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Open Stage Mondays hosted by TBA
February 11 /7:30 pm February 12 /12:00 am
very Monday, all artists are welcomed to sign up and share their songs, poetry, prose or comedy act on Toronto’s longest-running open stage; local artists, or those visiting Toronto are encouraged to attend. Here are some of the artists who started their careers at the Free Times open stage: Jason Fowler, Jory Nash, Kat Goldman, Ron Sexsmith, Emm Gryner, Laura Fernandez, Sarah Slean, Noah Zacharin, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra.
Glen Hornblast’s new CD, entitled “Once In A Blue Moon”, is an eclectic mix of Glen’s best songs written over the last 30 years. Mr. Hornblast, a well-knownToronto singer-songwriter, has finally released the CD his audience has been waiting for, for along time.
The songs range from folk to blues to country with a dash of jazz for good measure. Hornblast’s sweet and mellow sound reminds one of James Taylor or Jack Johnson – his voice floats over the melodies, weaving a magic spell as insightful as it is soothing. Not a word is in there that’s out of place or unnecessary.
“Folk music is all about telling stories”, he says over a cup of cappuccino. “Songwriters are impossible dreamers trying to change the world with their songs. And sometimes it works.”
“I’ve just played music and written songs since I was a little kid.” A self-confessed 60s hippie, Glen travelled across Canada during the late 60s and early 70s like an old-fashioned Troubadour, hitch-hiking from Toronto to Vancouver and back again, busking everywhere he could. Naturally his early heroes were the 60s folkies, like Gordon Lightfoot, Joni MItchell, James Taylor (who he’s often compared to), and Simon & Garfunkel. Later on he heard Townes van Zandt and thought he’d heard the world’s best songwriter.
“Townes is a songwriter’s songwriter. All the great writers of today, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, they all recognized that Townes had a way with a song like nobody else. His songs were like quick sketches in words … but they captured so much”, he explains.
In the 80s, Glen released his first single called “Northern Skies”, which garnered a lot of Canadian radio airplay. “It was a big hit in out of the way places, like Witaskawin, Alberta and Bumblebee, Arizona. I got airplay royalties for years. But the 80s weren’t kind to folksingers.” Glen’s record label soon went bankrupt and Glen turned to playing Top 40 in bars from Toronto to Kirkland Lake.
“After a while, being a human jukebox just stopped being fun anymore.” In the 90s, he took up residence at the Free Times Cafe in Toronto, running the open stage and booking acts. “It was a lot of fun, made a lot of friends … but not really a living.”
“The last few years have been the most fun and productive I’ve ever had in the music business,” he says. “I think I realized that if music isn’t fun, it ain’t worth it. So I’m having fun … writing more songs than ever … jamming with other musicians everywhere I can, getting known that way. Seems to be working out for me.”
Last year, Glen hooked up with the veteran Toronto producer, David Baxter, who’s produced dozens of up and coming country acts like Justin Rutledge and Joshua Cockerill . “I realized what a fantastic thing it is to have a great producer. Bax understood my songs, the mix of folk, country, and jazz, and helped me put it all together. He helped me make the record that I always wanted to make – I feel it’s as true to my own vision of my music as anything could be.”
With the new CD finally out, Glen has discovered how much work the next phase can be. “It’s incredible how much work it is to try to promote something. You’ve got Facebook Twitter, iTunes … it’s enough to make your head spin. All I hope for is that music keeps on being fun and I keep on writing good songs and a few people hear it. What else can you ask for?”
Glen is currently planning for a tour out West and a trip to Nashville in June, playing at the Nashville Songwriter’s Festival.