Hugh’s Room Live loves a good songwriter and is home to many a concert featuring Canada’s best. Our new Songwriter Sessions series explores songcraft in a round robin format with players peeling back the stories behind their work. Crossing genres and tapping into the natural Canadian gift of open, honest lyrics and tunes, we’ve invited some of our favourites to delve deeper and share their songs with you.
Blair Packham, songwriter, is back. And with a vengeance.
“Not literally—I’m not seeking revenge on anyone or anything, honest! But it’s true that I’ve been on a bit of a tear in the songwriting department lately,” the critically acclaimed artist admits.
Having first burst onto Canadian radio and music video TV as the lead singer of 80s power pop stalwarts The Jitters, Blair later released two strongly-reviewed solo albums before shifting his focus to composing music for TV and films, teaching songwriting at the post-secondary level and in numerous special event workshops, and co-hosting a long-running major market weekly radio show about music (“In the Studio” on the Bell Media talk radio network).
Now, 13 years after his last release (2004’s “Could’ve Been King”), Blair Packham has returned to the role of recording artist with a collection of clever, catchy, at times poignant and always satisfying songs, titled “Unpopular Pop.”
Playing, producing and engineering the tracks in his home studio, Blair also called upon some respected peers and friends to bring some additional magic to the mix.
“I’d write and record the songs up to a certain point, and then ask Mark Kelso (Michael Bublé, Bonnie Raitt) to record some drums. Then I’d ask Maury LaFoy (Jann Arden, k-os) to play bass, or Simon Kendall (Doug & the Slugs) to play Hammond organ or piano. It’s a real luxury to have such top-notch players more than happy to get involved,” says Blair.
A couple of the songs (“Don’t Know Why” and “Loved By You”) feature the debut of a one-off/twin star vocal duo calling themselves 20 Years From Stardom: none other than Ron Sexsmith and ex-Barenaked Ladies’ frontman Steven Page.
“As I was saying, it’s a real luxury…” Blair laughs.
While rarely overtly mixing politics with his art, the (if you will) Trump-card track “Enough Is Never Enough” features bigly help from Odds’ frontman Craig Northey, who co-wrote the words—about an unidentified decadent narcissist Tweeting away madly in a luxury suite in the middle of the night.
Northey, who has been a key collaborator of Blair’s on previous projects, also contributed backing vocals and a rollicking double-lead guitar solo that recalls The Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing,” a psychedelic pop gem if there ever was one.
The Beatles are a touchstone for Blair, and although he’s had many other influences over the years, from John Prine to XTC to Jules Shear, the Fab Four (“especially the period from 1965 to 1967”) loom large for him.
Rev. Lynn Harrison is a Toronto singer-songwriter and Unitarian Universalist minister. An inspiring musical presence at folk clubs, community events and festivals, she has released five CDs: Lynoleum, Learning Curve, Broadview, Simplicity and the brand new solo arrival, The Conversation. Lynn is also the Minister of Community Engagement at First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto and the creator and host of The Bridge, a themed open mic night that blends music and spirituality in an innovative and inclusive way. In all paths of her work, Lynn lifts up a powerfully inspiring message of love, hope and justice.
Hailing from the open skies and minds of Victoria, BC, 20-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Sam Weber has gone from strength to strength with gigs and EP releases that have caught the imagination of listeners and media across the world. His ambitious, masterful debut full-length album Shadows in the Road is the culmination of years already spent intensely focused on gigging and recording.
Shadows in the Road is an album of intense contrasts, emotional entanglement, and mercurial, enthralling arrangements. Comparisons and contrasts are admittedly a glib exercise, but if you, dear reader, require them, then Weber channels the raw simplicity of early John Hiatt and Bruce Springsteen, while maintaining the gentle emotive grip of acts like Bon Iver and Bat for Lashes.
In 2012, at age 19, Weber was one of the youngest people to ever be covered in a major Guitar Player magazine feature. “Weber’s expansive blend of driving rock, dream pop and roots influences is a testament to fierce ambition,” said Guitar Player editor Anil Prasad. “The singer-songwriter and guitarist is already an expert tunesmith, brimming with addictive, adventurous and confident pieces. Infused with deep wit and wisdom, Weber’s output is truly impressive. His guitar work is also killer, full of nuance, soul and a truly unique voice. This is an artist built for the long-term. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Weber in the coming years, and more than likely, decades.”
The prestigious Berklee College of Music also saw Weber’s incredible potential, awarding him a summer scholarship when he was 17. The school went on to award him a full-time scholarship, but Weber’s artistic instincts proved too restless and he returned home to Canada to pursue his songcraft.
In addition to his solo work, Weber plays with the celebrated Canadian indie rock act Jets Overhead. As part of the band, Weber has enthralled audiences, opening for the likes of Sam Roberts, The Tragically Hip, Said the Whale, Current Swell, and Stars. Weber’s journey is just beginning, and it’s off to a truly inspiring start. We invite you to jump onboard and check out this amazing talent during his “early era.” We’re confident Shadows in the Road is a classic in the making. We’re sure you’ll agree.
2018 has all the signs of being the break out year – so long deserved – by Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar. The group’s latest recording, entitled Run to Me, will be released April 27, 2018. Produced by Darcy Yates, the album is a massive step forward for both Martin and Delta Sugar. Over the course of the project’s ten tracks, every song written by Martin solo or in tandem with Curtis Chaffey or Suzie Vinnick, the album explores the full range of the vicissitudes of love: desire, betrayal and, at times, emotional and sexual satisfaction. As a collective, the songs reflect remarkable growth on Martin’s part as a songwriter. The lyrics are incisive, the melodies are constantly arresting and the harmonies and arrangements call up the best of the soul sounds of Stax Records and such contemporary artists as Leon Bridges, Sharon Jones, and Lee Fields.