Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Dad

On Tuesday, September 29th at 7:15am I watched my wife give birth to our daughter who we named Lyla Grace Stewart. To say it was the greatest moment of my life is an understatement. I felt like a King that day walking on a cloud with a grin from ear to ear.

In the months that followed I've found myself being nostalgic and sentimental about lots of things. I've been reflecting on my own childhood and the different things that made it so great.

Many of my fond memories come from the music playing around the house growing up. Be it Christmas time when my Mom would bust out Anne Murray albums to my Dad spinning some Jim Croce, John Denver,  and  or even Friday night theme songs from shows like M.A.S.H., Hill Street Blues or The mighty Muppet Show. There was, and still is, always music playing at 793 Millbank Road in Pickering.

Although my daughter's only 10 weeks old - I'm already trying to introduce her to music. Music that reminds me of being a kid, catchy pop anthems from artists like Queen, The Beach Boys and of course The Beatles.

I look forward to a lifetime when I'm playing new music for Lyla and learning about new music from her.  I long for the day when we can go to outdoor concerts together and talk music over meals and a day when we can reflect on her childhood.

Here are some songs that remind me of being a kid called - New Dad Playlist

A house with music playing will always be a happy home to me.

Thanks for reading/listening.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Late 80s and Early 90s

When growing up in central Ontario there were many different choices when it came to cliques.  I don't think it exists the same way today - but picture a John Hughes film set to a soundtrack of music by the likes of Stone Roses, Violent Femmes, LL Cool J and R.E.M. and that was my suburban upbringing.  Back then you identified yourself with specific groups and there were Rockers, Goths, Punks, Skinheads, Jocks, Mods, Hip Hoppers, Preps, Skaters, BMXers and many more.

If I had to classify my own style at that time I guess it was a cross between prep and skater.  I skateboarded but was partial to a good Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, Club Monaco khakis and a pair of Tretorn shoes.  Tretorns with ollie holes mind you.

Shoes were a big deal to me at that time - and still are today. I always wanted the best and most expensive ones.  I was also very aware that I was in grade 9 and that older teens were known to "Roll" kids for their shoes at the time.  All I wanted was a pair of 6 hole black boot docs with yellow stitches - but settled on Doc Marten shoes without stitching so I didn't get my ass kicked by skinheads.  I remember buying pair of low cut no stitch Docs in Scotland while on vacation between grade 8 and 9.  It was funny because the boots were basically the working man's boot and you could buy them for dirt cheap everywhere.  My older cousin Kenneth had a pair for his job as a security guard.  On this side of the pond it was different.  You could only buy Doc Martens on Queen Street at places like Twinkle Toes or head-shops.  Ironically there's an actual Doc Marten's store on Queen now.

I do remember getting a great pair of Timberland shoes in grade 8 though.  I must have only had them for a couple days before they were stolen from the gym locker room. I'm pretty sure I know who it was that took them too.  The lone asshole skinhead in grade 8 name Darcy. I had to wear my indoor gym sneakers home that day and was so pissed.  PS - how on earth was there a white supremacist skinhead in a catholic elementary school to begin with?  I digress.

With the wide array of lifestyles came a very diverse mix of musical choices.  I was all over the map and really did love it all.  That wasn't the case for most though and they were very strict in their choices to make sure that it was in line with their identity.  Goths listened to the likes of Depeche Mode, The Cure and Bauhaus while Skinheads cranked Motorhead and David Wilcox.  There was Run DMC, Kool Moe Dee and Eric B. & Rakim for Hip Hoppers and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Descendents, The Clash and The Cult for Skaters.

Here are some songs that remind me of that time in my life...

Violent Femmes - 'Kiss Off' (This whole album is perfect)

The Housemartins - 'Caravan of Love'

R.E.M. - 'Stand'

Suicidal Tendencies - 'Possessed to Skate'

Kool Moe Dee - 'Wild Wild West'

The Stone Roses - 'Fools Gold'

The Cult - 'Heart and Soul' 

De La Soul - 'Eye Know'

Depeche Mode - 'Everything Counts'
The crowd intros from the album 101 still give me chills to this day.

Thanks for reading/listening.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Weeknd

'I Can't Feel My Face' hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart last week.  He's just announced an arena tour of North America for the fall. He's playing a club show TONIGHT in his hometown of Toronto.  He just dropped a killer video for 'Tell Your Friends'.  His new album 'Beauty Behind The Madness' comes out this Friday. AND he's performing at The MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday.  The Weeknd is the KING of the World right now.

OH YEAH - Tom Cruise also lip synced to his song on Fallon calling it the song of the summer.

I first heard about The Weeknd around the online release of 'House of Balloons' in 2011.  I was part of the grand jury for that year's Polaris Music Prize to which this album had been shortlisted.  It never won the prize but local music journalist Anupa Mistry was there to champion the album and made many of the jury, myself included, take notice.  

The process of Polaris' grand jury calls for members to listen to the albums in their entirety while preparing to vote.  I chose to listen to the 10 albums while running in the early morning hours before going to work.  I remember this one vividly as it was on a rainy morning and I was running through the woods near my home at Davisville and Mount Pleasant in Toronto.  Haunting, beautiful, shocking and just god damn cool at the same time.  This album is still fire today.

For the next 3 years we tried various times to get The Weeknd to perform on The Much Music Video Awards to no avail.  The timing never worked out and or he wasn't ready.  Well this year he was more than ready and performed a medley of both 'Earned It' into 'The Hills' - Watch it here.  

When preparing for the release of 'Kiss Land' in 2013 Abel and his management came into the office to meet my team.  They wanted to say hello and show us the latest video for 'Belong To The World'.  Abel was super shy and very humble.  He told us how crazy the last year had been for a kid that grew up in Toronto being courted by everyone.  Everyone from P. Diddy to Jimmy Iovine.  He also told us that until then he'd never been outside of Ontario let alone on an airplane.  His team took him to Japan and it blew his mind.  I'm certain that a mere 2 years later it would take a lot more than a visit to Tokyo to blow his mind.  This man headlined Coachella this year and has fast become friends with the likes of Kanye West and admired by all for his talents.

Able won 4 MMVAs this year for his videos and artistry.  He's likely to win a few Moonmen this weekend and I'd hope a Grammy or 2 come February of 2016.  

I'm lucky enough to be going to TONIGHT's show and can't wait.  This is the exciting stuff in the music business watching artists become Superstars right before your eyes.

Here's my Spotify playlist entitled The Weeknd GH

Thanks for reading/listening.


Monday, August 24, 2015


Andrew Patton and I at soundcheck for Up In Smoke 2000.
In 2000 I went to the 'Up In Smoke' tour at the Molson Amp in Toronto.  It still stands as the greatest live show I've ever seen.  The production.  The vibe.  The attitude and of course the music.  The show ended with a semi N.W.A. reunion featuring Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Snoop standing in for Easy-E.  This is the actual opening from that night -watch it now.

I worked at Universal at the time and had the pleasure of watching Dr. Dre soundcheck that afternoon.  He walked all the way back to the lawns with his platinum plated microphone to test levels. A master of sound who was meticulous with it for every single show.

That was just the opening! Eminem, Warren G and Devin The Dude opened the night before these legends event hit on stage.  Holy shit did that ever set the tone for an incredible night.

Like many I went to see the movie 'Straight Outta Compton' this past weekend and LOVED IT.  I was a mere twelve years old when both 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Easy-Duz-It' came out.  These albums were dangerous and scary as fuck - but my friends and I were hooked.  We all knew the words to these songs inside out.  I can still rap (I won't) every single lyric to Easy-E's 'Radio' or 'We Want Easy'.

For me the next few years would be all Brit Pop and Hip Hop aka Rap music.  It was a backdrop while I skated the mean streets of Pickering.  Truth be told they were the furthest thing from mean - but skateboarding in strip mall parking lots with a ghetto blaster playing albums like these and then Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' and Ice Cube's 'Predator' made it feel that way.

Found this in my parents basement :)
The movie probably wasn't even close to being in my top 10 favourite movies of all time - but I was still perfect.  Perfect because it invoked great memories of my youth coupled with important memories of historic times that my generation grew up in.  It's actually sad to see that racism is still as rampant as it was at that crazy time in 1991.  I'm pretty sure that if you were to turn on CNN right now that it won't look too different from the news stories at that time.

I love Dre's music and production but for me it was all about Ice Cube and Easy-E.  The movie solidified Ice Cube as the main rapper.  He was the writer and lyricist that made this all come together.  His career may be very different today - but this guy was a real gangsta.  A true G.

Here's a Spotify playlist featuring some of my all time favourite songs related to Compton entitled - Straight Outta Compton Tunes

Thanks for reading.


Friday, July 17, 2015


I never had the chance to see Nirvana before Kurt died - nor did I catch Blind Melon while Shannon Hoon was still alive.  I did however see Amy Winehouse the very first time she performed here in Toronto at The Top of the Senator in June 2004.

It was at an industry showcase for the recently released album 'Frank' that I sat front row to take photos for Universal Music's website.
*Actual photo from that first night - just not mine.  I can't find mine.
The music world was unclear where this young jewish cockney jazz singer fit in.  She was like nothing else at the time and so this showcase at a downtown Jazz club was the first attempt to see who might be interested.  I remember thinking that her band was insanely good.  The drummer was like nothing I'd watched on stage before.  He was so smooth and on point while working with Amy to bring out the soul.  He would wait to see where she was going and follow - then she'd look at him and he'd lead the way.  I also recall thinking that she was very pretty and looked a lot like Gina Gershon.

The next time I saw Amy Winehouse was when she came back through Toronto in support of 'Back to Black'.  I was now working at MTV and she came by to be on our then flagship show MTV Live.  She then headed down the road to be on MuchMusic's flagship show M.O.D. where she actually went missing from her dressing room.  The producers of the show were about to have Dallas Green come on to perform in her stead.  She had decided to take stroll down Queen Street - but finally made it back to play a quick song as seen here.  From there she went to perform in the amazing Orange Lounge Studios. She capped that day off by playing the MOD Club later that evening as seen here.

I've just come from the movies where I saw the new documentary about her life.  It's heartbreaking, eye opening and down right sad all at the same time.  My single favourite moment was the footage of her watching the Grammy Awards live while in London.  It was real.  It was raw and so very genuine.  Her short life was overshadowed by drugs and torment - but her music will be remembered and stand the test of time.  This is a really great documentary and I recommend you see it.

Here's a best of playlist I've made to remember the late great Amy Winehouse

Thanks for reading/listening.


Friday, May 29, 2015

2 Old + 2 New Tracks

It's tough to keep up with new music these days simply because there's so much of it coming out each week.

I have the luxury of being privy to lots of new music as it comes out - and am afforded the insight as to what's going on surrounding and artist.  It's a great position to be in because it's the social currency required to survive.  It's definitely not rocket science - but you need to keep up and listen to the right people that know there stuff.  You always need to be listening for new music and learning about music from the past at the same time.

My first new recommendation this week is from a Canadian girl named Alessia Cara.  She samples Portishead's smash 'Glory Box' with her new track 'Here' with perfection.  The video is beautiful and the lyrics are spot on for an 18 year old.

My first old track comes to us from LL Cool J.  I listened to him on my way to work today because my wife was watching his lip sync show on television last night.  I can't ever hate on for doing all these shows because he truly is one of the greatest rappers of all time IMHO. His catalogue speaks for itself.  Check out this classic cut!

My second new pick is from Jamie XX.  Maybe one of my favourite side projects ever.  This side project is better than most people actual projects.  The album comes out next week and I can't wait to hear the rest of it.  

My second pick is from my favourite band of all time Oasis.  I know that some of you may have just rolled your eyes - but I could care less.  These guys embodied everything I love about music and the rock n roll lifestyle.  Here's a track off their album 'Don't Believe The Truth'  which came out almost 10 years ago to the day.

Thanks for reading/listening.


Friday, May 22, 2015

2 Old + 2 New

I've decided I want to make my posts more frequent.  In an attempt to do so I'll need to keep it quick and to the point.  Here goes...

I'm going to aim for a weekly post suggesting 2 NEW tracks that I think people need to hear and a couple OLD tracks that may have been missed - or require another listen. 

I selfishly write this with hopes my nieces, nephew and own children will one day click and learn a bit about the music that make me tick.

I recently went down a worm hole of Led Zeppelin's music - so the 1st of this week's Older selections has to be 'Ramble On'.  It embodies rock n roll and reminds me of my youth.  I want to go on a long road trip with the windows down when I hear this song.

I still listen to radio shows to learn about new music.  It's different these days in that you can stream on demand - but it's still a voice on the other end telling tales of how songs came to be and tidbits of information about a song to give it context.  They keep it exciting and I continue to learn daily. Here's one I heard for the first time a couple week's ago on The Strombo radio show.

The 1st New track I'd like to suggest is something from Hot Chip.  The track is called 'Huarache Lights' and it's fucking amazing (pardon my language relatives).

This Wednesday David Letterman signed off for last time and I was among the many that shed a tear.  That show had some of the finest musical guests perform through the years.  I was actually at a taping one day but cannot remember the musical guest for the life of me.  I do however remember that Bill Cosby was the other guest :(

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, was the musical guest on Monday's show and he performed the song 'Betterman' with Paul Shaver and CBS orchestra.  It was insane and solidified Eddie, once again, as a rock God.  

Suffice it to say I've been listening to the Pearl Jam ever since and would like to recommend something from their Vitalogy album that still gives me chills. 

The 2nd new track I've selected this week is something from a BC Rapper that goes by the name of SonReal.  His latest EP is called 'For The Town' and the title track is just perfect.  This is an artist my team's been watching for ages - and he just keeps getting better.  I truly hope he gets the big break he deserves and soon.  Take notes kids - Production is EVERYTHING.

I hope you check enjoyed my picks and I look forward to suggesting more next week.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Love Led Zeppelin

It's been a very long time since I went camping over the Victoria Day weekend.  If I had to guess it's gotta be 20 years since my friends and I loaded up the car with beers, sleeping bags and not much else to head up highway 115.   It's also been a while since I'd seen the movie 'Almost Famous'.  This movie reminds me of those days because its soundtrack was very similar to what my friends and I listened to at that time in our lives.

Almost Famous was on AMC this morning and so I had to watch it.  The Almost Famous soundtrack has become synonymous with Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer', which is an amazing song, but watching it again today made me thirst for the mighty Led Zeppelin.

I was introduced to Led Zeppelin when I first met my good buddy Wes van der Valk.  It was the tail end of grade 9 as we headed into summer break.  I remember the night vividly as Tim Holley and I were headed to the Hub Mall to see what was going on that Friday night.  The town of Pickering all ascended on that mall's parking lot to see where everyone was going - then cram into cars to head to bush parties or the beach.  On route we ran into these 2 dudes named Chris and Wes who invited us to a house party just around the corner.  It was Wes' house and his Mom had gone out of town for the weekend.

Wes had an older brother named Will and his hippy uncle Charlie lived in the basement.  The house was packed and could very well have doubled for a John Hughes house party from any of his movies. Every room was packed and the hallways lined with senior high school girls smoking cigarettes and drinking Durango coolers.  The music was cranked and from each of the massive speakers came the sweet sound of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham.  It was perfect.  It was rock n roll and it was dripping from the walls.  The older guys were passing around joints and air guitaring while the girls sang each and every lyric from the top of their lungs.  Wes snagged us a couple beers and we did our best to blend in.

Wes' uncle Charlie - aka Big C. - strummed along to the stereo on his 12 string guitar while smoke filled beer bottles got passed around the room.  This night was also my introduction to hash.

It was 1990 and we did an about face with what we'd been listening to and quickly fell in love with music from the 60s and 70s.  We had to make up for lost time and quickly entrenched ourselves with all things Led Zeppelin.  Tim bought the 4 album box set, we made copies of mixed tapes, bought posters and more.  I even went to the flea market and bought all 4 Zeppelin logos for the back of my jean jacket.

That was 25 years ago when the Billboard Hot 100 was comprised of Technotronic, Wilson Philips, Bell Biv Devoe and Sinead O'Connor to name a few.  Led Zeppelin was a welcome change for us and brought with it a culture that we wanted to be a part of.  This was our tribe.

I had to put their music on the back burner for a while simply because I'd listened to too much for too long.  We needed a break.

In recent months I've bought Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin IV on vinyl. Listening to it this way truly is like listening to it all for the first time.  The break is over - we're back.

I may not have seen them live - but I can say that I love Led Zeppelin.  It's magical, mythical, mysterious and oozes sex drugs and rock n roll.  Every grade 9 kid should have their own Zeppelin experience.

Get The Led Out Playlist


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

80s Vibes + SXSW

I'm LOVIN all these 80s sounding songs of late.  All brand new - but you can tell artists are diving into their old record collections for inspiration.  Here's what I'm talking about.

I'm just back from South By South West Music Festival and still trying to remember all the shows I saw there.  It's always an overwhelming experience - but in the end I've come back to work more pumped than ever about new music.  Pumped about all styles and level of greatness.

If you take a stroll down 6th street in Austin you'll see some seriously random things. From a homeless guy swinging flags around his head to the beat of a distant DJ set in a local venue to unicycles and jugglers and everything in between.  You'll also see hundreds of struggling artists.  Some are part of the actual festival slugging their gear from one gig to the next - but there are many that aren't part of the festival at all.  They come with hopes of being seen and set up in street corners, in hotel lobbies, on the backs of pedicabs, up dark alleys and just about any other spot where people might be walking past.  Loads of hip-hop crews handing out mixed tapes while wearing matching sweaters with names of artists while holding massive signs with twitter and Instagram handles.  It's actually sad to see many of these things.  Sad because it's a desperate attempt that will likely fall short in the end.  

I really don't envy musicians trying to make it today.  For all the success stories through Vine and YouTube - there are million of others cluttering our social media feeds and other media outlets daily. The lion's share are mediocre at best - thus making it harder than ever before for real talent to break through.  It's a shame because there are some truly amazing new talents on the grind right now.  Artists that should by all means succeed and I for one hope they can.

Some highlights for me at this year's festival were these talented artists...

  • Frank Turner
  • Yukon Blonde
  • Scott Weiland
  • Run The Jewels
  • Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires
  • Marina and the Diamonds
  • The Weeknd
  • The War On Drugs
  • Twin Shadow
  • July Talk
  • Leon Bridges
  • James Bay
  • Metz
  • Ibeyi
  • The Vaccines
  • The Sheepdogs

Here's - My SXSW Spotify Play list - that includes many of the above mentioned as well as others that performed in Austin this year.

Until next time.


Friday, January 30, 2015


Sia's quickly become a household name after many years of sitting in the wings.  Although she's not as recognizable as say Beyonce or Rihanna she truly should be as you've likely heard her music just as much as both if not more.  She tends to hide her face for television performances and is very selective when it comes to appearances of any kind.  Her writing and vocal talents, coupled with her signature platinum blonde bob, have finally put her in the spotlight where she belongs.

I had the pleasure of working on 1 of Sia's albums back in 2004.  It was her 3rd solo album and housed the breakout hit 'Breathe Me'.  That particular track took on a new life when it was used during the last scene of HBO's Six Feet Under (spoiler scene - click here).  

The only time she came to town around that album was doing back-up duties for Zero 7 on tracks like 'Distractions' and 'Destiny'.  Both immense tracks with so much soul.  I went to that show at Toronto's Opera House to say hello.  She came out prior to the show and met me at the back bar.  She was super friendly, pretty and quirky all at once.  She was just excited to know that someone was handling this album and new it from cover to cover.  I still love that album today and would stick it in my top 25 albums of all time for sure.

Sia's story hit the tipping point this past year and perhaps even exploded this afternoon when she performed on Ellen seen here.

She's written some of the biggest pop hits over the last couple of years including tracks for Rihanna, Beyonce, Katy Perry, David Guetta and FloRida to name a few.  I knew a few of these were written by her - but when I heard her on the Howard Stern show my mind was blown. This is by far the most amazing interview I've heard in a long time - check it out.

Sia's one of music finest talents today as she embodies what it means to be a true artist.  Look for her star to shine even brighter in February with the a Grammy performance and nods in multiple categories.  

Here's my - 'You Know Sia' - Spotify Playlist.

Thanks for reading/listening,


Friday, January 9, 2015

Something for the Weekend...

I love calendars.  More specifically I love the process of plotting music events like concerts, release dates and festivals on a fresh calendar.  Maybe it's the OCD in me - but it's a simple task that brings me a bit of joy while building excitement about the music itself.  T.M.I.?  Oh well - now you know.

I forgot to mention that I listen to lots of music while plotting and this last round allowed me to either discover or revisit amazing music that's come out recently. These particular tracks have been the soundtrack to my 2015 thus far and make me look forward to what's to come.

It's January which means line-ups for festival are being announced along with dates and such. Although I won't be heading to Palm Springs for Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival  - it's a killer announcement of acts spread across 2 weekends in April.   I do hope to make it to NYC for this year's Governor's Ball though.  Mr. Gallagher will be playing this one which is the closest thing to an Oasis reunion we're going to see for some time. 

February means The Grammy Awards - then March brings us Canada's JUNO Awards in Hamilton - and the following week is SXSW in Austin, Texas.  Not a bad way to get one's head out of the fact that it was literally colder in Canada than it is on Mars this week.

Here are 5 tracks that I'm in love with at this time and simply want to recommend to you. Enjoy!

The Black Keys - 'The Weight of Love' *video not on YouTube:(

The War on Drugs - 'Red Eyes'

Bombay Bicycle Club - 'Home By Now'

Wu Tang Clan - 'A Better Tomorrow'

Tobias Jesso Jr. - 'Hollywood'

Thanks for reading/listening,