Sunday, September 27, 2009

Q and A with Holly Andruchuk

Betty would call Holly Andruchuk Toronto's best kept secret, except that Holly doesn't belong to Toronto exclusively, she also belongs to a few corners of Alberta, Nova Scotia, and a little Hamlet in Nunavut. She's a great guitar player and, as for her voice, tired metaphors cannot describe it. There's a little interview floating around youtube in which Gram Parsons describes his first time playing music with Emmylou Harris; jamming with Holly gives you a sense of how Parsons must have felt at that moment. After spending the better part of a year (literally) with Holly, Betty realized there was a lot more she wanted to know about Holly Andruchuk, and that it would also be good to share some facts about H.A. with the world.

BB: You are from Standard, Alberta, formerly a town of 300. What was it like growing up in Standard? I hear you taught a lot of girls how to play guitar.

Holly: It's best to think of my developing years in 6's. 6 years in Winnipeg, 6 Years in Calgary, 6 years in Standard.

I was born in Winnipeg at the Grace Hospital. Moved to Calgary after my dad got a job as an industrial arts teacher on the Siksika Nation reserve east of Calgary. Moved to Standard, Alberta to be closer to the rez for dad's commute. Growing up in Manitoba and Alberta was home; big skies, lots of people with similar last names, traditional prairie food, country music and classic rock, countless drives on the No. 1 Highway.

As for the girls and the guitars, extra-curricular activities in Standard are simply referred to as "Hockey and Calving" in the winter and spring months and "Baseball and Harvest" in the summer and fall. A handful of moms approached me about teaching their daughters how to play guitar, and the customary thing to do is say "Yes, of course!" For me and the girls, it was a fun way to pass the time after school.

BB: Between leaving Standard, and settling down in Toronto in 2007, you lived in the Arctic, South Korea, and Halifax. Tell us, Dear Rambler, a little bit about this.

Holly: I think it's the Heinz 57 in me. Each German, Mennonite, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Irish and British-Loyalist gene in me possesses the same trait: The eternal quest for the New World. My ancestors traveled the world for farming, politics, religion, mission work, new beginnings, to flee cultural and religious discrimination, and most importantly opportunity. I ramble for the off chance I will stumble upon opportunity.

BB: When did you start playing guitar, and what was your inspiration? What music were you exposed to in Standard?

Holly: The guitar was first introduced to me when I was seven, after a biannual family trip to Winnipeg. My dad re-claimed his 1950s Jumbo acoustic Kay guitar while visiting with my cousins and aunt. On the drive back to Alberta dad tuned down the guitar to an open chord so I could strum and bar the frets. I wrote my first song, "When I First Moved to Cal-gary" and the dream and fantasy began - "I'll strap some wheels on my guitar, so I can be a big, big star...uh huh, ummm hmm, oh yeah."

Music was part of the family culture. You sing in choirs, listen to CBC radio in the car, LP's at home, Gordon Lightfoot on Saturday mornings, Moodie Blues and other rock doc's on TV, and just general excitement from parents and siblings about live music performances. Dad played piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, Mom liked to sing Doris Day's "Que Serra" and the score from "My Fair Lady", and the whole family loved Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

Music from Standard, was a mix of country, classic rock, and 90s alternative. My sister would take me to Tragically Hip concerts, and mosh at Metallica and Pearl Jam shows. The high school boys would blare CJ 92 Calgary radio in their trucks and Country 105 in their combines. And my folks would play vinyl at home: Doobie Brothers, Valdy, Beatles, The Band, Fleetwood Mac, Moodie Blues, The Rolling Stones, Stan Rogers and Gordon Lightfoot.

BB: What other bands do you play in?

Holly: In addition to Betty Burke, I play with the following bands:
The Booth Avenue Band
Benjamin Elliott
The Buffalo Builders
Holly Andruchuk & The Brothers Elliott

BB: Tell me about your guitars. Every time I go to a shop with you, you want to buy another acoustic- but you have seven already? What's on your gear wish-list these days?

Holly: Guitar's to Keep Forever:
1950s Kay Jumbo Acoustic
1994 Simon and Patrick Lauthier 12 string acoustic
1980s Norman acoustic 6 string
2000 Taylor 415 Jumbo 6 string acoustic
2000 Gretsch Junior Country Classic electric guitar 179 of 200

Gear Wish list:
Gibson 1950s acoustic auditorium
Gibson SG vintage or re-issue cherry top satin finish
Gibson Les Paul Standard Gold Top front Maple back
Gibson Explorer Dark Maple with white pick guard
3 more solid leather guitar straps
New Harps
Vox AC 30
Rat Peddle

BB: I've been learning a lot about folk and country music from you, but you also have a lot of the rock n roll and blues in your iPod- the Kinks, Elvis, Muddy Waters- so I know you have diverse tastes as far as listening goes, but playing in a more punk/rockabilly style is a change for you. What do you enjoy about this style of music?

Rambling in new music genres is educational and a wonderful exercise in co-writing and arranging. It also forces me to think about different voicings and concepts for songs. More importantly, I play with Betty Burke because Maggie MacDonald is one of my dearest friends and truth tellers. She is my muse, my artistic sister and mentor, my personal confidant and I really believe in her ability, efforts and contributions to the arts community!

BB: Maggie is one of your biggest fans actually, and you've improved her life a great deal. She told me herself. Oh happy day! Thank you for doing this little interview, Holly. We love you!!

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