About Me

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I am a freelance writer with a cheerful and outgoing personality, who also writes poetry. When not chasing the next story, I spend time with my family and get involved with volunteer activities. I can also be found in the classroom, as I love to keep learning. I am currently studying towards a college certificate in communications. I am also a Board member of the Workers' Educational Association of Canada (WEA), whose aim is lifelong learning for the community. Email: charmaine.elizabeth@gmail.com

Professional Writing - Live Reviews / CD Reviews / Interviews /Features

Here is a sample of my work for Spill Magazine

Live Reviews

Rebel Hero
@ The Hideout, Toronto

March 29th, 2013

In support of their newly released self-titled EP, Alternative rockers Rebel Hero played to a packed house at The Hideout, a small, but lively outlet on Toronto's Queen Street West. They were supported by fellow Indie players Breached, Reed Effect and The Unchained.
The music was in full swing by the time I arrived. Rebel Hero was still to come, giving me a chance to meet the band consisting of frontman Tyson Froese, who also handles guitar, bassist Justin Faragher (who also plays in Desire, a U2 tribute band) and Tom Paulovitz on drums. I chatted a bit with Froese who was welcoming and very friendly. Froese grew up with music; his father was the guitar player for the classic Canadian rock band Chilliwack, for which Froese had played their 40th anniversary party, as well as playing with his previous band Waxmen before branching out with his own projects.

While everyone eagerly anticipated Rebel Hero’s arrival, a series of '80s classics came on after the previous bands finished their set. I got into it as I love the music of that decade. At last, it was Rebel Hero's turn to perform and they were immediately showered with a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Under the bright coloured stage lights several songs were covered including those from their six-song EP, which was produced by Mike Turner of Our Lady Peace. From the opening song, “Broken System,” and forward, most of the crowd was up and moving to the music. A group of friends who huddled in the middle of the floor really got into it shaking and 'getting down' together. The band are just as amazing live as on the disc, and Froese shows vocal diversity – going from exuding power on the driving Rock hook of "Superstar Junkie" to the sensitive delivery on the mellow and heartfelt "Live Forever," while "Wrapped Around a Finger" is catchy.

Froese thanked the crowd, with special shout-outs going out to family (even his mom was in attendance which was so sweet), and friends before launching into a wicked "Blues jam" instrumental session. During the song "Give it Up," from the EP, Froese encouraged everyone to give a show of hands, to which all hands shot up in the air, and voices began singing in unison.
Later in the set, the band did a stunning cover of the Stone Temple Pilots' track "Vasoline," and the fans went nuts! Don, the band’s manger handed out free business card-shaped USBs, an innovative device containing access to music, band information and videos to the eager crowd.

After attending their awesome performance and getting into their sound, I must say this is a band that I see going places. Check them out.


@ Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto
September 20th, 2012

Gotye was supported by Zammuto, one of two bands who tore up the set with a wicked collection of thunderous beats and exciting experimental sounds. Check out their track “The Shape of Things to Come” on YouTube. New York’s Chairlift, the second opener played several songs from their new disc Something. Caroline Polachek has an amazing vocal range and gets quite energetic on stage; at times jumping around and using her hands for emphasis. When the band wrapped for the night the lights came on signalling a break.

Then, the moment we’d all been waiting for finally arrived; Gotye and his band appeared on stage and the crowd screamed. The opening song was “The Only Way,” one of a handful of songs performed from his previous disc Like Drawing Blood (2006), but the majority of songs would come from Making Mirrors (2011), against an array of phantasmagorical animated images. An expert drummer, Gotye literally went nuts on the skins giving the instruments a heavy beating. Also being a talented multi-instrumentalist, he handled keyboards, the xylophone, and later in the show, what looked like a mini-version of a keyboard with a tube coming from it which he inserted into his mouth. A variety of lights illuminated the stadium including spinning bright white lights for “Smoke and Mirrors,” while Gotye and the band were bathed in hazy red for “Easy Way Out.”
Gotye showed a playful side at times, goofing around with his bassist as they played their instruments, and he loves to engage his fans by talking to them and naming the instruments used. He actually invited the audience to leave their seats so they could come closer to the stage to sing along to the awesome track “Save Me.” Then, at last, the song everybody had been waiting for: hit single “Somebody that I Used to Know,” with Chairlift’s Polachek handling singer Kimbra’s part from the album, and the crowd went berserk. “Hearts a Mess,” a stunning track from Like Drawing Blood followed to a spooky ‘eyes in the grass’ visual. “State of the Art,” which I disliked immensely on the record because of the strangely transformed vocals, blew me away in concert; Gotye created an awesome intro for it, and the scary animation of a keyboard angrily coming alive fit the song perfectly.
As they say, the party has to end sometime, and Gotye and the band said their goodnights, thanks, and the lights went out. You would think that was it right? Wrong.
The fans, hungering for more, banged on their seats signalling for them to come back out. I wasn’t sure if they really would, but they did! Gotye told the lively crowd he had a treat for them by playing not only one, but two more tracks.
See Gotye if you can – he puts on an amazing show. The music really got everyone going throughout the night with several people getting out of their seats shaking, jumping and clapping their hands to the variety of sounds. 


CD Reviews 


Flying Colors

 Every once in a while something new and different provides a ray of sunshine on today’s music scene. Hard working young artist Emilia is that ray of sunshine. While honing her craft as a music student at York University, she dedicates herself to creating her own songs. The result is Flying Colors – a four-track EP that grabs your ear right from the start with the funky opener “Closer All the Time,“ and with its 70s/80s flair, I found myself moving along to the music; as well as “I am Free,” a likeable upbeat tune about being happy with yourself.
There is a good mix here of musical melodies encompassing a retro dance vibe, yet still infusing a contemporary sound of jazzy rhythms and soothing harmonies bringing to mind Nora Jones, or even Natalie Merchant; but with a flavour all her own complimented by meaningful lyrics. The beautiful “I’ll Be Safe” is just such an example. Packed full of emotion, Emilia’s lovely vocals wows the listener with an impressive vocal range.
This is overall a fabulous first effort with definite promise. If this is any indication of what is to come, I can’t wait to hear more!





Dormitory Effect
Wealth of the Disease
                                     Written for The Spill Magazine      

     Think women can’t rock?  Well these four New York natives are here to dispel that myth.
     Powerful gut-wrenching vocalist Susan Wendelken, Guitarist Meredith Hermann, Bassist Urith Myree and drummer “G,” make up this fireball known as Dormitory Effect.

Fully experienced hardcore musicians, they all played in top acts before, as well as made guest appearances in each others bands.  Wendelken and Myree’s old band One Step Beyond, had opened for Black Sabbath, while Hermann’s outfit Perseverance, was produced by Billy Grazeidei of Biohazard.   They have also had their share of major accomplishments: Myree was featured in the 2006 issue of Bassgirls, a zine which features world-wide female bassists, and the band played the Rockrgrl Conference last year.  They are also featured in a new book by Garry Sharpe-Younge called New Wave of American Heavy Metal.
 Led by searing vocals and supported by wicked guitar riffs, a mean bass line and an ass-kicking drum score, DE will tear out your ear drum before having you for breakfast!
Citing Sepultura and Alice in Chains among others as influences, their debut Wealth of the Disease, is an amazing lesson in hard, raw, in-your-face energy.  Beginning with the gripping first track “Let this cease,” you know you’re in for an awesome treat.  Other gems are “Bide my time,” with its thundering beats and the ferocious “Crawler.”
So, if you like your music hard with bite, and get into bands like Tool, Metallica, or Disturbed, then Wealth of the Disease is a must-have!!

Define The Great Line           
Solid State

     If you should put the word “Christian” and “metal music” in the same sentence, you will probably get more than a few raised eyebrows, but that’s exactly what this six-man band from Florida is all about.
   Religious beliefs aside, Underoath’s Define the Great Line is the follow-up to 2004’s breakout disc They’re Only Chasing Safety, and is far from preachy.  It’s a deeper and more personal album, but it’s difficult to appreciate the lyrics while being assaulted by the signature screaming. Still, if you read the words from the darkly beautiful CD booklet, you can’t help but be moved by their meaningful lyrics.
  Frontman Spencer Chamberlain, who recently joined the band, pours his heart and soul into the 11-song disc with a scorching delivery of powerful vocals against the backdrop of variegated harmonies.  I love how these guys can go from bitingly aggressive to mellow. You can even discern “normal” singing, which there is more of on the track “Writing on the Walls.”
Employing Atlanta-based producer/drummer Matt Goldman and Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz, who encouraged the use of various guitars and delays and effects pedals, helped the band to stretch their musical capabilities, as evidenced in the introductions on the tracks “Salmarnir” and “Casting Such a Thin Shadow.”
 Define The Great Line, is a superb album, and should definitely put Underoath on the road to even higher success.  You won’t be disappointed.


Artist Interviews  

Originally Written for Spill Magazine

Exploring Another Side:                 
An Interview with Raine Maida

Raine Maida doubles as frontman for his award-winning rock band Our Lady Peace, who burst unto the alternative rock scene back in 1994 (8 albums strong), and still forging ahead, and as a solo artist currently touring in support of the release of his second album We All Get Lighter, upon which he continues to prove his versatility as an artist.  The title mirrors a quote from John Giorno, a beat poet, whom Maida had met at a spoken word festival in Calgary some years back, and whose thoughts on life would be a huge influence on the album.  In addition to his musical projects, the father of three also lends his time to various political causes, most notably War Child.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Maida, where he delves into the deeper issues of the new disc, other projects, and his method of song/album creation, where he cites similarities and differences between the new disc and his first full-length album The Hunter’s Lullaby.  “The process was the same,” he says, to start things off. “It just took longer due to OLP scheduling and recording.  I start with a poem, add a programmed beat, an acoustic guitar and either add or subtract.  One element that made this record slightly different was the song choices.  I wanted it to be thematically tied into John Giorno’s inscription “everyone gets lighter” that he penned on my copy of his book Subduing Demons in America, so each song had to have something to do with looking at life as journey that’s not guaranteed, and therefore living it as such.  The need to “be in the moment” was paramount as a thread to all the songs I chose.”
As a solo artist, Maida’s music is definitely quite different, from OLP, allowing him room to experiment in a variety of ways, as with spoken word on The Hunter’s Lullaby. The songs on the new disc, which are framed by a softer vocal delivery, sometimes allude to seasonal/sensory themes as in the first single “Montreal” and “Not Done Yet,” to bring out the sensitivity and profound expressiveness in the lyrics. It seemed that nature was a likely source of inspiration, and I am curious as to where else he drew inspiration from.
“Nature has a power that is difficult to match in terms of the “elements.” A cold wind, a warm breeze, a cloudy day all carry such majestic weight if you allow yourself to appreciate their energy.  I draw from human experience: situations or feelings that are very personal, and quite often, they are supported by the elements.”

On the flipside of the upbeat first single “Montreal,” the new single “SOS” has much darker undertones, with an equally dark and powerful video, suggesting hope for a dismal situation; a metaphor if you will for society or the world in general. 
“You are correct,” Maida confirms.  “It’s definitely about trying to find a way out of the mess we have created.  The video is about getting back to basics re-discovering our humility and respect…for each other and for the planet.  Navigating the waters back to simplicity.”  But it is the track “How to Kill a Man” that is a favourite. “The message of trying to live your life without having regrets is such a powerful idea; one I have only begun to understand.  I am also very happy with the arrangement of the song, the sounds, and the mix.  It’s some of my best work as a songwriter, producer, engineer and even singer.”

Maida has also worked with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and Carrie Underwood, and produces other bands under his own record label Kingnoise Records.  “I’m focused on developing younger artists these days.  The Beaches are an incredibly talented young band from Toronto that I’ve been working with for a few years.  I’m much more comfortable helping someone find what’s unique about them, and then writing a song for someone.  Collaboration is important and I’ve come to really enjoy the process.” Speaking of collaboration, Maida, together with his wife and singer, Chantal Kreviazuk have ventured into making music for films.  I ask him to elaborate a little more on that, and if there is a particular project he is excited about.
“I’m always excited about the next thing because it means starting fresh.  Chantal and I just scored a short film titled “The Spirit games.”  Film scoring is very liberating because musical form is unlimited and I don’t have to worry about writing lyrics.  This makes it challenging on a different level because you have to create an emotion without the benefit of a voice or words; so that can be tricky sometimes.”

On an end note, I refer back to the tour which took Maida to his beloved city Montreal, to attend the Osheaga Music Festival.  “I adore Montreal and Osheaga has grown into an incredible world class festival…so, yes I’m excited to be a part of it.  The food is always top notch at Osheaga so that’s always a nice touch.  Great food and music always equal good times.”


Phatt alPeople Having a Terrific Time Always

   I had the pleasure of sitting down and having a chat with up and coming rapster Mike Wilson, AKA Phatt al, one of Toronto’s hardest working musicians.  With al, there’s never a dull moment.  On top of doing his own thing as Phatt al, he also co-manages and performs in the sizzling hot Nu Funk set God Made Me Funky.
With three discs under his hat, including his latest Transistor released on his very own New Empire Entertainment label, press reviews in well respected mags like The Source, having met and played with various musicians like Len (“Steal my Sunshine”), Raggadeath and Jacksoul, as well as a growing fan base are the result of years of hard work.
It all started with Three Blind Mice, Al’s first band which also included his younger brother.  But when their manager promised things he couldn’t deliver, then, as now, he got the ball rolling himself.
  “I ended up going to a lot of house parties and trying to rap with whoever I could.  I’d  go to a whole bunch of different neighbourhoods and just meet people, younger cats like me who were also into this, and try to get on to producers.”
All this networking eventually led him to a place called Fresh Arts, a government youth organization for “inner-city kids,” and although al wasn’t exactly inner-city, these sessions gave him more opportunities to try and find his rap style.  But it wouldn’t be until the new decade, in 2000, when he hooked up with Divine Styler, (widely regarded as a hip hop icon), that he would finally find his own voice.
 “I started to realize what I could do. What I could contribute, to not only the music scene, and not only to hip-hop, but to art in general.”
 Now armed with the skill that only comes with experience, al demonstrates time and again that he can stand with the best of them.  Yet, step out with the confidence to continue working towards his goal of taking hip-hop to a higher level.  Refusing to stay locked in any mould, al, unlike most of his peers, is not afraid to incorporate his rock and jazz influences into his beats.
     “It’s been such a journey meeting a band like Jacksoul, who introduced me to the live element of music.  Then meeting jazz musicians and starting to understand the fundamentals of jazz as it related to hip-hop.  I then dug myself a little niche by doing my own thing.”
       So far nobody is complaining.
The upbeat and lively party known as Transistor, al’s most ambitious disc to date, managed to snag the #1 spot on the Earshot! national charts in Canada, with the second single “The Drift” (featuring Lorraine Reid), spinning on both college stations and commercial radio station Flow 93.5.
 The musical evolution continues with God Made Me Funky, a Nu Funk project that al is very excited about.  With a blend of Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop, Jazz and of course Funk with a modern twist, GMMF are set to take the world by storm.  After releasing their self titled debut, they won the Toronto Independent music Award for Best R&B group, played numerous festivals and had their tunes featured in the popular TMN show “G-Spot.”
 When asked if he feels he’s reached a defining moment in his career, he responds by saying it’s definitely a beginning.  The new band has allowed him to broaden his musical horizons.  “This is really a cool project because it has allowed me to dig into my old-school hip-hop roots. It’s a fun record.”

   Fun is what music is all about.

     The new GMMF disc, featuring Phat al, will be unleashed October10, with a CD release party to follow at the Opera House October 13.  They’ll be sure to bring the house down so don’t miss it!



Toronto Independent Music Awards Feature

The Pheonix Concert Theatre

October 6, 2012

The sixth Annual Toronto Independent Music Awards (TIMA) brought together musicians, artist managers, VIPs and fans, culminating in an electric hot night of fun had by all.  Hosted by the outgoing and colourful Sean Ward (In the middle of the show he even put on a superhero outfit!!), the show featured 11 scheduled performances including special guest Karina Es, whose video for ‘Dancing in the Stars’ made it on MuchMusic, and Juno-nominated Rich Kidd in collaboration with Famous.  Some of TIMA’s past winners such as River Junction Band and Waxmen had been invited back to strut their stuff once more.

“Winning the TIMA in 2010 really meant a lot to us. And, asking WAXMEN back to perform in 2012 is a real honour and we were thrilled to be able to share our new music with everyone,” said Waxmen drummer Shawn Royal,  “The TIMAs are a fantastic thing for the Independent music scene in Toronto!  We encourage people to support indie musicians and check us out at waxmenmusic.com!"

They just released their 3-song EP Shadow and fans can look out for an upcoming show in December.

There were 21 categories including Best Country (Sarah Cripps), Best Alternative Rock (Weekend Riot Club) and Best Jazz (Brownman Electryc Trio).  Folk outfit Beyond the Mountain snagged two awards; Best Singer-Songwriter and Best Song for ‘This Old River.’ Nominees and winners were chosen by the Grand Jury, who are made up of key industry folks, such as singer-songwriter Jully Black, Barbara Sedun, Senior Vice-President of EMI Publishing Canada, and recording artist Bif Naked to name some.

TIMA was created in 2004 by Executive Producer Daniela Oliva, who always loved the music industry and wanted to give bands, who might not have otherwise had much of a chance to be heard, to gain more exposure; thus furthering their careers .  I would like to say a shout out to Daniela for putting me in touch with Bif Naked to answer a few short questions regarding her involvement with the show.

“I feel very privileged to have been asked to be a judge and participate in this way, for this year’s Toronto Independent Music Awards.  I was very thrilled and enjoyed listening to all the bands immensely.  Each one of them made me fall in love with music and, in particularly, their music,” she said when asked about her role as a judge for TIMA.  Naked, a successful vocalist, cancer survivor, writer, painter and motivational speaker, shares her experience as an early musician and imparts some words of wisdom to today’s up and coming performers:

“…I feel lucky to be an artist and have lived hand-to-mouth since the days of the Winnipeg Punk scene, and never lost my sheer delight about it all.  THAT is the key to success: enjoy creating and performing…enjoy it so much that you simply never stop doing it.  Never quit.  Never give up.  Never say die.” Her new single is called “So Happy I Could Die” which you can check out on her facebook page:


There were many industry-sponsored prize packs for the lucky winners that will help to build their careers like free studio time, assistance with marketing and publicity, radio airtime and meetings with

A & R executives.  One key executive who gave generously was Peter Linseman. In addition to being an artist manager with his own record label Music Mentor Productions (MMP); he wears many hats as a producer, writer, Editor and instructor. “I have been very involved with TIMA for the past few TIMAs, and Daniela [Oliva] has been very generous of her time and in [putting it all together].”

He is also the Toronto Regional Writers Group coordinator for the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), which sponsored the Singer-Songwriter and Young Songwriter awards.  The MMP gave $250.00 Music Certificates and SAC gave subscriptions to its organization.

Mr. Linseman, along with Bruce Good, the Executive Director of the Country Music Association of Ontario, presented the Best Country and Best Folk or Roots awards, and two of Linseman’s artists received accolades: Elyse Saunders scored a Best Country nomination and Stephanie Braganza, who had the crowd up and dancing to her catchy pop dance rhythms won Best Live.
“I'm humbly honoured and excited to be a 'HNSS (Home and Native Sound Series) 2012 – Best Live winner'. The TIMA's on October 6, was the first time I performed my new single, "2 Good 2 Be" and it was wonderful to see the great response the audience had to it! It was such a fulfilling experience and I hope to be a part of it again soon!"

100% of the proceeds from TIMA this year will go towards MusicCounts, a charity dedicated to keeping music education in Canadian Public schools.  Please visit their website: www.musicounts.ca.

Find TIMA on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/torontoindependentmusicawards/?ref=ts&fref=ts


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