One of the joys of being an entertainment writer is interviewing dozens of talented singers, musicians and other performing artists and sharing their stories.
Sometimes the complete story is told the first time it appears in The Guardian. In other cases, there can be updates as these artists continue to hit the high notes in their careers.
As 2019 begins, it’s time to revisit some of these gifted entertainers who have more tales to tell since their story appeared in The Guardian.
Today we offer updates on Rachel Beck, Meaghan Blanchard and Lennie Gallant.
Rachel Beck is counting her blessings after experiencing “a wonderful year”.
“I’m so excited that I took a leap, a chance on playing music fulltime; playing as many shows as I can,” says the P.E.I. singer-songwriter, who is “amazed” about all the cool things that have happened to her ever since she broke out as a solo artist.
The coolest is she toured the entire country, playing 100 shows in total.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind, but it so much fun. I made it out to the West Coast for the first time and met some amazing people,” says Beck, in a telephone interview.
Then there were the unexpected things that happened along the way.
For example, her song,“Hearts on Fire”, was chosen to be featured in the promotional material for the second season of the “Anne with an E” television series.
“It was one of the little surprises and adventures that happened throughout the year,” she says. Beck also received eight Music P.E.I. nominations for the awards that are coming up later this month.
“To say I was shocked is an understatement. What a surprise,” says Beck who got the news while she was touring in Ontario.
As she looks toward the future, Beck is enthusiastic.
“I’m really excited to see what 2019 holds. I have some exciting collaborations coming up, for both live shows and recordings.”
She is collaborating with John Mullane (In-Flight Safety), in a cover of “I Want to Dance with Somebody”. Recorded in Halifax, this past fall, it will be released on Feb. 1.
“The song is a different take than the Whitney Houston version that people are familiar with. We’re doing it with piano and strings,” says Beck, who is also planning some quality time at home with her biggest fans – Jack, 8, Alexander, 6, and Norah, 3.
“Norah says when she grows up she wants to be ‘one more’ in my band so she can go on adventures with me,” laughs Beck.
For Meaghan Blanchard, 2018 has been an “amazing journey of change”.
The P.E.I. singer-songwriter took an interest in meditation and Buddhism, toured the Maritimes, Ontario and the British Isles and released her fourth record, "The Great Escape", to a packed house at the Indian River Festival.
Blanchard also taught at the Rollo Bay Fiddle Camp, took a late honeymoon with her husband, Thomas, in Liverpool, England, and finished off 2018 playing some Maritime Christmas shows with her friend, Catherine MacLellan.
“It was a great year,” says Blanchard, adding the highlight was renting a car in the U.K. and driving herself around the Scottish and English countryside.
“I've never been more terrified, excited and proud of myself.”
As she looks toward 2019, Blanchard has a 14-date tour of British Columbia in February as well as an official showcase at the International Folk Alliance conference in Montreal. In addition, she has booked a “handful” of Maritime and Ontario festival dates.
“I'm also looking forward to spending some time in the summer months at our country home in West Prince, helping out where I can at the family vegetable farm and going for evening swims in (nearby) Campbellton.”
The award-winning chanteuse also feels grateful.
“I'm so honoured to have been nominated for the six Music P.E.I. awards, and I can't wait to spend time with all of the amazing Music P.E.I. artists during Credit Union Music Week,” says Blanchard, adding festivities kick off Jan. 23 and run until Jan. 27 when the closing concert at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall in Charlottetown will feature the top nominees.
Close encounters of the recognition kind continue for Lennie Gallant.
His new CD, “Time Travel”, was just selected as one of the top 10 albums of the year by Critics Choice for “Penguin Eggs”, the Canadian folk, roots and world music magazine.
The album takes listeners on a trip that delves into journeys of the heart, time on the planet, place in the universe, legends, road stories and ghosts.
“It’s great to be featured alongside some pretty awesome artists,” says the P.E.I. singer-songwriter whose name makes the list next to musical greats like David Francey and Joan Baez.
It’s the latest honour for the award-winning artist who has enjoyed a “busy year”.
Gallant has received recognition for his new release, “Christmas Day on Planet Earth”, that he recorded with Black Umfolosi, the accapella group from Zimbabwe. The band was passing through P.E.I. while on tour and hooked up with Gallant to record the song that he wrote specifically with them in mind. They also made a video the same day, directed by award-winning Island director John Hopkins, which has been getting much attention lately on YouTube.
“It was one of those unexpected things that happened,” says Gallant who is currently making plans and recharging his batteries before things get hectic later this month.
“I’m hosting the closing concert for Music P.E.I.,” says Gallant, of the gig set for Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m., at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall, featuring Beck, Blanchard and Jenni & The Hummingbird.
He also wants to do more recording before the festival season hits.
“I have a few projects in mind.”
In addition, Gallant plans to do some work with the World Acadian Congress when it comes to P.E.I., Aug. 10-24.
“It will be fun for me because they are re-issuing the song that I co-wrote for the very first congress. It’s called “Acadie de nos Coeur”.
“So, it’s going to be a busy year for me.”
Check out the following websites to keep up-to-date on these three Island performers: