Interview with comedic pop dynamo Kat Leonard

imageKat Leonard is a multi-faceted, multi-talented ball of endless joy and positive energy. She performs her own brand of music, using a combo of comedic and poignant themes; is one-half of the music/comedy duo Musedy Tag Team (with Arlene Paculan); and also works with Paculan as the A.D. of Let’s Make Good (LMG) Productions to produce and present the WonderFest series of music, comedy and spoken word/poetry events. I had a chat with Kat over email about what’s been up with her lately, 2014 in general and upcoming events.

LWMC: So you’ve been a very busy lady lately. What’s been going on? What have you been up to?

KL: Oh man, that’s what I’d like to know! The year has whizzed by like bursting piss that’s been held in way too long! I started a new health and wellness business, and I’ve been doing some motivational speaking presentations and workshops (which I love), and of course still writing and performing my music and comedy, and being Artistic Director of Let’s Make Good Productions and WonderFest.

LWMC: I get the sense that 2014 has been a year of big changes. How would you sum up this past year – for you?

KL: Big changes. 2014 was the beginning of my detox, which continues into 2015. I’m detoxing my mind, my body and my world. Don’t worry. It’s not the end of cussing, beer and gyrating for me – in fact, it might mean even more! I’m just really scrutinizing what I let into me physically and emotionally. (That actually wasn’t supposed to sound dirty, BTW ;p)

LWMC: And what was your favourite gig of 2014?

KL: If I had to choose one favourite gig of 2014 it would be our Wonder Women LA showcase because we were in L-fuckin-A and I revel in the vibe there. I love the warmth of the people – and obviously the sunshine – I love the way they embrace art and take risks. We did a jam-packed four-hour show that was filled with soooo much talent and love – from music, comedy, spoken word, visual and multimedia artists. We had two stages at opposite ends of the venue so we could flip back and forth between artists, the sound was amazing, the food was amazing and the people were amazing. It was full of amaze! I made a lot of friends and felt that glorious buzz that lets you know you’re in the right place at the right time.

LWMC: I’ve always wanted to do this in an interview, and you’re my first. I’d like to give you James Lipton’s adapted Bernard Pivot/Proust questionnaire.

KL: I love it!

What’s your favourite word? I think it might be “fuck.” Maybe lowbrow, but it’s so totally versatile, eh? I like its sound and the different emphasis that can be put on it, and the effect it has on people.

What’s your least favourite word? Sometimes I don’t like the word “skin” even though it’s quite harmless and obviously I use it a lot. Just sometimes I hear it and get weird visuals of empty skin just lying around. In those moments, I don’t like it.

What turns you on? Low rumbling bass notes, a good beat, honesty, courage, strong hands, kind lips, boobs.

What turns you off? Complaining, arrogance, boredom.

What sound or noise do you love? People laughing, especially when it’s that erupting uncontrollable kind they can’t stop. Even better when they’re somewhere inappropriate and they gotta try to muffle it.

What sound or noise do you hate? Anything high-pitched, especially whining. And hockey game din. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by people watching hockey. Good lord, shut up!!! 😉

What is your favourite curse word? Fuck.

What profession other than your own would you like to pursue? International Spa Tester. I would be so good at this!

What profession would you not like to do? Ultimate Outdoor Survivalist. I would be so not good at this.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Surprise!

LWMC: You have a special gig coming up on January 8th at Flying Beaver Pubaret. What’s that about?

KL: THURSDAY, JANUARY 8 – 7pm SHE’S LISTENING: BENEFIT CONCERT FOR OVARIAN CANCER CANADA

This is a benefit concert for Ovarian Cancer Canada. There will be laughter and love, door prizes and other surprises! A spectacle of rock, pop and comedy mixed with the spirit of hope and help, this is an evening not to miss! However, if you must miss it and would still like to donate, please consider donating directly to Ovarian Cancer Canada.

$15 advance/$20 at the door: tix available at The Pubaret or online. Dinner available before, during and after the show. Dinner patrons get priority seating. E-mail heather@pubaret.com for rezzos or call 647.347.6567

Artists include:
Heather Hill
Kat Leonard
Angela Saini
Jessica Speziale
Kristine St. Pierre

This is the link to the Facebook Event should anyone wanna click!

LWMC: Anything else you want to shout out?

KL: Let’s Make Good Productions is partnering with SIPO Foundation and One Fire Movement for our next big WonderFest event in March 2015! We are also always looking for people to be featured in our weekly WonderFest series. More information on all of this at our website.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

KL: I’ve been maintaining my blog wherein I sometimes do People Profiles. Anyone who would like to be featured can contact me. Here is my latest one, on musician Marcus Walker, if you’d like to check it out. You should check him out too!

LWMC: Thanks, Kat! It’s been a pleasure.

KL: No, thank YOU!!! YOU’RE the pleasure! 😉

You can also keep up with Kat Leonard on her YouTube channel and on Twitter.

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She’s Listening Toronto II – five lovely & talented women make beautiful music for a great cause

What a pleasure being out at The Cameron House for She’s Listening Toronto II last night! This fundraiser in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada featured five amazing female singer/songwriters, all bringing their talents and positive energy to the stage in support of a great cause: Heather Hill, Kat Leonard, Melanie Peterson, Angela Saini and Jessica Speziale.

And what a great evening it was! I was already very familiar with – and love – Hill, Leonard, Saini and Speziale, and was really happy to meet Peterson and see her perform with her band. And she is also awesome!

Check out these ladies’ websites, and take a look at their music videos too. Heather Hill recently released her music vid for “Stupid Happy” and Jessica Speziale launched “Brace Yourself” recently. Here’s Angela Saini’s “Little Black Dress” (and she tells me a vid for “Something Like I’m Beautiful” is coming soon!) Here’s Melanie Peterson’s “Cinema Girl” – and if you haven’t heard Kat Leonard’s fangirl ode to Johnny Depp, then you must take a look at this singalong vid of “Jockstrap.”

And last, but not least, here are some pix I took at the event last night:

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New Heather Hill music vid makes me Stupid Happy

I absolutely love this super fun, quirky, sweet love song – and this amazing music video by Toronto-based singer/songwriter and bringer of positive vibes Heather Hill:

You can catch Heather Hill live, along with Kat Leonard, Melanie Peterson, Angela Saini and Jessica Speziale, tonight (Wed, June 4) at The Cameron House for She’s Listening Toronto II, a fundraiser in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada. 8 p.m. Suggested $10.

Interview with Kat Leonard & Arlene Paculan on WonderFest 2014 event

POSTERwonder96Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan are both amazing solo artists in their own right. Together, they are Musedy Tag Team and half of the Four Winds Collective (with Heather Hill and Meghan Morrison), performing music with heart and humour, and they are the force behind LMG Productions, spreading empowerment through art through their Wonder Women, Super Men and now WonderFest events. Leonard is also a well-known Johnny Depp fangirl and Paculan, like me, shares his birthday. I interviewed these two lovely and talented ladies over email about their work together and their upcoming WonderFest 2014 event on April 6 at Revival Bar in Toronto.

LWMC: So tell us about how you met and how you came to start working together.

AP: I met Kat at a Valentine’s Show. It was called No Sweetheart Required, so she calls it an anti-Valentine’s Day show. It was so amazing because I immediately was drawn to her and was curious as to what she was all about. We started talking about what we did in the arts world. I found out that we both put shows on and I asked her if she’d like to participate in one that I do in the future – not having heard any of her work, I was trusting my instincts that she was incredibly awesome. After I saw her perform “Jockstrap,” that solidified my assumption! Prior to meeting her, I was in the process of starting Wonder Women and asked her to join the line up and she’s been a part of the event ever since! And now she’s Artistic Director for the company!

KL: … We hit it off and within mere moments decided we should embark upon doing shows together. We were both individually relieved as we stood backstage listening to the other perform their piece, because we had agreed to collaborate before even hearing the other perform. We’re both allergic to eggplant so it must have been fate!

LWMC: And how did LMG Productions, Wonder Women and the evolution to WonderFest come about?

AP: LMG Productions was something I came up with in 2010 – just a little production company that I could use to put on little concerts around the GTA. It was initially called Lene, Mean, and Green because of my name and my favourite colour is green. Kat came on board in 2012 to help out with the growing Wonder Women events. Soon she came up with the idea of changing it to ‘Let’s Make Good’ because of the direction our shows were going.

Wonder Women started to showcase female songwriters with different genres and to grow our audience base. After four Wonder Womens where it was solely music, we teamed up with This Girl Friday, which is run by a talented poet and graphic designer, Lizzie Violet [link]. Lizzie brought on the idea of having music and spoken word in a show. From then, Wonder Women and Super Men (all male showcase) combined creates ‘WonderFest’ which celebrates all types of art forms.

KL: … I was happy to be a performer in that first concert and to become Artistic Director of the series and production company. We worked together to create events that would eventually include Super Men and also workshops to nurture creativity and healthy self-esteem. We really endeavoured to develop a strong community that would encourage and promote the arts and self-empowerment. WonderFest was born. Because we were endorsing positivism we felt it was important to have a production name that reflected the same, so we went about brainstorming something with which we could retain the LMG moniker. Like a flash of enthused lightning, the name Let’s Make Good blasted into my brain as Arlene and I sat there doing just that, making good, and munching on Crispy Minis. 🙂

LWMC: In addition to your individual projects and work with LMG, you play together as Musedy Tag Team and in the Four Winds Collective What can you tell us about the experience and dynamics of performing solo, in a duet and in a group?

KL: Solo: I love it! Performing solo is empowering and freeing, though I tend to engage audience members in my act quite often. 😉 It is freeing that I can go off track and discover new moments without throwing anyone else off, and it’s also liberating to not worry that my behaviour is partly representing a bigger group. Having said that, there is no sweeter pleasure than sharing the stage with others, and sparking a unique and dynamic energy.

Musedy Tag Team: I love it love it!
I feel truly blessed to create and perform with Arlene in Musedy. She is the perfect yin to my yang and the class to my sass. A duet is a special relationship because you’re able to really get to know the other person and create a solid foundation of confidence upon which you can play and take risks. Musedy Tag Team is one of my favourite things to do and it is on my “to do more” list. Stay tuned for our upcoming Musedy Tag Team Mashup Madness show that’s in the works for being in the works! 🙂

Four Winds: I love it love it love it love it!! There is something absolutely enchanting about working in a group that works; it leads to endless discoveries and gifts. I really feel there is something magical about this collection of gals. We are eclectic and complementary, a songstorm of musical forces intertwined for the greater good. 🙂 I completely trust and admire each one of them musically and as best buds. When I play with Heather, Meghan and Arlene I feel safe yet thrilled, and a buzz of love adds to the rhythm of every performance. Incidentally, Four Winds will be performing our first original song at this year’s WonderFest!

AP: It’s SO much fun to do different projects with my best friend, Kat Leonard. Whether it’s LMG events, or duos, or even with more artists, like Four Winds, it’s really easy, extremely fun, hilarious and productive to work with Kat. I feel like we both have the same vision in promoting ourselves through these different projects and I’m really excited to see where it goes!!! We even toured to Halifax together on the VIA Rail, and travelled to LA to get a taste of the film and music scene.

LWMC: On Sunday, April 6, WonderFest takes over Revival Bar. What’s happening at this year’s fest?

KL: So much talent and fun is happening! Along with visual art displays, WonderFest starts this year at 2:00 with an inspiring workshop led by Niki and Madette: A Capella Jam and Synergy Sessions come together to lead us in musical improvisation. All levels of experience wanted! At 4:00 there will be networking and face painting until doors open at 6:00 for the variety show taking place 7:00 to 9:00. Music, comedy, dance, spoken word, art; we are so very excited for this fun-packed day!

AP: This is from our press release (Thanks Jeff Costigan!)
This year’s event promises to build on the popularity and success of previous years – empowering people of all ages and backgrounds to use creativity and art in their everyday lives. The one-day event will take place on Sunday, April 6th at the Revival Bar in Toronto (783 College St.). The art-packed schedule includes a musical workshop, networking, and a culminating concert featuring musicians, poets, visual artists, and comedians (welcome to everyone from all levels, as spectators or participants). Tickets for the concert are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be found at: https://wonderfest2014.eventbrite.ca/

Event Schedule:

2-4pm: Synergy Jam Workshop
A Cappella Jam + Synergy Session team up for a flash mob style jam session. Come sing, play, and leave feeling inspired! All styles, traditions and levels are welcome.

4-5:30pm: Networking

7-9pm: Concert (doors open at 6PM)

LWMC: And what do you hope participants and audience will take away from this year’s event?

AP: I really hope that people leave feeling inspired and empowered by what they learned and what they got to experience by performances and art work. The goal is to encourage people to tap into their creative side again, whether it’s to make an interesting spreadsheet or a lovely homemade dinner.

KL: My hope is that everyone who experiences WonderFest will discover a new artist and friend, will explore something fresh about themselves, and will find the freedom and power in nurturing a community of healthy risk-takers. I hope that every person walks away from WonderFest with a sense of empowerment to pursue the wildest of their dreams and the minutest of everyday miracles.

LWMC: Any other upcoming gigs or projects you’d like to shout out?

AP: Saturday April 12, 2014
with Miquelon Rodriquez, Sarah Giles, and Edward Monzon
The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W., Toronto)
9pm – 11pm * FREE

Sunday April 13th, 2014
Village Vinyl (2925 Lake Shore Blvd West, Toronto)
2pm – 5pm * FREE

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

AP: Life with more cowbell ROCKS!! Thanks Cate for having us on your blog again!

KL: If I may be so bold, I want to thank you for being such an important and loving member of our WonderFest community. We adore you completely!

LWMC: Aw! Thanks, ladies!

You can also check out Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan on their YouTube sites:

Kat on YouTube   Kat on Twitter

Arlene on YouTube   Arlene on Twitter

I highly recommend coming out to experience the inspiration and music talent at this year’s WonderFest! Come on back after April 6 – I’ll be posting a slideshow of the WonderFest concert!

musedy elbows
Arlene Paculan & Kat Leonard

 

 

 

Upcoming theatre, music, poetry & cabaret happenings this week

Hey kids! For all y’all who are coming back to your regularly scheduled programming after the long weekend: hope you had a good one. Can you believe we’re well into the first week of August already? Holy moly!

Lots coming up, my friends. Here is just a sample of what local artists and performers are up to here in Toronto this week:

StageWorks Toronto’s production of Parade runs Aug 8 – 18 at the George Ignatieff Theatre.

SummerWorks gets up and running Aug 8 – 18 at various venues. I’ve got my eye on: Delicacy, Eating Pomegranates Naked and Utopia.

The August edition of The Beautiful and the Damned on Thurs, Aug 8 at Q Space from 7 – 9:30 p.m., hosted by Lizzie Violet, and featuring Brenda Clews, Adam Abbas and Andrea Matchett, and a whole lotta talented open mic performers. Dead celeb of the month is Janis Joplin. This will be TB&TD’s last show at Q Space – new location TBD.

Songwriters Circle of Jerks is also up on Thurs, Aug 8 at Free Times Café at 8:30 p.m., featuring guest performer blueVenus.

More music at Free Times Café on Sat, Aug 10 at 8:30 p.m. with Craig Robertson, Heather Hill and Tania Joy.

The monthly cabaret/open mic extravaganza Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir says goodbye to Q Space on Sun, Aug 11 7 – 10 p.m., with feature performers sol knots, Andraya and Tania Joy, as well as some amazing open mic talent. Cabaret Noir heads to a new venue in September – new location TBA during Sunday night’s show.

Songs like love letters on Aynsley Saxe CD “Take Me As I Am”

It was a packed house at Hugh’s Room last night for the launch of Aynsley Saxe’s Take Me As I Am CD. And what a great launch event it was!

Singer/songwriter Heather Hill acted as MC for the festivities, first introducing Saxe’s life partner Bryan Pickell, who opened the evening with a set that went from sweet, fun and whimsical songs to moving instrumental. Of the former, “Peter the Duck” especially made me smile. Pickell shifted from acoustic guitar to piano to play an expressive, haunting and moving piece inspired by personal health struggles (an illness originally thought to be Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or depression turned out to be Lyme Disease, and he was finally able to get treatment). Also loved his love song to YouTube, where “everyone is someone else’s weirdo.”

Hill introduced the lady of the evening, and Aynsley Saxe took to the stage, joined by her band: John Jamieson (keys and also Saxe’s producer) Tom Evans (drums), Adam Langley (guitar), Dennis Papadatos (bass), Meagan Ballantyne (cello), Alex Cheung (violin), Carson Freeman (tenor sax), and Jill Harris and Lydia Persaud (back-up vocals).

Opening with the appreciative (and surprising) nod to a glamour queen in “You Look So Fine” then shifting into cozy, warm, poppy ballad “Winter Love,” Saxe’s arrangements feature some beautiful cello and violin arrangements on the ballads, as well as on the title track, the love letter, “Take Me As I Am.” But don’t let that sweet, innocent, crystalline voice fool you, this lady can bring the heat – just wrap your ears around “Stop, Drop and Roll,” Saxes’ sexy tribute to firemen everywhere and the first track on the CD. It was especially fun that her intro to that song included GTA firefighter Jeff, who could attest that the firefighter calendar is a huge seller – and a big fundraiser for Princess Margaret Hospital. Jeff assisted Saxe with some launch party swag for the audience, passing out red t-shirts with the message “I accept non-emergency CPR from firemen” on them. Looks like Heather Hill scored one of those. And I was sorry to have missed the firetruck, which had stopped by the venue earlier – a sight that brought both joy and relief to Saxe as she waited to go onstage.

Moving to the piano, Saxe played some more lovely ballads, the heartfelt song of comfort and tribute to her mom “We Won’t Say Goodbye” – which features some of my favourite lyrics: “Cause love is stronger than steel/Higher than the sky/Love is deeper than dreams/Love is longer than time” – and “The Piano Hears Me Now,” about the connection between musician and instrument. And some gorgeous covers of “Solsbury Hill,” which is on the CD, and “Falling Slowly” from Once and Once the Musical. Each song an individual love letter, making Take Me As I Am a love letter compilation of sorts. It was a lovely evening, celebrating the birth of Saxe’s CD, made all the better by the presence of so many friends, family and fans – a lot of love and support for the artist in Hugh’s Room last night.

Check this lady out. You can also find Aynsley Saxe on her Soundcloud and YouTube pages.

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Bryan Pickell at the piano during his opening set.
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MC Heather Hill introduces Aynsley Saxe.
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Aynsley Saxe, with Tom Evans on drums and Dennis Papadatos on bass in the background.
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Aynsley Saxe performing “The Piano Hears Me Now.”
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Aynsley Saxe, with back-up singers Jill Harris and Lydia Persaud, singing “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

Falling rehearsals – Heather Hill’s Second Chance resonates

As I was going about some housework on Sunday afternoon – shortly after I uploaded the previous post on the first Falling rehearsals – I was listening to Heather Hill’s Leuty Station CD – and her song “Second Chance” resonated for me in a whole new way.

Here’s the video of “Second Chance,” recorded at Heather’s Leuty Station CD launch at the Drake Underground: