Going Solo - Five artist to watch
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The music scene is alive and well in the Georgian Triangle and there's plenty of local talent rocking the home venues. Be sure to stop in to catch a rising star at one of the many popular watering holes around town including the Huron Club, Jozo's Bar, Molly Blooms, Tesoros, MJ Byrnes, The Lodge, Rusty's, Bridges, Sisi's and more.
Here are just a few of the hot new artists you will get to enjoy.

1. CRAIGSMITH

“Roots music with a twist” is how Craig Smith describes
his musical style. A man at one with his Gretsch Dreadnought, Smith is at his best when playing acoustic guitar and slaying us with a soulful lyric that cuts to the heart. His song, Easy Go, from his first album Not Sure Not Sure may be his most enduring signature style. Punctuated with riffs on his harmonica, it's the kind of tune you want to listen to on a rainy Sunday morning while reflecting on your life choices over a hot cup of Joe.
“Neil Young is my biggest influence,” says Smith. “Growing up and listening to my parents' music, that can't help but creep in. You don't choose music. It just chooses you.”
Smith's song Wounded Heart from his second album Heavy Early is most reminiscent of the Neil Young influence, especially when he reaches into his falsetto and pulls the melody to new heights. “I think a song is really best when minimal, on a piano or acoustic guitar,” says Smith. “Simple is always best, I've discovered. I find that in life too. Computers allow you to polish a song till it's shiny and bright, but you lose the heart.  I'm aware of my limitations but I embrace that I sound this way. You are who are, perfectly imperfect.”
Smith is working on his third album, editing down his substantial body of new songs into a list he's comfortable shopping to record labels. See him every Monday night at Jozo's Bar in Blue Mountain where he hosts an open mike from 7 to 10 p.m. “I perform for an hour or so and then anyone can come and play,” says Smith. “You get to hear people doing it for the first time or you might get lucky and hear someone like country music star Gord Bamford who stopped by recently.”
Check out Craig-Smith.com for his touring schedule.


2. REBECCASTEPHENS

If you missed Rebecca Stephens' weekly performances this summer as the main stage artist at the Thursday Night Concert Series in The Village or her Nov. 18 gig at the Be The Change Documentary Series at Simcoe Street Theatre, you'll have to settle for YouTube videos on her channel for awhile because she's busy working on her third EP release entitled Back In The Hollow. “I want to get back to my country song writing roots,” says Stephens. “I want to lay it back lyrically and get deeper into the lyrics.”
Patsy Klein, Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash were the artists that set Stephens on the path of a pop country career. “It was always in the background at my nana's. I love all those classic country artists, especially lyrically.”
Her first EP, There Is Light, was a reflection of that fondness but after a stint in Nashville she headed to New York and laid down tracks on her sophomore album, The Fight, which eclipsed her natural, raw sound for a more produced version. 
“I've been writing a lot more personal things lately,” says Stephens. “There have been some challenging things in my life and I want to connect with my audience on a deeper, more sentimental level. I've been, like a lot of girls especially … well, I've had a lot of tough relationships and breakups.” She was also in the room with her beloved grandmother when she passed on. “It haunts me to this day.” These setbacks have honed her character and Stephens is pressing her Yahama guitar into action. Her relationship with Northwood Records out of Chatham has wrought the stellar single Where The River Flows, co-written with Matt Connell.
In the past, Stephens opened for Canadian folk pop grass band The Strumbellas, The Martels, & Jillian Jensen of American Idol/X Factor fame but this year climbed towards the headlining tier herself when she became a finalist (top four) on CMT's Chevy Tailgate Search. Her single I Need A Break landed an invitation to play at the Dauphin Countryfest in Manitoba. “Big stars were there. Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen. I got to watch their sound checks. Meet the host of CMT. It was really cool.”

For more on Rebecca Stephens, visit her website at www.rebeccastephensmusic.com



3. LUKEMARTIN

The first time Luke Martin picked up a guitar he was 12. Surprisingly, I'm Just A Girl by No Doubt was the first tune he taught himself. “I liked the melody line of the electric guitar,” he laughs. Martin didn't play again until he was 18 when pop punk grunge became his passion. “It was easy and all about the attitude more than the music,” he says.  Today his self-taught style has crystallized into what Martin describes as acoustic folk with a '50s sound. “I write a lot of ballads with a time signature that has a Motown influence. I'm more soul or gospel. Some say I sound like Elvis or Jack Johnson because my voice is deep, but Leon Bridges is a very accurate representation of where I am headed.”
A former mixologist from Quebec, Martin quit his job to follow his dream this year and tackle a full-time music career. He currently lives at the Hope Haven therapeutic horse farm for the disabled in Markdale where he cares for horses while gigging his way up the music ladder. Martin is prepping for his first EP and was just approved by Kickstarter to raise money for the recording session.
See Luke Martin at the Huron Club on Dec. 10 and again on Jan. 3 for their popular brunch. He's also at Sisi in Thornbury on Dec. 16 and at Fire and Ice in Markdale where he hosts an open mike every Sunday.
Check out his website LukeMartin.ca for his appearance schedule.


4. SHANECLOUTIER

He grew up loving the heavy metal of Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne, but today leans more toward blues, folk and jazz in his solo act.
A 10-year resident of the area, Cloutier is a regular performer at Tesoro's and The Huron Club, and also owns the local music school on Hurontario Street in Collingwood.  Cloutier was raised in Orillia, then headed to Toronto to study music at Humber College before being seduced to the Georgian Triangle. “I like the environment here,” says Cloutier. “It's a vibrant community, into the arts.”
In addition to his solo act, Cloutier plays in two rock bands. His own self-titled band (Shane Cloutier Band) that plays around the area and has produced the album Scars, and his newest band, Bent Nails, formed with legendary drummer Jorn Andersen and Max Webster bass player Mike Tilka.
“We just recorded a new album at Frank Marino's (of Mahogany Rush fame) place in Montreal,” says Cloutier. “We don't have a release date on that one yet and the album is still untitled. But we recorded 16 songs and we'll get it down to 10 tracks.” (Cloutier also plays rhythm guitar for Mahogany Rush when they go out on tour.) Catch Shane Cloutier at MJ Byrnes every Tuesday night or go to his Facebook page for details on his schedule. Shane says he accepts all friend requests.

5. AUSTINMcCARTHY

With the vocal approach of John Mayer and the heartthrob good looks of Keith Urban, it's no wonder the girls are flocking to listen to 19-year-old Austin McCarthy's bluesy romantic style. The 2014 Collingwood Idol winner, who burst onto the music scene only 18 months ago, McCarthy instantly became one of the top five finalists in CBC's nationwide Rock Your Campus competition in 2014. He has since been booked as the opening act for renowned artist Kim Mitchell at The Village and for Coldjack at The Gayety Theatre.
The son of veteran southern rock singers Mike and Erica McCarthy (The Mike McCarthy Band), Austin was given early Royal Conservatory of Music training as a child. The piano lessons were quickly cast aside however once McCarthy heard Stevie Ray Vaughan manhandle a fret board. He switched to guitar and by 16 was polishing his rhythm and lead guitar skills on his much-loved Martin. Songwriting came next.
“When I first started gigging, I did a lot of covers,” say McCarthy. “Now I'm trying to load my sets with at least four originals. It's more fun to play and now that I've gone away to school (McCarthy is currently studying at Concordia) there's much more to write about – more life experiences. The songs come easier.”
What he's writing about is “pretty much what every 19 year old is experiencing. Trying to find their place and where they should go.” McCarthy has a busy schedule through next year, but you can find him at his regular haunts in Collingwood: The Lodge, Huron Club, Rusty's, Bridges and The Village during the holidays. 

See austinmccarthymusic.ca for upcoming appearances.

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