On Stage: Aucoin’s music good, good works even better

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Rich Aucoin

If you took Rich Aucoin’s surname and separated it, you would have gold (AU) and coin – definitely something valuable

Even if you don’t do this, you still have something valuable – a talented musician with a catalog of two albums and three EPs and a history of engaging in charitable projects.

Aucoin is a Haligonian (native of Halifax, Nova Scotia) who performs as a solo artist and as a collaborator and guest musician in Hylozoists.

Aucoin just released his third EP – “Hold” – and is on the road in support of the new release. His tour brings him to Philly on June 26 for a show at PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 267-519-9651,).

Aucoin released his first EP, Personal Publication, in 2007. He supported the release by undertaking a cross-Canada tour traveled entirely by bicycle to raise money for Childhood Cancer Canada. A little while later, he embarked on another solo tour, running partial marathons between stops to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Aucoin’s show in Philadelphia Tuesday night will be the one of the final shows of his current “Press On” Tour.

Once again, Aucoin’s cross-country tour featured him bicycling from city to city– raising awareness for mental health by donating 100% of proceeds to Mental Health America and The Canadian Mental Health Association. Aucoin will be joined by bandmates in each city as he pedals alone across the deserts, mountains, and forests of America.

“I had to take a break from the tour because I had to play a few musical festivals up here this week,” said Aucoin, during a recent phone interview form his home in Halifax.

“I left my bicycle with a friend in D.C. and came here.  I’ll go back to D.C. and finish the last leg of the tour – from Washington, D.C. to New York.

“In 200y, I did a bicycle tour all the way across Canada – from the Maritimes to the Pacific Ocean. This one in L.A.-New York City. I think the Canadian one was 81 days and I’m currently on Day 52 of this tour.

“Canada was more intense – especially with the Canadian Rockies. The weather was colder – a lot of days riding in cold rain for eight hours a day. The highest point I reached in the starts was around 7,000 feet. It was higher in Canada — over 9,000 in Alberta.”

Aucoin’s recorded output started with a pair of EPs — “Personal Publication” in 2007 and “Public Publication” in 2010. He released his debut album “We’re All Dying to Live” in 2011 and followed with his “Ephemeral” album in 2014. The latest addition to his discography is the “Hold” EP.

“I had been working on the new EP for the last year,” said Aucoin. “I actually started at the beginning of 2016. Then, I had my laptop stolen and had to re-start the project.

“It’s a sample of what’s to come in the full-length. I’m in the studio now remixing songs for my new LP. I did the recording all over Canada and a little in New York. “I used session musicians who were friends – or friends of friends. There was never more than one degree of separation.

“There is no title yet. There is no release date. But, the album is all done and ready to go. I’m just finishing up the remixing of the last three tracks. Actually, the record has been done for almost a year now.”

Touring solo gives an artist a lot of free time on the road. Touring solo on a bicycle gives an artist a tremendous amount of free time on the road.

“I got to write a lot of music on my bike trip,” said Aucoin. “It’s going to be four years between albums this time and that’s too long. My goal is to have more than one recording next year. I’m working on a couple different records. I definitely want a quicker release than three or four years.”

And, it’s more than likely that Aucoin will continue his charity work.

“I’ve always been raising money for different charities,” said Aucoin. “This time, I got drawn to the idea of mental health charities. It all fits together because it’s been said that my shows are natural anti-depressants.”

Video link for Rich Aucoin – https://youtu.be/ZhIn11BPANg.

The show at PhilaMOCA, which also features Terror Pigeon and The Obsessives, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12

KT Tunstall

Usually, when KT Tunstall plays a show in Philly, she is performing as the headline act.

Tunstall returns to Philadelphia on June 26 to perform at the Mann Music Center (5201 North Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-566-7900, http://manncenter.org) – but not as a headliner. She is the special guest on theBarenaked Ladies’ “Last Summer On Earth Tour,” which also features Better Than Ezra.

Tunstall realizes the benefits of being the opening act on a tour such as this.

“Since I’m opening for the Barenaked Ladies, I only have a 30-minute set,” said Tunstall, during a phone interview last week on her way through Colorado to a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison ( a suburb of Denver). “I’m hoping to connect with people who have never seen me play before.”

Tunstall is a singer-songwriter-musician from Edinburgh, Scotland who burst onto the music scene in 2004 with a live solo performance of her song “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” on the popular British TV show “Later… with Jools Holland.”

In the decade that followed, she released four full-length studio albums, along with a few EPs and live recordings.

Tunstall has had her songs featured in a number of hit movies such as “The Devil Wears Prada,” as well as television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Criminal Minds.” Her album sales are approaching 10 million and she has been nominated for a Grammy Award, the Mercury Music Prize and several BRIT Awards.

A few years ago, Tunstall thought she was done with music.

She had reached a turning point in her life and she called it quits for her music career.

“Why did I quit — it was really the circumstances,” said Tunstall. “My father passed away. I broke up with my ex. I was miserable. I created my own story. I was a success musically, but I didn’t feel happy.”

So, Tunstall halted her career as a rock musician, left the U.K. and relocated to Southern California.

“I had visited Santa Monica (CA) before,” said Tunstall. “I had rented a bike and rode around. I realized I could find sanctuary in Southern California. So, I sold everything I owned and moved to Venice Beach. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.

“I had been defined by music for 20 years. Who I was had become lost in that identity. I wanted music to be what I do not who I am. So, I cut the cord.”

Tunstall relocated to Los Angeles, abandoned the world of rock music and set her focus on writing music for films.

“I started composing film music and did some great work with film,” said Tunstall.

She studied composing soundtracks at the Skywalker Ranch and composed and performed the following soundtracks — “Winter’s Tale,” “Million Dollar Arm,” “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast” and “About Ray.”

“Once I moved to California, I spent a lot of time chilling out and reflecting,” said Tunstall.  “I love listening to music in my car. I spent time driving through Laurel Canyon and Topanga Canyon — listening to the music that was made there by acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

“I got inspired. I began writing these really big choruses. At the same time, my mind and my body said ‘No.’ I was making very unfettered music that wasn’t self-conscious. I was writing muscular, emotional pop songs that I would be foolish to have ignored. The writing began around the beginning of 2015. After doing a few tracks, I thought — this is really good material.

“Earlier this year, I went to Taos, New Mexico. I chopped wood in the morning and looked at the snow. I did eight hours a day of just writing — writing on acoustic guitar by the fire. The fire was really a great birthplace for the songs. The landscape in the Southwest was a big inspiration.”

Tunstall had hopped off the train before in her career.

In 2008, Tunstall’s career had been moving along like an express train. So, she decided it was time to hop off the train and get on a boat – to Greenland. She was part of the Cape Farewell Project, living on a boat with a group of artists, writers and musicians who were invited to create their own response to the harsh landscape and the specter of climate change.

“That was incredible,” said Tunstall. “It was a great place to start writing a new record. After that, I kept traveling for a while.”

Over a course of three months, Tunstall went horse riding with gauchos in Chile, explored the wild nature of the Galapagos Islands, walked Peru’s Inca Trail to the ruined city of Machu Picchu and visited the Barefoot College of Tilonia in India, where women from villages as far away as Africa are taught how to build solar equipment from scratch.

Tunstall also jammed with local musicians in the Rajasthani desert and traveled through New Zealand in a vintage VW camper van. She arrived in Auckland and collaborated with Johnny Marr, Wilco and musicians from Radiohead at Neil Finn’s “Seven Worlds Collide Jamboree.”

“It was very magical in the desert,” said Tunstall. “After that, I went to Kerala. I really started to write again in India and then wrote more when I got back in my home space in the English countryside. After getting off the road and having a break, there was a re-ignition of the subconscious.”

Not surprisingly, the “urge for going” has found Tunstall once again.

“I’m still living in California – but not for long,” said Tunstall. “I realized that I need to take off and go — go where it’s wild…. where there is more nature. I’ve been living in Venice Beach for four years so it’s time for something new.

“When this happened, I decided that ‘KIN’ was going to be the first album of a trilogy – spirit, body, mind. ‘Kin’ was the album for spirit.”

Two years after her latest hiatus began, Tunstall made her most recent album “KIN.” Written in L.A. and produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Fitz and the Tantrums, Air, M83), “KIN” is guitar pop at its best.

“Tony had been high on my list of people to work with,” said Tunstall. “He understood the world of commercial music — and how to push the borderline. Tony and I spent a couple of months working on the album.”

The as-yet-untitled second installment of the trilogy, which will be released later this year, was produced by Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand.

“It’s a real living and energetic record,” said Tunstall. “I recorded it in London with a three-piece – me, Nick and a drummer. We recorded it in a garage full of synthesizers and vintage gear. It’s loud and rock-and-roll.

“I felt stagnant after the album before ‘KIN.’ I felt that it was repetitive. With ‘KIN,’ I wanted to be a musician. ‘KIN’ felt like a soul record. ‘KIN’ was the soundtrack of my life at the time. It’s really exciting to be involved in a long-term project.

“With the new one, I wanted it to be about the body. With body as the subject matter, I wanted the music to be more visceral. I wanted to explore electric guitar. Thematically, I wanted to keep to the story of the album. I love writing an album. I was being creative writing songs about physicality and sexuality. It’s a very physical record.”

The third part of the trilogy will take the upper road.

“The writing had just begun for the ‘mind album’,” said Tunstall. “It’s about the machinations of our own brain – about life within your own head.”Video link for KT Tunstall – https://youtu.be/Dxf0lhz1dJo.

The show at the Mann, which also features Barenaked Ladies and Better Than Ezra and, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Ike Reilly

When Ike Reilly makes music, it is an honest effort. His songs feature insightful lyrics. His music is straight-ahead rock (with punk and blues in its DNA) — played by a band that has the tightness you hear with acts such as Los Lobos, The Band and The Mavericks.

The Ike Reilly Assassination — guitarist Phil Karnats, bassist Peter Cimbalo, drummer David Cottini, guitarist/ keyboardist Adam Krier and guitarist/lead vocalist Ike Reilly – makes music that reaches listeners on a variety of levels – and gets them shaking their asses while listenjing.

Reilly released his debut album “Salesmen and Racists” in 2001. His eighth LP “Crooked Love,” was just released on CD and digital formats on May 18 via Rock Ridge Music.

Reilly is out on the road – performing in support of “Crooked Love.” His tour will visit the area on June 27 for a show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,www.johnnybrendas.com).

“This is a solo tour,” said Reilly, during a phone interview last week from Wilkes-Barre as he was on his way to a gig in Boston.

“I go out a tour solo half the time. I go out and introduce myself. The other half of the time is with my band. I recorded the album with the other four. I’ve been playing with the same guys for 15 years now.”

Reilly and his band had a quick turnaround with “Crooked Love.”

“The album was done in February and came out in May,” said Reilly. “It didn’t take too long to make. I co-produced it with bass player Phil Karnats. We recorded it at Diamond City, our studio in Chicago.

“The songs were unrehearsed. We did that intentionally to get an improv feel. Most of the songs were done in four takes or less. We wanted to catch the vibe we get when we’re traveling. It has a live feel, but it doesn’t sound sloppy. It’s very professional and well done – just telling the stories and singing the songs without the feel of a studio.”

Since his major label debut “Salesmen and Racists,” Reilly has been making punk/folk/blues-influenced rock-and-roll records “that lean heavily on stories of outsiders with keen details and broad strokes that insinuate a crack in the American dream.”

Reilly’s band, The Assassination, has been called one of the best live bands in America. Still, Reilly and Karnats felt that Reilly’s best takes had never been recorded. The lucidity and rhythm of Reilly’s performances that Karnats had witnessed in hotel rooms, backstage, and on tour buses had never been captured.

According to Karnats, “I wanted to create a setting where Ike could sing and play guitar at the same time — with the band in the same room… no headphones and minimal isolation. There’s always been a freshness to playing the songs together that’s hard to harness when recording in the more common, modern, sense where you do rhythm tracks first, then overdubs and vocals last.

“This time, Ike did his thing and we developed the arrangements based on his vocal approach, cadence, phrasing, intensity and all that. I think, in the end, we ended up with some killer songs that have a strangely unique, slightly off-center, vibe.”

Reilly said, “The vibe of the album – it’s dark and it’s not dark at the same time. It’s simple in its production. The band set up to play live in the studio and it worked well. These guys know how to play.”

Reilly came into the sessions with a cache of fresh songs – songs that had built up rather than songs that had been written during a specific pre-album writing session.

“I write all the time – every day of my life for the last 20 years,” said Reilly, a native of Libertyville, Illinois. “I don’t write songs specifically for a record. I write songs and then, when it’s time for a record, I make a record.

“This time, I had 20 songs whittled down to a concise 10, I had some more political songs that I removed. The album is also based on a sonic vibe – acoustic and vocal and raw looseness. It leans on blues a little more. It sounds like it comes from a place that represents the best of our eight albums

Video link for Ike Reilly – https://youtu.be/Vp3tg0xyqSs.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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