Over the years, we’ve heard that love is the answer, the drug, can build a bridge, lifts us up where we belong, is endless, a crazy little thing and is, of course, all you need. Most certainly, this highest of emotions is at its best when it’s shared as far and wide as possible. Award-winning Canadian Singer-Songwriter Henry Lees is aiming to spread the love far beyond his own glowing heart with his funkified, grooved-up new single “Free This Love”, available everywhere on May 1, Global Love Day.
Co-written with noteworthy, award-winning Ontario singer-songwriters Heather Hill and Matt Gerber, and produced by Vancouver-based musical wunderkind Sean Thomas (Debbie Gibson, Joey McIntyre, NKOTB, New Edition), “Free This Love” was borne out of a collective wish to uplift and inspire human reconnection during a time rife with fear, isolation and uncertainty around the world.
“‘Free This Love’ is a song that celebrates and reminds us of the importance and power of brotherly love,” shares Lees. “Spotlighting that was one of our goals when Heather and I had our first writing session for the song. Then, Matt joined us to help hone things stylistically and lyrically.”
“We imagined love being ‘let out of the cage’ into a space of greater freedom and compassion,” adds Lees.
I want you by my side
I’ll never leave you behind
Let’s lift each other high
And free this, free this love
This passionate anthem about compassion mixes Lees’ warm, soulful tenor with syncopated guitar, playful keyboard riffs, dramatic percussion and a four-on-the-dance-floor, total sing-along chorus. To create the sparkling pop sound that showcases the song’s powerful message, Lees turned to his friend and frequent collaborator, Vancouver producer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sean Thomas.
“Sean and I have collaborated a number of times since we first met and clicked during the annual SongStudio Workshop in Toronto five years ago,” notes Lees. “He’s done amazing work in recent years with brilliant pop icons like Debbie Gibson and Joey McIntyre and I knew he would be able to transform our earnest demo into this big, beautiful banger that we’re so proud of!”
“When listening to the demo of ‘Free This Love’, I could hear the emotion that Henry was conveying through his beautiful vocal performance and the impactful message of the lyrics that he wrote along with Heather and Matt,” recalls Thomas. “It was a pleasure to produce and an honour to work with such amazing talent!”
This collaborative effort has already paid off with accolades from two major international songwriting competitions. “Free This Love” was selected as a Top 10 Finalist for the 2022 USA Songwriting Competition and was recently chosen as a Semi-Finalist for the 2022 International Songwriting Competition.
“When I think of the thousands and thousands of entries that are submitted each year for these competitions and it hits me that ‘Free This Love’ has been singled out by industry peers for recognition not once, but twice, I’m completely blown away and so grateful,” says Lees.
With three years of pandemic, war and conflict, increasing divisiveness and climate crises all playing havoc with humanity, choosing to drop this joyful jam on Global Love Day was a no-brainer and an all-heart decision for Lees.
“As I was considering potential mid-spring release dates, I discovered that May 1 is Global Love Day,” he notes. “It’s a symbolic day of unconditional love that recognizes our oneness through love. ‘Free This Love’ celebrates the same idea, so it was a drop date slam dunk!”
Global Love Day was established in 2004 by The Love Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 2000 by Harold W. Becker to “inspire and remind people of the simple, practical power of loving unconditionally”. Since then, it has grown to include close to fifty local coordinators in over forty countries, including three in Canada. According to thelovefoundation.com, Global Love Day has garnered 854 proclamations and greetings from governors, mayors, city councils and other prominent elected officials over its 20-year history. In 2023, the Canadian municipalities of Oakville, Saskatoon and Victoria have all issued proclamations honouring Global Love Day.
“I was born on the first day of summer in the Summer of Love. So, I’ve always thought that the natural belief I have in the innate goodness of humanity has been with me since day one,” Lees offers. “We all have our struggles with the darker sides of human nature but, we were also born to love one another.”
The love of making music has also been with Henry Lees since day one. Writing, recording and performing everything from radio jingles to musical theatre has taken him to the national airwaves and to stages across Canada, including singing on two cross-Canada Huron Carole benefit tours with singer-songwriter, actor, philanthropist and Order of Canada recipient Tom Jackson. In 2022, Lees celebrated his first number ones as a songwriter when triple Maple Blues Award nominee Chris Antonik and his album “Morningstar” hit #1 for 2 weeks on Roots Music Report’s all-genre, Top 50 Canada Albums Chart and “Back to the Good”, one of six songs Lees’ co-wrote with Antonik for the album, also hit #1 on the RMR.
Also in 2022, Lees released the single “Walking With Fear”, a very personal song of support for those dealing with anxiety disorders co-written with multi-award winning singer-songwriter David Leask and co-produced with Leask and JUNO winner Steve Dawson. “Walking With Fear” was released in partnership with Anxiety Canada in support of Action Anxiety Day.
In 2021, Lees was honoured with a Top Ten Finalist Award from the International Acoustic Music Awards and a Second Place Award from the Indie International Songwriting Awards for his song “Nothing Left to Lose”, co-written and co-produced with Sean Thomas.
These recent accomplishments have led to plans to release another digital single and an EP later this year. Until then, Lees hopes “Free This Love” will spread the love groove everywhere this summer from nightclubs to backyard barbecues.