Aldo NovaThirty-six years after he exploded on the music scene, in 1982, Montréal-born guitarist, composer and producer Aldo Caporuscio, a.k.a. Aldo Nova, has decided to re-record six of the 10 songs from his eponymous debut album. It was a classic arena-rock record that featured “Fantasy,+ one of his two biggest commercial hits – the other being Céline Dion’s “A New Day Has Come” (2002) which he co-wrote, arranged, and produced alongside Stephan Moccio.

“That song launched my career!” he says about “Fantasy.” A day-and-a-half in the studio and it was done. Done in a demo form, as the other nine songs. And it’s based on a true story. “I was walking in Manhattan,” says Nova, “and stopped at the corner of Broadway and 40th Street, and the sensation I felt at that moment was that everything I was bombarded with was just a fantasy. The lyrics were written before the music, which was rare for me back then.”

The album would go spend two months on the Billboard charts where it peaked at No. 8.

The  storyline of the video is quite over-the-top: three machine-gun-toting men gun down guards near a warehouse at night. As soon as the guns have quieted, a chopper comes throbbing down from the sky and lands on the crime scene. Out of it comes Nova, wearing a skin-tight, leopard-print body suit and, with the help of his accomplices (his musicians, as it turns out), he breaks into said warehouse with his laser-spewing guitar. Cut to the next scene: the band is playing “Fantasy” in that industrial setting. So ‘80s!

City nights / Summer breezes make you feel all right / Neon lights / Shining brightly make your brain ignite
See the girls with the dresses so tight / Give you love, if the price is right / Black or white / In the streets there’s no wrong and no right….

And a few verses later, the coup de grâce:
So forget all you see/It’s not reality, it’s just a fantasy

“Back in 1981, I was playing with a covers band in clubs in Montréal and surrounding areas,” says Nova. “I worked in a music store during the day, then from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., four nights a week, I would play clubs, four sets a night: two disco sets, one rockabilly set, and the last set dressed as a Beatle. Then, I would go to the studio from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. to work on my own songs and after a couple of hours of sleep, I would start all over again.

“‘Fantasy’ wasn’t my favourite song on the album, but seeing the reaction of people around me, it became the single. Writing that song wasn’t hard, but arranging it was a different story. I had to give life to all those sounds I was hearing in my mind. I started with a repetitive drum loop, tagged three guitar chords onto it, and that was the foundation. I used ‘Fantasy’ and nine other songs to build a demo. They ended up being the album, as is.”

“I love SOCAN, they’ve always supported my projects!”

All that was left to do was the mixing, which was handled by New York-based producer and engineer Tony Bongiovi, and the mastering, handled by the legendary Bob Ludwig (Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, The Police, etc.) – the same guy who, at 74, mastered the tracks on Aldo Nova 2.0.

The new album was launched on Oct. 19, 2018, on MRI. The re-visited songs are heftier, more rock-oriented: “turbo-charged,” as the artist himself puts it. Apart from the six reprised songs – “Fantasy,” “Ball and Chain,” “Heart to Heart,” “Foolin’ Yourself,” “It’s Too Late” and “Can’t Stop Loving You” – Nova offers a new one: “I’m a Survivor,” the video for which is currently under production, although the song is already available on YouTube.

“I’m thrilled by the end result, it sounds much better,” says Nova. “The sound is beefed up, futuristic, it sounds like a production from the 23rd Century! I wanted to preserve the innocence of the songs, but add experience to them. I sing better at 62 than I did at 40. I recorded the album with the same analog technology, but I no longer mix directly on the console; I prefer my computer, which allows me more leeway.”

What advice would the 62-year-old Nova give to the 1982 Nova? “Never trust an agent, manager, or producer.”

“Fantasy”
Written by: Aldo Nova
Published by: Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Album: Aldo Nova (1982)
Label: Portrait Records (FR37498)

 


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As the pride of Grande Prairie, Alberta, begins her major label run as the next Canadian country female superstar success story, the career stats will begin to mount. But there’ll always be one number that will stick out in Tenille Townes’ mind: 140. That’s the number of local townsfolk that chartered a 737 to fly nearly 4,000 km to witness Townes make her Grand Ole Opry debut in Nashville in 2018.

“My family, friends, and community have been such a big part of this adventure from the beginning,” says Townes. “They’ve been so supportive and excited, from back when I was singing the anthem at hockey games in Grande Prairie. They joked and said someday they were going to come to Nashville and see me play the Grand Ole Opry.

“But they weren’t joking. They showed up, and 140 of them came down the escalator at the Nashville Airport. It was the most beautiful and overwhelming hometown hug I could have ever imagined – and getting to step into that circle for the very first time was so very sacred to me. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Such a gesture says as much about Townes, 25, as it does about her local community. She’s now climbing the charts with “Somebody’s Daughter,” her debut Columbia Nashville single, which boasts more than 500,000 YouTube views at press time. It’s an extraordinary song, inspired by a homeless girl that Townes and her mother saw holding a cardboard sign near an Interstate exit. But the journey to get to this point has been anything but overnight.

Known simply as  “Tenille” while she carved out a Canadian career,  Townes has been working it for awhile, her ambitious initiative resulting in a self-directed, 32-week, cross-Canada, motor-home tour called Play It Forward (to inspire kids to make a difference), that hit hundreds of high schools across most of Canada (sorry, Newfoundland!) and trekked as far North as Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

At the age of 15, Townes released “Home Now,” produced by Duane Steele, followed by two Fred Mollin-produced albums on Royalty Records – 2011’s Real (earning her a Canadian Country Music Award nomination for Female Artist of the Year) and 2013’s Light. In Grande Prairie – and this is where community again plays a crucial role – Townes established her annual Big Hearts for Big Kids benefit for a hometown homeless youth shelter, Sunrise House. Now entering its 10th year, Big Hearts has generated more than $1.5 million for the cause.

With Light and a 45-hour drive in her rear-view mirror, Townes re-located to Nashville in 2014.   On her arrival, one of the first neighbours she met was fellow Canadian David Kalmusky, who co-owns Addiction Sound Studios with Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain. After Townes spent her initial days becoming acclimatized to Nashville, Kalmusky took her under his wing.

“Tenille kept bringing me songs that were making the hair on my arms stand up.” – David Kalmusky

“David became like a big brother to me and invited me to hang at the studio,” says Townes. “I was just writing and exploring, having the time and space to just really dig into what I wanted this music to represent, who I was as a person, and what my voice is really going to feel like. David was very instrumental in the early part of developing that sound.”

As Townes’ artistry evolved over the next four years, Kalmusky was impressed by her patience and tenacity. “I remember people asking her if she felt frustrated because things weren’t happening fast enough for her,” he says. “Because they felt she was ready, and Tenille’s response was, ‘You gotta do the work.’”

David Kamulsky

David Kalmusky

And work she did, constantly setting up writer and publisher meetings, guitar pulls, and performing whenever and wherever she could.

“I’ve never met a harder, more passionate worker,” says Kalmusky, who’s worked with everyone from Journey and Vince Gill to Justin Bieber and The Road Hammers. “I’ve been working for 32 years, and there isn’t another artist [to whom] I dedicated four years of my life, and demoed 32 songs and 14 masters, or championed.  Tenille kept bringing me songs that were making the hair on my arms stand up.”

After five years of dues-paying, satisfaction struck quickly, thanks to the duo’s game plan. “The last five masters we cut together, we sent them out to publishers to really target the Nashville executives,” Kalmusky remembers.

Townes had also found an ally with ASCAP’s Creative Director at the time, Robert Filhart. “I had been meeting with Robert every few months, playing him new songs, and picking his brain about more people I could write with or meet,” says Townes. Filhart reached out to Carla Wallace, co-owner of Big Yellow Dog Music, publishing home to Meghan Trainor, Maren Morris, and Daniel Tashian, among others.

Carla Wallace

Carla Wallace

“He sent me a text saying, ‘I have a girl I want you to hear,” says Wallace. “I remember when the music was sent, it only took two lines of one song and I knew she was special.  Her phrasing, her delivery, her unique sense of lyric all captured me immediately.” Although Big Yellow Dog was one of the three publishing offers Townes entertained that week, the songwriter liked Wallace’s atmosphere the best. “I felt like they just really got it,” says Townes. “They heard me. She asked me to come back and we started working together right away.”

Simultaneously, David Kalmusky also reached out to Jim Catino, Sony Music Nashville’s Executive Vice-President. “When it came to Sony, I wanted to get him out of the office and avoid the traditional drop-by,” says Kalmusky. “I wanted to bring him into our world, to meet and hear Tenille in a space where she was comfortable, and where we created music. And by the time Jim was sitting on our couch, she already had a major publishing deal with Big Yellow Dog.”

Catino was instantly smitten. The day I met her was the day I knew I wanted to sign her,” says Catino. “Her songwriting comes from such a unique place, and the songs are identifiable – they match up with her personality. And her identity as a singer as well. Her voice is so unique and different. She’s very prolific, and the depth of her lyrics is incredible. That’s a huge part of our format in the country world – that storytelling, singer-songwriter gist.”

Jim Catino

Jim Catino

On Friday they met; on Monday she played for the company, and Columbia Records Nashville proffered a deal. “Jim literally called me that weekend and said there was a deal on the table,” says Kalmusky.

Townes says her family has a tradition; whenever there’s good news to share, she buys ice cream in Nashville and her parents buy it in Grande Prairie, and they celebrate long-distance over the phone. “We had a lot of ice cream that week,” she laughs.

With Townes working on her Jay Joyce-produced, as-yet-untitled 12-song album, she snagged an opening acoustic slot on the 2018 Miranda Lambert/Little Big Town tour. Columbia moved quickly, issuing the four-song  Living Room Worktapes. We wanted to have something to share with fans in the marketplace,” says Catino. “We used the Miranda tour as the radio set-up for ‘Somebody’s Daughter.’”

Catino thinks the sky’s the limit for Tenille Townes. “She’s going to be a big superstar,” he says. “I think she can be as big as any female we’ve ever had in the format. She’s got the personality. She’s got the work ethic. She’s got the identity.  The songs, the powerful voice, the powerful delivery – she’s got all the tools to be an incredible star.”

While Townes awaits the album’s release, she’s occupying her time opening for Dierks Bentley in North America, and at least one show for her idol Patty Griffin, as well a few dates in Australia… and pinching herself in the process.

“It’s been so much fun,” she says. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid, and it’s so surreal to see all these things come to life: ‘Someday it ‘ll be so cool to live in Nashville,’ and ‘Someday it’ll be  so cool to write songs,’ and ‘Someday it’ll be so cool to get played on the radio.’ It’s been a wild season of these things becoming real life – and I’m so very grateful.”


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Growing up hearing your grandfather croon classic country while working on the family farm, it’s no surprise when your life journey eventually brings you to Nashville. And, you’d surely find a home in this town – where many of those hit songs were born.

That’s the case for singer-songwriter Mackenzie Porter. The 28-year-old was raised on a cattle ranch in rural Alberta, near Medicine Hat. The sounds of Nashville spilling from the radio were a daily part of her childhood education. Her family were all musicians. At four, she began studying classical piano, violin and voice, and performed regularly with her siblings and cousins in the family’s band – which included brother Kalan, a past Canadian Idol winner.

For the past four years, Porter has called Nashville home. She’s also hung her hat for months at a time, out of every year, in Vancouver – filming the TV series Travelers, in which she acts a principal role (see sidebar). When we chat, Porter’s the process of completing her new EP, tentatively set for release March 22, 2019, on indie label Big Loud Records. The collection of six songs is Porter’s first batch of new music since 2015, when her self-titled debut won a JUNO Award for Country Album of the Year. Porter released the upcoming EP’s first two singles (“About You” and “Drive Thru”) in November of 2018. Fellow Canadian, and SOCAN Member, Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Dallas Smith, Jake Owen) produced the release.

“It is a cool, pop-country blend,” says Porter. “I like to think of it as ‘country Sheryl Crow.’ I wrote half of the songs, and three are outside songs the label found. I’m of the mindset that I want to write all my songs, but if an amazing song comes in, the best song wins in the end… that’s how you get your name out there. To sing another person’s song, I need to connect with it and it needs to connect with me. It has to feel like a situation you’d been in, and words you’d say.”

Porter was set to participate in a CCMA/SOCAN songwriting camp recently, but had to cancel at the last minute; a promo video for a special Fall 2019 tour with a couple of other country stars (to be announced shortly) trumped this commitment. “I was so bummed I couldn’t go,” she says.

“If me-as-an-artist doesn’t work out, I’ll be a songwriter because I love it so much.”


Does the songwriter recall the first piece of music she created? “I can’t remember for sure, but it was some horrible thing I did in my bedroom by myself,” she laughs. “I hope nobody finds my old MacBook!”

Today, Porter still writes alone in her bedroom, but co-writing is her preferred method of penning a song. Most weekdays, you’ll find her teaming up with other songwriters, somewhere around town, for a writing session. She loves bouncing ideas off of other artists. By working with co-writers, she says, each one brings their experiences to the session, which can change the whole direction of a song.

A Traveler between music and acting
Porter started acting in high school. For a while, landing roles was her main focus. She booked her first lead on a TV series when she was 16. It wasn’t until a dry spell, when she couldn’t land a part, that she enrolled in music recording school and fell in love with the art of songwriting. “I needed another creative outlet,” she says. More recently, the songwriter starred, along with Eric McCormack, in the hit TV series Travelers — a show about time-travelling created by Brad Wright, and shot in Vancouver, which aired for three seasons. The series is set in a future where technology has developed a means of sending people back to the 21st Century to help save humanity. Porter starred as Traveler 3569, the team medic, who assumes the life of an intellectually disabled woman named Marcy Warton. “Eric is one of nicest people I’ve met,” Porter says. “He’s so positive and encouraging. He really believed in our show and all of the young actors on it. Now that the show is over, I’m definitely focusing more on my music.”

“The first part of every co-write, I always get really nervous,” she explains. “I’m scared to come in with an idea other people may or may not feel is cool. Tyler [Hubbard] from Florida Georgia Line recently took a bunch of writers out on their bus with them. I’ll never forget what he told me, ‘Nothing is cool until you make it cool.’”

Songs for Porter usually start with a hook, or a title. “That’s the Nashville way to do it – 99 per cent of the time people here do it that way,” she says. “You hear a title, and you may not think it’s cool right away, but words are a puzzle, and suddenly you wrap it up in a different way, and you’ve got something.”

Porter’s advice to other aspiring songwriters is perseverance: you need to put in the hours. “Write, write, write, and write,” she says. “No matter how good you are, you need to get all the shitty songs out of the way before you can get to the really good ones. I was writing 150 songs per year for three years before I started picking songs for this new EP. It can be discouraging, but it’s worth it. My advice: write hundreds of songs and finish them, even if they’re crappy. It’s like a muscle. You need to work it out.”

Whether her acting or music career ever become too challenging to sustain, one thing is certain in Porter’s mind: she’ll never stop writing songs.

“I’m a songwriter at heart,” she concludes. “I hope it never happens, but if me-as-an-artist doesn’t work out, I’ll be a songwriter because I love it so much. Sometimes I think I’m running out of ideas. That happens when you’re writing five times a week. You start to think, ‘What else can I write about?’ But the songs always come. Different co-writers inspire you. And, there are always different ways to say the same story.”


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