St. Marys Journal Argus
Since joining forces with Stratford-raised Laura C. Bates and Dayna Manning to form the trio Trent Severn, Emm Gryner has definitely adjusted her approach to a variety of things pertaining to music.
“In my solo career, I’ve always had the attitude that I’ll do what I think feels best on stage, and what I think feels best in my songwriting,” Gryner said last week, in an interview to promote the band’s upcoming “hometown” concerts in Stratford and Sarnia. (Gryner grew up near Sarnia.)
“Now, I’m learning to look at things differently.”
The band is currently working on a follow-up to its 2012 debut, which is packed with references to Canadiana, contains a distinctly folk feel reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or Gordon Lightfoot, and secured the trio invitations to a number of outdoor stages over the past several months, as well as heavy airplay on CBC Radio and other stations fond of homegrown folk.
All three women are once again contributing to the songwriting, with Bates (the youngest of the three — Manning was once her babysitter) stepping up to a level she hadn’t yet achieved for the band’s debut.
“That’s the great thing about our band,” Gryner commented. “Somebody will write something, and it will be so great that it will inspire the other two to go back and try to match it . . . Dayna wrote a song about (late, great Stratford musician) Richard Manuel, and it’s basically the best thing I’ve ever heard.”
Gryner admits the band doesn’t want to be a Canadian novelty act — á la Bob and Doug Mackenzie. So, in their songwriting, they’ve concentrated on moving away from clichés of Canuck culture. But it’s a fine line, since they’ve pinned their hopes for future success on tapping into our nation’s love of introspection.
“I think the point is that we celebrate Canada, and not poke fun,” the St. Marys musician said.
It isn’t just Gryner’s approach to songwriting, however, which has undergone a transformation since Trent Severn became a band. On Canada Day, when the trio performed a version of David Bowie’s classic Space Oddity alongside Gryner’s raised-in-Sarnia and fresh-off-the-International-Space-Station compatriot Chris Hadfield, an audience member came up to her following the concert and commented on another of the band’s songs. The man, a musician, suggested Gryner try a different key for her vocals. In the past, she would have scoffed at his brazen suggestion. But now, recognizing that it might be for the good of the band, she tried it. And it worked.
The band is also taking considerable inspiration from other fans — through its ongoing campaign to have people send postcards from across Canada. “They’ve been wonderful. People have sent poetry. We try not to get too political, but it can be hard when you see some of the comments expressed on the postcards.”
Upcoming concerts by Trent Severn include Thursday, Sept. 5, 7 p.m. at Factory 163, 163 King Street in Stratford, and Friday, Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m. at the Imperial Theatre, 168 North Christina Street in Sarnia. Admission to both is $25 in advance. Tickets at the door for the Factory 163 show are $30 apiece. A portion of proceeds from the Stratford show are going towards Habitat for Humanity, while a portion of proceeds from the Sarnia concert are going towards an organization supported by Gryner’s mom — the International Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), one of the oldest women’s organizations in the country that supports families in need as well as other women’s causes.