Monthly Archives: February 2021

My Story

When I look back on my life and my journey to this point, I see a singular catalyst that launched me towards the path I am on today. When I was seventeen years old, my guitar teacher asked me to join a band, as a bassist. This of course seemed like a preposterous idea to me at the time because I was a fairly beginner guitar player at any rate and I had never even touched a bass in my life up to that point. For some insane, unfathomable reason, I decided to take that leap. From that decision, Esc. was born. That one choice I made back in high school, before I even knew what university I wanted to attend, or who I was going to prom with, unknowingly sent me on a journey towards my greatest passion and truest calling in life: I wanted to consume, live and breathe music.

Playing music, booking music, releasing music, writing about music. Whatever it was, I wanted to do it. I wanted to dip my toe into every part of the music industry. I wanted to make a name for myself in the local industry. I wasn’t fooled into believing this would be a career that would bring me wealth, but it was my greatest desire. Somehow, I have made it to where I am today. I still play in my band, but I am also a session musician. I have planned and executed a successful local concert. I am published in a popular local blog for a piece I wrote about the local music scene. If there is one thing I know about myself it is that I am persistent. I do not give up. So far it has all paid off. The one thing I do know is that I will keep working, because I am nowhere near done getting my name out into the world.

Somehow, a girl from Cloverdale who loved music but didn’t really consider herself much of a musician ended up where I am today. A girl who has always loved listening to music now has the opportunity to write about it. I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people so far and I hope to continue to be able to do so again soon. If there are two things, I can promise you, they are my persistence and my passion, and they haven’t let me down so far.

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Love Story (Taylor’s Version) – Reignited Emotions

Taylor Swift’s re-release of Love Story came out last night and I had some pretty overwhelming thoughts.

Image result for love story taylor swift

I know I’m far from the first girl that has felt a special connection to Taylor Swift’s early music. She influenced an entire generation of young Millennial and Gen-Z songwriters to follow in her footsteps. This isn’t a unique story at all, but it is mine.

It’s kind of perfect that Love Story is the first of Taylor’s re-releases, because it was the first song of hers I ever heard. It was also the first song I ever sang in public. I was probably about ten years old and we were throwing a surprise party for my aunt at a restaurant. I had no sense of pitch but a whole lot of guts. I stood up in front of a whole bunch of adults and sang the song to everyone with only my iPod in hand. The next year I wrote my first song. You can hear the influences from the entire Fearless album.

I wasn’t anywhere close to a good musician at eleven years old and I certainly was no songwriter, but Taylor’s music – and Love Story in particular – brought an entirely new wave of passion for music to me.

Today, over a decade later at twenty-two years old I sit in my basement overwhelmed with emotions listening to this song, this one song that found me in both the most innocent moments of my life and the most terrifying. I sit here full nostalgia for times where I was either escaping into a romanticized daydream or crying myself to sleep. Either way, I still had music. I had my dad’s extensive collection of CD’s beside my own more modest set, including Fearless. Music served as my armour and my healing during years of my life where I was both being torn apart inside and slowly finding myself all at once. Somewhere deep down, Fearless nudged me in the direction of my deepest love and planted the seed of passion for what would become the path I pursued later in life with all my heart.

So it may be expected, or basic to say that Taylor’s early albums influenced me deeply as an artist. I’m sure there are thousands, if not millions of other girls that would say the same thing. But that just proves the extent of the influence a single person and a single piece of artwork can have on the entire world.

An artist has the right to own their artwork. I have no doubt that the rest of these re-recorded songs will continue to elicit the same feelings of joy and wonder. 

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Surrey-local Ranj Singh’s Restless Nights Pulls At Heartstrings Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

*This article was originally published January 14, 2021 for Surrey604.*

The winter months have proven to be some of the toughest of the Covid-19 pandemic in British Columbia. Many people have been faced with loss, some for the first time. It is hard to comprehend the thought that a loved one is just not there anymore. But you are not alone. And Ranj Singh’s Restless Nights makes sure you know it.

Restless Nights is just 3 weeks old now, premiering amidst some of the highest Covid-19 related deaths that British Columbia has seen. With our province also under strict pandemic restrictions, many of us spent the holidays alone. Restless Nights came at the perfect time. The song speaks to the difficulty of not being able to be with the people you love, whether that separation be due to distance or loss. Many people have felt this hardship this year, including Singh himself.

The winter months have proven to be some of the toughest of the Covid-19 pandemic in British Columbia. Many people have been faced with loss, some for the first time. It is hard to comprehend the thought that a loved one is just not there anymore. But you are not alone. And Ranj Singh’s Restless Nights makes sure you know it.

Restless Nights is just 3 weeks old now, premiering amidst some of the highest Covid-19 related deaths that British Columbia has seen. With our province also under strict pandemic restrictions, many of us spent the holidays alone. Restless Nights came at the perfect time. The song speaks to the difficulty of not being able to be with the people you love, whether that separation be due to distance or loss. Many people have felt this hardship this year, including Singh himself.

“Over one year ago, I lost my older brother and wanted to write a song that would capture my grief. I am sharing Restless Nights in the hope that it may bring comfort and closure for those of us who have experienced the pain of losing a loved one, without getting to say goodbye. I want to reach out, especially during these COVID-19 days, and let you know that you are not alone,” he says.

This loss shines through in Singh’s vocal and lyrics. The raw vulnerability that he sings with holds an authenticity that cannot be replicated without having to navigate the firsthand experience of losing a loved one.

Singh’s lyrics and musicianship are complimented by visuals and animation done by Peca Petrovic of Smile Magnet. The video shows Singh walking through an empty park, playing his guitar. Other images flash by that are meant to draw our eye, whether they be memories of his own family or the prominent image of Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix at their daily address.

You can watch Restless Nights on YouTube now.

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The Difficulty with Vancouver’s Music Scene

Originally posted December 17, 2019 for Surrey604.

Work put in with little return? Vancouver’s local musicians look to the community for support

A crack of static echoes through the room as the musician plugs in his guitar. Blinding yellow lights bring the stage to light and the frontman steps forward to the microphone as he awaits the roar of the crowd. Only silence follows.

Vancouver’s music scene holds a very specific reputation that can be described by local artists with one word: Difficult. Artists spend weeks on end promoting just one show using all the different tools necessary to do so in this day and age. Among those tools are social media, word of mouth, advertising, networking, and different streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL. Even when an artist devotes all their time and energy into using whatever is at their disposal to encourage members of the local community to come to their show, it is a gamble on whether or not they will be presented with a crowded dance floor, or a couple patches of people here and there.

Are big cities just for big parties? Alex Frizzell, self-branded as AVFmusic is a session musician and producer in Vancouver with both studio and live performance experience. Frizzell sees Vancouver as what it is: a big city with a big attitude. “When I have ventured into the live scene at smaller acoustic gigs or open mics and charity events, I’ve noticed really low turnouts. Especially when compared to what raves in this city pull,” says Frizzell. The people prefer the larger-than-life cultural experience. They pay big money to listen to remixes of familiar songs. They could pay a fraction of the price by visiting one of many bars or coffee shops in Vancouver to support local talent, but unfortunately, people looking to attend events tend to gravitate towards the crowds.

None of this is to say that the local music scene has no support. Local musicians agree that other artists tend to be the most supportive audiences. Ryan Rhys, lead vocalist of Threat Level Midnight is one. “Other artists were super supportive and encouraging, and it gave us the confidence we needed to play our hearts out!” says Rhys.

Most artists in Vancouver agree that venue and atmosphere can have a huge impact on the overall experience of a show. All-ages shows are few and far between in Vancouver. The scene is full of supportive, younger show-goers that are unable to find opportunities to support their favourite local artists due to age restrictions. Most Vancouver music venues are bars and clubs, strictly nineteen plus. Anyone underage is therefore prohibited from attending these shows.

It has not always been this way. Derya Whaley-Kalaora has been going to shows for five years and has seen many different venues and crowds both as a show-goer and a performer in her diverse range of musical projects. Whaley-Kalaora remembers some of Vancouver’s most coveted all-ages venues and the shows that ran at them not even a year ago.

“The Vancouver scene is in crisis with many of the local venues going under, so people who really care about the local scene and work hard to keep it alive are vital,” she says. “One particularly wonderful experience I have had performing was at a venue that has now been shut down called Stylus Records. My old band Mind Offline was playing one of our first shows there and suddenly the power went out as we were playing a cover of “I’m not Yours Anymore” by Angus and Julia Stone. The crowd at Stylus was always so wonderful, and as this happened, they began to sing along to the song with us and wave their phone flashlights. This was a heartwarming experience for us because we’d just started playing together and having the support of so many people in such an intimate environment was absolutely lovely.”

Vancouver artists such as Whaley-Kalaora believe in the importance of all-ages, accessible music venues for all members of the community. Aly Laube is the associate director of Cushy Entertainment, a Vancouver-based production company focused on holding inclusive and accessible events. Cushy has been one of few companies in Vancouver focused on hosting all ages events. “As a promoter, I’ve had great luck with crowds,” says Laube.

Laube has built Cushy from her experience as a younger live music-goer. “I was a kid when I started getting into the music scene and it made me who I am. It saved me from getting in trouble and gave me inspiration,” she says. Laube cannot remember the last time she hosted a nineteen plus event with Cushy. She hopes to provide today’s youth with the same opportunities to see live music as she had when she was younger.

Laube also brings an inclusive attitude to Vancouver’s music scene. “The one thing [the scene] didn’t give me was a sense of representation of women, particularly women of colour, on stages. When I eventually got older and confident enough to help make that happen by joining bands and now by leading Cushy, I knew I wanted to be part of making sure young marginalized people had access to a space that felt open and there for them!”

While audience and venue have been known to make live shows memorable and heartwarming experiences for artists, local musicians are faced with the unfortunate task of navigating the digital world of the twenty-first century. Local bands are unlikely to be booked for shows without some sort of online presence. “It’s hard but necessary,” says Laube. “Facebook is needed for event pages. Instagram is needed for spreading the word. Stories are useful for getting eyes on your content. Websites show you’re professional. Social media is the best tool for getting your brand out there these days, and image matters more now than ever.”

Different artists face different struggles with social media. It is a grind to be seen. While social media and streaming platforms are the greatest tools out there today for providing artists with opportunity, it is also difficult for just one small scale artist to be seen among online algorithms. “the [Instagram] algorithm is evil and heavily prioritizes people who pay to sponsor their content” says Whaley-Kalaora. Despite this, she and others still believe that social media is a vital tool to artists.

“Social media is the primary way that our shows are promoted,” says Harvey. “While posters in local businesses and word of mouth are great, social media allows us to get the word out faster and more efficiently.” Laube says that streaming platforms provide a similar accessibility and are equally necessary. “If you’re not on the streaming platforms available to listeners, how will they find you?” she asks. Streaming platforms are her main resource for finding new music as a promoter in Vancouver.

As do many other tools, streaming platforms also have downfalls for local artists. Whaley-Kalaora says that streaming platforms tend to show music from more well-known artists on main pages. “You can find local artists that are not well known if you search for them, but it is hard to have people stumble upon your music unless you get on the right playlists.”

The amount of labour that is put into a local artist’s social media or accessible music is immense in comparison to what they get back in return. Artists in Vancouver have seen this struggle firsthand. Both require a huge investment, both in time and funds. “There is really no money to be made doing [social media], you’re hoping it’s an investment that will see returns with higher live turnout that doesn’t really exist in Vancouver unless you fit into the narrow niches that have some popularity,” says Frizzell, who has been to shows of all different genres in the city.

Returns from streaming platforms have been a globally debated topic in the last number of years. “[Streaming services] don’t compensate artists nearly enough. This makes it very hard for people to seriously consider a career in music and gain monetarily from it,” says Whaley-Kalaora. She has music on different platforms under her past and present projects.

Local artists rely heavily on public support in order to continue doing what they love. Their success and livelihoods depend on show-goers and users of streaming platforms. All artists agree that one of the most important things you can do to support the local scene is to get as involved as you can. “Go to shows! Pay cover! Buy local music and merchandise!” says Laube.

Whaley-Kalaora believes that even liking and sharing a local artist’s post on social media can be a huge help if you are not financially able to buy tickets to shows or merchandise. “We all depend on each other and the few local art spaces we have left, like Avant-Garden; get out there and volunteer, share in community, and support each other’s art. Bring your friends from work, school, bring your mom, bring your date. Local events are such a wonderful and cheap way to enjoy weekends (and weeks) and there’s always tons going on.”

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Getting out of the Dumps and Back on the Hunt in a COVID Job Market

*This article was originally published July 7, 2020 on SFU OLC’s blog.*

Getting a job at a grocery store was definitely not what I was expecting to do with my last summer before graduation. I had big plans to apply to marketing and communications student positions and to make the most out of my education and off-time to get relevant experience, but when COVID-19 hit, I knew I just needed a job in general.

I’d been looking forward to this summer all of spring semester. As a soon-to-be graduate from the School of Communications, with just a few credits left in my degree, I had begun looking for industry-applicable experience, hoping to identify some jobs I could apply to. I had big plans to make the most out of my education, apply for student positions in marketing and communications and beef up my resume, before being thrown headfirst out into the working world. Using my off-time to get relevant experience didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped. Getting a job at a grocery store was definitely not what I was expecting to do with my last summer before graduation, but it is the option I had no choice but to take – for a while.

You might say I’ve had my fair share of experience in making adjustments. In the past four years, I’ve transferred schools, switched majors, added a minor and studied abroad. Despite my skills in being adaptable, there’s really nothing any of us might have done to prepare for a pandemic. We’ve all had different experiences dealing with COVID-19 and no one person is going to be put in the exact same situation due to a variety of circumstances. The impact on students is notable, with classes now online for the foreseeable future, and the different ways we are all dealing with the current uncertainty in employment.

Some of us have been lucky enough to find or maintain temporary work as we continue our studies. Others may have been planning on doing a co-op or getting work experience in their field of study and now need to re-route. I know I was feeling overwhelmed and stuck in one place because I was unable to find applicable job experience.

When COVID-19 hit, I knew I just needed a job in general. I found out a friend was working at a nearby store, I applied, and was hired on the spot. I’ll admit, I felt shame for taking something I wasn’t passionate about, but I felt a sense of purpose, stayed busy and the work environment was positive. If you’re in the same position, remind yourself that these are hard times! It’s okay to keep that same retail job you’ve had for 3 years now, or to take temporary work while you wait for the market to get stronger.

No one could have predicted that this is what our summer would look like, but there’s still time to search for a summer job that’s applicable to your field of study. Using the resources below, working with a career educator at CVS and not giving up, landed me the exact sort of position (in marketing and communications!) I’d been looking for. Here are a few options for students, if you’re feeling stuck:

1.     Look beyond Indeed!

There is no doubt that Indeed has become a helpful digital job marketing service over the last few years, but it isn’t the be-all-end-all! Many industries have their own tools that offer more specialized results catered to what you’re looking for. Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Alumni, and sites listed here, are great to watch, too.

2.     Check for Canadian Government resources

The Canadian Job Bank has a section on their website dedicated to students returning in the fall! Much like Indeed, you can use filters to narrow down location and job description. Since these jobs are meant for students, the competition will be thinner as well.

3.     Don’t discount volunteering quite yet!

Volunteering may feel like a thing of the past for an experienced student, but it is still an amazing way to get experience while maintaining a job that pays the bills in these unprecedented times. You can earn up to $5000 for tuition by volunteering through the Canada Student Service Grant this summer.

Remember, we have our whole lives ahead of us to get new experience and build our careers. Finding a way to pay the bills didn’t stop me from continuing to search. If I can do it, you can too.

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