Katherine Wheatley

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Suzie Vinnick, Wendell Ferguson and me...on our N. Ontario tour.

Hi Everyone.  Here's what Suzie and Wendell and I looked like before heading out on tour.   Smiling.

And here we are, still smiling, in front of the "Welcome to Manitouwadge" sign.  Or should I say "Bienvenue."  About half the population of these Northern Ontario towns is francophone.

We played in Geraldton last night.  Heading to Atikokan today - the town that doesn't do the time change.  We're confused as to whose time they'll be on.  Hopefully we'll make it to the gig on time.  We're stopping at The Missing Horse Restaurant on the way.  South side of Highway 17, just east of Thunder Bay.  One of our favourite restaurants in the whole country.

Hope you are all well.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

We'll be covering the north like snow!

Hello Folks,

It's 7:15 am.  In about 90 minutes, I'm leaving for Sault Ste Marie - 8.5 hours from here - with Suzie Vinnick and Wendell Ferguson.  Then tomorrow, we drive to Manitouwadge.  Have you heard of it?  It is at the end of the line.  Seriously.  You turn just east of the Hemlow Gold Mines.  Manitouwadge has its' own beautiful drive off the trans Canada - lined with black spruce that are covered with black beard-like moss or lichen.  Hmmm? 

We're playing in Manitouwadge - at the nifty new high school auditorium.  Then we go to Geraldton, Atikokan, Fort Frances, Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay, Goulais River.  I'm bringing raw vegetables, boggle, scrabble, a box of trivial pursuit cards and about a dozen half-finished cryptic crosswords.  Wendell's bringing 12 hours of music on his ipod as well as facts and jokes he's dug up about Northern Ontario.  He'll be teasing and quizzing the audience.  Suzie is bringing all the things we need to get there and stay organized...an SUV, CD sales sheets, addresses, phone numbers.

If you know someone in one of these offbeat places in NW Ontario, please let them know about the show.  And tell them to say "HI".  And if you happen to live in one of these stunning places, please join us.  And again, please don't hesitate to say "HI".

Take good care, Katherine

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hello all.  Well, my new cd "Landed" landed on Friday night at Hugh's Room in Toronto and I'm thrilled about it.  Also thrilled to be opening for Buffy Ste. Marie this Wednesday in London.  I'm sure I'll have some things to report.  But for now...

...THANK YOU...ALL OF YOU WHO MADE THIS FRECKLE-FACED RED-HEADED GAL FROM PARRY SOUND SO HAPPY ON FRIDAY NIGHT.  Thank you for coming to my cd launch.  Thank you for being so warm and responsive.  Thank you for listening and thank you for buying my cd.  You made my "landing" better than I could have imagined.

Many people asked about a t-shirt.  The cd booklet was designed by Michael Wrycraft (wrycraft.com) and he's working on a t-shirt.  The girl with the guitar - the one who landed - will be on it.  I'll let you know when and how it'll be available.

Also, I didn't have time to tell you much about all the musicians on stage with me and I so wanted to.  Here's who was there:

Michael Johnston did most of the keyboard work. He is a fantastic singer/songwriter but has little time for his own work because he’s so darn great a musician that other bands keep him too busy.  He is top call in Toronto.  Plays with the Skydiggers. 

Wendell Ferguson
was the big guy playing dynamite finger style guitar.  He’s a very funny songwriter and six-time Canadian Country Music Association Guitar Player of the year.  We’re in “Betty and The Bobs” together.  We have a duo called “Wendell and Wheat.”  I’ll be backing him up Dec. 15 at Hugh’s for the launch of his DVD “Jesus Christ It’s Your Birthday Again.”

Suzie Vinnick plays every instrument under the sun.  As I write this, I don’t know what she’ll have played at my show, but my guess is she’ll have taken a guitar or mandolin solo at some point.  She has won Maple Blues awards for best vocalist, best album, best bass player as well as various songwriting awards.  Her most recent album was nominated for a Juno.  She plays in “Betty and the Bobs.”
She’ll be releasing a cd with the trio “The Marigolds” November 4, here at Hugh’s Room.

Tannis Slimmon’s latest release “Lucky Blue” is impossible to take off your cd player.  She is the current Canadian Folk Music Awards’ contemporary vocalist of the year.  She won the Independent Music Awards’ Best song.  Musicians want to have her on stage with them when they’ve got a big night.  Tannis performs with “Betty and the Bobs” whenever one of the regular gals can’t make it. 

I first saw Ariana Gillis when she was 11.  She did a little opening spot for me in Jordan  Village. That night she handed me a cd she’d made herself.  She was determined and fearless at 11 and now, at 18, she’s charging full speed ahead.  She digs in - to the songwriting, the guitar playing, the accordion, the videos she makes.  Ariana’s cd release is at Hugh’s Room on October 20. 

Lynn Miles is my favourite singer/songwriter.  Jani - my best friend - same thing.  Wendell and I listen to her all the time when we’re touring.  We listen with our mouths hanging open.  I can not say enough about Lynn’s songwriting and singing.  She’s a Juno Award winner.  She’s admired by musicians all over the globe.  You can imagine how honoured I am to have her produce my cd.  Lynn plays here at Hugh’s Room on November 19.

I used to go see Scott Merritt in the early ‘80s when he was a bit of pop star.  Nowadays, he far too rarely performs and puts out cds. He’s mostly a producer...Garnet Rogers, Fred Eaglesmith, Ian Tamblyn, and (big smile) me.  He is allergic to compliments, so I won’t go on because it’ll make him squirm.  I could never say enough anyway about how imaginative, hard working and real Scott is. I’m pretty darn proud to have him as a producer and I know Lynn was honoured to be a co-producer with him.

All my best, Katherine

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Hello All,
Thanks for visiting my website. It's much appreciated.

My new CD, Landed, is being released September 25, 2009 at Hugh's Room in Toronto. If you’d like to come to the release, please book. I’d love you to be there. To reserve, visit www.hughsroom.com or call 416 531-6604.

I'm excited about this CD, but truth is, for a long time I didn't want to do it. The songs are pretty personal and I knew it'd be hard to make. I'd spoken to a number of producers - all of them excellent - but I was dragging my feet. Then last spring, after a show at The National Archives in Ottawa, I headed to Irene's - a pub where a bunch of local musicians hang out. I sat across from Lynn Miles and found out she'd just produced a CD of songs by women in the Yukon. Bing. Just like that, I wanted to make the CD.

Lynn was keen, but so long as Scott Merritt was involved. Then, I had 2 producers. And it all felt right. I'd wanted whoever was producing to have good songwriting chops - I wanted them to push me with my songwriting. Lynn's songs have always hit my heart hard and Scott's lyrics hit home every time. So there I was in the studio with excellent songwriters who happened to be producers. I did a lot of re-writing.

The songs on the cd, as I mentioned, are personal. I wanted the cd to communicate deep emotion - but without being maudlin. My agent, Robin MacIntyre was keen on Scott - saying that he wouldn't let anything out of his studio that was maudlin or not believable. And Lynn is clear with the emotion of the song.

That's how it finally started. A strong gut feeling about the producers.

I will post more info about the album as the release gets closer. Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

HELLO EVERYONE. I just finished a YOUTHSONGS project with all the kids at Nelson Mandela Park Public School in Regent Park, Toronto. 17 classes between Grade 1 and 8 wrote, recorded and performed 11 songs. I LOVED IT! The grade 8's wouldn't quit. I had to keep working with them while eating my lunch. In photo to the right, they're putting the finishing touches on "We Believe". A rap song.

To the left, Grades 2 to 5 from Nelson Mandela Park Public School are singing "You're never on your own when Regent Park's your home." We're at the opening of the Luminato Festival - Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto and we're singing to a few thousand people. In the middle of the song, the kids do a spoken part. They say "My family's from Afghanistan (or Portugal or Korea or Syria or wherever they're from)" in english. Then in their native language they say "...and in Regent Park, I feel at home". While they were doing this part, little eruptions of applause came from sections of the audience - first when Farsi was spoken, then Urdu, then Chinese and so on. The final bit was spoken by 2 kids whose parents are Ojibway. When they did their part, their was a hearty response. It was quite lovely.

All photos by permission from Lu
minato, the school or Six String Nation Guitar. The photos to the left and above were taken by an intern at the Luminato Festival.

We used the Six String Nation Guitar. It's made of 63 different bits of Canadian history (eg. Trudeau's paddle, Nancy Green's Ski, The Golden Spruce, Rocket Richard's Stanley Cup ring). Jowi Taylor
brought the guitar to the school and asked the kids to write about their home, and to find a piece of Regent Park that he could sew into the guitar case - joining material from Karen Kain’s Sleeping Beauty costume, one of Don Cherry’s suits and one of Pierre Berton’s famous bow ties. Now, when Jowi takes the guitar across Canada, he can tell the kids' story.

Six String Nation Ph
otos by Doug Nicholson

Luminato - Toronto Festival of Art + Creativity supported this project. They were fabulous to work with. Regent Park is undergoing massive change. It's the oldest social housing project in Canada. Every building except one is being torn down and new homes and pub
lic spaces are being built. Right now, RP is 100% social housing. The "revitalized" RP will be a mix of social and private residences. Luminato asked me to write songs with the kids about their home and their feelings about the revitalization. The kids' feelings are mixed. They're sad to lose the old spaces and old neighbours but excited about the new facilities - elevators that work, grocery stores within walking distance, a swimming pool. Some of their songs deal with those feelings. Some of the songs reveal their frustration at how Regent Park is portrayed in the media. Those same songs assert the incredible strength of their community. All of the songs demonstrate the kids’ passion for their home. Please check out a few samples. They can be found by linking here and clicking "audio". http://www.sonicbids.com/KatherineWheatleyYOUTHSONGS

you'd like to purchase a cd of these songs, please e-mail me. katherine.wheatley@sympatico.ca The money will be used to support more arts programmes at the school. I haven't got it all set up yet. I'll put you on a list and let you know when the CD will be available.

All my best, Katherine

“Youth songs was the best school-wide program I’ve seen in my career as an educator.” - Nelson Keane, Principal, Paisley Rd. P.S.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Canadian Mermaids

One clear September morning, when Wendell Ferguson and I were driving up Highway 105 to get to our gig in Red Lake, Ontario, I pointed to the roadside and exclaimed “Pillows! I can’t believe it. Pillows!” Wendell looked out the window and said “Wheat, I don’t see any pillows”. I said, “There’re tons of them. Pull over”. He thought I was nuts. Why, if in fact they were there, would I want someone’s discarded pillows? He nonetheless accorded my excitement and pulled over. And there they were. Perfect pillow basalts. Tons of them. FYI, pillow basalts are volcanic rocks that form underwater. There’s more info below in case you're interested.

Before I was a working musician, I worked for the Canadian Geological Survey. Then, music was my hobby. Now, as I travel between shows on Canada’s highways where the rock cuts show the best of the Pre-Cambrian shield, geology has become my hobby.

This is a long way of letting you know that for me, my trip to Iceland to run a half-marathon with Team Diabetes was extra special because Iceland’s geology is so fascinating. It is one of the only places on the planet where the mid-oceanic ridge, the longest mountain range in the world and the boundary along which the tectonic plates separate, is above water. Most of the range lies deep under the ocean. So, there I was with my friend Claire in this unique land where one can straddle two diverging continental plates. North America is drifting west. Europe is drifting east.

The most compelling part of the geology, however, is not the heady tectonic activity. The best part is that groundwater percolates through the rocks, comes into contact with volcanic sources, heats up and makes its’ way to the surface, providing exquisite bathing opportunities.

A few days after running the half-marathon in Reykjavik, Claire and I hitchhiked 27 km into Iceland’s rough interior to a place called Landmannalauger. There, in a valley surrounded by mountains, piping hot groundwater and pristine glacial water meet. They both flow into a river. The river is the temperature of a bath that’s too hot to get into quickly, but not so hot that you don’t get used to it. If you want “hotter”, you make your way to where the steaming groundwater is flowing in. If you want “cooler”, you go towards the glacial source. Smooth river stones are on the bottom. If you dig your toes in to the stones, your feet get hotter and hotter.

While soaking in this most wonderful place on the planet, Claire and I met an Icelandic gentleman who happened to speak French. We had a really friendly, albeit really slow conversation. His French was impeccable, but ours was, comment dit on?, "high school from the 1970s".

Claire and I could have stayed in the river forever, but we had to get ourselves back to the highway where we’d left our "tin can". It was a Toyota Yaris not suited to the rough road that led to Landmannalauger. We’d hitchhiked in quite easily, but very few cars would be going out, so we anticipated a 27 km hike.

We were 5 km into our walk back to the highway when a bus pulled over. Our Icelandic friend, the one we’d spoken French with in the river, stepped out to offer us a ride. Turns out he was a tour guide. He was taking a busload of French tourists around Iceland and he had two seats empty on the bus. He welcomed us, treated us to lunch, showed us beautiful sights we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and delivered us to our Toyota Yaris. He called us his “Canadian Mermaids”. Imagine. Freckled and in our 40s. Mermaids. His kindness and warmth and compliment have stuck with us and we have both told this story many times. Hope you enjoyed it.