“They bring so much to the table. And they’ll bring lyrics and melody as well, or maybe tweak on a melody or a groove. You don’t need to worry about carrying all the lyrics because they’re great at what they do. You work together on the lyric and I enjoy that, because then you don’t feel like the pressure is all on you to come up with these amazing lyrics.”

Like he did on Life So Far, Blaine had a specific theme in mind for Everything I Love. “On Life So Far, it was more personal,” he explains. “I really wanted songs that allowed country music fans that cared about what I was doing, or the industry, to get to know me. I really opened up on that record: I wrote a song for my wife and kids called ‘Cool’ because I entered my 30s during that album, and so I talked about how the stuff in your 20s is still kind of fun, but it’s not as cool as having a family to come home to.

“I also wrote this song called ‘They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore’ that I thought was only going to be an album cut as a tribute to my grandparents and their 50-plus-years love story. We singled it; it ended up just speaking to a lot of people and it won [the CCMA] Single of the Year.

Everything I Love is totally different. I wanted to write an entertaining country album. If I was a country fan, what would I want to hear? A turn-it-up loud, all-summer-long, drive-around-in-my-truck album. It’s still me, and there are still personal songs on it, but I really focused on fun and writing these uptempo crowd anthems. This album most closely reflects what people can expect from my live show.”

Blaine, prepping for a Canadian autumn tour co-headlining with Deric Ruttan and Chad Brownlee, says writing fun songs is not an easy task. “To try to write a real great party anthem that will go over with the crowd; one that radio will accept so your peers will still think it’s cool as well; and one that avoids clichés and is fresh, keeps you on your toes.

“It’s all been said, it’s all been done, and people are going to do it again,” Blaine continues. “People are still going to talk about trucks and country and girls and good times and beer. As long as there’s country music, they’ll sing about these things, but finding ways to do it just a little bit different is the tricky part.”

In fact, Blaine, whose first song was a dare from his father, says if you focus too much on avoiding clichés, it can be detrimental to the process. “We call it ‘paralysis from analysis,’” he laughs. “You can sit there, and if you worry about everything that’s been said already, or if somebody has a song on the radio that says something similar – if you think about it too much – then you can get that paralysis from analysis.

“The truth is, people like to cut up on a Saturday night, get loud and throw back some beers and have good times with friends. And the boys always like when the good-looking country girls come around. So we have to sing about these things when you want a good time.”

With five albums and 16 singles to his credit, Blaine has certainly come a long way from his initial victory at the 2002 Project Discovery contest, when his very first release, a Top 10 hit of the Tom McKillip-produced “That’s What I Do,” also earned him his very first SOCAN royalty cheque.

But what was supposed to be a happy occasion turned into a slightly stressful one. “I remember being really, really miffed when I went to the bank for the first time,” Blaine recalls.  “I was so excited and it was a hefty cheque – the first time I felt like [songwriting] was a real career. But I went to the bank to cash it and they placed some ridiculous hold on it because they didn’t know who SOCAN was. I remember telling them, ‘Look them up. If Bryan Adams and Shania Twain can cash SOCAN cheques, you guys can cash this one!’

“Anyway, we got over that, and I’m a big fan of the direct deposit now,” he laughs.

Publisher: Jason Blaine Music
Discography: While We Were Waiting (2005), Make My Move (2008), Sweet Sundown (2010), Life So Far (2011), Everything I Love (2013)
SOCAN Member since 2003
Visit http://jasonblaine.ca

In some bands, once each member establishes their role in the songwriting and recording processes, they guard their musical turf almost religiously. If those roles change, the potential for the kind of conflicts that can tear an act apart increases greatly.

That’s never been a problem for Protest The Hero. Over nearly 15 years, PTH have fluidly adapted to dramatic changes in the music industry, while fostering a creative process that finds them actively encouraging each other to evolve – without ever fracturing the bond that’s kept them together. That bond has existed since they were children, says lead singer Rody Walker, who credits their longevity to a collective passion for the music they make and their shared outlook.

“We have an amazing capacity to have a good time despite the circumstances,” says Walker. “We

“We do this because we love it, and nothing could be so bad that it would make us stop.” – Protest The Hero’s Rody Walker

do this because we love it, and nothing could be so bad that it would make us stop.”

“I don’t think we’ve written any record the same way,” Walker continues. In fact, he says, their new album (yet to be named and released as of press time) is the first PTH record for which he’s written all the lyrics, instead of sharing those duties with longtime lyricist/bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, as he did on 2011’s Scurrilous.

It’s also the first time PTH opted to crowdfund a record through Indigogo, rather than partner with a label – a campaign they announced in January 2013, which found them reaching their stated goal of $125,000 within thirty hours and ultimately raising a total of $341,146.

Four songs into the writing process, however, PTH found themselves facing a change far harder to adjust to than any they’d dealt with previously; drummer Moe Carlson’s decision to pursue a career in tool-and-die manufacturing and, ultimately, his departure from the band.

Usually Carlson, Mirabdolbaghi and guitarists Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar write the tracks. Then

“We have to keep reinventing what we do. We have to be able change direction at the drop of a hat.” – Protest The Hero’s Luke Hoskin

Mirabdolbaghi – and now Walker – contribute lyrics and melodies. After talking it through with Carlson, however, PTH decided, mutually and amicably, to continue writing without him.

Embracing change has always been key to PTH’s creative growth. “We have to keep reinventing what we do,” says Hoskin. “We have to be able change direction at the drop of a hat.” That said, Carlson’s departure was particularly difficult for Hoskin. “He was the first person I’d bounce ideas off,” Hoskin says. “It was like losing your identity as a writer because you’ve always written with this person.”

To fill that void, Hoskin turned to Cameron McLellan – a longtime friend of the band, who started out as their lighting technician before taking over as their sound engineer. Hoskin and McLellan had written together before, but never with PTH in mind. They began by sifting through bits and pieces of previous music they’d worked on together on tour as well as generating new material.

Even after they began recording – with Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler filling in for Carlson – it became necessary to alter their process again, Hoskin continues. And, after laying down drums with returning producer Julius “Juice” Butty at the helm, PTH and Butty decided that the best way to move forward was for McLellan to produce the remainder of the sessions.

While the resulting album features some songs that are more linear than PTH’s past efforts, they haven’t abandoned their progressive metal roots. “There are some songs that are simpler, and some that are more complex, than anything we’ve ever written,” Walker says.

Going forward without a label, however, they expect the process of releasing the record to be more complicated than ever before. “We’re excited,” Hoskin says, “but we had to step up and make every decision about every aspect of this album. That’s something we didn’t have to do before. Now we have to or they won’t get sorted out. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

Publisher: Protest The Hero – self-published
Discography: Search for the Truth (EP, 2002), Kezia (2005), Fortress (2008), Scurrilous (2011)
SOCAN Members since 2003
Visit www.protestthehero.ca

A soulful singer pays homage to the Motown Records sound each week. She meets a sound engineer and multi-instrumentalist in a basement bar. The result: Imaginary Cities – yet another band with a big sound unearthed from Winnipeg’s fertile music scene – is born.

Marti Sarbit, one-half of Imaginary Cities, recalls this serendipitous meeting. “Rusty [Matyas]

“This record definitely has more of an orchestral sound. We are really proud of it.” – Marti Sarbit of Imaginary Cities

came up to me between sets,” she says. “We ended up singing a song together. We had a really good time and the rapport was great. Awhile later, I asked if he would help me with some other songs I was working on. We ended up recording ‘Say You,’ which became the first song on Temporary Resident. From there, we couldn’t help but continue.”

Next up in the duo’s evolution was finding a name. Sarbit says their first thought was Sparrow or Old Sparrow, but legal reasons prevented them from adopting this moniker. In a rush to come up with an identity, she searched for inspiration amongst the dusty book jackets in her parents’ basement – enlisting her dad for help.

“We saw one book called Imaginary Beings and another called Invisible Cities,” she says. “I called

Where the first record was a blend of different styles, with Fall of Romance the duo has found their sound

Rusty right away and said, ‘These sound cool, should we somehow use one of these?’ We both liked the result when we combined these two titles together and felt it was big enough to match our sound.”

Imaginary Cities released its debut (Temporary Resident) in 2011 to critical acclaim. After an exhausting touring schedule in 2012 that included sharing the stage for nine straight weeks with The Pixies, the pair returned to the studio. The result, Fall of Romance, dropped at the end of May, and shows the band’s musical maturity. Where the first record was a blend of different styles, with their sophomore offering the duo has found their sound – grand and atmospheric indie-pop, laced with haunting harmonies.

The bed tracks for Fall of Romance were laid down in Winnipeg. Imaginary Cities then journeyed to Vancouver to record the remainder of the songs, over the course of three weeks, with Howard Redekopp (The New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara).

“This record definitely has more of an orchestral sound,” says Sarbit. “We are really proud of it. I hope people like it as much as we do. I even find myself listening to it, which is not something I usually do… it’s pretty exciting.” – DAVID McPHERSON

Track Record

  • Temporary Resident was long-listed in 2011 for the Polaris Music Prize
  • It also won a 2011 Western Canadian Music Award for Best Pop Album of the Year.
  • Imaginary Cities’ TV credits include Degrassi, Less Than Kind, and MTV Tough Love


Publisher: Downtown/Imaginary Cities
Discography: Temporary Resident (2011), Fall of Romance (2013)
Visit www.imaginarycities.ca
SOCAN Members since 2002 (Matyas), 2010 (Sarbit)