An ongoing concert series at KW Little Theatre is providing local songwriters and musical artists a chance to play more of their original music, something the curator of the series says does not happen often enough.
“When a lot of the local performers are going and playing local pubs and things like that, there often can be more of a pressure to play the crowd-pleasers to sell alcohol or food. So although many musicians will do some of their originals, they will often get a more favourable reception by playing more covers that people are familiar with,” said musician Jack Cooper, who is running the Sounds Good to Me concert series.
The new series features a wide range of performers, he noted.
“Some of these could be what people think of as folk musicians who will often do more of an acoustic guitar. Some of it might be more of the country musicians…some of it is maybe a little bit different using beats or loops, or maybe someone that’s using more spoken word or electric guitar, but it’s all based on the same idea. Performers who are really getting across their own songs, and are good performers that way,” Cooper added.
Local singer-songwriter, poet and spoken word artist Scott Wicken will perform in the series on July 29, at 8 p.m.
“Scott is one of those musicians that he can be with a band or on his own and he can be equally compelling because he’s a musician that will play guitar and banjo and a number of instruments. … He’s just a very personal, very inventive writer. From a lyrical and from a musical perspective, he’s just very engaging,” Cooper explained.
Although he grew up with a musical father, Wicken did not get seriously into music until his 20s. However it wasn’t an unnatural thing for him to do, said the performer.
“If I was raised by non-musical people, then I might have been extremely intimidated. And I think there are some people that seem to get it quicker than others. I certainly couldn’t sing when I started singing, that’s for sure. I’m a lot better singer than I used to be. And that’s only because I was obstinate and refused to quit,” said Wicken.
While he is originally from Waterloo Region, Wicken spent many years traveling across Canada before returning here in the mid-90s. His travels have influenced his music, such as the song $100 From Home, which was inspired by the fact that 30 years ago it would only cost $100 to ride the Greyhound bus from Vancouver to Toronto.
“A certain amount of my material is about places that I’ve been and people that I’ve met. I write what I would call character-driven stories. When I write songs, they’re filled with places that I have been and people that I’ve known. And when I sing the songs, I get to revisit them and I get to go to those places. I have feelings attached to these things that are in my songs.”
He also sees that emotion in other songwriters.
“I can tell when I’m listening to a songwriter, I can feel the emotional content of the songs because they’re going to places and they’re taking me as an audience member to those places,” Wicken added.
However, he’s careful to not fall into nostalgia
“I think it’s always kind of dangerous to spend your time reminiscing about where you’ve been instead of focusing on where you are,” he said.
For his concert next week Wicken will be mixing in new material with some of his old favourites.
“I have a lot of new material that I haven’t played live before. And so some of those songs I’ll be showcasing are, in my opinion, obviously I think it’s some of the best material I’ve written.”
Wicken is a good fit for the series, Cooper said.
“It’s really interesting having somebody there that first of all is very intelligent, a very good songwriter who also cannot be pegged so easily, which I like,” he said.