Home Think Tank

Paste: Is that openness to instinct something that’s always been there for you guys, or has it been more along the lines of a learning process to get there?
Emily Haines: Well, I haven’t ever been good at doing something that I don’t want to do. There’s not necessarily a set list of rules, or a technique rather, in the band. If I can’t sing the vocals for example, it means that it’s something that I don’t feel. It has nothing to do with the notes. So it’s nice to have this built-in sort of threshold. It’s an odd thing to navigate. You push yourself to do something that hasn’t been done, which I definitely did on this record, feeling more as though it was about what does the song want than what’s the predetermined identity of who I’m supposed to be in this project. But, I don’t know, like I said, I don’t really know what I’m doing, except that I know when it feels right, and when I’m excited about it. It’s the same for Jimmy and the guys, and it’s a pretty abstract measure, but it’s the only way that we’ve ever done anything and it hasn’t ever failed us—yet.

Via Paste Magazine

This summer was the sound of country music for me. Having been invited by American Express to see four of the finest singers and songwriters the genre has produced – Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum – you can tell each of the performers have lived through different stages to get to the top of their game.

Amex has evolved from being not only a credit card provider Cardmember but a leading provider in one-of-a-kind-experiences for its Cardmembers through Front Of The Line Advanced Presales and Reserved Ticket allotments and Cardmember Lounges at venues across Canada. This access definitely makes for experiences like none other.

I don’t own a cowboy hat, because if I wore one, I’d be nothing but hat. Every country guy or girl owns camo for hunting. I don’t hunt, nor have a camo, two of the style rules for country music code. Three, actually, since I don’t own cowboy boots because me, in a cowboy hat and boots would cover my entire body up completely. BUT I HAVE LOTS OF PLAID SHIRTS. In fact, I don’t want to make anyone jealous, but I can still fit into my shirts I wore from high school. So, I ended up wearing four of my favourite plaid shirts to these concerts.

At each concert this summer, I got to hang with some new friends in the Amex Lounge, a fun and warm, inviting place American Express offers Cardmembers. Here, Cardmembers can seek shade from the hot summer sun or shelter from spontaneous rain storms, to having complimentary water, hanging out in an exclusive bar, and tasting from their delicious menu from one of Toronto’s hottest restaurants, Barque.

I didn’t dig into the amazing menu until the last show – Jason Aldean in mid-September, and now I wish I had earlier. I had the pleasure of taking my friend Cadence Grace of country group, Runaway Angels, to the show. We had one minor problem at the offset – which choice of nachos to get (we got both), which sandwich to eat (we ordered chicken and beef), and how many s’mores to buy, and when (four and right at the beginning of the meal).

It was great to have Cadence around. She knows country music is changing, and we talked about the success of these four artists and their unparalleled success in country, along with “bro country” really means, and the power of a song.

That’s not to say you have to be a country star like Cadence to enjoy the shows. The stories of small-town characters, contemplating their lives and their loves, are so memorable that you can bet many will be thinking of these songs when they turn back the pages of their yearbooks. It’s those memories of partying, drinking, bonfires and girls in jean shorts that make up a strong component of country lyrics, and it’s exactly why country music has thrived in recent years. Heavily influenced by other genres, like rock and hip-hop, country brought the party atmosphere to the forefront of the concert experience. Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum have introduced more people to country music than almost any other artists, and bring the party – and heartache – to new and old music fans.

And do these crowds love to dance! It’s astounding the courage and free spirited energy the artists make Toronto audiences feel, whether they’ve got moves or not. Another positive thing I noticed was the lack of cell phones raised after the first few songs. The audiences know that by taping the show, you’re not really experiencing the concert, but experiencing the screen on your phone. Whether I was in the first few rows of Rascal Flatts, mid-venue for Jason Aldean, or moving to the lawns near the end of Lady Antebellum’s set, the fans were right into it.

While the music industry talks about streaming, having access to 25 million songs at your fingertips, we’re entering a whole new age when it comes to live shows. For those on the move, a concert is a great way to get out of the house, relax, or join a mosh pit (there were several happening on the lawns at Jason’s show). For those who want to take it easy, American Express gives Cardmembers access to tickets before the general public through Front Of The Line Presales, so having some of the best available seats is a breeze. Add the excellent clarity for sound provided by the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, and you have one of the greatest adventures you can have as a music fan.

Looking for your own memorable experience? Explore www.AmexInvites.ca to learn more about some of the hottest upcoming events.

“I love the term No Wave! I want no other term. I want No Wave hysteria. I love No Wave because it says nothing – it’s like ‘No Wave, no anything else’. To me, No Wave is audience un-friendly. It’s dissonant, it’s anti-tradition, none of it sounds alike. None of my music sounds alike – although there is a connective tissue. I like that No Wave is having a kind of resurgence and some influence in music, because it’s really just about putting it out there as aggressively and brutally as possible and not giving a shit about the fucking consequences. And that has to do with photography, film, music, and spoken word – it’s not just a music thing. I love the fucking term because nothing else makes sense to me. I never did punk music – I have nothing to do with fucking punk rock, I thought it was infantile. No Wave was very different, because punk rock was a social explosion – political, but fashion-oriented, and you know what it sounds like. [With] No Wave, nobody had any fashion sense except for me and James Chance. That wasn’t the point of it. Nobody sounded alike, and we didn’t give a fucking shit about anything. We didn’t feel like we were all in this thing together, we felt: ‘I’m insane, and if you are too, cool!’

“It was only a movement, in retrospect. At that point I was so anti-everything; everything had to meet a certain extreme validity, otherwise what’s the point?”

Via Dummy Mag

I had a first record with Billy Pilgrim – the energy and effort it took to make the first record and the knowledge that it becomes your only calling card. Most still won’t know the music on your first album. They are only going to become fans after your second album and by then they know all the songs from the first one.

With Sugarland, I had the experience of how to make a first record. I knew the pressure that was on it knowing ten years ago I’d done this before. Now I’m out with my third first record because a lot of people don’t know what I sound like when I sing. Jennifer Nettles was the primary singer in the band and in a lot of ways I’m being introduced as a brand new artist with the experience of twenty years of doing this. That’s kind of cool for me to be standing in front of someone and hear them say “I don’t know who you are.” That’s right – then I put my hat on and they know exactly who I am. “Say, you can sing.”

You have to have songs that are immediately impressionable. I have to teach you my songs through the first verse and chorus and make you fall in love by the second and that’s all the time I really have with you. Maybe if I’m opening for some other band I have that five times or six songs – that’s all I get so I have to convince you really quickly. That’s the energy of first records.

Via FYI Music

The biggest digital music services have grown their audiences. Listening habits are changing, as some younger listeners bypass traditional radio in favor of streaming radio, and older listeners spend more time with new content distribution channels. As people find new ways to access music, they’re soundtracking their lives according to the rules of our on-demand age. They listen on the go and across devices, taking full advantage of mobile and connected platforms. They listen throughout the day, not just during their morning drive. And they listen in the moments that make up their lives, from exercising and commuting to partying, studying and more.

To help marketers navigate this changing landscape, Spotify commissioned global market-research firm TNS to quantify the reach and quality of our free audience in 10 countries across Europe. The study marks the first time Spotify has been studied directly alongside commercial radio channels.

Spotify Free delivers unique audience reach, and their study found in 8 of 10 countries, Spotify is the top audio streaming service, with an average incremental reach is 10% per channel.

Spotify’s audience listens across the day, making it a strong compliment to an audio buy. While radio listening activity overindexes in the morning, Spotify listening builds steadily throughout the day, peaking in the afternoon and early evening.

You can download the full report here.

God has given us music so that above all it can lead us upwards. Music unites all qualities: it can exalt us, divert us, cheer us up, or break the hardest of hearts with the softest of its melancholy tones. But its principal task is to lead our thoughts to higher things, to elevate, even to make us tremble… The musical art often speaks in sounds more penetrating than the words of poetry, and takes hold of the most hidden crevices of the heart… Song elevates our being and leads us to the good and the true. If, however, music serves only as a diversion or as a kind of vain ostentation it is sinful and harmful.

Nietzsche wrote these lines two months before his fourteenth birthday – a detail doubly poignant when contrasted with the “vain ostentations” marketed to teenagers today. But his profound reverence for music never left him. Toward the end of his life, he immortalized it in an aphorism included in his 1889 book Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer:

What trifles constitute happiness! The sound of a bagpipe. Without music life would be a mistake.

Via Brain Pickings and Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography

“They call me “Jilly from Philly.” So much of who I am is because of the music of Philadelphia. My mother introduced me to a great radio station WDAS-FM and they played all kinds of powerful, retro music. She took me to Ortlieb’s, which is a jazz spot in Philly and I wasn’t supposed to be there, but she put me behind a chair and kinda hid me. I watched great musicians be great musicians. I saw Patti LaBelle, I saw Teddy Pendergrass, Gladys Knight & The Pips, so many live performances.

Philly is definitely a place to enhance the live performance, and Philadelphian audiences: they are tough. They are tough. If they don’t like it, they’ll let you know, and it’s more than a boo. You might have to duck in Philly.”


A car isn’t simply a mass of metal. It isn’t simply an option to get you to point A to B. There’s a growing consensus that traffic is beginning to get unbearable in the major cities across Canada, so if you spend a lot of time in your car, you should be able to some fun in it. Creating an emotional bond between a driver and their car is the ultimate goal of Mazda’s “Soul of Motion” design. Conventional wisdom has it that cars built for safety are unrewarding to drive. Having just tested various brand new Mazda cars in their Soul Of Motion event, it’s no wonder Mazda cars are astounding to drive. They’re back for another shot at the greatest cars of the year, and they’re favourite of mine.

Mazda’s design is taken from the muscular beauty you see when an animal pounces, or when a human leaps into action. Everywhere you look on the Mazda lot, this dynamic poise is enhanced by elegant detail. The five-point grille, defining body lines and powerful stance all show their design philosophy in action.

The ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ design direction has shaped the dynamic style and premium presence of all-new Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-5, CX-9 and their first small SUV, Mazda CX-3. Their 2016 designs aims to breathe life and art into vehicle design, transferring the heart and soul of the artist into the machine. Yet these automobiles are more than a driving experience.


The 2016 Mazda6 GX has a SKYACTIV-G 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder Engine, gets 8.8/6.1L (CTY/HWY), and comes with an optional Sport Automatic Transmission. Because you can’t use your handheld phone anymore, it’s perfect timing for their Bluetooth hands-free phone capability. my fave, the Mazda6 won the Canadian Car of the Year Award chosen by The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.The car with the awards to beat has now gotten even better.



“There’s more to creating a car with soul than simply sculpting its physical form,” explains the automaker’s website. “Mazda imbues its cars with soul through its quest to capture the dynamic beauty of life beyond the confines of conventional design.” Driving these cars are like putting on your favorite pair of slippers after a long walk.

The first production vehicle to incorporate the redesign was the 2010 CX-5. At Mazda, they simply cannot help but do things differently, and yet, still keep their vehicles highly personal. More than a few of the driving instructors today are race car drivers, technicians and trainers for the dealers – and you get the sense they love working for the company. When you have people working for your company who love what they do, they create extraordinary, powerful and compelling vehicles staying true to the origins of Mazda. Their designers studied everything from the movement in animals in their natural habitat to the energetic moment an archer releases an arrow to create the tense, muscular yet flowing lines in the Mazda6, Mazda3 and CX-5. Because they firmly believe that looking in unexpected places leads to truly unconventional design. These cars are some of the most powerful, dynamic and explosive cars in automobile history. And it’s a testament to their designers personalities that genuinely touch their buyer’s concerns, and pulls it off time and time again.




As a guy who loves gadgets and technologies, the Mazda6 contains CONNECT, giving me access to internet radio, my social network, navigation and more through a 7″ colour touchscreen with voice command or steering-mounted controls. The i-ELOOP Regenerative Braking saves on fuel and dedicate 100% of power to the engine by powering electrical systems when I brake. By making seat perforations moderately large and the distances between them small, their engineers created leather-trimmed upholstery that absorbs road noise for an enhanced audio listening environment. And more music heard is always a good thing. Cutting-edge technology, head-turning design and outstanding fuel economy prove that more than ever before, passion and performance are in MAZDA3’s blood. The car is a true testament to obsessive engineering and exhilarating driving.

With its spacious, functional interior, impressive fuel economy and top safety scores, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is a top pick among small crossovers. The CX-5’s fun-to-drive demeanor is just a welcome bonus. It’s soft, vivid, and deeply, seductively clever.



Next up for the drive was the 2016 CX-3. Designed for those who think functionality is a must, yet long for something a little more, the CX-3 is adaptable and comfortable, with enough personality to deliver the excitement I’ve truly longed for in an automobile. Idealized and celebrated, the CX-3 will be frequently mentioned in the next batch of car guides for their excellence in spirit of inspiration and confidence. Starting off with a keyless entry and 6-way adjustable seats (perfect for a small guy like me), I was ready to go. I simply fire up the engine with the push of a button. Wow. Driving straight up the lane felt like a bullet while being in the clouds. Their superior fuel economy, low emissions and outstanding performance remains high when compared to the other car companies. With engineering that seamlessly co-ordinates how each part works together, thrifty fuel economy and nimble road manners unite under one very beautiful hood.

These aren’t just cars. These are machines with a heart, a life force, a profound batch of safety and technologies melding into a vital way to get from point A to point B, and have fun, even if you’re sitting in that traffic. Mazda ranks among the very best of automobile companies, and this Soul Of Motion event happening across Canada just proves it.



Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own with information of technical stuff provided by Mazda.