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Cover Story: Holly Cole

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Cover Story: Holly Cole

MYSTERIOUS, SEXY, EXCITING and EMOTIONAL

By Cece M. Scott www.cecescott.com

Raised in a creative family, alto soloist, Holly Cole, fell in love with jazz at a very early age. Her father, Leon Cole, a classical pianist, composer and Halifax-based broadcaster, also hosted two popular radio programs on CBC. Her mother, Carolyn Cole, was an arts’ curator in New Brunswick. And her brother (and best friend), Allen, was her co-conspirator in much of her musical journey.

A two-time Juno Award winner, including Best Contemporary Jazz Album for Don’t Smoke in Bed (Holly Cole Trio,1994), and Vocal Jazz Album of the Year for Shade (2004), Cole has also won two Geminis, two Japanese Golden Disc Awards, and is the recipient of the Montreal Jazz Festival’s 2013 Ella Fitzgerald Award.

Shooting live at the Glenn Gould Studio – Photo By, Tim Martin

Cole describes herself as a rebellious, free-spirited teenager, who hit the road at the age of 15 with $20 in her pocket. She hitchhiked from New Brunswick to Boston to visit her brother who was studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “Allen had long hair at the time and so did I,” says Cole. “He was staying in the dorms. He’d go in, give his ID to his friend, who would then come out and give it to me, so I could sneak in. I slept on the floor of Allen’s dorm for weeks. While I was there, I was exposed to this rich culture of jazz music. I was mesmerized by the whole thing.”

For Cole, jazz provided her the freedom to express her individualism. “To me, jazz seemed like classical music for people who were bad, which totally appealed to me,” says Cole, with one of her never-far-from-the surface, smoky laughs.

It was Allen who was responsible for Cole’s first public singing gig. “I was 17 at the time. Allen, who was playing at a local New Brunswick coffee house, called me up on stage. I was so scared that I announced to the audience, ‘OK, I’ll sing, but I have to stand behind my brother.”’

Originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Cole and her family spent several years in Nova Scotia, before she, at the age of 19, and Allen (21) moved to Toronto in 1983. Holly was enrolled in Humber College’s vocal jazz program. The improvisation of jazz music appealed to Cole. “I love to interpret songs,” says Cole. “My best friend is subtext, which allows listeners to hear, and to imagine, whatever they want. It’s a subtle thing – sexy, exciting, mysterious, emotional. Subtext is always there. It’s part of my personal life as well.”

Photography, courtesy of Holly Cole; (Holly and Allen) Bob Johnson

Cole has many anecdotes about her and her brother sharing on-stage time, including performances of German cabaret music in the 1980s – A Weill Evening with Allen and Holly Cole, which featured the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. “We performed the show in art spaces and clubs, mostly along Queen Street. We would push an old upright piano onto the stage, and Allen would play and I would sing.”

One of Cole’s popular songs, Onion Girl, acts as a personal metaphor for the many layers she has peeled back in her life. “I had an epiphany when I was 26,” says Cole. “I remember the day vividly. My ex-boyfriend asked me why I always had to be right – why I always argued and never discussed things. It was then that I realized that the world is not black and white. There are many subtle layers to this thing called life.”

With age, and life experiences, a mellowing attitude often follows. With more than 15 albums to her credit, both as the Holly Cole Trio and as a soloist, Cole’s approach to her 2018 CD, Holly, took her in a new direction.“I hired Larry Goldings to do the arranging. He also plays the piano and organ,” says Cole. “It was hard for me to give up the reins. I’m used to steering the ship. But I wanted the experience of working towards someone else’s aesthetic. Once I relaxed, I loved it.”

In 2016, Cole took a sabbatical to care for her mother. “It was one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my life – to take time off from my music to look after mom,” says Cole. “I got to know so many things about her that I didn’t know. It was beautiful. My advice is to spend time with your parents – you will never regret it.”

While she was on hiatus, Cole studied hypnotism, with a focus on pediatric hypnosis. “As a tool, it enriched my life so much. It helps me to stop doing things that I don’t want to do.”

With the loss of family and friends, Cole has changed the way that she views her life priorities. Her loved ones come first, followed by her passion for music and, of course, some out-sized fun. She feels that everyone needs to have personal interests – ones that nurture self-actualization and a sense of wellbeing. “People around you want you to get what you want – to have your own thing,” says Cole. “It makes them happy for you.”

Photography, (top right) Jonathan Warden; (in red dress) Edward Gajdel; (right middle and with Rhoda) Andrew MacNaughtan

The lens in which Cole sees herself through has also shifted. Within a short time frame, she experienced a broken wrist and then a broken kneecap. “If I had fallen off my bike when I was 22, I don’t think my wrist would have broken,” says Cole. “But at 55, my bones aren’t made of rubber anymore. Breaking my kneecap last summer was brutal. I sure miss being resilient – not having to be careful.”

In an effort to maintain a healthy stamina, Cole incorporates a three-hour exercise regime into her day, which includes 90 minutes of physical exercise, and 90 minutes of breathing and vocal exercises.

“My voice, which is a muscle, has become more resilient,” says Cole. “I’m feeling a lot stronger and I’m really enjoying it.”

Cole is currently involved in an extensive renovation project on her 1845, south shore, Nova Scotia home. “It’s a big old house that feels like a friend – it’s so cathartic,” says Cole. “It was originally a barrel factory, and then a coaching inn – kind of like a Motel 6 before there were cars. My concept for the house’s aesthetic is old meets new, which is very much like my music – the craft of bringing disparate elements together.”

With a large, grassroots fan base in Japan, Cole will be touring there, as well as Canada, Europe and the United States this year. “I love performing live more than anything. I never, ever forget where I came from.”

 

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Cover Story: TRUE Canadian Gems – Murray McLauchlan & Denise Donlon

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Cover Story: TRUE Canadian Gems – Murray McLauchlan & Denise Donlon

By Cece Scott www.cecescott.com

At the age of 69, Murray McLauchlan is affectionately referred to as Murray Many Heads. His wife, Denise Donlon, agrees. The recipient of 11 Juno Awards, including Country Male Vocalist of the Year for a total of five times, McLauchlan may be best known as a musician and an award-winning song writer, but he is also a painter, a pilot, a husband and a father – and possesses a wonderful sense of humour.

McLauchlan’s song catalogue includes Farmer’s Song (1972), Down by the Henry Moore (1975), On the Boulevard (1976) and Whispering Rain (1971) – all of which have stood the test of time.

Denise Donlon, now 61, is a Broadcast Hall of Fame inductee, and a Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music. She was the anchor for Much’s (formerly MuchMusic) Rockflash News (CityTv,1985), as well as the host and producer of The New Music (1986 to 1993) on the same network. Donlon has witnessed, firsthand, the changing face of pop culture through music videos, and has done more than 1,000 interviews with the likes of Keith Richards, Joni Mitchell, Sting and Leonard Cohen – to name a few.

Donlon’s 2016 book, Fearless As Possible (Under the Circumstances), chronicles her impressive, and storied career, on the front lines of the media and music industries. Donlon toured as a publicist with popular bands like Headpins, Whitesnake, and Doug and the Slugs. In the book, she also goes into detail about her business, and personal, relationships as the first female president of Sony Music Canada, and as the general manager and executive director of CBC English Radio.

McLauchlan the pilot; son, Duncan, McLauchlan and Donlon; Bruce Cockburn and McLauchlan.

Both McLauchlan (1993) and Donlon (2004) have received the Order of Canada, which recognizes their outstanding achievements, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

McLauchlan’s and Donlon’s home property abuts the Don Valley ravine in the east end of Toronto. During the interview, a coyote saunters into the backyard. As a child, McLauchlan dreamed of being a wildlife illustrator and a painter. “I had this wildly romantic idea of doing covers for Sports Illustrated magazine, as well as studying under the preeminent landscape painter, Doris McCarthy.”

McLauchlan did study with McCarthy, and also attended lectures given by Canadian naturalist and wildlife painter, Robert Bateman. “I went to Central Tech and studied and studied, and then realized that I didn’t want to be a commercial artist.”

Stevie Wonder and Donlon, 1982; Donlon and Leonard Cohen, 1981; McLauchlan and Donlon in Tuscany, 2013.

It was around this time, that the-then 17-year-old McLauchlan headed for the hippie haunts of Yorkville and started performing at various coffee houses. In 1966 he performed at the Mariposa Folk Festival, followed by stints in New York’s Greenwich Village. McLaughlan’s songs have been performed by the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Tom Rush.

Donlon and McLauchlan met in the late 80s, married two years later and then welcomed their son, Duncan, into the world in 1992. Mclauchlan admits to feelings of angst when he calculated how old he’d be when his son would be in his teens. “I was worried about becoming a father at 43, because somewhere in my mind I had an idea of my golden years,” says McLauchlan. “But then, there comes the realization that you are no longer the centre of your own life. I was in the love bubble.”

After Duncan’s birth, McLaulan took time off, and Donlon went back to work after three months. Donlon’s career continued on an upward trajectory, and she became the first female president of Sony Music Canada in 2000. Soon after, Napster (a filesharing, internet service that emphasized sharing audio files) was launched. It wasn’t long before Napster ran into legal difficulties, but the damage was done.

It changed the landscape of the music industry, and, as a result, Donlon’s lack of confidence was triggered. She admits that she suffered from Imposter’s Syndrome. “In my private moments it was really tough sledding, but in my public moments it was about leadership and inspiration – I had to be there for my artists.”

Upon the completion of her book, Donlon reassessed her perspective on life. “I’m taking a deep breath and putting it out to the universe to see what comes back,” says Donlon. “My tendency has always been to put the pedal to the metal, and to try and fill everything up with busyness. So, I am trying to spend more time in the moment, fill my life with things that give me pleasure, and not be as frantic as I once was.”

Morning Stoney Lake, by Murray McLauchlan.

Donlon never shied away from much – in both her professional, and personal, life. She’s rappelled down the side of a building, driven a 40-ton German tank and has tried bungee jumping. These days, she’s keeping closer to the ground, and is spending a great deal of time on her yoga mat. “The things on my list are now more about endurance. I’m trying, desperately, to keep my yearly, one-mile swim to under 30 minutes.”

Involved in the martial arts when he was younger, McLauchlan no longer practices combat training. “Basically, the body can’t take it anymore. Life, in general, is extremely active between keeping up the house and the cottage. And, of course, there’s the keeping up with Denise.”

When in his 40s, McLauchlan’s agent suggested to him (jokingly) that he was getting too old for the market. “I felt the whole idea was appalling and colossally stupid. I still do,” says McLauchlan. “There is a weird phenomenon in the music industry that ridicules old rockers – like the Rolling Stones. The media doesn’t talk about their music, just how wrinkled and prunelike they are.”

McLauchlan has performed at many concerts and benefits over the course of the past year, and has additional shows booked in 2018. “It has always been about reinvention for me – finding new ways to make contact with my music.”

Storm Stoney Lake, by Murray McLauchlan.

“My best days are ahead of me,
even if I do hurt in the mornings.” – Murray McLauchlan

Giving back, in many different ways, is important to both of them. Donlon is currently involved with War Child Canada, MusiCounts and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, amongst others. “As I look at my third act, the fundamental priority, for me, is that I must make a contribution,” says Donlon. “It would be a waste if you didn’t make a positive contribution based on the wisdom acquired throughout your life.”

McLauchlan strongly believes that music has a profound effect on memory. He is on the board of the Room 217 Foundation, which trains medical professionals to utilize music in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Traveling, wine, laughter, nature and time are all high priorities for Donlon. “And don’t forget the seniors’ discount,” says McLauchlan.

 

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