By Jennifer Smith – Kelowna Capital News
Published: February 01, 2012 5:00 PM
After four years on tour, it will be a nice reprieve for Vernon’s Andrew Allen to take the lead on the second annual Global Music Fest at the Laurel Packinghouse this month.
Announced as the headliner on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the active Twitter bug let the odd hint fly via social media prior to the big drum roll with a brief promo plug for the event mid-January.
Either way, the choice should have been obvious according to event founder and organizer Ryan Donn.
“Andrew has always been on the radar,” he said. “He’s the perfect person to headline it. Andrew is a person whose always had a connection with his community, but he’s also our global musician. He’s our ambassador for Canada, so we thought lets bring him back and have him play and bring in that ‘how do you want to engage with the world around you?’ element. As he walks the streets of Nashville, he’s representing Canada.”
“That’s right,” Allen chimed in during a joint interview with the pair. “I have a large Canadian flag tattoo on my body and I walk around naked.”
Characteristically lighthearted, Allen is every bit the ambassador for the event, though he’s been rubbing some pretty highfalutin shoulders of late, opening for big acts like Bruno Mars, The Script, Barenaked Ladies (at the Kentucky Derby) and OneRepublic (in Golden Gate Park).
Following on the heels of last year’s main act Shane Koyczan, Allen gives Global Music Fest some big name pizzazz and the artist himself gets a brief dalliance in the headlining limelight after several years as wingman to some of the biggest names in the business.
Now a full weekend event, Global Music Fest is all about acting locally to have an effect globally and kicks off Global Citizen week in the Okanagan. As such, it draws the non-profit sector together, using artists to attract attention for causes. And Allen appears to be the perfect prototype.
Sporting a Flex Watch, with different wristbands colour-coded to support causes, Allen said he plays a Duncan Africa guitar built in Africa to help support a village (it’s tweaked by a guitar master in the Lower Mainland for fine tuning).
In January, he stopped in Vernon and treated his hometown to a concert, allowing local high school students to get some experience by joining him on stage. He’s a huge believer in the school band program, he said, noting he came through the system himself.
Come Global Music Fest, local singer/songwriters will reap the benefits of this benevolent style. Six songwriters—Dan Oig, Brent Taylor, Leah West, Mark Irving, Jeff Piattelli and Jeff Pike—have all been selected to write a song for six local non-profit organizations. The organizations receive a little publicity and a final product they can use in future marketing initiatives and the artists get a chance to compete on their skills, write a radio-friendly song and fire a few tough questions Allen’s way.
Spins on the radio and media attention are critical in the Canadian music business, Allen said.
“Especially in the Canadian music industry, we need to have heard that somebody is qualified,” he said. “So if you have songs on radio, then all of a sudden people go: oh, okay, he’s alright. We need somebody to tell us it’s good.”
As someone who once offered himself up for living room sessions in an artist-for-hire routine, Allen has blazed the trail from small town B.C. starving artist to gigs opening for big bands like Train and says marketing, connections and, above all else, radio play will ensure a musician makes it to the top of the pile.
What one chooses to do with that success is really the wild card.
Ask Allen where he would like to go and he’s got the layout for his first major headliner show all dialed in.
“It would totally be movements. The show would start off with a big explosive bang and party section and then I love to, in the middle of a set, bring it way down and get very intimate.
“And I know for sure I would have a really cool horn section,” he added, noting he played the saxophone in high school, learned guitar from Vernon’s Neil Fraser and started piano at age five.