It’s been pretty much a non-stop whirlwind for The Jessica Stuart Few since last year’s release of Two Sides to Every Story.
The band performed in Red Deer last summer, and makes a return visit this month performing July 11th at the International Beer Haus with newly-formed local group Twisted Lobby.
After several tours promoting their first CD Kid Dream, the band has emerged as one of Toronto’s hottest new bands on the indie-folk scene. And broadening their reach even further, Two Sides To Every Story was released in Japan last September along with a tour of the country.
“It was really incredible,” says Stuart of the Japan venture. There are obviously plenty of cultural differences, but Stuart felt somewhat at home during the trek, as she spent a year living in Japan as a youngster.
As to the tour, everything was super organized for them every step of the way and the audiences were excited to hear what she and her band had to offer.
She recalls one show where the hall wasn’t quite full. In Canada, when there isn’t full capacity in a club, people tend to stand around the outside and leave a space in front of the stage.
At this particular show, “Everyone was jammed up against the stage – they were screaming, they were so into it, singing and clapping along. It felt like a full room – people were so excited to be there and be part of the music.”
Another highlight was hearing her band on pop radio – something that doesn’t typically happen in Canada, where she is typically featured on CBC and various campus stations among others. One day, a Google alert notified her she was on the Top 40 chart along with the likes of Katy Perry, Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga.
“We were number 38, but we were on the chart,” she says with a laugh. “What a surprise – that was incredibly cool.”
Meanwhile, Stuart can’t wait to hit the Canadian highways continuing to promote Two Sides To Every Story along with a couple of newly-recorded tunes as well – Somehow and Kid Dream which were previously available only on the Japanese release of the CD. They will also be playing songs from their yet-to-be-recorded project which they will tackle after the tour wraps later this summer.
And even though Stuart essentially has a clear vision for how the CD will ultimately sound, touring the material first is a way of enhancing to some degree the finished product. “The way we play these songs will definitely inform how the next record sounds.”
Acclaimed for their innovative use of the traditional Japanese koto (13-stringed harp), The Jessica Stuart Few and Two Sides have also been nominated for Best Album by the 2014 Independent Music Awards, prompting an end-of-tour concert at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre this month.
The Harbourfront is also bringing in the elder Ms. Stuart; a genuine koto master, (and Jessica’s inspiration to learn the instrument) to perform in a collaborative show with the trio. It’s going to be an extremely special event, and there could be a few tears, she adds. Not only is this a performance with her mom, but also with the person who has been such an inspiration over the years as well.
“I’m beyond excited about it.” At first, it didn’t look like it would work as Wendy lives in Vancouver and has a full schedule with directing a show over the summer. But organizers offered to fly her out which made it all more workable, and the date was set.
“I asked mom, and she was so excited for the opportunity. We’ve played music together, but she’s never played my original music with me.”
Jessica even wrote a piece that was very much inspired by her relationship with her mother. “So we debuting this really cool piece that I’m really excited about, and she’s going to sit in on a few others. And of all the dates through the whole year, they happened to choose my birthday (July 26th) – a significant date for my mother and I obviously,” she chuckles.
Jessica was indeed born into a musical family, so it was pretty much a given that it would be a huge part of her life. Both her parents have been and are very involved with the arts. She also started violin lessons at age three, piano at age five and it wasn’t long before her lovely vocal talents began to surface as well.
As fans know, the band leaves audiences mesmerized with their remarkable sound; folk, rock and jazz dressed to the nines with Jessica’s proficiency on the koto as well as the guitar.
Drummer Jon Foster and double bassist Charles James also bring an undeniable charisma, killer chops and tight three-part vocal harmonies to every performance.
In her high school years in Vancouver, she also discovered a love for writing music. But in spite of such a musical upbringing, she opted to study linguistics at university.
But a growing love for rock music, combined with learning the guitar further cemented her passion for eventually getting into music on a full-time basis.
In 2007 she relocated to Toronto to delve into the city’s vibrant music scene.
She formed a band that same year. Their first CD, the aforementioned Kid Dream, The Jessica Stuart Few, was released in 2010.