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Canadian Producer Roy Salmond Interview

Unlike its big brother south of the 49th parallel the music industry in Canada is still in its infancy despite producing quality artists such as Hawk Nelson, Starfield and Thousand Foot Krutch.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in trying to ferret out quality producers who count Christian artists among their clientele. Over the past few months The Phantom Tollbooth took the opportunity to speak with three of Canada's leading producers; Roy Salmond from Vancouver British Columbia, Marshall Zacharias of Winnipeg based Avante Records and Andy Horrocks the owner of AME Recording Studio just north of Toronto.  Salmond has worked with two-time Dove Award winner Carolyn Arends the sweetheart of Canada's Christian music scene. Zacharias has helped develop young singer/songwriter Amanda Falk who earlier this year was anointed Canada's new leading lady as she accepted Canada's equivalent of a Grammy, a Juno Award. Horrocks enjoyed a successful career with one of the nation's most successful bands One Hundred Days during the 1980's. He has quietly become one of Canada's most highly respected producers. 
In this the first of a three part series featuring the three producers, Roy Salmond spoke to me from his west coast WhiteWater Productions studio. He shared with me his insights concerning the music industry on both sides of the Canadian-US border. 
The cerebral Salmond likes to refer to himself as 'chasing that one true note'. He said of his musical tastes, "I love all kinds of music. One of the things I love about my job is I am not pigeon holed. I like classical and jazz. I am very much into jazz lately. I love blues, rock and hard rock. I love and organic music. I like world beat."
Salmond continued, "I don't care what the music is if you can play the note with honesty, truth and with the integrity that God has created to communicate then that should move and affect people. I don't care if you are POD or George Beverly Shea you have to sing a note that is true and that can move you." He then pauses before adding, "that can make you cry."
It is somewhat ironic that Salmond finds truth in a statement from atheistic novelist Aldus Huxley. Quoting the author Salmond said, "Next to silence music is best at expressing the inexpressible." The producer told me, "I feel whether somebody is singing a lyric or playing an instrument it just touches you. Blues is fabulous for that. It is not about what is being said, it is about how it is being said. I can't tell you how many people have told me that when they heard Carolyn's (Arends) song "Reaching" they had to pull over to the side of the road because it moved them so deeply. That is what I love about what I do." 
In response to my question concerning if there is a type of music he would like to have a crack at producing that hasn't come his way yet he responds, "Hip Hop" then dissolves into laughter and I realize I was setup. We then digress into joking about him developing a new genre known as Polka Hip Hop.
Salmond turns serious once again and said, "Everything that comes in here (his studio) I am chasing to see if I can get that one true note. I would love to do acoustic funk. If I could cross Sly Stone and Yellow Jacket with an acoustic twelve string guitar, I'm here baby!" 
The diversity of artists the critically acclaimed producer has worked with has included Canadian folk legend Valdy, and Austin Texas based pop rockers Wide Awake. The band Wide Awake is comprised of Christian musicians who have established themselves as group on the rise in the general market. Early in 2006 Salmond received a nomination from the Austin Music Awards for his work on Wide Awake's Not So Far Away CD. Wide Awake collected four awards. "I have (produced) three of their albums and I love them to pieces. I did their album debut at Antone's in Austin. They squeezed a thousand people into the venue. People were lined up around the block. It was quite a nice buzz," said Salmond.  
Salmond has been producing music for the past twenty-two years so I asked him to share his thoughts concerning the perception many Canadians seem to hold that their artists simply aren't good enough unless they become famous somewhere else first. He agreed in part with my perception, "If they become stars in the US or Europe all of a sudden they get press coverage here. If they don't become stars there they don't get press coverage here. There is truth to that."  He cited examples in mainstream music of artists such as Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette who had to become 'big' south of the border before Canadians began to take notice. He finds it odd that even though Neil Young hasn't been a part of the Canadian fabric for more than thirty years Canadians are quick to point out that he is a Canadian. 
Salmond believes the stamp of approval for artists making it in countries such as the United States and England has more to do with socio-economic thinking than passing judgment on the quality of the music. He says both nations are viewed as powerful countries wielding a lot of influence on the world stage. "If you do succeed (in those countries) your net worth goes up. He draws attention to the career of Carolyn Arends. "When she got signed by Reunion Records (many years ago) and got some hits in the US all of a sudden she was a little buzz word up here in Canada. The recognition was well justified because she is an extremely talented lady," he said. Arends returned to Canada as an independent artist several years ago and is one of Canada's most successful singer/songwriters. She regularly performs before American audiences and her music is played on radio stations in the United States.
Salmond adds further credence to the notion that Canadians are preoccupied with what happens in the music industry south of the border, "I have been on several Juno committees and it seems as though anyone who has a deal in the US gets a nod right away."  He did say, however, there are exceptions, "There are artists like Steve Bell who has never enjoyed huge success in the US but Canadians love him.
Concerning the music industry Salmond notes, "The landscape is changing. There are more ways for artists to get their music out. They have avenues through the Internet and indie labels that encourage diversity." Salmond champions the diversity that is now occurring within the music industry. He cited Hawaiian indie artist Jack Johnson as someone whose career was jumpstarted when his 2003 CD On And On debuted in the number three slot on Billboard. Eventually Johnson's record went platinum and he enjoyed a monster hit with the release of his single "The Horizon Has Been Defeated". Salmond noted Johnson's success came "without major label push or money behind it." Salmond believes whether you are a general market artist such as Johnson or an artist performing songs with Christian lyrics there now an abundance of opportunities to get your music heard. He said those same opportunities did not exist twenty years ago. 
Salmond would probably object to my last statement as he has a distain for applying the label Christian or secular as well as other titles to music. "There is no such thing as a born again note," he said, laughing. The producer's belief is all music should be judged for the quality of the art.
It is that passion for good music that keeps Salmond in the producer's chair. He is particularly fond of the music created by one another Canadian songbird Lianna Klassen. Klassen's music has blessed the ears of Canadians for several years. "She indulges in me and I indulge in her our love for world beat music and other worldly rhythms. I have produced four of her five albums. I love world beat music and so does she. She is always trying to express the culture of music in a unique way," he said.
Salmond hears a renaissance of sorts occurring within the music scene as more emphasis is being placed on creating an acoustic guitar and piano sound. "It has its own 21st century twist. It is a little more melancholic," he said. 
Just before I let you go Roy what about that Polka Hip Hop? He laughs and says, "I would want to make it the best Polka Hip Hop that anyone ever heard."

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 


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