Four Chords and the Truth: the Dakota Confessions

Four Chords & The Truth is a quarterly series of “in the round” sessions with leading songwriters — modelled on Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe sessions but with a greater range of musical genres — which debuted at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern on June 18, 2015.

Shakura S'Aida



You may have spotted Brooklyn-born, Swiss-raised and Canadian-based Shakura S’Aida-pronounce her name “Shack-ooo-ra Sigh-ee-da”— performing at Festivals in Dubai, Europe, Australia, Rwanda or Russia, on the Legendary Blues Cruise; with her new symphony orchestra concert, “Blues in G Minor: 4 Women”, featuring the blues music of Etta James, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, in her 4 woman tribute to Nina Simone, “The Nina Project” or acting in TV shows such as Lost Girl, Schitt’s Creek or Flashpoint. From her beginnings as the world music band Kaleefah’s lead singer, this versatile vocalist and consummate entertainer has blown audiences away with her scorching vocal style, uncanny ability to deliver powerful original songs and to get deep into the guts of the most venerable standard.
Shakura’s long-simmering career initially moved into high gear in 2008 with a triumph at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, when she earned the runner-up position, competing against more than 100 bands from more than 20 different countries.
Shakura S’Aida has consistently been thrilling audiences with her powerful pipes for years, most recently as a guest host on CBC Radio 2’s Weekend Morning. As a veteran of the international music scene, she’s performed both as a featured artist with musicians like Jimmy Smith, Lee Oskar (WAR), Bettye LaVette and Keb Mo’, as well as an award winning solo artist.

Whether she’s speaking Swiss-German, French or English, Shakura instantly connects with her audience — and at the same time richly demonstrates the multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on.

A final word:

“I am truly blessed by all the incredible opportunities I have had,” says Shakura. “My life has been filled with amazing adventures; I can’t wait to see what happens next!”

2016 Maple Blues Award Nominee: Female Vocalist
2015 Maple Blues Award Nominee: Female Vocalist
2014 Maple Blues Award Nominee: Entertainer, Female Vocalist
2013 Juno Award Nominee-Best Blues Album of the Year
2013 Blues Music Awards Nominee-Contemporary Female Artist
2013 Indie Music Awards Nominee-Blues Artist of the Year
2013 Maple Blues Award Nominee: Entertainer, Female Vocalist, Recording/Producer (w/Howard Ayee & Scott Cable) and Songwriter of the Year (w/Donna Grantis)
2011 Maple Blues Award Recipient: Female Vocalist of the Year
2011 Independent Music Award Recipient: Blues Artist of the Year
2008 International Blues Challenge 1st Runner Up
1992 Juno Award Nominee-Best World Music Artist/Band

Justin Nozuka

Justin Tokimitsu Nozuka (born September 29, 1988) is an American-Canadian singer-songwriter. His debut album Holly has been released in Europe, Canada, Japan and the United States. He has licensed the album to indie label Coalition Entertainment Records, distributed by Warner Music in Canada, Outcaste Records in the UK/EU distributed by EMI and Glassnote Records in the US distributed by RED.

See Cory Marquardt's 6 foot 1 inch 220 pound frame and it's easy to believe he played three years of major junior hockey in Ontario and Quebec. Hear Cory's passion for flying and you'll understand his pursuit of becoming a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. See Cory perform and hear him sing, and you'll agree he was destined to be a country music star!

Cory Marquardt
As one of the most dynamic and interesting new country music talents, Marquardt possesses a singing voice that is second to none, a songwriting talent as big as his size, and a swagger on stage of a seasoned rock star. These formidable qualities are also the reason why he has quickly amassed a support team of leading industry players, including the Sakamoto Agency, O'Reilly International Management, and On Ramp Records.

Like many North Bay, Ontario boys, Marquardt started playing hockey when he was just three years old. At age 10, he took a shine to the drums, and began playing along to Rush, Deep Purple, and Shania Twain records on a drum set he built out of paint cans in the basement. When he hit sixth grade, and was showing incredible promise on his paint cans, the investment was made to get Cory on a real drum kit. As time went by, his skills continued to develop on the drums and the rink. When it came time for Cory to choose a vocation, he decided to put his knowledge and in-flight experience to use at Royal Military College where he enrolled as a fighter pilot and played for the university hockey team. But fate would intervene.

One winter night in Kingston, Marquardt's hockey teammates and college buddies went out for a couple of pints at a local bar, where a local musician was playing an acoustic show. One of Cory's teammates knew that musician, and suggested he call Cory up at the end of one of his sets. He did, and a reluctant Cory Marquardt succumbed to the cheers of hockey players and airmen. He played songs by some of his musical heroes, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard and Zac Brown. The packed bar fell in love with him, and he with the stage. Cory had caught the bug.

With fresh enthusiasm, Marquardt decided to pursue the musical path with the same commitment and passion as all his other exploits. He began to write songs, put a band together, and perform wherever possible, developing a reputation for a crowd pleasing show. He has since made several trips to Nashville and is completing his debut album to be released in Canada in 2014.

Canada’s Andrea England has a unique ability to work successfully in two different music worlds, placing her pop co-writes such as “Casualty” on Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger’s solo debut album, Killer Love (for which she received a UK Gold album award), and recording and performing as a solo artist herself in a folk/roots/country vein. Her sophomore album, Hope & Other Sins, is the long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s Lemonade, the debut that enabled her to work behind the scenes as a professional songwriter.

“The fact I wrote on a song as pop as pop can be boggles the minds of some people,” Andrea muses.

Her latest album, Hope & Other Sins — produced in Nashville by Colin Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Colin James, Stephen Fearing), and featuring such special guest musicians as Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Liz Rodrigues, Gordie Sampson and Damhnait Doyle — is about resilience, much like Lemonade was, how life can knock you down, but nothing good can come from staying down for the count.

Andrea emerged triumphantly after a serious car accident in 2001, the week her debut EP, Heart Wide Open, came out, and then a hard-to-diagnose heart-related illness in 2006 made it imperative for her to take a few years off from recording, get a job with medical benefits — and get well. While she couldn’t make an album just yet, she didn’t stop writing for it.

“It’s a pattern,” she muses. “Something bad happens and I use my writing to get over it and then my songs really impact people because they’re so honest. I feel like I have this sense of being able to look at a situation or empathize with someone and take their story and put it in a song and reflect it back to them in a way that both musically and lyrically can connect. So that’s my goal. That’s why I made the record.”

“Laundry” is a special song written in an old-school country style at the request of her mother, and is for all the women who picture their dream life and it never does include the ugly, mundane or struggle. ”Picture of You” was inspired by visiting Ground Zero 5 years after 9/11 and seeing the still all too immediate impact of it in people’s faces. “Trying” is Andrea’s autobiography, her ‘Coat of Many Colors’ or “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” her story in one song. And “Learn to Dance” is another Lemonade-type song about not hiding when lightning strikes, rather dance around it.

“A lot of the songs on this album have, at the seed, some kind of conflict or struggle, but in the end they are hopeful.”

And that’s just who Andrea is — a glass half-full kind of person.

Born in Halifax, NS, she made her singing debut at age 3 with “You Are My Sunshine.” As a kid, she performed at the local church and community centre and in concert settings until her teens, singing and playing piano. She grew up on old-school country, such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, but when Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill came out in 1995, it impacted her an a musician while living in Ottawa for university.

“I’d always been a writer, a poet, and I did a literature degree, but I never combined words and music,” Andrea says. “When I heard Jagged Little Pill, I felt like I had permission to write about stuff that was in my head. I thought, ‘I can be brutally honest, confessional even.’”

She sent one of her first originals, “Eyes Wide Shut,” off her 2001 debut EP, Heart Wide Open, to some people she knew at the Ottawa University radio station. “That week, I was in that car accident, went home to Nova Scotia and found out the song had charted at No. 17,” Andrea says. She had hurt her back, got a concussion, complete with partial amnesia, and needed a year to fully recover. During this time, she, of course, was unable to play piano, so instead picked up guitar because it was easier on her physically and ended up writing the songs that would eventually become her first full-length release.

That album was 2005’s Lemonade, a reference to how she makes lemonade from lemons, good from a bad situation, great music out of a bad car accident — her record label and publishing company is called Lemonade Factory Music. Back to performing, she found that Heart Wide Open had been working some magic while she was home when she was invited to participate in the ECMA SOCAN Songwriter Circle. “That’s where I performed ‘Lemonade’ to people in the music industry for the first time, which led to meeting Bryan Potvin, who ended up producing the Lemonade album,” she recounts.

Lemonade received three Nova Scotia Music Award nominations and won the Pop Rock Award at the Toronto Independent Music Awards. It also earned a place on the first ballot for the 2006 Grammy Awards in seven categories, including song, album, record and best new artist. As a songwriter, Andrea was also recognized with prizes in such songwriting competitions as John Lennon International, USA International, CFF and NSAI Songwriting Competitions.

Andrea quickly infiltrated the songwriting community, which led to more and more opportunities to co-write with people who have placed songs with U2, Rihanna, Backstreet Boys, Eminem, Celine Dion, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and more. “I became a top-liner too,” Andrea says, referring a songwriter term that means the top line of a song (lyrics and melody).

In 2007, Andrea met Colin Linden at Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble. Colin was playing with Richard Bell, who played on Lemonade and she, Colin, Levon and PR legend Richard Flohil hung out that night around Levon’s kitchen table. Andrea and Colin discussed the idea of one day working together. Two years ago, when she had the demos for this album done, she sent them to him and he was eager to produce.

“I knew that he would understand the aesthetic, the sound that I wanted,” says Andrea. “What I wanted to do was have a band play very organically in the style that I was first exposed to, which was old-school country music, and I knew he would do that. The authenticity and the musicianship, I knew he could bring to the music.”

Recorded mostly in Nashville, Colin played guitars, mandolin, Dobro and harmonies on Hope & Other Sins and assembled a stellar backing band for Andrea: Gary Craig (drums, percussion), John Dymond (bass) and John Whynot (piano, organ). She also wanted more Canadians on the record, so invited her friends Damhnait, Carolyn, and Liz Rodrigues to sing harmonies and fellow Nova Scotian Gordie to play on it.

There are many writing collaborators on the album – contributions from everyone from Hill Kourkoutis to Luke McMaster, but she remains sole writer or co-writer in all the songs. These are her stories of hope and other sins.

“My hope was to make an artistic piece that was a reflective piece of art,” she says. “The sin? Well sometimes hope is sin to people who are cynical. And I am definitely not cynical.” – by Karen Bliss

UPDATE: Hope & Other Sins spent 12 weeks on Cashbox Magazine’s Top 50 Folk chart and hit #1 on the Galaxy Folk Roots Radio.

For interviews, or more information, contact: Lemonade Factory Music

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