Not too many summers go by in Australia these days without a tour by Canadian singer-songwriter-keyboardian Ann Vriend.
2014 continues that rich tradition.
Ann has already started this year’s tour on the Gold Coast and she’s heading south to Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales before winding things up in Brisbane later this month.
In between dips in the pool on a Saturday afternoon (and no doubt a stack of photos on social media back home to envious and shivering Albertans), Ann talked to Bill Quinn about this year’s Australian tour.
Bill Quinn: Ann, from memory this is your ninth tour of Australia. Does it get easier, or harder or different?
Ann Vriend: I definitely think it’s getting easier. I have more and more people coming on board to help me out, and the fan base is slowly growing. And also different because I’m getting more and more used to being here!
Every tour I have different shows and different itineraries, so it doesn’t get boring.
BQ: Do you have someone who helps, like an agent here in Australia?
AV: I’ve had a couple of tries with a couple of different people. I’ve kind of gone back to doing it myself which is a lot of work. And I definitely don’t have the time to be a proper agent , of course.
BQ: So how difficult is it to line up dates from half a world away?
AV: Well, I do a lot on email, so it doesn’t really matter that it’s so far away. Agents that have a roster with a whole bunch of artists on their roster that are at different levels of fame can wheel and deal and trade, whereas I don’t have anything except, “Please give me a gig!”
There are certain festivals and certain venues that only take acts from certain agents they work with, otherwise it’s closed doors to others, or so I’ve been realising. You can get into small things, but not into anything that gives you some real money and lots of attendance in bigger places.
But I’m lucky I have a company helping me out down here now. They’re starting up their own production company where they want to sponsor artists to help them with their careers.
I’m the very first artist that they’re helping. The company’s called David Hand Productions. They’re basically helping me out with logistics and some promotion stuff.
And then next year we’re going to do a full-on tour that they’re helping me plan. So this year is basically laying the groundwork for the big one next year.
BQ: And for this year, have you got venues that want you back and have become regulars for you?
AV: Yeah. Sometimes — especially this one — I didn’t get around to booking it very much in advance, because I was so busy working on finishing my CD, and I was on tour in Europe, so I didn’t really get enough time to properly sit down and do the booking. So a lot of the places wanted to have me back, but it didn’t work with their schedules.
So I took what I could get for this tour, but people have been pretty good about helping me out where they can, for sure.
The big thing about this tour is promoting the single from my new album, and getting the new album (“For The People In The Mean Time“) out there, so that for next year it’s already been played and people know the songs.
BQ: And tell us about the album; it’s been a while in the pipeline, hasn’t it?
AV: Oh, that’s an understatement. Yes!
It’s kind of for a good reason. My producer (Tino Zolfo) just got busy with other artists because he started getting a lot of recognition. Suddenly his phone’s ringing and everybody wanted him to produce their record.
Some of those were artists who had big labels behind them who could pay more than Ann Vriend could!
But he says it’s one of the best records he’s ever made and he’s super-proud of it, He put 130% effort into it. He said, “I don’t want to rush to get it done and not do the best job that we can do”. He was committed to it, but he had to pay the bills as well!
BQ: When people listen to the new album, are they going to say, “This is what we expect from Ann Vriend”, or is it taking you in a new direction?
AV: I think both.
It’s a retro-soul record, in a sort of an indie way. It’s full of beats and loops and that kind of thing. Someone from Germany told me he got his copy in the mail and called it an ‘old/new soul record with a Motown feel’. And that’s pretty much what it is.
In that way, people who expect me just to be playing folkie songs, it’s going to be different than that. But if you’ve listened to my records from the beginning (like someone like you!) you know there’s always some soul and blues on every album, and I always sing in a bluesy way. And that’s been a big influence on my music.
So that’s coming through very loud and clear, and we try to be very consistent about the sound of this whole record, that they’re all in that kind of vein.
AV: Some of the shows I’ll be doing solo, but more than half of them I’ll have a rhythm section, the same rhythm section that I had in Sydney last year. They’re guys from the band Peregrine that’s based in Sydney. So drums and bass and me. It should be fun.
This sort of music really needs a rhythm section; it’s all groove-oriented stuff. Old school soul.
BQ: And after you leave our shores, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
AV: I’m going to be touring the hell out of this record. So I get home and then I have a week or two before we do a mini Canada tour to promote the album and release it. The official release date is March 11.
And then from there we go straight to Europe and do a five week tour of Europe. Then we come back and do some shows in Canada, festivals and more touring.
And then in 2015, I’ll be back in Australia! So I won’t be bored in 2014!
BQ: We’ll look forward to seeing you!
Ann Vriend’s remaining Australian tour dates:
Thursday 6 February — The Musicman Megastore, Bendigo (VIC)
Friday 7 February — Albert Park Yacht Club, Melbourne (VIC)
Saturday 8 February — The Rumpus Room, Maribyrnong (VIC)
Sunday 9 February — On The Green at Gumly Gumly, Wagga Wagga (NSW)
Wednesday 12 February — Django Bar, Marrickville (NSW)
Friday 14 February — The Homestead, North Hobart (TAS)
Saturday 15 – Sunday 16 February — MONA, Hobart (TAS)
Thursday 20 February — Sunset Studio, Newcastle (NSW)
Saturday 22 February — Tree House, Byron Bay (NSW)
Sunday 23 February — Black Bear Lodge, Fortitude Valley (QLD)