Q&A Scene: Ann Vriend

Tell us about your new single/ album/ tour?
The single “A Need So Wide (You’re The One) I wrote when I was waitressing in this dismal pub where most of the customers sat feeding coins into a pokie machine all day, while drinking cheap beer that I would bring to them.  The rest of the clientele was a few regular barflies that would want to talk to me all day, passing the time with the same stories we’d have gone through the day before.  I was super tired because I was holding down 2 waitressing jobs plus trying to get my music career off the ground, so between all that it was hard to stay inspired.  But I had a great relationship to come home to every night, so the song is about just clinging to that as a light at the end of the tunnel, like the one refuge from the daily grind.  So though the verses of the song are about the drudgery of that the choruses are joyful and the groove of the song makes it far more positive than maybe the lyrics would suggest.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
[pullquote]I feel like in a lot of ways these are mean times. [/pullquote]Whoa – that’s a new one.  In food form!  Hmmm!  Spicy– just cause I’m a self-professed spiceaholic to the point that I travel with either a little bag of crushed chillies or an actual travel sized bottle hot sauce in my purse at all times- depending on if I have to go through airport security or not and worry about having liquids with me or not.  So assuming my music is anything like what I like, then it’s spicy.  Not so spicy that it hurts, but enough that it has a kick.  My album is not as in-your-face as hardcore metal or hip hop or something, but it also isn’t sleepy.  It has energy and groove and is designed to dance to on a Saturday night, with a few ballad exceptions.  The ballads are more like dark chocolate– bitter sweet :)

Which song resonates most strongly and why?
Do you mean on my album, or just anyone’s?  I’m gonna assume the former, just because it’s way easier to narrow down from 11 songs than millions and millions lol.

In which case I think that right now, with a big election in Canada coming up, I would say that “In The Way” is really the song that I’m thinking about, just because it’s about how we all get along in our society and everyone is PC and respectful– at least on paper– UNTIL there’s something that one group/person wants that another group/person doesn’t want them to have-   be it land rights of aboriginal groups, jobs versus environmental concerns, who will get your vote, who gets the tax breaks, nobody wants the funding cuts, do we help refugees, do we only help ourselves– whenever a real issue that’s close to home suddenly people get ugly pretty fast– good will and generosity and good behaviour goes out the window, and people get very, very protective of what they have.  I think we really, really want to preserve our first world way of living, and have a profound fear of being among the majority of non-first world people on the planet.  So this song is a bit of a subversive call to action for disenfranchised people to get “in the way” on some issues where the only thing that will put an end to destructive greedy things is people rallying together– oftentimes power in numbers is all the “little people” have.  The world ignores them til they “get in the way.”  It goes along with the whole album which, for a reason, is called “For The People In The Mean Time.”  I feel like in a lot of ways these are mean times.

Any on the road anecdotes?
Oh man I sure do, it never ends.  Here’s a link to one that seemed to get a lot of attention about a year ago http://overheardproductions.com/2014/05/02/ann-vriend-a-series-of-unfortunate-events-on-tour-in-europe/, or the “short” version is:

just when u think you’ve managed a 5 week tour overseas w/o any major disasters, and you’ve congratulated yourself on stage the night before to that regard, and it’s the morning of your flight home, and you’ve returned all your gear to all the places it needs to go, and everything’s running according to schedule, and you’re filling up the rental car at the Frankfurt airport gas station to make sure you return it full, you look into that secret pocket with a zipper in your purse where you keep your passport and have quadruple checked a million times the whole tour that it’s there, right about then you suddenly remember 3 nights ago in the Netherlands you had this show where the venue owner needed to photocopy your passport for tax purposes in order to pay you and you don’t remember getting it back from him.

You frantically check everywhere but it rapidly becomes clear the passport is still in this Dutch guy’s photocopier, 312 kms away, and your Frankfurt flight leaves in 4 hours. Then you realize you don’t have this venue owner’s phone number anywhere, so you madly email him, but he doesn’t email back, so you try to find him on Facebook, and call the venue, but it is closed during the day, and call the B&B where he organized for you to stay, but they only have the venue phone number, so you message anyone who was at the venue who liked your Facebook page from that show, and eventually you track him down, and he agrees to ride his motorbike 312 kms from Asten, NL, to the Frankfurt airport, to deliver the passport in time for your 5:10 pm flight. In the meantime, at the airport check in desk the Air Canada ticketing guy happens to be an Irish singer-songwriter named Sean (really) and due to musician camaraderie helps you out and allows you to check your bags in on stand by in the event that the NL venue guy, Willy, will deliver the passport in the nick of time, so Sean gets you your ticket printed up so all you have to do when Willy runs into the airport with your passport is run to security as fast as you can and then to the gate where they have been notified of your situation, and somehow he arranges to allow you to do this up to 20 minutes before the flight leaves, which is pretty much unheard of for an international flight. So you stand there, totally ready for this plan, and watch the airport doors like a hawk, and while you do this it starts to rain outside and you hope you haven’t caused this Dutch guy racing on the slippery Autobahn to have a horrible motorbike accident, and meanwhile you practically book yourself a whole tour of Ireland and discuss the in’s and out’s of digital distribution via CD Baby and Amazon.

Then, sad as an Irish ballad, 4:25 comes around, then 4:30, then 4:35… and by 4:40 Sean has done everything in his power but they have to remove my bags from stand by, and it becomes apparent I will indeed not make my flight, and I have to book another one from Frankfurt to Toronto in the morning, and also of course my Toronto to Edmonton flight has to be re-booked, too. Sean gets that done for as little money as possible, but still some, and just when that’s all gone through Willy rushes in, motorcycle helmet in one hand, my passport in the other. It was the opposite of the movies when all this rushing around involving airports and motorcycles results in tension to the last second but in the end it works out perfectly. Well it was kind of like that minus the last part. So, we agreed we all tried our best, went for a beer, and maybe Sean the Irish guy is gonna play a gig at Willy’s venue, and but if he does he’d better get the passport out of the photocopier as SOON as the photocopy machine passes over that thing. Those guys went home- Willy got home around 10 pm according to his Facebook message- and I’m in a Frankfurt hotel watching the BBC News, and will be back at the airport at 8 am to re-try going home.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
A wide variety of things…. a lot of times it’s from other musicians and their music; going to a concert and getting ideas from their shows and their words, the pictures they evoke in my mind.   Or other works of art in various mediums– movies, books, etc.  And my own emotional journey of navigating life and coming across people and places that affect me- anywhere, from little tidbits of conversations to what I read written on a wall somewhere to something really big like a heartbreak or a death, or the joy of being a great ride on a boat.

What’s next for you?
The blues band I’m in- the Rooster Davis Group- got to the local finals of the International Blues Challenge, that, if we win, we get to compete for the grand prize in Memphis, TN.  The local show date is Oct 18, so that’s kind of the next big performance focus.

Then I’m going to Toronto in a couple of weeks to do my vinyl release down there.

And all the while we’re planning hard for the next Aus tour, which will happen mid Feb- end of March, and a European tour mid April – end of May and starting to work on the next album already!

What’s your scene?
My scene is anywhere there is a strong love and dedication to well-written well-performed music, of any genre.  Luckily if you look in the right places you can find that in a lot of little pockets around the world and get past what’s most hyped at you.  I’m happy to be pretty involved with some people doing soul and funk music in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as getting into the blues scene via the Rooster Davis Group, and I’ve been on the singer-songwriter scene in many cities around the world for a while, too, that I find myself graciously included in when I play my stuff solo.

About Ann Vriend

ann_vriend-smEdmonton-based Ann Vriend (pronounced “Vreend”) was born in Vancouver, BC.  When her parents discovered their 3-year-old could play nursery songs on a Fisher Price xylophone, they encouraged her musical development by enrolling her in violin lessons.  At age nine, when Vriend sought to accompany herself as a songwriter, she took piano lessons from an elderly woman down the street who charged $5 per visit.  In high school, in order to be able to do submit her home-made recordings for a school project, Vriend was coerced into performing 3 of her compositions at the school talent show.  Accolades from her fellow students translated into projects with older students in bands, scholarships at music college, 1st place in a songwriting contest which paid for her debut album, interest from major record labels, and praise from critics and loyal fans around the world.

Ann Vriend’s new album, entitled “For The People In The Mean Time” tells tales of her rough, inner city neighbourhood against the backdrop of explosive indie soul beats and harmonies. Despite the subject matter “backed with heavy grooves For The People In The Mean Time is upbeat without forcing needless optimism” writes the Calgary Sun, adding “Vriend’s voice is unmistakable, catching and powerful.”

About Mandy Hall 838 Articles
Mandy is a music photographer & writer. She runs Mandy Hall Media, which includes Photography, Social Media marketing, PR & Graphic Design for the music industry. She is also a web developer - she created and supports this website.

1 Comment on Q&A Scene: Ann Vriend

  1. Great article that provides some really cool insights about what motivates one of the most under appreciated indie singer-song writers in the business today.

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