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Canadian singer/songwriter Ann Vriend (rhymes with cleaned) recently conducted a tour of Australia, and sat down with entertainment editor John Turnbull for a chat about touring, Spics ‘n Specs and Degrassi Junior High.

COMING TO the end of an Australian tour, Ann was preparing to play a show in Sydney.

We just rolled into town last night at around 2AM after driving down from Brisbane. We played a showcase at Big Sound, which is the main reason we’re here this time. That was real fun, and we spent a week in Brisbane doing a whole bunch of promotional stuff.

We got some good reviews, and I think I met like a million people, which was great. On the way up to Brisbane we got to have a day off in Coffs Harbour, and saw some kangaroos, which is probably not exciting at all to any of your readers but we enjoyed it! (laughs) I brought my band out for the first time, and I wanted them to see kangaroos.

This isn’t Ann’s first time in Australia, appearing on seminal music show Spics ‘n Specs back in 2010.

That was really funny. I had no idea what the show was, and my publicist just told me I was going on a music variety show. I expected to be sort of sitting there on a couch doing an interview, and I was dead wrong, obviously! I had a lot of fun, but I think I let my team down a bit. I can’t really say that I’m a musical history expert. I think I got one question right…

While she may not be an expert on musical history, Ann has a solid grounding in music theory, picking up the violin at age 4.

My parents got me lessons, and I really regret that I quit the violin at age 6. Of all the insane things I then took up the recorder for a couple of years (laughs) and that’s when I learned to read music. We had a piano in the house when I grew up, because my mother was a piano teacher. She used to play in church, and I used to play on the piano at home, just making up my own stuff. When I was 9 years old I asked if I could have some lessons, and I’ve been playing piano ever since.

Ann’s sound has evolved over the years, from the stage/burlesque influenced Graffiti on my Heart to a more Blues and Soul oriented sound.

Right now I’m focused on Soul, retro R&B, that sort of thing. In the past I did a lot of solo touring, mainly because it was a lot cheaper to tour that way, and by default I did more of a singer/songwriter type thing. I guess my sound has changed from album to album, but I’m really happy where I am now.

Talking about Ann’s new album For The People In the Meantime, I note that it has also been released on vinyl.

Well, the official vinyl release in Australia isn’t for a couple of months, but I’ve released on vinyl  in Canada, and it’s available online. It’s just such a retro-sounding record, and there is even a track on the album called ‘Those Records’, so it just seemed to me like it was begging to be released on the vinyl format.

There have been a lot of people asking me for the album on vinyl during this tour, so I guess there is a demand for it!

I bring up the reputed similarities between Canadians and Australians, and mention a fondly-remembered part of my youth; Degrassi Junior High.

Wow, I didn’t expect you to ask me about that! (laughs) I used to love that show. I had no idea that they played it over here. That’s so funny.

Somewhat like a superhero, Ann has an alter-ego, the mysterious Ms April Valiant.

Well, hmm. I don’t even know who…  (laughs) April is what you might call a secondary personality of mine. I had another band for quite a while called the Valiant Theives, which was a fun cover band who did Jazz quartet versions of 80’s songs. I invented this ditzy character with big 80’s hair and the same initials as me, but she’s been laying low for a while. Maybe she’s jealous of me… (laughs)

After many years in the music business, I talk to Ann about her advice for young artists.

It’s a lot of work. You have to be willing to work hard. You need a lot of luck, but you tend to be a lot luckier if you’re out there working hard. You’ve got to get out there, play shows, meet people. You can’t just sit at home and hope to be struck by lightning. It’s the ten thousand hour thing too. We like in a society today where everything is fast, and few people have the appreciation for craft.

At the end of the day I think the people who are really fantastic are the people who have put in the time, put in the practice.

On the ever-present issue of piracy.

That’s a tough one, you know? Obviously it’s hard to make a living when nobody pays for what you do. Like, kind of impossible. But on the other hand, we live in a capitalist world, and you can’t force people to pay for something that is available for free. I think the way of the future is something like the Netflix model, so that the shows and bands that people like make more money from viewers and listeners who choose to watch them.

But it takes a lot of views or listens before it adds up to a whole dollar. So as a result I think that live music is really where it’s at for many artists. Live music is the one thing that a lot of people are still willing to pay for, so I’ve based my career on singing live as much as I can.

Thanks very much to the charming Ann Vriend for her time. For more information check out her website at annvirend.com.     

Like what you read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

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