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Calgary Music

Grandson shakes up Calgary Stampede Coca-Cola Stage

By KYLEE PEDERSEN

Photo courtesy Warner Music.

Where rock and roll and activism meet, that’s where you’ll find Grandson. The McGill University drop-out who relocated to Los Angeles to pursue music is angry, optimistic and has something to say.

His debut EP, A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1, released last month, is a commentary on corruption, social disenfranchisement and apathy, as much as it is a help line to those grappling with where they stand in the current political climate.

Where Calgary had the chance to catch up with Grandson before his performance on July 10 at the Calgary Stampede Coca-Cola Stage, where he’ll be opening for Our Lady Peace.  

Have you played in Calgary before or is this your first time here? I played in Calgary one time before opening for my dear friends The Glorious Sons; it was one of the first shows that I ever played in Canada where people knew Blood // Water and where there was some familiarity. It was an incredibly exciting time, and with all the support we’ve been getting I can’t wait to come back.

You were born in New Jersey but moved to Toronto when you were quite young. Do you feel Canadian? Or Canadian and American? I absolutely feel a relationship to Canada. To the natural resources there, to the disposition of Canadians; whenever I use the word “out” or “about” in the US I get called out for it. But with everything going on in America I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud to be able to speak on things not just as an outsider but as someone who has the right that every American has to vote, to express their opinions and to be heard.

How did you get started on your music, was it something that you knew you always wanted to pursue? My family are a bunch of musicians, but my sister really excelled academically and I didn’t really know where I fit in. Music just kind of became an outlet for me. At first I would write songs about girls I had a crush on in high school. In [university] I was just going through the motions. Then someone heard a video that had only a couple hundred views and they wanted to bring me down to Los Angeles to try writing for other artists. So within the span of five or six weeks I dropped out of school and found a sublet for my apartment, and all of a sudden I was living on a couch in Los Angeles writing songs.

That seems crazy, to make a decision like that in a span of six weeks. I was 20 at the time and I just really felt like okay, let’s say this doesn’t work, in two years or three years I’ll just go back to school. Grandson for me represented the first time that I was willing to fail at something. I had no money and I was just like, ‘alright, well this is me, this is what I have to say, and if no one likes it well you know f–k ‘em, I like it.’ I think that when you enter a headspace like that in any endeavour in your life, be it a career or a relationship, when you’re really willing to put yourself out there and risk rejection or embarrassment or whatever those uncomfortable feelings are, that’s when I think the universe starts cutting you a break.

What’s the scariest thing about being an artist and making music? The scariest part can be the sense of vertigo as you depart from the safety of normalcy. As I am more public with my opinions, as I am more nomadic in my tour schedule, my life looks so much different than I ever could have imagined it. So of all the scary parts, it’s just the fear of maybe losing yourself in it. 

Your debut EP, A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1 just came out so walk us through the creation of that. What does this body of work mean to you? I actually wrote “6 o’clock” around the time that Trump was elected. I was just sitting on all of this music for a while and I knew that I wanted to make a sort of cohesive state of the union – the union not necessarily being America but just a sort of ‘this is where we’re at’. I feel like there is an incredible gravity to this time. It’s such a critical juncture for democracy and youth culture and for you know, how the f–k are we gonna all learn how to cooperate? And if we’re not then how can we confront these issues without getting too burnt out? Can we escalate and work through some of the systemic failure that is plaguing this society without necessarily burning it all down?

Which is a tough line to walk. It requires a lot of confrontation and humility. You have to be able to listen to everybody’s side. I have a hard time relating to people who feel differently from me and I think that that’s human, but it’s also the sort of problem that plays into the hands of the people who are making decisions that wanna keep us at odds with one another. Songs like “6 o’clock” and “stick up” and even “blood // water” touch on some of those failures and some of those conditions, and then songs like “overdose” and “despicable” talk about the the apathy and the escapism that I think this environment can encourage. For me that was what this process represented, it was a lens into the world that I’m writing in.

You mentioned that these topics can be exhausting to dwell on – what gives you hope? One of the things about touring that I love most is that I get to be confronted by people who are really passionate and who are working on the front lines of issues. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to activists and community organizers and teachers that have been through school shootings. I’ve talked to recovering addicts, I’ve talked to people that are recovering from self-harm, and those sorts of things give me hope and optimism. I think that the young people in this society both in Canada and the United States are more engaged than our parents were. I think that they are more connected to one another and that there are more systems in place for them to organize and mobilize. When I think big in the kind of change I want to make and when I see people respond well to that, that makes me pretty f–king stoked. I think that there is a change coming.

Q+A: Backstage at the High Performance Rodeo with Kelly Reay

Kelly Reay is currently the festival producer for One Yellow Rabbit, but a decades-long career has seen him travel across many of Calgary’s renowned stages. (Photo courtesy of the High Performance Rodeo.)

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

Like so many performing artists before him, Kelly Reay, festival producer for One Yellow Rabbit, was obsessed with storytelling from a young age. He dreamt of following his passion right to Hollywood’s doorstep, and first began working in Calgary’s theatre scene in hopes that the experience would make a perfect stepping stone to the silver screen. But an unexpected lesson learned early on later made it impossible for him to leave the stage behind.

“There is a richness and a uniqueness in this medium that you can’t achieve in any other, in film or TV,” he says. “Theatre is very much a communal experience—you’re there with this group of strangers, collecting shared experiences, and that rawness is ultimately one of the big things that drew me to theatre and made me stay. That idea of how visceral seeing a live performance is, and sharing that specific performance, on that night, with whosoever is in the audience.” (more…)

High Performance Rodeo: 6 Shows You Have to See

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

Onegin will play at the Max Bell Theatre in Calgary from Jan 5-7 and 9-13. (Photo by David Cooper.)

Looking to get out and experience the best of what Calgary’s other rodeo has to offer? Check out these high-impact performances at the High Performance Rodeo, which stampedes into town January 3-28. (more…)

25 Things To Do in Calgary in December

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

A Tribe Called Red will bring their revolutionary sound to The Palace Theatre Dec. 1. (Photo by Matt Barnes.)

For some of you, Christmas has been top of mind for the past several months—but now that we’re just weeks away, the rest of us can no longer deny: ’tis the season! To help get you and yours’ in a festive mood, here are 25 of our favourite local celebrations and holiday traditions that you can take part in to count down the days until Christmas!

(If Christmas just isn’t your cup of holiday cheer, never fear! We threw in a couple of chilly activities, sans festivities, down below for getting out around town and making the most of our city at this jolly time of year—so keep scrolling, and get ready to bundle up!) (more…)

20 Things To Do in Calgary in November

By MICHAELA RITCHIE and SILVIA PIKAL

Corb Lund comes to Calgary on Nov. 2. (Photo courtesy of Corb Lund.)

Just because the weather is quickly taking a turn for the worst here in Calgary, doesn’t mean you and yours have to be stuck inside this month! Here’s our recommendations for getting out around town and making the most of what Calgary has to offer in November: (more…)

Hot Entertainment: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Photo: Name Dropping Productions

Funnyman and musician Steve Martin comes to town on Saturday night for a performance at the Jubilee Auditorium. Martin is a long-time banjo-picker and will be joined by the Grammy Award-winning North Carolina quintet, the Steep Canyon Rangers for a rollicking performance of bluegrass tunes interspersed with comedy. Expect to hear tunes from the group’s 2011 album, Rare Bird Alert. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.

Hot Date: Blink-182

Blink-182

August 28

Their potty-humoured, infectiously campy pop-punk ballads connected with millions of teens in the late ‘90s, who were bored of the boy band-dominated airwaves (their Backstreet Boys-spoofing “All The Small Things” music video was an MTV instant classic). After five years of break-ups, solo projects and even a plane crash, Blink-182’s Mark, Tom and Travis have reunited to record a new album. Hear it, along with their hits, at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Call Ticketmaster, 1-855-985-5000.

Q&A: Local Crooner Amy Wood

Courtesy Amy Wood

A few months ago a friend of mine introduced me to Calgary singer/songwriter Amy Wood’s latest album, Cinnamon Heart. After hearing a few tracks from this folksy/pop artist, I was mesmerized. Reminiscent of UK singer Adele, her haunting and beautiful voice was still her own. When I discovered that Wood was performing at Higher Ground on July 26, I immediately requested an interview. (more…)