AV (Ann Vriend)
Canadian AV (Ann Vriend) is a two-time Maple Blues Award songwriting recipient, an Edmonton Music Award and Alberta Centennial Award recipient, a "keyboardist of the year" nominee at at Maple Blues Awards, and has sold more than 30,000 albums off-the-stage in her under-the-radar yet critically acclaimed international career.
She is also the bandleader, lead singer, and arranger for the newly formed soul/roots group AV & the Inner City, who just won an Emerging Artist" award at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, at the end of a highly successful multi festival summer tour.
AV has been hailed by NOW Magazine as a musician who "turns soul on its head, belting out delicate introspection in the form of fire”. Known primarily for her incredibly powerful and dynamic vocals she is actually first and foremost a songwriter, and her many awards spanning her career are almost exclusively in that category.
AV is also one of the only independent artists in recent history to break into the Top 100 Pop Charts of commercial radio in Germany, the world’s 4th largest music market; even taking the #1 spot on one of their largest stations, Bayern 1.
To quote the Toronto Star: "Don't miss her."
(longer biography follows)
Aside from the commercial sphere, AV’s music consistently receives spins on community and campus radio across Canada, and she has been the guest on such nationally favourite radio shows such as "Vinyl Cafe", and Holger Petersen's "Saturday Night Blues," and "All Nat'l Blues." In Germany AV has performed on popular TV shows such as ZDF's “Morgenmagazin” and "The Pierre M Krause Show, as well as Arte TV; and in Australia she was a guest on ABC’s comedy show, “Spicks and Specks,” "The Inner Sleeve", and others. AV has recorded at Sony Studios and the Hit Factory in NYC, and worked with esteemed producers such as Ray Bardani and Joe Chicarelli; and by his request she has worked with multiple number one hit songwriter Dan Hill.
AV's last tour before the pandemic was a six-night opening slot for UK star Lisa Stansfield, where each night Stansfield's crowds were captivated into complete silence before the end of AV's first song. In the course of those 6 concerts she sold nearly $20,000 of merchandise.
Based on this success a 21-date spring 2020 tour of Europe was booked, with many shows sold out by early February, 2020. A brand new album was to be released in conjunction with the tour-- in short, 2020 looked to be an incredibly promising year for AV-- had it not been for, of course, the COVID19 pandemic.
So, instead, AV launched what came to be a weekly event called “Porch Concerts”; where for nearly 60 Sundays of the pandemic she and other musical guests performed free concerts on her front porch, with people coming from all over her hometown of Edmonton to take it in. The porch concerts also saw participation both musically and logistically by the often-ignored members of her difficult and notorious inner-city neighbourhood of McCauley, which has suffered increasingly during the opioid crisis, and the COVID19 pandemic.
In fact, the subject matter of AV's newest album, "Everybody Matters," is informed and influenced by the McCauley neighbourhood, in in which there is a high concentration of people suffering from extreme forms of trauma and abuse; often resulting in addiction, mental illness, stigmatization, neglect, and further abuse. AV's own self-examination in response to this is the subject matter of the full-length album, in which she delves into the historical, cultural, and colonial reasons behind a great deal of this suffering, and which has led AV down a path of self-discovery, as much as it was a discovery of her neighbours and their own biographical stories.
And so, due to the pandemic, rather than touring the album first internationally AV instead presented the new album to the very neighbourhood which had inspired it.
And while "Everybody Matters" is quite directly a work of social examination AV has always written songs about confusion, searching, and questioning -- of herself, and the culture around her. The outcome is what she half-seriously, half-jokingly calls “existentialist gospel"; drawing from classic soul artists who have delivered stunning recordings which are both contagiously fun AND socially thought provoking; such as Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, and, especially, Aretha Franklin-- all the way up the line to Sharon Jones, Tracy Chapman, Cee Lo Green, John Legend, and Alicia Keys; while lyrically AV drew from her parents’ vinyl ‘70s folk/pop collection which included artists such as Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon. The one thing all these all had in common is there were artists who often questioned the society of their times.
"Everybody Matters" was produced by AV herself, with the album's vocals and keys co-produced with esteemed British/Canadian producer Chris Birkett (Buffy Sainte Marie, Sinead O'Connor); and it features virtuosic Hammond organ playing by former Edmontonian Doug Organ (Here Lies Man) alongside AV's vocals and keyboard playing; while percussion and drums were played by Edmonton's Fred Brenton (Kimberlite Records); and drum programming was done by Brandon Unis, who also mixed and mastered the album.
The response from those who have already bought the album has been nothing short of stunning, with many saying it is by far AV's best album to date. It reached many top 100 and top 10 of the year playlists over the 2-year span it was released, single by single, and has received critical acclaim both nationally and internationally.
In addition to working hard as the bandleader of AV & the Inner City AV will be recording new material of her own in the coming months, as well as gearing up for 2 international tours in Europe.