Interview: Brooklyn Doran, Jessica Speziale & Iliya Vee talk Rainboots & Rock N’ Roll tour

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Jessica Speziale, Iliya Vee & Brooklyn Doran ready to rawk Rainboots & Rock N’ Roll tour – photo by Darnell Toth

Three artists. Three acts. One car. Toronto indie music artists Jessica Speziale, Brooklyn Doran and Iliya Vee (of Dreadful Starlings) loaned their talents to a successful Christmas album and concert fundraiser for the Humber River Hospital Foundation with Indigal, a Toronto-based indie music collective. The three artists have joined forces to launch Rainboots and Rock N’ Roll, a 10-day tour of Southern Ontario, kicking off in Toronto with a gig at Cameron House on April 1, then travelling from St. Catharines to Montreal.

Here are the Rainboots and Rock N’ Roll tour dates/venues:

April 1 – Cameron House, Toronto

April 3 – Band on a Couch, St. Catharines

April 4 – Private house concert with fans in Burlington

April 5 – The Garnet, Peterborough

April 6 – LIVE On Elgin, Ottawa

April 8 – Le Cagibi, Montreal

April 8 – Le Depanneur, Montreal

LWMC: Hey guys, thanks for taking some time out to talk about your upcoming Rainboots and Rock N’ Roll tour. So whose wacky, wonderful idea was this anyway? How did you come up with the cool tour name?

JS: Ahhhh!!! I love that you love the name!! We were playing around with names that would say something similar to “Spring Tour” without actually calling it that. [laughs] Rainboots are cute and make me think of April. [smooch] Thanks so much! In terms of deciding to hit the road together, Brooklyn and I are part of an eight-woman indie music collective called Indigal which recorded a Christmas album this past Christmas. Iliya was actually playing bass on the record, and so one day after rehearsal, Brooklyn gave us a ride home and we were talking about how much we both wanted to tour. We were like, “let’s do it!!!”

BD: That was definitely Jessica! I’m going to wear my yellow wellies on as many stages as I can.

IV: The tour name was definitely Jessica’s idea. We’re roommates, and I’ve been playing bass in her band for about two years. We had thrown the idea of going on tour around a few times, and then it just made a whole lot of sense once Brooklyn was in the picture. It helps to have someone with a car involved.

LWMC: And how did you come to book these specific venues?

BD: We are so lucky to have a great network of friends across Southern Ontario and in Montreal who were able to hook us up. Josh Spencer from KickDrum Montreal is a great person to contact in the city because not only is he THE guy to contact about booking a great (and well-attended) indie show, he pays so much attention to the curation of his showcases – from the way the music will flow from one act to the next, to the venue, and even down to the poster design. I definitely recommend working with KickDrum to anyone touring to Montreal for the first time.

JS: We’re super excited to be playing all of these amazing places! In some instances, we’re also returning to some of the great venues we’ve played before on past tours. So grateful for our networks.

IV: Both Jess and Brooklyn have a much more developed network of artists and promoters to draw on than I, never really having performed extensively outside of Toronto. My band (The Dreadful Starlings) has played the odd festival way out here and there, and I’m looking at this as an opportunity to learn who’s who and make some lasting connections for future appearances along our tour route.

LWMC: Tell us a bit about the sets you’ll be performing. I hear you’re going to be accompanying each other – and doing solo bits as well?

JS: Yes!! To both. [laughs] We will be playing our own acoustic sets, some parts solo, and others with each other. Tambourines and shakers will be coming out as well!

BD: By the end of the tour, I’m sure we’ll be singing every song from everyone’s set! I love getting the opportunity to contribute to another artists work and hear them sing and play on my songs using creative and exciting arrangements that I haven’t hear before when singing it in my head.

IV: I normally play bass in Jessica’s band, although guitar is my native instrument, so to speak, so I will play along on any songs the girls ask me to. Initially we were planning to have all three of us play all the time, but we found parts of our repertoire were less inclined to this approach. Plus this way, we get a chance to engage the crowd and have a drink or two while one of us holds down the stage.

LWMC: Are any of you trying out new material on this tour? 

BD: I just finished tracking my new album These Paper Wings, which was recorded all at Catherine North Studios in Hamilton, so I’ll be singing a few of the songs from that album unplugged (although I’m keeping a few tracks secret until the album release).

I am also premiering my newest song and video “I Found a Home” on April 29 for CBC Searchlight. It was recorded live, in one take, on a rooftop in downtown Toronto and was inspired by a couple I met who’d been married for 40 years.

JS: I’ve been in the recording studio recently to record my next single!! Some of my biggest fans may have heard it, but I’ll definitely be trying it out on this tour! (*whispers* It’s called “Wildfire”!)

IV: Most assuredly. I’ll be playing some selections from The Dreadful Starlings’ latest EP release Shack Up With The Downside, as well as some new tunes that have never seen the light of day and some old songs that never really made it out off the paper.

LWMC: Who’s driving?

BD: Me!

IV: Are you a cop? Because, legally, you have to tell me if you’re a cop.

LWMC: Nope, not a cop. Though I do give off that kinda vibe sometimes. A few road trip trivia questions: Favourite road trip snack?

JS: Coffee!! Lots of coffee.

BD: Dried Mangos and Tim Horton’s coffee.

IV: Trail mix. It makes me feel like I’m doing myself some good and hiking about somewhere rather than sitting still for hours on end.

LWMC: Favourite place to stop for a bite?

BD: Roadside diners with 24/hr. breakfasts are my FAVOURITE!

JS: I’m loving the ON Routes that have Teriyaki Express. The 5th Wheel in, like, Bowmanville is pretty sweet too.

IV: Grocery stores! Love a good bowl of pho, too.

LWMC: Favourite road trip music?

BD: My car only has a CD player, so it wonderfully forces you to listen to entire albums front to back instead of sampling singles. Right now in my stereo, I’m really digging local Montreal artist Greg McEvoy’s newest release “Selfish Love Songs.

JS: Sam Roberts is the ultimate!! For this tour, I’m stoked that Brooklyn’s car has a CD player. I’m bringing all my No Doubt, Lenny Kravitz, Sam Roberts and Silverchair CDs.

IV: Wait, CDs only? Not even a tape deck? I can hook us UP if you have a tape deck, Brooklyn. I’ll have to sift through my collection but I see some Gypsy Kings, The Doors, Robert Johnson and Elvis Costello kicking around. Jessica has the Sam Roberts on lock, which I also love.

LWMC: What’s your road trip jam: Do you like to take your time, with ample pee and snack breaks? Or do you prefer to just give ‘er and get there?

JS: Definitely the former. I like pee breaks. I also gun it between pee breaks, but I’m a fan of not feeling rushed. We’re also hoping to pop into towns along the way to busk and meet people!

BD: As long as I have warm coffee, I could drive for miles and miles.

IV: Well, playing shows can sometimes seem a bit like golf… Hurry up and wait, you know? So somewhere in between I guess… You don’t want to be late and make someone’s night stressful, but you generally don’t want to beat the sound guy/gal to the venue either.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to shout out?

BD: If you get the chance, please send your votes our way for the CBC Searchlight competition. Your votes contribute to how much our music is programmed on CBC Radio throughout the year and we’d love to be on the airwaves with our original music as much as possible.

You can find us on CBC Music here:
Brooklyn Doran
Jessica Speziale

Iliya Vee

IV: I just gotta have more cowbell!

LWMC: Thanks, guys! Look forward to seeing you at Cameron House on April 1.

JS: Thanks for having us!!


But wait, there’s more! The April 1 gig at Cameron House also includes Jacquelyn Tober & the Rose County Ramblers.

You can also give Speziale, Doran and Vee a listen on their respective music streaming/purchasing sites.

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?


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 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.

Top 10 of 2014

Friends & fellow artists of Nik Beat perform a track at the launch for his Famous For Falling CD @ Amsterdam Bicycle Club

Seeing as I already took a bit of a peek out of my December hiatus with the Sleepy Beauty post last weekend – and as this is the last day of 2014 – thought I’d take another peek out to post my top 10 of 2014. Here it is, from a variety of disciplines, in alphabetical order:

Nik Beat: Famous For Falling CD/chapbook launch @ Amsterdam Bicycle Club
The De Chardin Project @ Theatre Passe Muraille
Elizabeth Rex (East Side Players) @ Papermill Theatre
I Hate Todd: The Moves Pt. 1 CD launch @ The Horseshoe Tavern
Lisa MacIntosh: ASK photography exhibit @ 3030 Dundas West
Memento Mori (Tracey Erin Smith/SoulO Theatre) @ Toronto Fringe
Mercury Fur (Seven Siblings Theatre Company) @ Unit 102 Theatre
Romeo and (Her) Juliet (Headstrong Collective/Urban Bard) @ Bloor Street United Church
Jessica Speziale: Shine CD launch @ The Duke Live
Trace (Theatre Gargantua/Vertical City) @ SummerWorks

Have a big fun and safe New Year’s Eve, all. See ya’s next year! xo

Sultry, soulful & rockin’ out – Jessica Speziale brings it all with Shine CD launch

20141122_204227An amazing night at The Duke Live last night for Jessica Speziale’s launch of her new CD Shine – produced by MC2 Records – and what a night! Red carpet, photo ops and a packed house – this event was a happenin’ place.

Opening band Andreas kicked off the night’s festivities with a bluesy, kick-ass rock set, perfectly priming the crowd for the main event and impressing big time.

From the opening chords, stepping out into the light and stage mist, Speziale had us. Pulling out all the stops, the band included a three-piece string section near the beginning of the set and a three-piece horn section towards the end. Sultry, soulful and rocking out with her band, Speziale is a commanding, yet playful, presence onstage. Well before her final song – the title track from the CD – and the encore (“Brace Yourself”), Speziale had folks up on their feet dancing.

Here are some snaps I took at last night’s launch:

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You can also follow Jessica Speziale on Facebook and Twitter – and check out her YouTube channel. In the meantime, check out the music vid for the CD’s title track “Shine”:

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.

Smokin’ hot & rockin’ out @ The Central – Jessica Speziale CMW2014 gig

Last weekend was about theatre, this weekend is about music. It’s Canadian Music Week, and I was out at The Central to see Jessica Speziale play with her band last night.

Speziale is a sultry-voiced, rockin’ music force, performing with heart, soul and drive. If you haven’t had a chance to see her play live, get yourself out there – you won’t be sorry.

In the meantime, you can check out her recent video release of “Brace Yourself,” a song from her Dear Reverie CD. You can also take a gander at the interview I did recently with Speziale about the video and launch.

Playing in Speziale’s band at The Central last night was: Matt Makarenko (guitar), Iliya Vee (bass and backup vocals) and Dave Sufrin (drums).

Here are some pix from last night’s gig:

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