It finally happened, Christina Maria sits down with Island SoapBox

Christina Maria is simply all about music.  Through and Through.  I had tried to catch up with her on a previous trip to Vancouver, and we thought at one point that it was going to happen, but it just didn't work out. So I was more than happy to catch up with her last week at the "Girls with Guitars 2" show at Lucky Bar.  She was dead tired from her final Peak Performance Project report, her music video shoot (involving rigorous arm wrestling!), prepping for her Trans-Atlantic trip and subsequent record release tour, oh and she's hungry and still needs to get dressed for her show.

Still she is all smiles as she sits down for the interview.  She may be tired but her passion for music is as fiery as ever.  It's very clear that music is her life, she spends little time doing anything else.  When I asked her what she liked to do outside of music, after much thought and deliberation, it was "Sometimes in the winter I like to knit." with a bit of a smile and shrug.

When you are managing as many things as Christina is, it certainly is important to love what you do.  She is in Zurich, Switzerland releasing Straight Line to her European audience right now.  An album that she is extremely proud of, having worked so hard on it.

In the hectic fashion that only indie-rockers seem to be able to keep up with, Christina Maria hadn't even practiced with her band in Zurich prior to flying in last week for her tour starting October 28.  You can see she has some nerves about it, but you also hear the excitement and the confidence in her voice.  She is sure the show and tour will be great.

Now fans on this side of the Atlantic have been lucky enough to have been listening to Straight Line for a while now.  It's a fast 21 minutes, an EP that is quite fun and shows some serious range.  It's also cool because she worked with several producers across the country putting the album together.  Spreading the love is something that really worked well for Maria.

"I like working with other people. I'm so ADD that I can't, I just can't do one thing. I like to move around and do lots of stuff. I do like collaborating with a producer as opposed to doing it myself, cause there is always that element of, someone bringing something in that you would have never thought of and I really like that. It makes me like the music more, when there is something a little bit different then I would have done."

Christina has been doing quite well in the Peak Performance Project.  Reviews of her Red Room show were quite good and she finished 4th in the online voting portion.  Her live show must be helping this along.  The performance she put on at Lucky Bar was brilliant, pure Rock Star.  To see someone so confidently & completely own the stage through the entire set is quite a treat.  I had not been to one of her shows before the Peak Project, but I can't help but think it's paying dividends.

It's a project she has nothing but good things to say about (get a free copy of a song worked on with another Island SoapBox favourite Steph Macpherson here!).  The Surrey-born musician credits the program for things like helping her identify and reverse weaknesses that she may not have been aware of, and really creating a community and network amongst the participating bands & artists.  In Canada, where Christina finds it hard to find support as an emerging artist, she says more events like The Peak Performance Project could really help.

"There are so many artists in Canada that are super awesome, so I think it would be great if there was more support. I just went to Toronto and there was just so much talent over there. I just notice that there is not enough support for the artists in Canada, that's why it's so amazing that the Peak Performance Project exists. More stuff like that would be great."

As for supporting this talented Canadian musician, you can rest assured of your investment.  Her recorded goods are in fact good, a ticket to her live show is a great night out, and her work ethic is second to none.  She is on a Straight Line to the top, so you might as well hop on the bandwagon and help push her a little closer.


It's "Flood" season, An Island SoapBox album recommendation

When I woke up this morning ready to write my latest recommendation, I had to stop myself.  It was necessary to take a moment.  You see I am already a big Jeremy Fisher fan.  I bothered him via Twitter about a month back to see if Island SoapBox could review his album.   I was incredibly excited when I received a message back from him and an email from his PR person with a link to the album.

So when I went to start, I had to really ask myself "Is this really that good, or am I just way too excited about the whole experience?".  I think the answer is quite obvious, it's both.

Flood is terrific.  If you enjoy Fisher already, then you can pick this album up worry free.  If you don't know much about him, then pick this album up and see what you are missing out on, but be warned you will be buying up all his stuff soon after.

Furthering the diverse musician's development is his working relationship with Hawksley Workman. This is the second straight time Workman has produced for Fisher, and he credits Hawksley for really pushing him to be a better artist & musician.  For a man already so talented, it's an incredibly exciting thing for a fan to hear that drive to always be better.

The album starts with "Shine a litte light", the single in which Fisher released yet another DIY video earlier this month.  You never know what's going to happen when the very first song is the single you have already heard (especially if you really like the single).  This might be my favourite thing about the album, there is no drop off.  Every song is as good as the last.

It's 11 tracks, featuring all sorts of different instruments.  I'm not sure what it is about it, but "Alison" is definitely my favourite track on the album.  It kinda hops along and is just really fun to listen to.  The same can be said for the entire album though really, and it's an album that seems to grow on you with each spin.

There is no reason to think this album won't get some serious attention.  With two juno nominations to his credit already, Flood should conjure up some major interest.  With a Canadian tour starting in Victoria (!!) in November, now is the time to pick up this album and check him out.


Girls with Guitars 2 a success!

Christina Maria owning the stage during "Girls with Guitars 2"
Photo Courtesy: Cyler Parent (his cell phone :)
Well the night finally came, and it was a great hit!  Katie Schaan, Ellisa Hartman and Christina Maria (who sat down with Island SoapBox and an interview is coming shortly!) played beautiful sets.  Lucky Bar was the perfect venue with great sound and service.  Surge Ahead can definitely count this event as another success.

Katie Schaan opened the night.  With a good crowd from the get go, and more spilling in as the set went along.  For a crowd busy buying drinks and finding their friends, they seemed to pay attention to Schaan.  She had some good banter and recovered quickly from a broken string incident, going back stage and emerging with Christina Maria's feathered guitar (we're still not sure if Christina knows this).  Ellisa Hartman held the crowd over with some stand up comedy.

Luckily Ellisa stuck with her musical set and didn't take the stand-up any further when she took the stage next.  She's a really great act to listen to.  Her guitar playing was captivating and her voice is smooth.  The only thing we noticed was her slower stuff in the middle was so soothing it kind of tired us out.  There is no doubt that Hartman's talent will have her playing many shows in the future.

A woman who is playing a ton of shows right now, whether they be here or abroad is Christina Maria.  The Victoria crowd spilled out as the two local singer/songwriter's acts had finished up, which was probably the biggest mistake they could have made.  It's no knock to the other two acts, but Maria owned the Lucky Bar stage like we had not witnessed all night.  She may have had the smallest crowd, but she had the most people paying attention.  It was a pure "Rockstar" performance, super fun to watch and over before you know it.

The best news all night was from Surge Ahead's Richelle Newson, who said there is already a third "Girls with Guitars" planned early in the New Year.  They are doing a great job getting talented artists and great sponsors, and there is no reason to think that will change next time around.

You can check out some video of the concert over at Magmazing Music, run by my friend Adam Lee.


Girls with Guitars 2, it's here! (Well basically :)

Island SoapBox is proud to be covering "Girls with Guitars 2" at Lucky Bar, coming Tuesday October 19. Three incredibly talented singer/songwriters will take the stage that evening, and Island SoapBox wants you to know a bit more about them before you come out and see them!

So this is the final preview piece, as the show gets underway tomorrow night!  Lucky Bar downtown Victoria will be the place to be for any fan of the singer/songwriter.  You’ve already had a chance to learn about Ellisa Hartman and Katie Schaan, and I’m sure you’re looking forward to learning about Christina Maria! Well lucky for you all, that piece is coming soon, as Christina has been kind enough to sit down with Island SoapBox before the show.  

That of course brings me to the point of today’s post.  I want you all to have the chance to ask Christina anything you would like to know!  You can leave a message at the bottom of this post, you can also send me an email, or hit me up on twitter!

Both Ellisa and Katie both mentioned being excited about playing with Christina, and I myself am very excited for both the show and the interview.  She’s a very talented artist, who calls many places on the globe “home”.  She is currently involved in the Peak FM Performance Project (the one I keep telling you all to vote in, you can until Midnight Monday!).

"Girls with Guitars 2" promises to be an excellent night out.  Sponsors will be giving out prizes, the bar itself is a great venue, and the talent on stage is first rate.  Come out, grab a beer and watch some live music.  How often does that disappoint? 


Island SoapBox would like you to meet Katie Schaan

Island SoapBox is proud to be covering "Girls with Guitars 2" at Lucky Bar, coming Tuesday October 19. Three incredibly talented singer/songwriters will take the stage that evening, and Island SoapBox wants you to know a bit more about them before you come out and see them!

You know when you meet someone, and it's clear from the get go that they have an abundance of energy? That's my first impression of Katie Schaan. She was more than happy to meet with me in the morning of Thanksgiving Monday. She seemed genuinely excited about everything, and I'm sure she puts this enthusiasm to her show as well, I can not wait!

To be so excited makes sense. "Girls with Guitars" was her creation. Finding it tough to get the same sort of attention that other bands were getting, Katie saw the potential in having a night featuring strong local female talent.

"It was something I had been thinking of doing. Richelle (Newson) started working with Surge Ahead right around when we did the first "Girls with Guitars". I had been wanting to put together a show that showcased female performers. It looked like a good opportunity to be like "Hey Richelle, this would be some good practice for you, do you want to do this together?" and she just jumped right on board, which is really, really cool. It’s just really exciting. It's something that's always been really important to me. I've had a hard time being a girl, especially in Victoria, being a musician. Not that people aren’t supporting or encouraging, but there just aren’t really as many of us as compared to the boys, and we all play acoustic guitars and keyboards. You can’t really put us on a bill with a lot of the guys cause we're all sorta mellow and sing songy. So I wanted to do something that was "Everybody take a look and see what the girls can do, cause we can play too". So I'm excited to be doing another one. And Christina Maria, who is one of the top 20 Peak Performance Project members, is coming over to play, which I am so excited about, she’s amazing. And Ellisa Hartman is just the sweetest little girl, she’s super endearing and wonderful to watch, so it'll be good."

Besides "Girls with Guitars", Schaan also has a tour and an album release coming up. It's funny, because as music fans, I think we enjoy when an artist shows they can play within different genres. But at the same time it seems more difficult for the artist to sell themselves, if they don't belong to a certain genre.

"There was some debate as to whether or not I was going to release it until the New Year. I kind of live in this limbo land between Indie music and pop music and it's kind of hard to fit in either side. There was some debate as to whether I would add a few more tracks before I released it, but I’ve decided to just release it and maybe record a new EP in the New Year that’s closer to one side or the other. I’m hoping to have it before I go on tour in November, but we'll see.

It was a long process, I started working on it, I guess almost 3 years ago now, and my ex bf was producing it.  So when we broke up that obviously wasn't going to work anymore. So I had to find a new producer and it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. It’s been a really positive experience having worked with Adam Sutherland producing it. He was just so encouraging and so fun to be in the studio with. It's gonna feel good to have it in my hands for sure."

It may be her first tour, but the Victoria artist has put her own twist on her merch table. "Katie-made hats and scarves knit from Vancouver Island Cowichan Wool".

"It'll be my first tour, so that’s very exciting. Steph Macpherson is going to be coming with me for some of the dates on the mainland, and I'll be doing some of them with other artists, some of which I know, some of which I don’t know. I’m playing at the Duncan Garage with two artists I had never heard of before, and who are nothing like me, so we'll see how that goes. I’m sure it'll be fun, and playing at the garage is always fun.

It's a little bit scary but I'm really excited. And because it’s my first tour I’m only really playing in cities where I know people, or have friends and family and stuff who I know will come out. These are the people that have been like "When are you coming to play music for us?" so it’ll be really good.

Knitting is coming along slowly but surely. I was over in Vancouver for the last week playing for the last Peak showcase (with Macpherson), so there hasn’t been a lot of time for knitting in the last few weeks. Yesterday I had to play a little bit of catch up, but I think it'll be good, it’ll get done... I hope."

Her enthusiasm shines through the entire interview. You can feel the jitters and the excitement as she talks about them. Schaans' passion for music is evident the whole time, it's clear this is what she wants to do whether it's her own, or along side someone like Macpherson.

"Honestly I would take any excuse to play music. I don’t care who it’s with, or what genre we're playing or what instrument I’m playing, I just want to be making music. So it's extra exciting to be playing with someone like Steph who is seeing a certain amount of success these days.  Yeah I love it. I love it almost as much as singing my own stuff."

That full fledged love will shine through Tuesday October 19, when Katie hits the stage again for "Girls with Guitars" at Lucky Bar.


A blog about the office today, at Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Well I felt compelled to write up a short blog about this spot.  I hiked in with Tobias to get some work done, found a great spot to set up shop, and work away I did! Do I ever wish I could do this full time :)

It is so nice down there.  So calming and really inspiring all at the same time.  There were tons of jellyfish (this video shows how close to shore they were coming) swimming around, I saw some seals out in the distance, there was even some fish jumping around the surface.  Felt nice to work in the sun like that, even Tobias didn't complain much.

It was the perfect spot to write up a "Girls with Guitars" preview piece.  In the meantime, check out Ellisa Hartman, as she is currently featured here on Island SoapBox!


She's all Hart...man

Island SoapBox is proud to be covering "Girls with Guitars" at Lucky Bar, coming Tuesday October 19.  Three incredibly talented singer/songwriters will take the stage that evening, and Island SoapBox wants you to know a bit more about them before you come out and see them!

Ellisa Hartman is one of those fine acts.  The 23 year old is a whole lot of talent.  Although she is in the beginning stages of her musical career, she certainly doesn't lack musical experience.  A self-described "band geek" in high school, Hartman has learned all sorts of instruments ranging from Stand-up bass to Saxophone. The guitar though, not surprisingly, is home sweet home for Hartman

"My father was a musician, he was a guitar player, bass player. You know when you're a kid you look up to your parents, and my dad was my hero. I'd sneak dad’s acoustic guitar out of the bedroom and try and play it when I was a kid. I taught myself how to play.  I think musicians can generally play more than one instrument, but we all have one we can play the best. It's the one I actually feel I can play with confidence."

Although Ellisa has recorded an album (Arbutus), and played with some great acts, she is still breaking into "the industry".  The music takes care of it self, writing songs are a "piece of cake" when compared to the business side and getting those songs out there. 

"It’s hard to find the line between being confident and being arrogant. I think you need a little bit of ego to do certain things, like get up on stage and sell your soul.  It’s definitely a game, you gotta play your cards right for sure.
It's hard cause you are your own promoter, and for me that’s tough. "Hi, my name is Ellisa and I'm a really awesome guitar player and you should let me play in your bar". It's a really uncomfortable thing for me to do, and I’m sure I'm not the only one.
I’m having a hard time trying to reach out to other musicians, it’s definitely not always quite as welcoming as I would like it to be. I think if we all did form a strong community, everyone would benefit from it."

Well perhaps Girls with Guitars is just what Hartman needs at this point.  Surge Ahead is showcasing just what this province has to offer, extremely talented female musicians who deserve the stage as much as anyone else.  With a talent pool so deep, the Vancouver Island talent is thrilled at the opportunity.

"There are so many talented girls all over the island, it's humbling for sure. There is a lot of great talent out there.  I think it’s a great idea. Surge has been really awesome and good to work with.  It's great that people are looking out for the small local musicians that are out there. And Lucky Bar is a really nice venue as well. Definitely looking forward to it."

Away from music, she is an accomplished diver, having strapped on the Oxygen and dove into the ocean depths in several continents.  It may be surprising to some, but Hartman says although the waters here may be colder and murkier than other places, it's some of the best in the world.

"The diving here is probably the best I've seen and I've been to Asia and Central America. The life here is unbelievable, it's just amazing."

The Scuba Diving here may be some of the best in the world, and I'm willing to bet our music scene isn't far behind.  Tuesday October 19 will be an opportunity to see the great talent that is developing right here in our own backyard on full display.

"It's the only thing I'm really good at, you know what I mean?  Everyone has that one thing. That's music for me.  I want to be a musician."

When Hartman takes the stage and strikes that first chord, cheer loud and let her know she's already there.


Island SoapBox recommends "Music of my Youth"

Well Island SoapBox is heading south of the border again, staying on the west coast though.  Mike Peralta hails from Garden Grove, California, and his acoustic album Music of my Youth is a recommended listen.

It's not the same sort of acostic sound I usually dig, it's a little "grungier".  The best way I can really describe it, it is an awesome rainy day listen (not in a depressing way).  It gets your brain moving.  The kind of sound that sorts your thoughts for you. 

Peralta has a soothing voice that really pulls you in.  Coupled with basic acoustic guitar playing, the songs are very simple and sincere.  It's a great showcase of Mike's storytelling, allowing you to really follow the story of each track.

The album flows quite nicely.  It seems to be the perfect length.  The pace doesn't change a whole lot throughout the 12 tracks, the Orange County native did a great job of not trying to do too much.  It's just a guy and his guitar, I really like that.

I can see this album getting a lot of spinning time during this upcoming rainy season.  When the weather turns sour and you're looking for a source of inspiration, Music of my Youth may be the west coast medicine you seek.