. We won all kinds of awards for our songs, Junos, SOCAN, Canadian Country Music Awards, but really, it was the time together, the process, the art, the stories, the tunes, the laughs, the people, the connection that turned us both on. I remember the night we wrapped production on one of Cassandra Vasik's albums, we sat in the darkened studio listening to the entire recording together. He turned to me and said, "Ehmie, it never gets better than this." I fucking loved our time together. The world will be emptier without Tim."

Andrea Ramolo (to FYI): "Tim ... if he believed in you... he let you know it and he stood behind you all the way.  I learned so much from our time together... not only about the music business and making records but about cherishing memories and stories. He was supportive of me until the end and I could always feel him in my corner.  I only wish we had had the time to rekindle the bond we had early on when we first met. This is very sad news for many.  I'll miss you Timmy.  Love you man."

Kim Zayac (to FYI): " I once asked him about the songwriting process and inspiration since I had no idea about songwriting. And he looked at me and said to me 'everything around you is either musical or lyrical.' And you just go from there. I thought that was very insightful and it’s stuck with me all these years."

Lisa Dalbello (on Facebook): "Tim was a great writer who made me a better writer. Tim’s search for the other hidden layers made me a more inquisitive woman, opened me up to the world of politics and the world at large. He challenged me on all fronts. Creatively, intellectually and personally, my experiences with Timmy were always enhanced. Timmy’s incredible talent, his LIFE, his words, his lyrics, his music — Tim himself — are gifts to us all. I’m so fucking sad, and devastated. I love you Timmy. I always have. And I always will"

Adam Fair (on Facebook): “Tim put an incredible amount of faith in me at a time when I was unsure of my own ability. I am beyond proud and grateful to have called Tim my friend, mentor and business partner. Together we produced countless songs, we had 5 different studios and we were even roommates for a few months. Tim was one of a kind and an incredibly generous and giving person. I can’t put into words how much our friendship means to me. I will carry a piece of him with me forever. I love you, man."

Hill Kourkoutis (to FYI): "What can I say about my dear friend and champion Tim? He was an original, a generous and free spirit, a musical genius, a profound storyteller and incredible friend.  Anyone that was lucky enough to enter his orbit was able to bear witness to his vivacious personality.  His passion for life and art was contagious.

"For me personally, he empowered and opened doors for me as a producer and songwriter when most would look away.  His belief in me is why I am where I am today.  Tim gave that same gift to most of the people he came across.  He could spot your gifts and would take leaps of faith on you just because.  He also brought so many people together.  Working with Tim was a dream and a deep honour. He began to bring me onto projects as a co-producer and collaborator on a lot of the stuff he and Adam were working on at Villa Sound from around 2015 until recently.  We worked on projects for Shawnee, Nell Balaban, Gus and Alana Kindree, to name a few. 

"Tim also introduced me to the television and commercial world. He loved artists.  He loved creating.  He was incredibly honest and supportive.  He also had the best stories and hilarious idiosyncratic pieces of wisdom to share about life and the golden age of the music industry in between takes.  He has left an indelible mark on our industry and in our lives and I was beyond lucky to be one of his collaborators and friends in his incredible life."

Jimmy Rankin on a Facebook post just prior to Thorney's passing: "Sending this one out to Tim Thorney – incredible musical force, singer songwriter, producer and super great guy. Thank you Tim… for producing and lending your boundless talents to Song Dog and Handmade and for your encouragement and friendship over the years."

At the suggestion of John 'Beetle' Bailey, a GoFundMe campaign was raised to purchase seats in Massey Hall in Tim Thorney's name. At press time, this had raised $11.3K.

In announcing news of Thorney's death on social media, close friend Rachel Oldfield stated that "in true Tim Thorney fashion, there will be no service. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to a charity of your choice. Rest In Peace Timmy. We love you."

Read a 2017 profile of Tim Thorney here. Sources: Wikipedia, Facebook, Bill King

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