Classic country fans will be thrilled to hear Toronto singer Kayla Howran during her City stop April 18th at The Hideout.
From the snappy strut of Drownin’ in Whiskey, which sounds like something Patsy Cline would have happily tackled back in the late 1950s to the infectious fired-up energy of Pistol (the CD’s title track), her music hearkens back to the magic of such legends as Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette.
That old-time, traditional pluck also surfaces in such tunes at The Al-Anon Prayer and Raise No Fool.
Howran, 24, is currently popping up at various venues across western Canada showcasing the cuts of her new CD which doesn’t only mark her first disc, but also the debut release of Cameron House Records’ first full-length CD.
It’s no surprise that Howran can’t remember ‘not’ singing – it’s a gift that began surfacing in her early childhood years. She was also raised in a very musical family, so pursuing music seemed the natural course to take early in life.
As for guitar, that skill began to flourish a bit later on. She received her first guitar just before entering Grade 9 from her uncle. Howran had indeed found her niche.
She started performing with a friend at local coffee houses and community events like Christmas concerts. “When I first started playing guitar, I tried to be more on the folk side of things. I tried playing like Ani DiFranco, but my mom would point out how twangy it sounded.”
Originally from Peterborough, Ontario, it was after she moved to Toronto that Howran really found a foothold in country and rockabilly roots of the Queen Street music scene. It also wasn’t long before she and her band, The Fellas, started performing at The Cameron House in the fall of 2010.
Howran wasn’t crazy about Toronto when she first was trying to settle in – she remembers finding the people kind of rude and just the crowdedness and craziness of it all rather overwhelming.
But when she started meeting other creative folks and musicians, a whole new love for the city flourished. Opportunities abound, and she now truly considers Toronto home.
One meeting in particular helped launch her musical journey in Toronto – it wasn’t until she met Toronto singer/songwriter Jack Marks that things really started to take shape. Once he grew familiar with her music, there was no doubt in his mind that she needed a country band to back her up.
Her tremendous musical skills were also honed by Toronto producer/engineer/musician David Baxter, who has produced such standouts as Justin Rutledge, Catherine MacLellan and Bob Snider.
Before long, the dream was becoming a reality and Pistol was recorded, largely in the ‘live off the floor’ style where all the musicians join together for the sessions.
“I think it captures the live sound so well,” explains Howran, clearly excited with the finished product. “I also think you can hear the passion and energy of the musicians.”
And as the creative process unfolded, Howran’s musical heroes were never far from her thoughts – particularly the aforementioned Ms. Loretta Lynn. The iconic singer has certainly had an impact on Howran via her compelling, authentic approach to singing and songwriter.
“I love her life story so much, and she’s always just sang what she has felt.”
For Howran, as much as the music on Pistol is structured so masterfully, it’s ultimately her vocal prowess and power that keeps the tunes so listenable and interesting. All the emotional strengths are there — from the sense of vulnerability clear through to surges of joy, agony and heartbreak.
And from watching clips of her shows on YouTube, there is no doubt she is having the time of her life sharing her craft onstage. Watching such a strong and confident performer makes it tough to believe she didn’t always feel too bold when venturing onstage. She used to get really nervous when prepping to sing, but those days are long past.
These days, she sometimes feels a slight rush of nerves, but chalks it up to being merely excited at the opportunity to share her music.
“I think it’s more of an adrenaline thing these days.”