I’ve tried to leave Calgary a couple of times, figuring I’d never come back, bidding it adieu with a middle finger as I drove out of town. But each time I came back to ‘Cow-Town’ I found a city that was ingrained in me, a knowing like the back of your hand, redeeming qualities that only age and life experience can show you. It’s a great place to live. There are some incredible people here. It’s undeniable.
However, I moved to Kelowna in May 2011. Frustrated by perceptions of me and my music in the Calgary music scene, devastated by the end of a long relationship, hungry for a BC experience that I had been longing for after years of summer trips to Skaha climbing bluffs, Naramata bench wineries, warm Okanagan ‘awake-the-lake’ swims, and the perpetual sweet smell of strawberries and peaches, juniper and pine (Ari Neufeld lyrics;).
Ari Neufeld and I had planted the seeds of our friendship through combined touring and writing in his woodshed studio just south of Penticton before I moved to Kelowna. We made a strong connection through our music, but also in our plight to make our music careers more sustainable and successful. We differed in our musical style, but our shared influences connected the dots, and he’s become one of my dearest and most valued friends.
Ari was performing at the BC Interior Music Awards in Kelowna that April. He knew I was thinking of a move to Kelowna and introduced me to everyone who was anyone backstage. “This is Brent Tyler, a singer-songwriter from Calgary.” Sounds like an accurate phrase for those that know me now, but in Calgary, this wasn’t the perception of me. It was, Brent Tyler, the cover-tune guy that plays in all the bars. Hey, can you play ‘Wheat Kings’ by Tragically Hip??
My frustration of this semi-accurate perception stems from 17 years making a living performing covers in the bar scene. In Calgary, unlike most Canadian cities, you can make a lot of dough performing this way. I carved out a niche in Calgary as a solo performer that could get a full dance-floor moving without a backing band. So, I performed lots of big shows and had no one to share the profits with. I made some really good money. But I was unsatisfied with the lifestyle. Late, late nights entertaining drunks of the lowest common denominator in a cesspool of terrible decision making and slippery sloped moral judgment.
I wanted out. The money didn’t matter. Kelowna seemed like paradise. Ari introduced me to Nico Boesten. Nico called his pal, Mike Donley at the Streaming Café and said, ‘hey, why don’t we get Ari’s pal BT in on one of those songwriter’s circles that Graham Ord is hosting?’ Done. One month after the awards show I moved to Kelowna with a show at the Streaming Café alongside Mark Irving, Rachel MacGregor, and Graham Ord. With no understanding of my career as a cover artist, the Kelowna scene embraced me at face value. I had an album in my hand of all original material and the music community rolled out the red carpet to welcome me to the valley.
Just under a year of living in Kelowna, I was given incredible opportunities to perform on all the stages; heART school, Streaming Café, Downtown Kelowna Block Party, Parks Alive, Global Music Fest, Keloha Festival, and Lillegard Festival @ Bo.ttega Farm Inn & Studio. Thanks to a individuals like Nico Boesten, Graham Ord, David Krysko, Ari Neufeld, Ryan Donn, Kelly Shepherd, Mike Pederson, to name a few;)
I’ve since moved back to Calgary. The resources of musicians and relationships built here have made it a strong business decision. But the allure of the Okanagan still tugs at my heart. I feel like I’m a member of both communities. This is confirmed by my gas expenses over the last two years with an average of 10 trips per year over the mountains back and forth!
In August 2013, Mike Donley and Jamie Prentice approached me and lured me away from Alberta to record my planned new studio album at the Bo.ttega Studios. It was an incredible experience from the start as I brought out some of Calgary’s finest musicians to camp out at this gorgeous retreat in the East Kelowna hills away from families and city hubbub to immerse ourselves in the project. The results were top-shelf. I’m so proud to have done part of the project here in Kelowna. And it all started with that first concert in June 2011…
That night at the Streaming Café, I noticed a tall, sleek and slender brunette with a pink stripe in her hair snapping pics of our songwriter’s circle. It was my first introduction to the indelible, Carrie Anne Mitchell. We crossed paths a few times through the thriving artist community in Kelowna and quickly became friends.
Carrie has always had a way of validating me as an artist and encouraging me to filter through the grey noise and distraction of the industry. She believed in me. She was a fan. She sent me a video of herself painting with one of my CD tracks cranked in her little corner studio! It made her happy. It made me happy to see my music being enjoyed and consumed by another artist. One that I would grow to respect delivering countless conversations of inspiration and determination on what it takes to ‘make it’ in the incredibly challenging business of art.
Carrie has been a beacon of light to me. She’s really hard on herself. As am I. But I often wonder if this self-deprecating, self-loathing bolt of ‘nothing-I-ever-do-is-good-enough’ lightning that rages through our veins actually gives us the drive to push our limits and continue growing? Carrie seems to me as someone who has something to prove. Less to ‘Joe Public’. More to herself. To prove that those seemingly silly little dreams/ideas that spontaneously pop into her head have merit. They have value beyond what an ex-husband or politician might say. To prove that art can be a hub for community. To prove that she can create art that has value beyond dollar signs. To prove that her art is worth dollar signs ;) To prove that she can live up to the ideas that are catapulting through her brain on a daily basis. Regardless of the resources available.
Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?!? Live up to the expectations we/society puts on us. To be good parents. To be responsible members of society. To pay our taxes. To be active participants in our communities and bring worth to a world for future generations. Blah blah blah…
What about living up to basic expectations of loving ourselves? Exploring our boundaries and exposing our vulnerability to learn and grow? Inventing new possibilities that didn’t exist before and enrolling others to join in on the creation? Setting small goals and achieving them to find confidence and internal validation? Dreaming big goals and enlisting the help and support of your friends and resources to make something bigger than you ever could imagine?
That’s what Carrie’s done. All of that. I often wonder if she even sees all that she’s created. She started heART school just over a year ago and now it’s expanding. She enrolled the help and resources of some amazing people that shared her vision. This wasn’t even on the radar last year. But here we are on the cusp of opening the doors to a new space. All because some people with big ideas got together.
Be. Do. Have. Be an artist. Do the work. Have results. That’s what Carrie and her community of incredibly talented artists are doing with the heART school expansion. They don’t HAVE the resources in place yet to fully execute the dream. But that hasn’t stopped them. They’re doing it the right way. Dream big. Set new precedents for the art community by bringing together all forms of art, design, technology, expression into a hub where everyone is welcome from the top down. You don’t have to be established or an expert in your field. I think what you’ll find at heART school is a bunch of people, who through trials and tribulations of independent entrepreneurship, have worn all the business hats. Jack & Jills of all trades. Masters of none. But we all see the value of putting our heads and hearts together to achieve something greater than what we could dream internally. We enroll each other in the ideas to make them a reality.
That’s what’s going on Sunday June 29th, 2014. Be an expansionist. Do the work involved in inviting others to the potential of the space. Have a wicked party to celebrate the smaller goals achieved and drum up support for the larger goals unfulfilled. Enrich the lives of Kelownians by creating an event in a space that welcomes everyone with incredible music, art, food, drink, and community. We’ll have all of those things on June 29th at the new space for heART school with music from Ari Neufeld, Joshua Smith, Jory Kinjo, and yours truly.
Joshua Smith is transplanted from east coast Halifax region to the Okanagan and has been carving out his presence in the Kelowna music scene as a jack-of-all-music. Whether he’s performing with the funk band, 'Fudunkafunk', local bluegrass quartet ‘The Trips’, or as a solo performer, Joshua’s laid back, earnest style and delivery is incredibly inviting and warm. Imagine Hank Williams and Roger Miller were sipping whiskey on the front porch while they dialed in James Taylor on the radio. Easy listening folk-soul music. So good. www.joshuasmithtunes.com
Jory Kinjo was introduced to the heART community on a tour with me in January 2013. This incredible musician has an impressive resume touring throughout the world with the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, ZZ Top, Hugh Masekela, to name a few;) He’s one of Calgary’s most well respected musicians as he approaches his performance and business with incredible integrity and sincerity. A monster bass/guitar player, Jory blends ska/reggae/soul/r&b/funk into his original music with an aggressive attack that invigorates and energizes. Imagine Stevie Wonder & Buddy Guy were smoking up with Bob Marley as they grooved out to The Slackers ‘Wasted Days’. Ska-Soul-R&B. www.jorykinjo.com
Me? Imagine Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson were drinking some sort of brown liquor around the fire at Martin Sexton’s house while they listened to The Beatles ‘White Album’ on vinyl. Folk-Roots-Soul. With three albums scheduled for release in 2014, I’ve got a busy year ahead of me. I just released a new EP titled ‘This Breath’ available for download at www.brenttyler.bandcamp.com and in the fall I’ll release the full studio album recorded at Bo.ttega, as well as a full band live album bootleg recorded at The Ironwood Stage in Calgary. www.brentyler.com
Buy your tickets early. Support Carrie and her crew of awesome artists and get out to the show!