Under His Eye

In this case, the title of this week’s blog does not refer specifically to the creepy greeting from The Handmaid’s Tale. Rather, it describes how I felt playing last night and earlier in the week for two of my favourite songwriter friends, Michael Sheen Cuddy and Jody Ferrer.

Relish Show: September 29, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage
Photo by Cam McInnes

After a week of working trough the songs, I was as well prepared as could be to do justice to Michael’s challenging yet fun songs, but still felt the pressure to do well, given that many of the song recordings I used to prep were produced by and featured guitar work by the great Tim Bovaconti, which I was hoping to satisfactorily emulate. On top of that, playing with Paul Brennan (drums), and David Macmichael (bass), two players whose taste and ears I massively respect, further drove the need to excel. It did not make things easier when another superlative guitarist, Cam McInnes of Cadre renown walked in and sat a metre away from me. Still, I think I held my own, certainly enjoyed the night, and I’d love to do it again as I’ve learned the material now!

Leadfoot Studio Session for Jody Ferrer: September 26, 2019

Recording for Jody Ferrer (Jody and the Friendzone) last Wednesday turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected. Although I had prepared for it, with charts and a mockup recording to work out the riffs, for some reason I could not get through a full song without making a flub somewhere along the line. Hopefully, digital recording magic and patience from engineer Mike at Leadfoot Studio should fix things. We’ll see…

Three Guys – One Rhythm Section

Poster courtesy Fraz Milne

Looking for a fun night this coming Tuesday, October 2? Make it down to the Linsmore Tavern for a great evening of original music (and some covers) by friends Fraz Milne and Sal Indigo, and with the Cats and me. As you can see from the poster, drumming and bass will be shared amongst the three acts, ably performed by Chris Bender and Neil Morris respectively. Can’t wait!

Until then, be well!



Attic Antics

🎶 Every day I get in the queue 🎶[/[/
Back in the big smoke now, and the first order of business was Long and McQuade‘s Attic Sale on Friday morning just past. After a 3 hours wait, finally got in and nabbed a used MOTU 8pre eight-channel ADAT preamp to replace the Focusrite OctoPre I had been renting all summer. Officially ready now for 12 simultaneous channels of recording fun!


Out and About

img_0852.jpgFriday night was the occasion to catch some fine music in the clubs and I wasn’t disappointed. First off was Mimi O’Bonsawin‘s excellent set at the Dock on Queen, complete with a preview of her latest video. Mimi and suitcase kicking percussionist and partner Ryan Schurman delivered a catchy and eclectic mix of original songs (and one cover) to a small but enthusiastic crowd, closing off a summer of extensive touring and sightseeing in Northern Ontario.

img_0860.jpgNext up was the weekly Blues Jam at the Salty Dog, where the Sons of Rhythm were featured. Host Mike Sedgwick sat in with this virtuosos trio, further raising the bar, bit follow-up Sal Indigo did not disappoint. I only regret not being able to stay later but a morning commitment loomed.

Nova Scotia Highlights

Those who read last week’s remote blog will know I was travelling in Nova Scotia. Beautiful place and lots to relate, but let me just focus on a few oddities.

First was this guitar shown below made from the type of coal shovel as was employed early last century by miners in Cape Breton. This one, signed by George Jones, is on display at the Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay. By the way, once you visit this place, Merle TravisSixteen Tons takes on full and concrete meaning.

🎶 Working’ in a coal mine, going down, down.
Workin’ in a coal mine. Whew! About to slip down. 🎶

Another intriguing guitar that I played briefly at Fortress of Louisbourg. The gentleman who allowed me to pick it up explained it was a reproduction of an 18th century guitar. I do not have the expertise to say one way or the other. The guitar was set up with paired strings (like a twelve-string), but without the low E pair. Very Keith Richard!


Finally, not sure if any comment is required regarding the following photograph. This is just outside of North Sydney.


Special Gig Alert

Image may contain: 4 people, people smilingI have the great pleasure to be guesting with Michael Cuddy this coming Saturday, September 29, 9:30 PM, at Relish Bar and Grill. I am a big fan on Michael’s songs, and very much want to do them justice.

On top of that, his latest recordings feature guitar work by Tim Bovaconti, who regularly performs with Ron Sexsmith and Burton Cummings, as well as leading his own excellent group. That’s who I am supposed to cover for!

Piling on, the rhythm section is David Macmichael on bass and Paul Brennan on drums (honorary Cats btw!), some of the best and most tasteful musicians I have ever played with.

So I have my work cut out for me but it will be an inspiring challenge. Please come down to see how well I do, but mostly to hear Michael Cuddy’s eclectic and superbly crafted songs!

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

Be well!


Wise Words

Ace blues guitarist and host of the highly successful Friday Night Blues Jam at the Salty Dog Mike Sedgewick recently posted on Facebook some thoughts about musicians’ complaining about poor turnout. It’s worth taking a moment to read what he suggests.

I hate seeing posts from musicians who get angry that people don’t go out to their shows or that the live music scene is dead. I never hold it against anyone who doesn’t make it out and I always try to make a point to thank people that do come out, especially those that I always see at venues who constantly support live music. If you want people to make it out to shows try doing things like:

1. Make it a better experience for the listener. Have an act that gives reason for someone to spend their night/money at a venue. Make it exciting. Have appropriate sound levels! It’s great fun to blast through classic rock covers at rock concert volume but it’s an attack on the senses on people who would otherwise enjoy the music for a longer duration. There’s only so long anyone can handle deafening volume. It’s exhausting. Also, don’t think that because your band can competently get through tired covers or your original material it makes for a good show. If you are on stage disconnected from the audience just going through the motions then what reason do people have to not just stay at home and listen to the radio?

2. Engage the audience. I always make a point on breaks to go around and say hi to strangers or friends at tables and thank them for their patronage. It might seem silly but it makes people know they are appreciated and only serves to make a night more memorable when they can talk to the musicians they see on stage. Be approachable. I always see people walk by and you can tell that they want to talk/say hi so I make sure that I at least acknowledge them and look friendly so they have that opportunity.

3. Realize that the live music scene HAS changed immensely from what it used to be. But it is not dead. Be grateful that it still exists. There are plenty of great local acts who constantly pack venues. Obviously they’re doing something right to consistently draw and I doubt anyone would leave these gigs thinking “oh the live music scene is totally dead now why bother”.

4. Don’t take yourself too seriously and try to have fun. If you’ve been toiling for years to write groundbreaking original material that’s gonna change the world and finally are ready to debut the masterpiece, realize that a lot of people are just out to have a few beers and chat with their friends. The next day they’ll remember the night before as “that was fun to get out and see live music”.

Rant over. That’s just my perspective. I’ve been lucky to have had some grassroots success with some of the things I do and when asked why it works I can only guess that the above points have something to do with it. Also I’m sure some great musicians who I respect a ton may have issue with some of these points and would love to hear any feedback as to what I’m missing or got wrong.

At the time of this post being written, there were 60 comments following his “rant”, and all positive. Mike just may be on to something!

Happy reading and be well!

Tip Jar

tip jar
Authentic fuzzy Relish tip jug.

The first item in this week’s episode will be a distillation of some thoughts on tipping the band. It’s driven by the experience of nine months at the ABC for my songwriters’ circle, which improved tips considerably.

I apologize in advance if this comes off as ranty and cra$$. I hope you can see it as a way to support all performers who too often pay-to-play. There is a considerable investment in time, talent and hard costs involved in performing (yup, we chose to do this, and we do enjoy playing, but for free?), but more importantly an entertainment service is provided. After all, people pay for many other enjoyable things, so why not live music?

The fact that some people will walk out of a club where live music is performed without dropping anything in the tip jar is more likely due to misunderstanding (and a bit of thoughtlessness occasionally) about how the music scene in clubs now operates.

Let me lay it out for you (musician readers will know this already, but you may choose to inform your attendees at shows).

Payment for live bands/artists generally falls into the following categories.

  1. The club pays the band a full wage for the show. This was common when I started playing in clubs in the 70s, when the Union set scale and agencies handled most bookings, but is essentially no longer happening in smaller venues, or even larger ones, which brings us to…
  2. The club may pay a base honorarium, often far less than minimum wage. This is the reality of budgetary constraints for clubs due to competition and heavy overhead costs. Therefore, artists must either…
  3. …charge a cover at the door. While this is fine for people who have come to see the band, some clubs are restaurants also, and those customers are not there for the band, just a meal which can get awkward.
  4. …collect a small percentage of bar revenues during the performance, usually 10%. This is a safe compromise.
  5. …pass the tip jar. Sometimes, that’s the only option.

The challenge for the audience, even knowledgeable musicians attending a show, is that it can be hard to tell which scenario is in play. That’s why I always try to make it unambiguous for everyone when I perform.

The safest bet for attendees is to think of live musicians like bar and restaurant servers: if you enjoyed the show in any way, leave a tip, just as you would after a meal or a few drinks. Adjust accordingly to your level of enjoyment. Really disliked the music or weren’t there for entertainment anyway? Then $0 is fine, your call.

Finally, if have no cash for the tip jar, try this: leave a slightly larger tip on the payment machine, and ask the server to pass on whatever amount you choose to the band. Worth a shot, right?

Rant over.

Show Report

The band had a blast last night at Relish! Thanks go out to Joanne Clayton for giving a slot once again, the entire staff for making us feel welcome, and to the audience for such a great response.


Thanks as well to Meghan Eleftherios for pictures and videos, one of which is below and features the tail end of Movin’ and Shakin’ the World.

Rumour has it Meghan (aka Bonnie Memphis) may be performing at Tony Oldland‘s Acoustic Open Mic at The Beach House this coming Wednesday, possibly backed by FatCats drummer and birthday boy today Chris Bender!

Our next show is October 2 at the Linsmore as part of a special “Chris and NeMo back everybody” night with Sal Indigo and Fraz Milne. I may be also playing another unusual show in September…more on that as the plot thickens.

Until then, be well!


Pérégrination – part(ie) 3

This completes this short series of bilingual posts. However, I’m expecting it may happen again from time to time, subject dependent.

IMG_0788.jpgLac Pelletier

Nous voici enfin à l’épisode final de ce trio de blogs. Pendant ma visite récente au Témiscouata, j’ai rencontré des cousines, deux étant filles de mon oncle Georges et ma tante Georgette. Ils vivent tous prêt du domaine parental, à quelques kilomètres du village de Packington, autour d’un petit lac artificiel que mon oncle avait créé il y a bien longtemps. Voici un panorama des environs. La maison fut le point rassemblement pour de nombreuses soirées canadiennes, et un petit musée d’instruments de musique que j’ai toujours trouvé fascinants.


Lake Pelletier

While in Témiscouata a few weeks ago, I spent some time with a few cousins, two of which are daughters of my uncle Georges and aunt Georgette. They live just outside of the village of Packington, and very near and artificial lake my uncle created long ago by damming up a creek than ran through the property. A panoramic photo is included above. The house was the site of many happy kitchen parties and a bit of a musical instrument museum, which I think led to a lifelong fascination.

Quick Birthday Shoutout

img_0816.jpgLast Thursday was Gary Edward Allen‘s birthday, and he celebrated at Legends Sports Bar, at the open mic he hosts every week. A lot of regulars showed up, and at least one surprise with friend Gavin O’Sullivan (on the right) coming in from Hamilton to further liven up the evening. I think everyone had a good time. Gary along with all the other musicians in town who host open mics do a great service to the community where gigs are hard to come by. Happy Birthday, Gary!

Gig Alert  


This bunch of Cats are at Relish Bar and Grill on Saturday, September 8, 2018 for a fun evening of catchy and quirky songs. It will be our first show there with newly minted Cat Chris Bender. Things kick off at 9:30. Come for the food, stay for the music!

Looking forward to the show and seeing you there!

Be well!