Piper Hayes is back with new music!
The Canadian folk singer, songwriter and social activist took some time to answer a few of my questions regarding her new album, Piper & Carson. Check out the interview below:
What inspired this album?
There are two main things that inspired this new album ‘Piper & Carson’. The first is perhaps obvious. Carson Ritcey-Thorpe, my partner in life, music, shenanigans and much, much more came into my world three years ago. We met on his dad’s farm (Thorpe’s Organic Produce), at the yearly harvest bash he hosts in Millgrove, ON (near Hamilton). There was food and music all day long with a focus on community and organic farming. I heard Carson singing and something about his way on stage spoke to me. Within a few weeks we had our first show in Hamilton, and essentially started dating at the same time. Within a year we started writing together.
Carson’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow exponentially in these last few years. He really is the best human I know, and I wanted to showcase this love.
The second main inspiration for this album was the sudden and unexpected passing of my mum, Maggie Thomson Hayes. The new album ‘Piper & Carson’ is dedicated to her. It was last year in late October that we found out she had stage IV cancer. Within five weeks of the confirmation, she passed on November 25, 2016. Watching her everyday and being part of the process of dying changed my life.
Throughout my musical career and my entire life, my mum has been my biggest champion. She came to every show, knew every lyric, she would sing at the top of her lungs, and when I’d write a new song I’d call her first. She would ask Carson and I to play ‘Save Some For Yourself,’ track 7 on the album and ‘In My Bones,’ track 11. ‘Save Some For Yourself’ is a song inspired by a friend and the high rate of depression and suicide in our society. It is a reminder to give back to oneself. ‘In My Bones’ is about ancestors. It includes stories from both sides of the family. Including the one about my grandma Shirley Hayes, who, in the 1950s, stopped the NYC mayor from continuing 5th Avenue through Washington Square Park.
This album is a compilation of songs that reflect the intentioned life Carson and I have built. We want to be a part of the change. This album was inspired by this desire, and it was inspired by mum’s exuberance, her ‘just do it’ attitude.
How do you balance being a singer, songwriter and social activist?
Balance is a tricky thing and is something I am perpetually working on. I decided when I began writing and performing music, that I wanted have intention behind my work. I had an acting teacher once who would ask the class, ‘Why should people see your work? Why should they pay for it? Why is it important?’ Her philosophy was that if you want to make a living from your art you must be able to answer these questions. I’ve thought about it ever since.
For me singing, songwriting and social activism go hand in hand, and in many ways, one in the same. I want to work towards sustainability in my life. I want to fulfill all aspects of my own expression with integrity. Integrity right now is speaking out and standing up. What is enough for me is finding all the ways in my life, big or small, that I can change and grow and heal others. ‘What can I do?’
I guess how I balance these three very important things in my life, is by making them cyclical in nature. Singer, songwriter and social activist – in many ways, one in the same.
Why should people buy your album?
Quite simply…. because it is real, and I think really good!
This collection of songs tells a story. It is a relatable album that can take us anywhere we need to go. It is an honest representation of who Carson and I are right now. It’s conscious, there’s a message and it’s relevant; it’s stripped down, no pretence, just us. And it’s magic.
Carson’s sister Leah did a drawing of us as two lil’ manatee merpeople. I liked the drawing so much, we used the caricatures for the album cover. Inside is a lyric booklet with gorgeous photos of us on the farm by my good friend and renowned Toronto photographer Lisa MacIntosh. I love when albums are a complete experience and include lyrics and messages by the artists. I want ‘Piper & Carson’ to grab people with not only the music, but also with the total artistic package.
The album was recorded live off the floor in the living room of the century-old farmhouse where Carson grew up. Toronto multi-instrumentalist Chris Bartos produced the album and played standup bass. He brought so much of himself to the table, and got us right where we needed to be. In between each track are layered nature sounds that I recorded live on the farm, and help build the narrative of the album.
I think Carson and I, along with Chris Bartos, have created a piece of art that reflects a moment in time and is yet somehow timeless. Music is powerful, and when we engage with it anything is possible.
I was ecstatic when I discovered I didn't have to wait until January to watch a "real award show".
During my usual Twitter feed scrolling session, I found a link for the livestream to watch the 2017 IFP Gotham Awards. This award show officially kicks things off and gives us a taste of what to expect for the rest of the season in terms of the winners for major categories such as Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Feature. The only downside to watching an award show that isn't televised is that there aren't any commercial breaks a.k.a snack refill and bathroom breaks. Also, the camera shots are very limited, so you don't see audience reactions which more times than not make these things worth talking about (shoutout to all of the times we've seen Taylor Swift dancing at music award shows and all of the times we could have avoided seeing that if they weren't televised).
Get Out cleaned up and my prediction is it's just getting started for them. Jordan Peele didn't think this film was going to be made so he was shocked every time the film won. They took home hardware for Best Screenplay, the Audience Award and Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director. When Peele accepted the award for Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director, he said, "Directing is like getting to be the captain of a pirate ship. I couldn't have made this film without this amazing new, this amazing cast".
The tributes were endless. Al Gore, Jason Blum, Sofia Coppola, Ed Lachman, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman were all honoured. Here are some memorable quotes:
"This isn't part of the program, but I just want to say Big Little Lies was awesome. Oh my God. It was really great." - Al Gore to Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon
"Don't strive to be me. Be better than me... That's for all children around the world." - Michael Kenneth Williams
"Am I going too fast?" + "I should have made this font bigger." - Sofia Coppola kept it real
"Viewing films at MoMA and the New York Film Festival is my post-grad." - Ed Lachman
"What the fuck? I was supposed to be the successful one." - Ethan Hawke recalling how he felt when Jason Blum first made it big
"The last few years I've been offered roles where my characters die from heart failure as I neared 80. This one I ended up in the hospital in a coma." - Dustin Hoffman regarding The Meyerowitz Stories
"She's a magician. She's magic. She's the greatest actress I've ever known." - Reese Witherspoon paying tribute to Nicole Kidman
I took my shoes off because my feet are sore." - Nicole Kidman
"It's an amazing feeling to be so close to so many people in this industry." - Nicole Kidman
Best Actor went to James Franco for his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist based on the making of The Room. That led me to watching The Room for the first time (known as the best worst film ever made). It had me cringing and fascinated at how brutal the acting and writing were and I really wish I didn't watch it on my own. Also note that I watched it on YouTube with Spanish subtitles. Anywho, the highlight of James' acceptance speech was when he said, "Thank you to Tommy and Greg. Your story is my story. This my movie. This my life. Be cool."
Best Actress went to Saoirse Ronan (my new year's resolution is to know how to spell and pronounce her name without using Google) for her role in the highly praised Lady Bird. Greta Gerwig wrote, directed and stars in it and the film recently broke a record on Rotten Tomatoes. I have a feeling that Saoirse will be winning all season long.
Timothée Chalamet won Breakthrough Actor for Call Me By Your Name following a young man's pursuit of an older man (played by Armie Hammer). The film took home the coveted Best Feature award. My spidey senses are telling me that this too will be a big winner this season and that Timothée may be James Franco's competition at upcoming award shows. He made my night when he mentioned Cardi B, Al Pacino and Kid Cudi in his acceptance speech. I never in a million years thought I would hear those three names in the same sentence. Jordan Peele later thanked Cardi B following this.
I'd give the show overall an 8.5/10 and would like to thank IFP for ridding me of my award show withdrawals. I can't wait for the next couple of weeks as the nominations start rolling in!
'Tis the season of giving!
This truly is the most wonderful time of the year as Christmas will be here in the less than a month and then it's award season. It's the perfect time to do some good and what better way to that than lending a hand (or donation) to Friends With Hearts. They are not a registered charity but a community of friends working in conjunction with Good Shepard in Hamilton to restore the magic of Christmas for families in need. They have groups in Hamilton, ON, Vancouver,BC, Cornwall, ON, New York City (shoutout to my cousin Julia), and Niagara, ON.
I caught up with Hamilton's Group Leader, Jay Perry. Check out our Q&A below:
What have you learned about yourself and the community since starting Friends With Hearts?
Well, first off, the community? Unbelievable! To think that Friends With Hearts started with a simple tweet seeing if nine friends would want to donate $25 with me to sponsor a family, to where it has grown today, blows my mind! Without the amazing support of everyone involved, it would never have grown to this level. Our main goal is to give kids a Christmas, but I love that we can do this as a team. That we can join forces and come together as friends to help out those in need. Everyday I grow more and more impressed with the individuals who want to give up their time so those kids can experience the magic of Christmas morning. That same morning we all got to be a part of growing up.
As for what did I learn about myself. That’s easy. I really had no idea how much joy Friends With Hearts would bring my way. It’s the work I am most proud of, but at the same time it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, most time consuming, yet I never think twice about giving up my “paid work” in the month of November to focus solely on this project. It’s what keeps me going, and I’m sometimes still so in shock at the response from the incredible community, not only in my hometown, but across Canada and now spread into New York City. A simple idea that started in Hamilton, to now having FWH groups in Vancouver, Niagara, Cornwall and New York City is something I never imagined was even possible. Thank you to the amazing people who have helped grow this idea.
Can anyone get involved?
100%! We invite everyone to join our team and there’s so many ways to do that. The obvious is donating money but I continually get the question; “I would love to help out but I don’t have any money to give right now. Is there something else I can do?” Money is what allows us to purchase the gifts for the kids, but to me, time is so much more valuable than money. We are always looking for more volunteers to come help us wrap all the gifts at our wrapping event and we are always so grateful when people share our social media posts. Whether someone donates $1 or $1000, or whether someone shares a post once or a hundred times, to me I consider each and every person a part of our team, a friend, and the reason why we can help so many kids every year.
Why is it important to give back?
I’ll answer this from a personal perspective. I wasn’t born into a wealthy family, but I also wasn’t born into a financially poor family either. I grew up in a middle class suburban neighbourhood. I always had food. And I always had shelter. Basically, I was lucky and so grateful to be born into the family I was. Unfortunately some kids aren’t as lucky and I feel some sort of responsibility to give back. Especially to kids who have no control on changing their situation. I also think it keeps me grounded and helps me focus on more important issues we face today. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that if you are in a position to help out someone in need, regardless of circumstance, you should always do what you can. The world would be such a difference place if we all helped just one person in our lifetime.
For more information and to donate, click here.
The above image of Pink perfectly sums up my feelings about the AMAs.
Last night, the usually underwhelming award show took place honouring some of the "biggest" artists in the music industry. The majority of the performances were complete snoozefests and I didn't think the winners made sense. There were a couple of moments that I loved, while the rest of the show pretty much sucked. The only reason why I tuned in was to catch Christina Aguilera pay tribute to Whitney Houston and Diana Ross received the lifetime achievement award. Speaking of Diana Ross, her daughter Tracee Ellis Ross was the host. She was alright.
Let's start with the opening performance courtesy of Pink and Kelly Clarkson. To be completely honest, I tuned in 10 minutes after the show started, so I'll let you judge for yourself:
Other performers included Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Haley Steinfeld + Florida Georgia Line, Shawn Mendes, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Macklemore + Skylar Grey, Portugal. The Man, Alessia Cara + Zedd, Khalid + Imagine Dragons, BTS (made their American television debut) and Pink returned for a "gravity defying" performance. Of all of these, there are three worth talking about.
Christina Aguilera received mixed reviews for her tribute to Whitney Houston by performing hits from The Bodyguard. Personally, I thought she shit the bed. She was off-key and the timing wasn't right. This could have been a combination of poor audio and her not being Whitney Houston. She's not my first choice to pay tribute to Whitney. I think anyone else could have done a better job. Watch below:
Pink took things to a whole other level. Literally. I had no words. I was entertained from beginning to end. She always kills it when she performs and restores my faith in the music industry.
As mentioned at the beginning of this recap, Diana Ross received the Lifetime Achievement Award and showed all of the artists how it's done. The highlight of the performance was when her family joined her on stage. Her "grandbabies" have the entertainment bug too.
BONUS: Because as an entertainment blogger, I'm kind of obligated to share BTS' performance. They left everyone speechless as they made their American debut and never stopped moving. I was exhausted watching them, but they were certainly entertaining.
In terms of who took hardware home, Keith Urban cleaned up in the country categories (Country Male, Country Album, Country Song), Imagine Dragrons won Best Pop/Rock Duo/Group, DJ Khaled won Best Rap/Hip Hop Song, The Chainsmokers won Best EDM Artist, Shawn Mendes won Adult Contemporary Artist, Lady Gaga won Best Pop/Rock Female, Niall Horan won New Artist of The Year, Collaboration of The Year went to Luis Fonsi, Alternative Artist went to Linkin' Park and Bruno Mars won the big one - Artist of The Year.
I am really craving "real award shows" so the AMAs were a warmup for me. I'll be kind and give them a 4/10 rating.
I had the chance to watch Netflix Original series Marvel's The Punisher before it begins streaming tomorrow and boy are you guys in for a real treat.
When I think of Marvel, I think superheroes. I couldn't help but roll my eyes when I first heard about this series. It sounded super cheesy. However, I was quick to change my mind as soon as I started watching. The synopsis goes a little like this: " After exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) uncovers a conspiracy that runs far deeper than New York’s criminal underworld. Now known throughout the city as The Punisher, he must discover the truth about injustices that affect more than his family alone."
I'm not going to give too much away, but it is true that not all heroes wear capes. There's non-stop action from the second the series starts, until the second it ends. You have no idea who to trust or what's about to happen next. It's dark and captivating. Oh, and Jon Bernthal and Ben Barnes are hot as f*ck.
I highly recommend that you guys watch the show and pray that the lovely peeps at Netflix will order another season.