Marty Kolls – Live on the Lawn
Grid City Magazine,
It’s been 13 years since Fredericton native Marty Kolls last performed before a hometown audience. Kolls got her start performing in Fredericton during the 1980s as a member of Characters Incorporated, a popular performance troupe that grew from an after school program into an international touring ensemble. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario where she pursued her love for music, Kolls works as a fulltime musician teaching and performing near her home of London, Ontario.
Her 2014 debut full-length, This Life, is a contemplative look at world that draws comparisons to the likes of Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards and Beirut with unique arrangements guiding a playful mix of pop and folk influences.
“Having grown up on the stage, I wanted to entertain the feeling of a big band and the memories of what used to be a part of so many live performances back in the day,” said Kolls, who had spent a lot of time playing with arrangements before committing them to the recording. “Finally getting to hear all of the instruments together was so thrilling. Especially in the horn and string sections. Something I had been hearing in my head for so long. I also enjoyed how things morphed and changed in the recording setting. Recording is so different from the live performance and there were changes we made along the way I never would have expected. Like the removal of a few lines here or the addition of electric guitar there. Things you wouldn’t notice live, but in a recording add so much to the sound.”
While most of the material on This Life is guided by Koll’s skillful piano work, for her homecoming performance will see her take a pared down approach that will no doubt be a perfect fit for a summer’s evening.
“I’m travelling with my banjo, ukulele and accordion for the show, so it’ll be a fun mix,” said Koll. “I’ve been looking forward to doing a trip home to New Brunswick for some time, and this show fits in so nicely.”
Irish Mythen Delights Home County Audience
The Beat Magazine, March 2016
In many ways, the lead could write itself – Canadian singer/songwriter Irish Mythen, with a voice and personality that’s clearly a gift from whatever deity/spirit/force in which you choose to believe, performing in the intimate confines of the former First Spiritualist Church in London, ON. It would be easy to lead with the concept that hearing the Ireland-born/PEI-residing Mythen in a church converted into a home was a religious experience. It would have been even easier with the fact that the elderly woman who sat next to me leaned over and said, “I was a parishioner at this church before it closed. All of the elders are now dead. I wonder if they’ll be here in spirit to hear her sing.”
It would be easy to mine the religious angle for the lead. But it would be a lie.
Rather, it wouldn’t be the whole truth. The fact is, no matter where you hear Mythen, it’s a spiritual experience. The only question is could a voice that rained down like a barrage of cannon fire throughout Victoria Park during the Home County Music & Art Festival this past summer be contained in these intimate confines.
And the answer is no – but in the best possible way.
Mythen, again, showed why she’s fast becoming a favourite in these parts – a sentiment that she echoes stating her fondness for the Forest City. In the hour-long set, Mythen expertly displayed her songwriting and vocal chops, during a fundraiser performance for the Home County Music & Art Festival Saturday night. And those talents, elite in and of their own right, are only augmented by her expert banter and ability to work the crowd.
Whether she sings of heartache or love; whether she’s grimacing in empathy with the sound of her acoustic guitar or improvising banter with members of the crowd, you feel a sense of her joy and passion for the music.
Was the force that is Irish Mythen contained? No. It spilled out into the streets of London, buoyed by a hug, handshake, or smile that Mythen shared with everyone as they left the venue. It was carried by the knowing nods and smiles from those who have seen her perform before, watching the reactions of those who are new to Mythen live.
But before we belabour the end, let’s start at the beginning. Local songstress Marty Kolls ably kicked off the performance with a warm and intimate selection of songs that mined the themes of aging, family, and uncertainty. She captivated the crowd with a collection of songs from her debut album and shifted through a set that included her playing the banjo, ukulele, and accordion. She was accompanied on stage by a guitarist.
Kolls, who also plays with Kevin’s Bacon Train, remarked how pleasurable it was to play before an audience that was committed to truly listening to the work. The environment allowed for that to happen, and the performers delivered on that promise. Though the music, for both acts, was at times raucous, this was a crowd intent on devouring every experience, internalizing every note, and letting the sounds wash over them. And then that appreciation was released back through frequent, and thunderous, applause.
Mythen then took to the stage, engaged in some light banter, and tore into Gypsy Dancer. She continued her one-hour set, playing many of the crowd’s favourites, and adding some new songs to the repertoire, Mythen powered through a set focused on love – love lost, love found, love of places, love of people, and even a little love of liquor.
She finished the night with a rousing rendition of Jesus – with a nod and a wink towards the potential ramifications of singing that song in this venue – and attacked her guitar with such force that she broke a string.
But be it by design or by divine intervention, it allowed her to engage in an encore (one set up with a bit of self-effacing humour and playacting) of an old acapella standard that was the perfect capper to the evening.
Appropriate for the church setting, if you came into the show not knowing who Mythen was, you quickly became a convert. Her combination of superlative vocal talent, warmth of engagement, and effortless humour leaves you asking only one question – how is she not more famous?
That may soon change. A successful three-month tour of Australia has led to another return engagement, including an opening spot with Melissa Etheridge. She’s also working with the PEI school system on an anti-bullying campaign, for which she’s written (and performed in the show) a song – a campaign she hopes will spread nationally.
In the interim, we can give thanks that she’s been so well received in London (she set sales records at the last Home County festival following her performances), returning both on the weekend and for a singer-songwriter circle at Fanshawe at the end of 2015. Born and raised in Ireland, Mythen immigrated to Canada in 2008 and calls PEI home.
It’s clear, based on her performance this weekend and the reception she’s received, she’s set down some roots in The Forest City. And whether you’re religious or not, she gave a performance during her show at the former First Spiritualist Church that left you uplifted.
Jay Menard is a corporate communications writer and freelance Arts & Culture writer. See more of his work at www.jaymenard.com.
Marty Kolls plays Aeolian Hall Saturday in support of her new album
By James Reaney, The London Free Press,
“It’s my White Album,” Kolls said with a cheerful laugh this week as she showed off the embossed cover of This Life. The cover is even whiter than the shade of pale on the famous Beatles’ album cover. The embossing reveals the outline of a grand-looking piano, the big instrument for Kolls when she’s shaping her songs these days.
“Two or three ukulele, but mostly piano — and a little bit of banjo,” Kolls said going down the tracks. The music available before Saturday’s launch at Aeolian Hall shows off the passion and intelligence, the heart and mind Kolls brings to such songs as This Life, Old Tired Road and Free To Believe.
The title track was inspired in part by the Richard Linklater film. Old Tired Road is about a stretch of New Brunswick blacktop that was once part of the Trans-Canada Hwy. Kolls also mentioned Clarke Rd. as it runs up to Hwy. 7 as an example of a route that allows joy off-the-beaten track.
“Enjoy this time in front of you as you can,” she said of the road song’s message — if that’s not too simple a word for what’s going on.
The words to her songs are often about being true to oneself and enjoying the moment, taking your time and finding your way.
Just as much a part of the “message” is the joy of being caught up in the sweep of a band on its game. Kolls mentioned the man who had the most precision driven groove on the planet, James Brown, as an iconic example.
“The energy that’s created from that — people are really missing out on that,” she said of a band in its moment.
Kolls has been relishing the chance to hear her songs in rehearsal, surrounded by a terrific London band. There are at least Clarks or Clarkes in the lineup with tuba, strings, drums, clarinet and more providing the colours behind and around Kolls.
“I actually got to hear all of the players at one time,” she said marvelling at the skills of her modern day village big band — to find a phrase — ensemble.
A Kolls fan listening to the few songs out there now noticed she gave them fine songs, melodies and moments for their ebbs and flows.
Among her youngest fans are the pupils in the music classes taught by Kolls at the Montessori Academy of London. Her pupils are learning square dances, the “birdy” dance, and other steps Kolls enjoyed as a kid in New Brunswick. She figures the hand-holding and shared creativity is a good introduction to the world of playing in a band.
Other Montessori teachers are in her band, along with fellow Western Don Wright music faculty graduates and London music scene aces.
If the moment is right at the Aeolian on Saturday, Kolls and the band and the fans will find the magic and the movement she experienced at a recent New Year’s gig with another of her projects, The Bettys, a Toronto-based jazzy vocal-styled trio.
She has since stepped away from The Bettys to concentrate on her album and her place in the delightful London bluegrass band Kevin’s Bacon Train, which finds a way to make bluegrass hits out of everything from Bruce Cockburn to Prince.
But at New Year’s, at Stratford, The Bettys found a memory to last. Kolls went into the evergreen ballad Autumn Leaves, singing the words in French. Almost immediately the dance floor was full.
“It was really quite magical,” Kolls said.
James Reaney is a London Free Press arts & entertainment columnist and reporter.
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IF YOU GO
What: Marty Kolls album launch with band.
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Aeolian Hall, 795 Dundas St. (at Rectory)
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MARTY KOLLS FUN FACTS
Teen spirit: Grew up in Fredericton where, at age 13, she joined a song-and-dance group Characters Incorporated, which visited Japan.
Looking back: “This was truly the greatest education I’ve ever had as a performer. We rehearsed seven days a week, toured four months of the year, lugged our own gear and learned to sleep well on a bus.”
School: Came to London in 1996 to study music at Western.
Off-campus: “Call The Office was probably my most common ‘go-to.’”.
Thailand: Post-Western, her soprano and piano skills landed her performing gigs at hotels. She also began to play the ukulele.
Buddy Holly’s Everyday: “That’s the song that made me fall in love with the ukulele — and Buddy Holly.”
Back to London: Kolls and her husband, Oakridge secondary school and Western grad Mark Schram, returned to Canada in 2007. Along with their daughter, they are Old East Village residents.
Music and life: Schram and Kolls are both in Kevin’s Bacon Train. The Schram family firm Sterling Marking Products supplied the embossing touch on the cover of her album, This Life.
This Life credits: Simon Larochette (Sugar Shack), production; Andy Magoffin, mastering.
Reaney's Pick: Marty Kolls
London Free Press, Wednesday, March 9, 2011