Let Former Nylon take you to The Big Apple This Holiday Season! Click the pic for details about upcoming BC Tour Dates!

Let Former Nylon take you to The Big Apple This Holiday Season! Click the pic for details about upcoming BC Tour Dates!


The Festival Experience  

 Music fans crave discovery. 
Thats why we love the festival experience. And of course Music Festivals are all about discovery. The music lover may be there to see a favorite artist but along the way will have the opportunity to stumble on a whole bunch of other acts! Thats why artists love to play festivals too, we get to introduce ourselves to a whole army of potential fans we would never have reached otherwise!  

Coming together in a community around a shared interest is even more important to us in the digital age. Just witness the communal experience Canadians felt as the Tragically Hip played it's last shows together this summer. At a music festival everyone can feel a part of the atmosphere of the bigger event.  Its not about attending one concert,  it's about our shared love of the music which is why everybody is there in the first place!   

 Jazz festivals are no different. From the big international festivals like Montreaux to the local festival such as the Beaches Jazz Festival there are all kinds of arguments for hearing Jazz in a festival setting rather than only in a small local venue.  There are many challenges to putting on a great festival and one of them is how to attract an audience in a busy marketplace, which is why mainstream music festivals tend to invite international artists that we rarely get to see.     


Toronto loves it's festivals.
From the big ones like Tiff and Hot Docs to the local neighbourhood food festivals like Taste of The Danforth  there is hardly a week without a festival happening somewhere in the greater GTA.  
Our newest entry to the Festival calendar is The  Kensington Market Jazz Festival (in my old stomping ground) which has been conceived  of by musicians (our first lady of culture Ms. Molly Johnson) as a neighbourhood-oriented weekend for Toronto to discover and celebrate it's own jazz artists.  

Its happening in a batch of unusual local venues which are just waiting for discovery.   I'm particularly excited to be reunited with Sophie Milman when we share The Round stage Sept 17th. Our Ottawa gig with the National Arts Centre Orchestra singing Cole Porter duets was a pleasure indeed! 

 There is already an amazing street vibe in Kensington Market, and the weekend of Sept 16th, 17th and 18th the air will be filled with Jazz of every kind!  Come and hang out for the weekend. You'll see thrilled to see old favourites and make a few new discoveries I promise! 

 Kensington Market Jazz Video!


Is Hamilton The New Brooklyn?  

Well first of all lets just say it up front ... Hamilton folks have always been proud of being Hamilton folks ...so being compared with a  borough of New York City doesn't sit easily with people around here.      However the Hammer has always been a city of rugged individualists and folks who have decided to do it their own way, and in that regard Hamilton people are proud to flourish far from the high rents and hustle of larger cities like Toronto which now feel almost unliveable with it's high cost and over crowding. So the comparison may be loaded …..but it isn't all that off base. 
 In a recent article the Globe and Mail stated that "Brooklyn is booming as an arts hub because Manhattan is unaffordable for artists. Toronto is in severe danger of out-pricing its own creative types. Hamilton, with its cheap rents and supportive arts community, looks better with each visit." 

Its true that Hamilton used to be where people escaped from.            
 But these days its the place where people escape to!  


 Why are people moving to Hamilton? Artists of all kinds need space that is affordable so we have time to develop  ideas, try new things and not just scramble for the daily rent.  Typically its artists that move into depressed areas with lower rent, developing the housing and making community in places that allow room for creativity to happen.  And that ladies and gentlemen is how a scene develops.  

The cool coffee house,  artisan beer joint and organic vegetables are never far behind.  Like worker bees, artists create the conditions that attract people to a new neighbourhood or town, digging into undesirable areas and creating an atmosphere that allows developers to step in make money down the road.  

 And that ladies and gentlemen is how cities develop. 

Just thinking of the handful of Hamilton based artists that I know I see the benefits of living in a smaller city where we can grow our big size ideas!

So if  media folks have decided to compare Hamilton to Brooklyn, both being places that are artist friendly and where a healthy local scene ends up influencing  mainstream culture…well then, sure not! Just don't bring it up with your "Proud To Be Hamilton" pals. They're not looking for your approval..(thats why they are here)!

at The Artword Artbar in Hamilton Ont 
Friday June 3 and Saturday June 4, 2016, at 8 pm.  
$15 advance through http://www.artword.net/artbar /  
$20 at the door. 


Whats Your New York Story Canada? 


When I brought the songs that would become New York Stories back from the Big Apple it took a lot of polishing and crafting before the material was ready to record. First I played the material for audiences across Canada and they told me which songs were landing deepest with them. Then my trio and I worked up the arrangements and tested them out on Toronto audiences during our residency at The Jazz Bistro. By the time we hit the studio we knew exactly which tunes and which arrangements were telling the stories the best! 

So it is in fact the audiences that helped create this CD from the very get go! 

When creative producer Leonardo came to me with the Indie Go Go campaign idea I scoffed and told him I would never ask for money from fans. By the time we had our campaign in full swing I was feeling the support and engagement and the sense of community that was building around this music.
Truly an incredible experience for an artist let me tell you! 

So, when Leo and I decided to use the CD launch at CBC's Glenn Gould Studio to film the audience and fans telling their own New York Stories it just made so much sense! After all the audience has been a huge part of this project from the very beginning. We enlisted filmmaker Diana Piruzevska to create a little studio set up in the lobby and filmed folks one at a time telling their favourite NYC adventures. You can hear an edited version of those stories in the new video of "Don't Take My Baby (New York New York)" (Big Thanks to all of those who came to support the music and  leant their stories to this video!)


AND as a way to say THANK YOU, as part of the national tour dates we're extending the conversation and inviting folks to post their favourite New York Stories on this page Facebook Fan Page  using the hashtag #WhatsYourNewYorkStory in exchange for a free digital download of the New York Stories album!  

…..Let the New York conversation continue! :)

Tour Life 

I am not one of those artists that resents going out on the road. In fact I embrace it with a passion.  

Touring is a fantastic way to see and hear the big wide world.  

When I started my career I never imagined that music would become a way to experience new places, new people and have new adventures.  

Keeping in mind that my introduction to full time touring was with the already established Nylons (flying to shows rather than touring in a van, staying in nice hotels, performing in beautiful theatres etc) so the beginning of my road life was supported in every way possible. 

 However even during my early career, which included tuff rock n roll bars and seedier lounges across Canada I was already caught up in the romance of collecting crazy stories and adventures.  

In fact the road became so romantic for me that for many years I made it a practice of driving back and forth from the east coast out to California, stopping to see friends along the way, but relishing the alone time away from the crowded cities where my head and heart could expand and explore. 

Perhaps thats the gift of being a songwriter, I see all of that road experience (or most of it) as grist for the creative mill.  Even at the start of my career I loved taking time to wander in each city  finding an old pier or a run down factory, or back alley's near downtown, looking for the lonely old guy to have a chat with etc. Writing notes in an ongoing journal through my wanderings (often turning up in lyrics for songs) I made a kind of loose map of North America in my head.   

Being able to travel and make music for audiences has almost always felt like a gift, an opportunity, a blessing. These busy days I find solace in a hotel room, a good book, a newspaper and a cafe and so often plan to arrive a day early and leave a day later than I need to.  

The road is a kind of home to me where my artist self feels most alive.

City Of A Million Stories 

New York is famously described as a city with a million stories.    

Of course, like so many folks, the books I'd read about New York, ( El Doctorow's Ragtime, Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and Patti Smith's Just Kids for example), had created a literary map New York in my imagination. When I was living and working in NYC I used that map had me exploring the cobblestone alley's, down into the subways and out onto the grand avenues as I wrote the material that would become "New York Stories". The influence of literature  is obvious with each song acting like a chapter like a book of interweaving short stories designed to take the listener on a romantic journey describing a love story amongst the swirl of life in Manhattan. 

A literary approach comes very naturally to me as a songwriter given that I was raised in a house filled with books and music in Toronto's Annex which, much like the West Village, was an area of town filled with  Professors, Activists, Artists and Independent thinkers such as our mom author Lilly Barnes, who raised us in three story victorian home filled floor to ceiling with books.  So, as I was discovering the music of Billie Holiday, Tom Waits, Laura Nyro and Tony Bennett  I was absorbing the short stories of Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro and a literary tradition that asks the author to describe an entire universe in only a few pages. Perfect for a budding songwriter looking to create a new musical universe of his own!    

Of course the two romances at the heart of "New York Stories" are very real, both the romance of the lovers and the romance with New York City itself. New York becomes a character in of itself, a bustling metropolis so crowded that one never feels lonely or alone, but welcomed by the city to re create one's own story at every corner of the city of a million st 

Two collections of short stories set in NYC that I can heartily recommend are "Wonderful Town", a collection of New Yorker stories edited by David Remnick and the  Every Man Pocket Classics "New York Stories" both of which I discovered after the release of the disc but happily reread from time to time..  


   The New York Story   

So, we've made #1 twice with the same song thanks to you guys. Amazing! Making music is never a sure thing. You just have to do it and hope that someone else likes it. OR just do it and not give a crap. In my case as much as I want to communicate I've learned over the years that the best approach for me is to serve my inner voice and create from that very personal place. And thats how this New York Story happened. 

 When I accompanied my honey to NYC, who had moved there to work on Broadway, I  booked myself into a writing room off Time Square and started composing the songs that would become New York Stories.  I was inspired by the energy of the city around me, especially the musical history of the place which seemed to vibrate right up from the floorboards.. but more than anything I was caught up in the insecurities  and anxieties of a new relationship.  When I am experiencing inner drama the writing and composing of songs is the most alive for me, I can write very fast and instinctively ..hence the "song cycle" nature of the material that makes up New York Stories.  

The tunes act like chapters describing different parts of developing relationships, both with my honey and with New York City itself.  But before finishing the "book" I knew I  needed a "first chapter" that would bring the listener into story right off the top. Most of the album was already written when the title song New York Story started to come, the idea forming during a memorable long walk down from Harlem through Central Park and into lower Manhattan.  You can feel the romance of the city all around us in the lyric, but I will admit the words and the shape of the melody took hard work and crafting before I felt it was right 

Like the other songs on the record I brought New York Story to my trio (Daniel Barnes on drums, Russ Boswell on bass and Michael Shand on keyboard) and tested them with the audiences at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto and across Canada on tour dates before recording them, mostly live off the floor at The Drive Shed studio with engineer John Beetle Bailey. Bringing the legendary Jackie Richardson in to work out a duet version was the most logical and organic process imaginable, we have been singing together for many years now and I always learn and grow as an artist when I work with this amazing lady. Jackie helped me understand and plot through the emotional journey of the song, as it was still very "hot off the press" when we took it to the studio! 

The fact that this music is finding an audience is no surprise to me, (although I am very grateful and happy about it), after all these songs come from a very deep and private place and something Ive learned as Ive grown as an artist is the if you write it "true" to your experience then a whole bunch of the rest of the human beings will know exactly what you are talking about!   

Who Knows Where This New York Story Ends…..

Romance in New York City  

Long walks through Central Park in the cool crisp air of autumn with the leaves changing colours.  

The magic of a wintery day with whole city slowed down by the snow.   

Springtime with the possibility of new romance bursting all around us.  

A delicious meal outdoors in summertime at a little cafe, feeling intimate and cozy in the midst of a busy avenue. 

What is it about New York that makes everything feel so damn romantic!?  

Foremost its a city that demands the most of ourselves, in business, in love, and in our reaching for the good things in life. 

The building are tall, and likewise our expectations, which stretch towards the sky with a belief in the impossible! 

Made for peek experiences, New York is all about the new adventure waiting to happen.  

The unexpected meeting, the chance encounters that changes everything.  No wonder our heads swim with possibilities! 

 Anything can happen in New York. That tiny island holds so much life and so much energy,
of course it allows for the biggest possible dreams and the craziest kind of magic. 

 It's that heady feeling of new romance that inspired me to compose the songs that make up "New York Stories".  

"Come take my hand and we'll stroll through the park, far from the noise and the crowd….."


 The Making Of The New York Story Duet   

        It was deep winter. A furious blizzardy day in Toronto when Jackie Richardson came up to the studio to cut the vocal for "New York Story". But the warmth of Jackie's voice would melt a polar ice cap and you can hear it in every note of the duet version of the title track from "New York Stories".   A word about my duet partner.  I have learned much about living in the emotional life of a song through our work together, Jackie being such a generous artist, with her audience, with musicians and with her fellow performers. There is a deeper truth to this lady's art and I couldn't think of a more perfect singer to bring this song to life as a duet! 
    The lyrics of "New York Story" which serve as the introduction to all the stories on the album, finds the lovers on a romantic stroll through Central Park, has them enjoying a late night meal and talking until dawn before cozying up together for the night and asking the question "Who knows where this New York Story ends?"  The listener knows the relationship is new and full of possibility but that the question lingers in the air. Indeed that is the question and the struggle that we follow through the whole album as the love story is played out in the "city that doesn't sleep". 

The band, consisting of Michael Shand on Keys, Daniel Barnes on Drums and Russ Boswell on Bass, had already laid down the tune and engineer John Beetle Bailey had actually changed the key for us so that it better suited Jackie's range. Best of all by the time we cut the duet vocal, Jackie and I had already sung the song on stage together and had a chance to work out the romantic dynamic of the story. So the romantic story felt very "lived in" and alive to us, much like the rest of the "New York Stories" material, all of which had been performed live for months before we ever recorded them in the studio. 

 To pre-order the duet version of "New York Story" please follow this link:
 To pre-order the whole album please click here!

  Tickets for Micah and Jackie's annual Valentine's Concert Feb 13th/Feb 14th at Hugh's Room!

Christmas In Harlem! 

 New York is a surprisingly friendly city, and never more so than during the holidays. In fact when she's all dressed up for Christmas New York feels like one big glittering X mas tree giving a lift to the spirit and putting a song in your heart! 

 One of my most magical memories of the Big Apple during the Holiday season was when The Nylons ended up grounded in a blizzard during a tour of the East Coast. The planes weren't flying so suddenly we had cancelled shows and plenty of time on our hands while the entire city lay sleeping under a beautiful blanket of soft white.    It was a delicious to wander through the city see old friends and feel the magic of the season; we were only able to jump back into the tour when the train tracks to Boston were cleared! A delicious memory of a snow globe white x mas, (not likely to happen this year is it?) 

Another lovely memory was about 10 years ago when my family decided to "do" New York at Christmas, renting a friends apt on the upper East Side for a week and armed with an awesome plan for the week.  Our Mom Lilly would decide on the museum expedition, Brother Daniel would choose the Jazz club and I was in charge of choosing the Broadway show. Of course I almost lost everybody in the Macy's Boxing Day sale! Our plan of action really worked out great, and we all trusted each other and went on the adventure including with a long walk in central park, delicious jewish food and a great family holiday that we will remember for years to come.  

 But I think my favourite X mas in New York was more recent, just a few years ago when my partner and I hosted the family up on Lenox Avenue where we were living at the time.  Harlem is perhaps the friendliest place I have ever lived, with folks pulling chairs out to sit on the curb and visit, everyone saying hello and lots of easy going vibes. My partner being on Broadway at the time meant very little time off, (8 shows a week plus holiday matinee's!) but we managed to squeeze a lot of holiday fun including delicious home cooked meals and baking in!  We took everybody to Amy Ruth's where the locals go for soul food, and of course did the windows of 5th Avenue downtown. Lilly and I finally got to The Met to see Madame Butterfly but forgot to check the show time and found ourselves suddenly galloping through a windy rain storm to make the 7.30 pm curtain.  Bejewelled but a little bedraggled we enjoyed our Opera and laughed to see all the crashed and abandoned umbrellas on our way home. 

  Something about being able to head uptown for a home cooked meal after the hustle and bustle of the city made New York feel like the best place in the entire world to us!  No wonder I ended up staying to write "New York Stories!
 For those of you who have never been have a peek at my special video guide to Christmas in New York City ! 



What Are You Listening To This Season?   

 Being a working musician I used to dread being asked to perform X mas material. Growing up Jewish, I wasn't familiar with the repertoire and always felt like an imposter when I had to perform seasonal songs.  

I simply didn't have the feeling in my heart.  

Although I enjoyed singing in the Anglican church at the end of our street at christmas time  it just didn't feel like my tradition. Growing up in our very musical household we certainly played Nat King Cole's recording of The Christmas Song and Mahalia Jackson's sacred music as well as Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas during the season, but it was many years before I would come to feel my own attachment to christmas songs and understand why people love them so much.  

Not surprising that it has been contemporary Jazz artists like Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall and Michael Buble who inspired me to have another listen to these songs in a new way.  Also classic holiday recordings like those by Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennet with Count Basie and of course Ella Fitzgerald's Swinging Christmas which are all such strong records they would stand out in any season! 


Funnily enough though, it was Bette Midler's Cool Yule that convinced me that there might be something there for me to look at in terms of performing some of this material. And so tentatively I have begun exploring what songs might work on my voice with the idea of eventually releasing a recording of seasonal material sometime down the road! 

It's about whether you get that feeling in your heart, right folks?!


The Duet Concert Micah Barnes & Jackie Richardson

Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Lane, Brampton

Two of Canada's most beloved vocalists singing the world's greatest love songs!

Canada's foremost lady of Jazz, Blues and Gospel joins forces with chart-topping Jazz artist and former frontman of international A Capella act The Nylons, to explore the world of love and romance in this exciting new concert evening! Together, along with their top flight Jazz band, they will explore the world of romance with songs made famous by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Smokey Robinson, and Etta James. The perfect Valentine's concert!

Listen to Jackie and Micah duet on "New York Story": https://youtu.be/ZilKr1WCVBc

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