Thursday, September 24, 2015


You wanna write hits?  Practice practice practice, of course.  Work hard at it.  And it doesn't hurt to learn the history either. That's how songwriter Mike Evin got hooked back when he was going to Concordia University.  He found out he could study old pop music, something he'd already been doing on his own anyway.

"I guess it started when I was a kid and I loved Motown," Evin explains, at home in Toronto.  "I loved a lot of '50's and '60's music, I just loved listening to oldies radio.  It started with Motown and then I discovered Stax, kinda branched out from there into the world of soul music.  Then I took a History of Rock and Roll class when I was in university, and discovered r'n'b music from the '40's and '50's, and the folk and blues world.  I remember very specifically when I discovered this CD at the library, it was this generic pre-war blues compilation.  That was when I first heard Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, all those guys, all on that one CD, and it just blew me away.  I love going back and back, and getting into the roots of the music I love."

Armed with all that education and influence, Evin has built up a career making classic pop music, the kind you'd find in a second-hand store.  His music is fun, the spirit joyful, the hooks ridiculously plentiful.  If you're going to title a song Al Green, you had better live up to the title, and Evin's sure does.  "Someday I wanna be in love and sing like Al Green," goes the hook line, over big piano chords and lots of oo-oo-oo's.  It's the single from his new Life As A Lover collection, which is positively swimming in all those good-feeling songs, words and melodies.

Evin says he's always aspired to make music like the classic pop hits. "When I hear a song with a great melody, it really blows my mind," he says.  "I'm blown away and inspired, partly to write my own melody like that, but also when you see a great piece of art that comes from some place higher and beautiful, that seems to be one of the things I love about music."

One of the big differences between Evin and the bulk of modern songwriters is his instrument of choice.  He's one of the rare breed composing and performing at the piano.  That gives him a leg-up on someone writing on guitar or with loops and beats, at least when it comes to crafting a pleasing tune. "It's not a coincidence that most of the classic Tin Pan Alley songs, the classic melody songs were written on piano," he agrees. "There's something about the old-fashioned melodies that can be written on piano, it's more extensive, you know?"

The other aural component most noticed in Evin's songs is the positive vibe.  Almost everybody finds joy in the songs, and it's an uplifting experience listening to the album.  Evin says he's just trying to cheer himself up.  "You're writing partly for yourself, it's a form of therapy, it's a way to work out things in your life," he explains.  "Like everyone, I go through many moments in life, day-to-day stuff where you get discouraged, just have a down day.  It comes out in my songwriting where I'm trying to lift myself up, as well as other people.  I'm trying to look at the positive side. I think people can look at my music just from one side, and say "Oh it's so fun, it's so upbeat, why don't you get more serious?  Do something with a bit more depth?"  But my friend (musician) Matt Epp, he said something really cool.  He said to create something that has that joy in it, you're acknowledging all of the darker stuff. We know the dark stuff is there, but to get at the joy we're trying to lift ourselves a bit higher."

If you're in the mood for some lifting, Evin is about to tour the Maritimes.  Friday, Sept. 25, he's in St. Andrews, NB at Salty Towers.  There's a house concert in Moncton on Saturday night with his friend Andy Creeggan (ex-BNL), with details on Evin's website.  Sunday, Sept. 27, he reaches Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia at Buchanan's Music Centre, and Wednesday, Sept. 30 he's at The Company House in Halifax.  On Oct. 1, he's at the Windsor Castle Bar on the UNB campus in Fredericton, before heading back through Quebec for more dates.

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