When people ask me what kind of music I play, I like to say “indie piano pop.” I stole the phrase from a review of Jukebox the Ghost Live and Let Ghosts because I thought it sounded pretty good.
I try to write pop songs in the spirit of the genre at its cleverest and most creative. My singer-songwriter type ballads are often peppered with pretty profanities. My bouncy uptempo piano pop songs usually include violent keyboard punches, and in them I chirp about themes like accidentally arriving too late to witness the Second Coming of Christ. I’m a classically trained pianist giddily stealing licks from the likes of Ben Folds and Professor Longhair, and my voice has been called “delicate” and “hyper-feminine,” but has probably been best described by Tom Dobrzanski of the Zolas as “ … almost too Disney for your subject matter.” (I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as one. It’s pretty damn accurate.)
I define my formative years as a musician by two sharply contrasted periods of time: the 10 years I spent with the Royal Conservatory of Music, and the two years after that I spent in the Berklee affiliate contemporary music program at Selkirk College. I learned more about music in the latter 24 months than I had in the previous decade … this is not meant to knock my classical training, which I had actually quite enjoyed, but to illustrate the furious pace at which I was devouring my new music. My experiences there culminated in new songwriting that I was pretty proud of, and friendships with some very cool musicians. So, late in the fall of my final year of school, I said to my friend, roommate, bass player, and later co-producer and recording engineer: “Ben, I want to record some songs.” Ben Nixon said: “Ok, sure.”
That was really all I had in mind when I set out to make Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys (released August 28/2011, debut EP Unabashed released 2007).
We recorded this EP over four long days in a garage-turned-studio with the plucky, untainted enthusiasm for music common to most kids fresh out of school who aren’t yet jaded by the industry. It was completed, shelved and nearly ready to press with just a few technical revisions pending. But the year between recording it and releasing it started big and just kept getting bigger.
Shortly after I graduated, I was one of only a dozen musicians across Canada to be honoured with the Fred Sherratt Award (presented annually by CARAS and the Juno Awards). I shared stages with C.R. Avery and Juno Award winner Stephen Fearing, I’ve received support and national airplay from the good people at CBC Radio, and I moved across the country three times. The pinnacle of this dizzying year came when I was invited to perform at the 2011 Juno Awards Dinner and Gala. This is a day that began for me with a violent fall down a flight of stairs, and ended with a successful rendition of k.d. Lang’s Constant Craving in front of Neil Young, Arcade Fire, and 1800 other members of the Canadian music industry.
The year also brought fresh ears and insights to the album that would necessitate painstaking re-mixes and continual refinement. Every so often I allow myself to consider the nervous idea that Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys won’t be able to stand under the weight of the events that have proceeded it’s release. But when I squint through the dust that the past year has kicked up around me, I see an album with the same bottom line I started it with. I’m exceedingly proud of Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys and the work that’s been put into it. Now all I want to do is share it.
Ranging from soulful folk ballads to bright happy-go-lucky melodies, Chris Ho achieves a balance between lyrical introspection and melodic accessibility. Since first picking up the guitar at fifteen years old, Chris has been writing prolifically. Many of his old albums were haphazardly recorded using either an old 4-track tape recorder in his room, or a condenser microphone hooked up to a simple mixing board.
After joining forces with Rob Phillips and Robin Friesen, the group spent some time in 1 Ton Studios and recorded a 5-song EP entitled “Answers”. The album is an eclectic mix of punchy, bright, vocal melodies, contrasted by moodier lyrics that capture the many contradictions of love, affection, and human nature. Later that year, the music video for the featured single “Depending on The Day” was directed by Michael Farrell and released at the end of September.
Now in the process of working on his next full-length album, Chris looks forward to its release in 2012.