Wailin’ Wednesday: 2015 Folk Fest Artist Leaks!

Wailin’ Wednesday: 2015 Folk Fest Artist Leaks!

We just couldn’t keep this in any longer! In advance of our full festival lineup announcement on March 5, we thought we’d share a few performers you’ll see at Birds Hill Park this summer.

In addition to playing the festival, they will be mentoring participants of our Stingray Young Performers Program. This a popular program that offers budding musicians the opportunity to work on their music with these incredible performers, then show off what they’ve learned on Shady Grove Stage! 

Birds of Chicago

Our Artistic Director Chris Frayer heard a lot of buzz about Birds of Chicago from other programmers over the past year. JT Nero (Chicago, IL) and Allison Russell (Montreal, QC) had a cross-boarder romance that transformed into sweet country-soul music, a marriage and most recently, a daughter.

Since putting their existing musical projects – JT & The Clouds and Po’ Girl – on hold, they’ve put out a self-titled album (2013) and a live album (2014). Now they’re crowdsourcing funds so they can release an exciting record that they’re working on with their multi-Grammy Award-winning “dream producer,” Joe Henry (Bonnie Raitt, Carolina Chocolate Drops). 

The duo has been bringing their music to venues across North American and Europe with the baby in tow, raising her to have a travelling musician’s soul. Since Folk Fest is a family affair, we hope to see her out at the park!

Jeremy Fisher

The Hamilton-born, Ottawa-based singer-songwriter has performed at Folk Fest only once before. Back in 2006, Jeremy played our stages at the same time that he was preparing for the release of Goodbye Blue Monday – the album that catapulted his career. The album contained the hit ‘Cigarette,’ a track Hawksley Workman produced and helped earn Jeremy multiple JUNO Award nominations that year.

The acoustic guitar takes a backseat on his newest album, The Lemon Squeeze (2014). When trying to find the songs for it on his trusted acoustic guitar, something wasn’t sounding right so he turned to the keys. He was inspired by Randy Newman’s seminal 1972 album Sail Away and the product is a delightful piano-driven pop album. On his website, he describes The Lemon Squeeze as: “Randy Newman-inspired piano ballads with strings, to Queen-esque guitar licks, to Billy Joel-styled pop.”

Brandy Zdan

Most recently calling Austin her home, Brandy is a Winnipeg native who honed her musical craft in our Young Performers Program as a teenager. She’s coming full circle – mentoring participants of the program that helped her on her musical path! 

As a teenager she wanted to be Joni Mitchell, but that all changed when she got her first electric guitar. She went into a blues phase, then started playing the slide guitar and realized then that she could express emotion through an instrument like she never could before on an acoustic guitar.  

She’s used that connection to her instrument (along with her classically-trained voice and heartfelt songwriting) to contribute to many projects. Brandy first played the festival back in 2004 with Dave Quanbury and the two came back as Twilight Hotel in 2011. She’s lent her skills on the guitar, lap steel and accordion to Austin super group The Trishas as well.

Now focusing on her solo career, she released her first EP Lone Hunter in 2013 and is working towards presenting the world with her full-length this year. Over the past few weeks, she’s been playing her new songs live with the Kansas City Ballet. The dances were specially choreographed to her songs and the stunning marriage of the two arts resulted in multiple sold out performances.

Grant Davidson of Slow Leaves

Grant has been performing solo in Winnipeg under his given name for years. Recently, he’s begun playing his country-tinged folk under the moniker Slow Leaves – and local music-lovers have been sitting up and taking notice to his new sound.

With the new name came new partnerships. He recruited violinist Julie Penner (Broken Social Scene, The FemBots) and Jason Taite (The Weakerthans, Bahamas) to play the drums. The new group spurred a new record, Beauty Is So Common (2014).

Honest and deep lyrics, an Americana vocal style and a vision is what Grant brought to the table when he sat down with producer Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities) to talk about creating Beauty Is So Common. Rusty was able to help realize his vision and bring hookier pop harmonies and arrangements to the music.


birds of chicago, bonnie raitt, brandy zdan, carolina chocolate drops, grant davidson, jeremy fisher, slow leaves, stingray, twilight hotel, young performers program

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