Edmonton based singer-songwriter Ann Vriend won the Toronto Blues Society‘s 5th Annual Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award (her second win!) at the 22nd Annual Maple Blues Awards on Monday, February 4, 2019 for her song “It’s Happening”, an empowering and gritty, inner-city soul anthem. Paul Reddick, the founder of the award and a Juno award-winning musician and songwriter, and the panel of judges chose Ann’s song from 55 different entries!
“It’s Happening” was recorded June 4, 2018, with students from the Sifton Elementary School Choir. Sifton Elementary is a school in North Edmonton where some students come from war-torn countries and traumatizing and/or impoverished situations. The funding of this recording was made possible via an anonymous donor who saw the students and AV perform at a school fundraiser May 4, 2018. The donor was so moved and inspired by the performance of the song that he immediately asked how it could be immortalized by a studio recording of it. A week later he graciously provided the funding for this endeavor. A month to the day after their debut performance, the students, AV, and her producer and videographer, Tino Zolfo (Poppa Champagne), were in the recording studio recording the song and making a music video for it. None of the students had been in a recording studio prior to this date, but have since inspired many people with their talent, hope, and enthusiasm for this venture. AV and all involved in the making of this video would like to thank everyone for listening and being part of this experience.
Words, Music, Choir Arrangement, Lead Vocals, Keys: AV
Choir: Sifton Elementary School Choir, directed by Music Teacher Kristina Kuchta
Bass, Percussion, Programming, Music Production, Video Filming, Video Director, Video Editing: Tino Zolfo (Poppa Champagne)
Music recorded by Randor Lin at Velveteen Audio, Edmonton
Music mixed by Brandon Unis, Edmonton
Music mastered by Peter Letros, Wreckhouse Mastering, Toronto
Video filmed at Velveteen Audio, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Camera Assistance by Brad Nelson, Cylinder Sound & Film
Project Coordinated by AV, Highlands Jr High Principal Brad Burns, Sifton Elementary School Principal Martin Fechner, Music Teacher Kristina Kuchta, and the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation via Tracy Poulin
TORONTO – TUESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2017 – Big Win for Ann Vriend! Following on the heels of her powerful and well-received Blues Summit Eight showcase with Rooster Davis Group (also her backing band), Ann Vriend is more than thrilled that she has won the Toronto Blues Society’s COBALT PRIZE at last night’s Maple Blues Awards. The event took place at Toronto’s Koerner Hall where Vriend was handed the award for Contemporary Blues Composition/Songwriting for her song “All That I Can” (Aporia Records), a soulful gospel tune. For more information please visit: www.annvriend.com / www.aporia-records.com.
The Toronto Blues Society’s annual Cobalt Prize is judged on a song’s ability to creatively utilize blues traditions within the broad contemporary musical landscape. With a focus on melody, song structure, lyric etc. they also choose the song that “will refresh and enrich blues as an art form.”
The Cobalt Prize judges decided that Edmonton-based Ann Vriend’s “All That I Can” achieved just that, and selected it as first place winner among 75 entries from across Canada. Shocked and ecstatic from the win, Vriend gave a speech noting the inspiration from the African-American community, reminding the audience that they were all there because of a music that came out of great hardship, slavery, and abuse of the African-American people – and yet blues music has had the most profound influence on almost all genres of music world-wide than any other genre.
“All That I Can” is a new track from AV’s upcoming EP release via Aporia Records. It will also be released in Australia next month, alongside four other original tracks, in an EP entitled Anybody’s Different, licensed by David Hand Productions from Aporia Records. With the vocals recorded in primarily one take, the song has a live-off-the-floor feeling and falls into the category of gospel blues with its 6/8 time signature. The music is very traditional gospel, but the lyrics are secular. The Hammond organ combined with upright piano and AV’s soul vocals are reminiscent of early gospel and soul recordings in the era of Sam Cooke. However, there is also a contemporary twist in the sound too – since the drums used on this track are sampled in the style of retro hip hop, and eq’ed to give the song a rough low-fi edge, in contrast with Vriend’s smooth and sweet (though powerful) vocals.
The lyrics of the song are an earnest promise to a lover to do “all that I can” if the lover is willing to “take me just as I am” – a plea to be a true friend and companion in a world where “sometimes I think they wanna break me, just to see if they can.” Though Vriend points out: “but they mistake me as a weak and silly woman,” which could be taken as a slight jab at the misogyny that is sadly, still so prevalent in the world.
Following this very fruitful weekend in Toronto, is a showcase tonight at Aporia Record Label, 714 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, at 6:30 pm. Then Vriend will tour Australia with the Rooster Davis Group next month for a five-week tour, to support the Anybody’s Different EP followed by a European Tour from May 13-29, 2017.
More on “All That I Can”
Composer: Ann Vriend
Producer: Tino Zolfo
Mixing engineer: Brandon Unis, Cylinder Sound
Film mastering engineer: Peter Letros, Wreckhouse Mastering
Label: Aporia Records
Vocals and Piano: Ann Vriend
Organ: Rooster Davis (David Aide)
Programming: Tino Zolfo
ANN VRIEND NEW VIDEO WILL YOU BE THERE? OUT DECEMBER 9TH!
“Don’t miss her.” ~ Toronto Star “Holy wow! What a voice!” ~ The AU Review in Australia “Vriend’s voice is unmistakable, catching and powerful,”~ The Calgary Sun
TORONTO – 2016 – The captivating and powerhouse vocalist Ann Vriend (AV) releases new single and video “Will You Be There,” (Aporia Records), a compelling song propelled by an irresistible dance beat, a catchy horn sample, and Vriend’s invincible vocal prowess. The single’s out now on iTunes, Spotify and all regular digital distribution channels. For more info please visit: www.annvriend.com /www.aporia-records.com.
One listen to “Will You Be There?” and you’ll know how great a singer, songwriter, and musician Ann Vriend (AV) is; witness one live performance, and you’ll fall in love with her. Of all the things she is, AV is definitely the real deal.
The Edmonton-based singer-songwriter has spent considerable time with her backing band in New Orleans, studying the convergence of gospel, blues, funk, soul, Caribbean beats, and jazz – and staying up late trying to experience as much of it as possible. All those elements are combined in “Will You Be There?” as the ever-evolving and revolving door of sounds and culture from Crescent City continues to inspire and influence the world of pop and R&B – even as far north as Edmonton, Alberta.
Produced by Tino Zolfo – a soul bassist himself back in the day – “Will You Be There?” is an intense New Orleans funk/dance R&B song about how easy it is to “be around” for the good times, the party, the nightclub fun. But then it asks “will you be there for the other part?” Whether asking that of a lover, of friends, of fans, or of the world at large, it’s left open-ended for the listener to decide.
The song is musically very upbeat and danceable, but also has a darker vibe and is a cautionary tale about the night life and being careful when you cross the line. It continues in AV’s ‘70s soul direction, but would sit quite comfortably on any playlist alongside the contemporary voices of Bruno Mars, Pharrell Williams, Amy Winehouse, Meghan Trainor, and Adele.
More about AV
AV recently signed with Toronto-based record label Aporia. She has appeared on CBC’s “Vinyl Café” with Stuart McLean, ABC TV’s prime time music comedy trivia show “Spicks and Specks,” ABC Radio’s “The Inner Sleeve” plus Sydney Mornings with Wendy Harmer, and Germany’s “Arte TV.” She has been featured in Elle Magazine and performed at Koerner Hall via the Songwriters’ Association of Canada, alongside Dan Hill, Marc Jordan, Melanie Doane, and others.
Musicians on the Recording:
Ann Vriend: vocals, keys, background vocals Tino Zolfo: bass, programming
January 7 – The Rec Room, Edmonton, AB January 21 – Toronto Blues Summit as part of Rooster Davis Group, Toronto, ON February 9 – March 12 – Australia EP Release Tour
NEW SINGLE YOU CAN HAVE ME RELEASED TO RADIO ON FRIDAY 15TH MAY 2015
Canadian songstress Ann Vriend is following up the success of her recent pop/soul long player For The People In The Mean Time with a catchy soul/funk single You Can Have Me, chosen specifically for release in Australia this May. After a successful tour down under at the start of 2015, it was quickly evident that Ann’s rapidly growing fanbase missed the pint-sized singer- songwriter, so she hand-picked one of her favourite tracks from the album to share with music lovers.
The Vancouver born singer hit her musical strides early when her parents discovered her picking out songs by ear on a toy xylophone at age three. She was enrolled in violin lessons by age four, and by the age of nine she was a composing songs on piano. Inspired to continue a career in the music industry, she entered school talent quests, enrolled in music college and won first place in a songwriting competition, which funded her debut album.
Ann’s sound has been described as an enchanting cross between the ‘girly timbre of Dolly Parton and the blues-filled prowess of Aretha Franklin’. In 2013 she won Canada’s nation-wide ‘She’s The One’ talent search at the Ottawa Bluesfest, and her live show with her band received 4/5 stars in Die Rhineplatz, Germany this past April. Meanwhile Ann’s songs have garnered airplay on both commercial and independent stations alike. Her latest album, For The People In The Mean Time, an energetic retro soul offering received 4/5 stars in Beat Magazine and is currently up for Pop Recording of the Year and Female Artist of the Year in her hometown of Edmonton. It was also nominated at the Toronto Independent Music Awards for Pop Album of the Year.
Track three from the album, the single You Can Have Me is a playful anti-romantic, or a realistic relationship song, says Ann. “I wrote it to be in contrast with the idealistic pop love songs out there,” she says. “But it’s still really upbeat and has a funky dance vibe rather than a sobering one. In fact, the whole album is about realistic expectations in my rough neighbourhood – sad if you read the lyrics, but the music is quite the opposite. It’s an old-school disco party, a really good time, heavy bad-ass beats, groovy basslines – the kind of thing to play on a Saturday night. I think inadvertently my philosophy of soul music came through, which is that people need to dance and sing and let loose – not because they are problem free and without any blues, but in spite of that, as a way of managing.”
Like many of Ann’s lyrical influences – Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Dylan – You Can Have Me is both tongue-in-cheek and simultaneously serious in nature: “It is about accepting and/or settling for someone to be with, in contrast to all the pop songs out there about ‘you’re so perfect and so beautiful and sexy 100 per cent of the time’,” she says. “I came up with a couple of characters who, like most people, want a person who fulfills all the things on their Ideal Person List– but instead they are advised maybe they should consider lowering their expectations of meeting all the points on their List– at least within the span of their lifetime– if they want to actually have a relationship with anyone! It may be on the one hand a bit of a cynical thing but I meant it to be more of a ‘hey, nobody’s perfect’, let’s celebrate people for who they really are kind of song. I mean, none of us are perfect!”
The album For The People In The Mean Time is firmly rooted in R&B, with nearly all its samples and influences coming from funk artists such as Sly Stone and Parliament, Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, and soul artists like Ray Charles and Ann’s all-time favorite singer, Aretha Franklin. The background vocals throughout are arranged in 3-part harmonies taken straight from the pages of the Rayelettes and Aretha, with You Can Have Me being no exception.
The original of You Can Have Me was recorded in Ann’s attic in Edmonton on Garageband as a rough demo, and sent to the album’s producer, Tino Zolfo, in Toronto. The demo had only the bare bones of the track: just piano, lead and background vocals, and a Motown type of chord progression. But Tino decided to put a different groove underneath. “Once he was done with it only the pre- chorus and bridge has any chord progression; he made it all about drums and bass,” says Ann. “After that we re-did the vocal and background vocals in Toronto, but in the end Tino liked how my original vocals sounded better, over the original chord progression he had then removed, because they imply this old-school harmony that’s no longer there. So it’s kind of a crazy thing but we kept those original vocals I did on a Sure 58 mic in my attic. I had no intention of that every being a keeper; I didn’t use a proper recording mic at all, but I am excited by how it sounds- it’s got a quirky old-school gritty undertone to it, while still being dance-like and poppy. That’s what Tino was after and I thought it suited the lyrics, and my neighbourhood, and me, perfectly.”
After releasing “You Can Have Me in Australia Ann hopes to return back down under in September 2015. Almost an ‘honorary Australian’, Ann has spent a considerable time touring the country, and considers it her “home away from home.” So when it came to releasing a new single from her album, Australia was one of the first places she decided to share the song.
Ann Vriend’s single You Can Have Me is released to radio on Friday 15th May 2015.