Good things are often shared, which is why representing hometown roots isn’t hard to achieve for folk powerhouse pair, The Small Glories. With a stunning repertoire of work, the duo from Winnipeg, MB released their debut studio record, Wondrous Traveler, on February 19. Comprised of Cara Luft & JD Edwards, The Small Glories deliver unique live acoustic performances, from the sonic technicality of sweeping riffs and brilliant banjo strums, to the diverse visuals of this tour de force. At first glance, they are a study in contrasts – Cara, an ebullient and engaging earth mother, and JD, a cross between a biker and long-haul trucker, complete with a scruffy beard, ball cap and jean jacket. Whether wholesome or burly, neither of the two are intimidating, but rather inviting through the power of their artistry.
Produced by 50-40 frontman, Neil Osborne, Wondrous Traveler is abundant with tight harmonies, authenticity and a blend of traditional and contemporary elements that define this creative partnership. Love, life and transitions are driving themes of the album, supported by a diverse band of background instrumentalists. It’s audible in the progressive Had I Paid, to the graceful choir presence in Home and nostalgic lyricism of 1000 Stars. From the traditional country folk elements of Time Wanders On to the anthemic, upbeat Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key, The Small Glories prove they are veterans of a familiar scene, while ever-evolving and versatile for an international audience.
The Small Glories recently gave the UK a taste of the Prairies on their tour of England and Scotland, including a performance at the prestigious Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. Their Canadian tour wrapped up this past spring and before they head back across the pond this time to play shows in Europe, they'll take time to hit a few festival stages this summer including the Folk Fest stage under the beautiful canopy of trees on the south east corner of the Keystone Centre grounds. Their set starts at 8:55pm on Saturday, July 23rd.
Pictured L – R Cara Luft & JD Edwards, The Small Glories. (Photo submitted). Prior to their folk fest set this weekend we caught up with this dynamic folk music duo for a round of 20 questions. Here's our exclusive interview for BDNMB.ca
20 Questions Featuring The Small Glories
FM: First off I should let you know that I'm writing these questions while I listen to your debut album Wondrous Traveller, it's an enjoyable "go to" technique I use whenever my interviews are done through correspondence. Feel free to share in answering these or alternating answers. "Had I Paid" really impressed me. The tune rolls along with reckless abandon. Your voices blend nicely and the harmonies you create are intense! How long have you been singing together?
SGs: The Small Glories have been singing together for about 2.5 years.
FM: How long have The Small Glories been active on the music scene?
A: The Small Glories have been singing, performing and recording music for the last 2.5 years.
FM: So the band was born from the first time you sang together? Interesting! You each had your own thing going prior to the Small Glories. How did you hook up and decide to get the Small Glories going?
A: The West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg was having its 25th anniversary a few years back. The artistic director, Jason Hooper, invited a number of different Manitoban artists together to help celebrate the life and times of the theatre. He paired different artists up, usually artists who had never sung together before or who were from different genres. Everyone was paired off a month before the show and each group was asked to sing two songs written by other Manitoban artists. We chose a song from Neil Young and one from Greg Mcpherson. We performed our songs at the show and the audience loved it. We loved it! So we decided to pursue this duo project which later became The Small Glories.
FM: Your sound strikes me as quite folkie with a nifty celtic twist. Sort of what the Lumineers might sound like if they came from Canada's East coast. What other sort of comparisons have people made from your music?
A: We have had some great comparisons but one we like a lot is Ian and Sylvia Tyson. People also say we're the Canadian version of The Civil Wars.
Cara and JD aka The Small Glories have been compared to Ian and Sylvia Tyson. Out of all comparisons the band has drawn, the aforementioned is their favorite. Cara — a Juno award winner and co-founder of folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys — has earned a solid reputation as an exciting live performer, accomplished guitarist, clawhammer banjo player and insightful songwriter. JD is not only an energetic performer and prolific singer songwriter, he’s got a distinctive and powerful voice to boot. Fronting the JD Edwards Band since 2006, JD’s songwriting style flows from country and blues to folk and rock. (photo submitted)
FM: And now it's time for one of my famous four part questions! How is the songwriting split up? Does someone bring a song to the table finished and you both flesh it out? What inspires the lyrics? Do you keep a notebook?
A: We each write songs and bring them to the duo. Sometimes they are completely finished, sometimes we finish them together. We are always keeping physical or/and digital notebooks on hand for ideas. It's important to write ideas or lyrics down as soon as we get them so we can go back later and sort them out for songs.
We also love to do collaborations with other artists. We have both attended songwriter retreats and writing sessions all over the world.
FM: We're looking forward to having you take the stage here in B-Town! I'm sure your experience at the Brandon Folk Music and Arts Festival will be a positive and memorable one. Where else is this tour taking you?
A: The Small Glories are just coming out to Brandon for the festival.
FM: Do you have many other festival gigs on the calendar this year?
A: The Small Glories will be performing this summer at Trout Forest Folk Festival in Ear Falls, ON, Summerfolk in Owen Sound, ON, and Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon, USA. We will be heading to the UK and Europe in November.
FM: How do you prepare for a big gig like the Folk Festival?
A: We check out what stages we'll be playing and if there are any workshops we'll be taking part in. We try to think of songs that will complement the theme of the workshop.
FM: What's the coolest thing about playing an out door festival show, or did I just answer my own question?
A: the festival set is very special. There is so much great energy at a festival stage and crowds are usually incredibly attentive and encouraging. There is nothing better then playing to a crowd on a sunny or even a rainy day and having them enjoy every moment!
FM: How many shows have you done in the past year?
A: We have done over 100 shows.
FM: Which do you prefer, large venues or small venues?
A: It's not the size that matters. It's the quality of our audience. We have done shows for thousands and some for just a few, but it's the connections we make with our audience that really make us feel good.
FM: What was the best gig you ever played?
A: oh there are quite a few! Recently we'd say performing at this year's Vancouver Island Musicfest where we had the great honour of singing with our producer's band, 5440. It was so great!
FM: What was the worst gig you ever played?
A: We played a famous coffee house in LA with some friends of ours. There were three acts on stage and we were last in the rotation. There was a beautiful introduction for us and then we were to play. We were going to start with this great Dirk Powel cover, "Waterbound". It begins with an A cappella section and then our instruments come in. We counted in and began but the note that came out of JD's mouth was wrong. We tried again, then again and again! JD just couldn't find the right note. It was so embarrassing! We ended up scrapping the tune and singing a different one. JD hid behind his hat for the rest of the evening.
FM: What the weirdest experience you ever had while playing a show that involved interaction from a fan?
A: This past April we were playing a sold-out CD release concert in Calgary, Alberta at a great venue called the Ironwood Stage and Grill. During our Woody Guthrie song "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" Cara does a little dance on stage and one of our super fans jumped up on stage and started dancing! He kept dancing and dancing and dancing, and then he came up and started singing on the microphone with us. It was a little odd and a bit weird…. We had never experienced that before! We kept looking at each other wondering what we should do but we just went with it 🙂
FM: I just finished listening to Way Over Yonder In a Minor Key (Originally by Woody githrie), nice job on that one by the way. It sounds like you were having lots of fun on that one! Was that one of the first cover song you ever chose to do?
A: Yes, it was one of the first. However the Small Glories have arranged our own version of this great classic tune.
FM: What is your favourite cover song to play?
A: Waterbound is a favourite of ours. The words and music work so well together and it fits our style perfectly.
FM: Are there any surprising covers you like to throw into the set at last minute or do you usually just stick to the set list.
A: We usually stick to the set list, but we predict that in the future we will have more tunes to work with and perhaps a song from the audience will get called and we'll slip in another tune.
FM: Your originals are very strong compositions by the way. Have you always performed original material or did you start out like most acts and do covers?
A: We had a handful original songs when we started out but we needed more tunes to fill a night of music. We have played many covers over the years.
FM: What sort of a show can folks expect at the Folk Fest in Brandon this Saturday night?
A: Folks can expect strong harmonies and original songs, some true and funny stories and perhaps a silly dance. We try to bring as much joy to the stage as we can.
FM: Do you have any advice for other up-and-coming musicians?
A: Practice practice practice!
WONDROUS TRAVELER TRACKLISITNG
1. Had I Paid
2. Holding On
4. Something To Hold Onto
5. Fast Turning World
6. 1000 Stars
7. Old Garage
8. Time Wanders On
9. Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
10. Wondrous Traveler
Friday – Host: 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac
7:20 Richard Inman
7:55 Dust Rhinos
8:40 Allison Brown & “Uncle” Dan Henshell
8:55 Scott Nolan
9:35 Bicycle Face
9:50 Jess Rae Ayre
10:35 Festival Poem
10:45 Ron Sexsmith
The Small Glories,The New Customs, Allison Brown & Dan “Uncle” Dan Henshell
1:00 New Canadian Songbook
Young Pixels, Allison Brown & Dan “Uncle” Dan Henshell, Richard Inman, Kev Corbett
2:00 Chuck Copenace/Bicycle Face/Sol James
3:00 Who wants to play with Leonard Podolak?
The New Customs, The Small Glories, Kev Corbett, Dust Rhinos, Sol James
4:30 Poems Musicians Make
John K. Sampson, Scott Nolan, 2 Dope Boys In a Cadillac
5:30 Logan Jax Oxenham
Saturday – Host: Kev Corbett
6:00 Young Pixels
6:40 Matt Zimmerman
6:55 Sol James
7:40 Logan Jax Oxenham
8:10 Mitchell Mozdzen
8:25 Shelley-Lynne Hardinge
8:55 The Small Glories
9:45 Leonard Podolak
10:00 Dirty Catfish Brass Band
10:45 Kev Corbett
11:00 Little Miss Higgins and the Winnipeg Five
12:00 Dearly Departed
Dirty Catfish Brass Band, Kev Corbett, Richard Inman, The New Customs, Simon Davis, Dale Brown, Leonard Podolak
1:00 Songs For The Land
The Small Glories, Bicycle face, Scott Nolan, Jess Rae Ayre, Mitchell Mozdzen
2:00 Dust Rhinos/Dirty Catfish Brass Band
3:15 Mixed Tape
The Slightly Dirty Catfish Brass Band, The New Customs, Dust Rhinos, Sol James, Jess Rae Ayre, Kev Corbett, Allison&Dan, DPH
4:25 Local Showcase
Matt Zimmerman, Mitchell Mozdzen, The 204
5:25 Little Miss Higgins/Leonard Podolak/Allison Brown & “Uncle” Dan Henshell
Sunday – Host: Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner
6:00 Chuck Copenance Band
6:45 Jess Rae Ayre
7:00 The New Customs
7:45 Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner
8:00 John K Samson and the Winter Wheat
Subject to Change and we will post changes and additions as we confirm them
Please note each of the evening’s closing acts are performing concert length sets!