I wrote this year in review mostly for me but also to share it.
I love having the chance to look back and reflect on how the year came together and how sometimes it didn’t. Along the way, I get to pore over photos, diary entries, calendar entries and oddly, receipts I’ve collected, to help me remember the little details I would have otherwise forgotten if not for the collecting, photographing or recording I did throughout the year. So, I take this moment to pause and enjoy what last year held for us as a band, to honour the work and touring behind us while also planning for the year ahead.
Most importantly, looking back gives me the chance to see for myself, in no uncertain terms, how lucky I am to get to do the work I do with amazing people I love. Without further preamble, here’s a look back on our band’s life in 2019.
January, February & March
It’s almost a rule that we take the first two weeks of January at home, off the road, after a busy (read: insane) winter and Christmas touring season. But we never wait too long and by about the third week of January every year, we are back at it playing shows and planning the year ahead. We had already been back at our desks and at our instruments long before our first tour of 2019 and that tour was a pleasant in-and-out visit to Halifax for In the Dead of Winter Festival (IDOW) and Fredericton for Shivering Songs, two aptly named festivals, perfectly placed on the last weekend of January.
Once home, we were in the final stages of preparing for our big Live Taping Show that took place on February 9th in Huntsville. This was a huge endeavour for our band, the goal being to capture on video, our 5-piece band show on a gorgeous stage. We worked tirelessly for months leading up to this show alongside our close friend and producer extraordinaire Jess Milton (and our newest friend and Jess’s right hand lady for this project Monika Seiler) to develop the strongest program for our audience, to put together the best video, audio and lighting team to capture the show as we wanted it – and to somehow, keep this all within a budget that wouldn’t kill us later. It was a huge feat, and we got through it together, and had an incredible couple of days filming and just being up in Huntsville in the winter. Truthfully, this project is still ongoing today, but still we are happy we did it, and look forward to sharing the results in the next 12 months.
At the end of February we headed east to Montreal for the annual Folk Alliance International Conference. It was awash with friends from all over, and it was full of meetings, dates, late night music showcases, and early morning panels about the music industry. One highlight for me, included singing Manic Monday in like 11-part harmony – in a hotel room full of some of the best singers in Canada. In the weeks to follow there was much to be done, grant writing, tour advancing, website updates, poster building, music learning – but at least we would be in our own homes and our own beds for the month of March.
April, May & June
April kicked off with a tour of the United Kingdom as a five-piece band – and to make it more exciting for our fans in the UK, we brought along some of our favourite people, the Fortunate Ones to open each show. Half the towns we visited were beautiful venues we’d played before and the other half were new. It was a solid show top to bottom with lots of bonding and silliness along the way. Highlights included creating an Instagram account for Mark Mariash (drummer) behind his back and then posting all sorts of great memories for the whole tour and presenting him with the account at the end of tour. (Jury is still out whether this was also a highlight for Mark, or just the other seven of us.)
For the few moments we were at home post UK Tour and pre-Europe Tour, we had to make time for a photo shoot for our December touring season – a strange and necessary part of our job. We are lucky to work with incredible forward planning people like the folks at the NAC in Ottawa who start selling tickets for December shows in April. But if you’re going to promote a wintery show in April, you’ve gotta get your wintery photo taken just as the flowers are blooming in Ontario.
(Photo by Shelley Hayes (@ladyhayes) friend and stylist)
By the end of May we were up in the air again, this time flying to the Netherlands and Germany for two weeks. Opening for us on this tour was the incredible Manitoba band (and incredible people to the core) Leaf Rapids. Keri and Devin Latimer, along with their kids, made this an unforgettable tour. It was a musical match made in heaven and we look forward to a chance to tour with them again. Highlights include Caroline and the kids jumping in the river for a quick dip a mere 45 minutes before showtime in Steendam, Netherlands.
June & July at home
Once home from tour we were right back at it, this time in one of the other places we work often: in a recording studio. Our band and producer went to work for 5 long days and laid down tracks for our new album Evergreen that came out just FIVE months later. That is unheard of these days, unless you’re crazy like us. From June and into July we recorded, worked on overdubs, drank so much coffee and sang so many harmonies in the making of that album (our second Christmas album.) In November, when we got together for rehearsal we would note to one another how easy it was to get these songs going again despite the fact that it’s a complete turnover of material from the rest of the year. Of course, this was because we spent much of the summer playing, performing, singing and editing this album, and it was oh, so fresh in our brains.
August on the road
…and just like that we were back in the East Coast of Canada, at one of Canada’s finest festivals, Lunenburg Folk Festival where we played no fewer than 6 times. We were driven to and from the airport and then shuttled around from our homestays to the stages each day. Highlight that weekend was when Sue’s dad, Ted, got up from his seat during our main stage performance to show his original Good Lovelies T-shirt from over a decade ago, and then danced for everyone while Mark played a sexy drum beat.
From Lunenburg we flew to England as a trio for a tidy 6-day tour of some new-to-us venues and a couple of familiar ones. It was a perfect little tour, where our friend and opener Jamie Freeman drove us from gig to gig, helped source our backline, and also acted as our sound tech. It was made even better by the fact that Caroline’s sister in law, Charmian leant us her London home as our home base while we darted back and forth to our gigs, saving us hundreds, probably thousands of dollars… er, pounds? in hotel fare. These types of kindnesses are truly what make touring sustainable. From England, we were back one final time in 2019 in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. Highlights included playing the inaugural Nova Scotia Music Festival just before Alan Doyle took the stage. It was August 13th, and we were in short sleeves and it was 13 degrees outside. Brr.
The shows were all a blast and they flew by and before we knew it, we were home again.
September and October at home
September was crunch time to get our Christmas album edited and out to the manufacturer. We spent hours listening to mixes and making editing notes. While that was happening, we were also editing and proofreading the artwork for the album. As you would imagine, this is all necessary work that goes hand in hand with recording an album and it can be tedious. It requires so much time, so much mental energy, focus and patience. It is the hard work of this type of work, and I am so grateful during these times that we are a trio (or a 3-headed monster) so we can share the load, and vent our frustrations to each other, and eventually call it finished and let it go. That we did, and then we headed out for another mini-tour.
September and October on the road
It was a perfect autumn run of shows with one of our best friends, and one of Canada’s finest guitarists/lap steel players, Christine Bougie, joining us on stage. Also with us on that run, was one of Canada’s top sound techs (and full-time touring machine) Ryan Fields doing our sound every night.
This tour was different than the others, we shifted from being a 5-piece band to a 4-piece, changed up some instruments and unearthed some new and sometimes old songs. We were in Grimsby, Peterborough, Paris and finally Kingston and each show was special in its own right. For the Kingston show, the SONG choir opened for us, and Sue joined them on stage to perform a song she had written with them – it was beautiful. And then during our set a group of adults who had signed up in advance joined us on stage to sing three of our songs with us. Performing with both choirs was simply stunning and I ache to do more of this. When the gig ended, and as soon as we could, Caroline and I zipped off to Napanee to crash for the night before running a half-marathon the next morning in Picton… because we are… crazy.
Halfway through October we were part of the Awesome Music Project launch in Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel and not long after helped get the word out further on Breakfast Television (yay to the 4am wake up call!) and performed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. These folks are doing important work with music therapy and mental health – please donate if you can, buy the book and read the incredible stories of the people in the book who credit music to keeping them above water.
A fun start to November was performing one of our songs Take Me, Take Me, with a young girl for TVO Kids show. The episode will air sometime in 2020 (we’ll keep you posted!) and spending a few hours taping our part in this episode was a total blast.
On November 15th our album, Evergreen came out and right afterward we started hitting the pavement to radio stations around Ontario to get the word out. Rehearsals followed in that time of beautiful chaos and then it was upon us, our big annual tour every year, the Christmas tour that brings us all over the place, this year all over Ontario, for three weeks.
And just before that tour started, we had an incredible opportunity thanks to our friend and supporter, Royal Wood, to play on the Roy Thomson Stage in Toronto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. We performed our single I See Gold from Shapeshifters with the orchestra, and we performed our rendition of the Beatles Because a capella with Royal. We savoured every moment on that stage and will never forget it.
On December 15th our band turned thirteen years old! And our birthday present to ourselves was a day off (but it was mostly spent going to family Christmas parties…) Still, we’re proud to have made it so far thirteen years in this music business and we clink our glasses to the next thirteen years ahead.
Our Christmas Tour was one for the books: all shows in Ontario (for the first time ever) and most shows sold out, except in the places where we brought it for the first time. Every year we take our 6-piece band on the road for as long as the Christmas season allows and give our audiences everything we’ve got. Steve Zsirai (bass) Mark Mariash (drums) and Johnny Spence (keys) were divine as our backing band and the audiences loved them, each one of them hilarious in their own right.
Our collective highlight from that of that tour was launching our Good Lovelies Forest initiative, where for every album sold on tour, we will plant two trees on property in Burk’s Falls. This is our attempt to offset our band’s footprint on the planet as touring means flying and driving all over the place. Our audiences were amazing and their response was overwhelming. We are just beginning to plan our tree planting events for 2020 (there will be at least two) so please sign up for our newsletter to find out how you can be part of them, and to follow our progress in planting the Good Lovelies Forest this year and beyond.
We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you out there, caring, listening, coming to shows, and being part of our musical life. Thank you for continuing to be there, as we grow, change, explore, take time off, put out records and try all sorts of new things. It’s amazing what has happened in the last thirteen years, and I have a kind of child’s excitement about what the next thirteen could hold.
And something that goes unsaid publicly, though I think it every single day, is I want to thank my friends and my band mates for being there with me on the road, on stage, in the studio, in the car, on the airplane, in my home, in their homes, in hotel rooms or in dressing rooms . I see your sacrifice, I see you giving your energy and light to our shared work and I am forever grateful to you for all you have done, and all you continue to do to build our touring life into a successful and sustainable endeavour.
It’s a beautiful life to be sure, and I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock on any of it. We’ve learned how to tour better, smarter, more economically, more kindly to each other and to the world around us.