“What a voice, what a performance… She had a commanding stage presence and a control of dynamics that actually made my jaw drop, making me grin like an idiot… if you have not heard of her, get on that, because she was absolutely phenomenal!”
The AU Review
AV (Ann Vriend) is known most for her virtuosic, soaringly powerful vocals, and not far behind that for her multi award-winning abilities as a songwriter — and she ain’t too bad at the piano, either. She has been delivering her undeniably unique brand of old-school, inner-city soul to audiences around Europe, Oceana, Asia, and North America throughout her under-the-radar but consistently award-winning, critically acclaimed career.
Growing up in a household that encouraged critical thinking and challenging the status quo 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 musically from the emotionally intense and rhythmic gospel and soul styles of African American culture, as well as from her parents’ vinyl ‘70s folk/pop collection of artists like Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, and Leonard Cohen, whose often cryptic lyrics also questioned the society of their times.
Particularly during the past 7 or 8 years AV has delved into her influences from the rich tradition of 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, Donny Hathaway, and, especially, Aretha Franklin– all the way up the line to Sharon Jones, Charles Barkley, Amy Winehouse, and Alicia Keys.
It is with a huge, respectful nod to the influences of such greats that AV addresses the social issues that face her and her community of her somewhat notorious inner-city Edmonton neighborhood of McCauley, 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. Delving into the historical, cultural, and colonial reasons behind a great deal of this suffering has led AV down a path of self-discovery, as much as it has been a discovery of her neighbors and their own biographical stories.
And yet, specific as the songs are to AV and her tiny neighborhood the songs appeal to her audience, worldwide. In addition to winning the national Cobalt Music Prize for her single “It’s Happening” in 2019, and in 2017, for her single “All That I Can,” which also won the 2018 R&B/soul Recording of the Year at the Edmonton Music Awards AV’s last single, “Hurt People Hurt People”, peaked at #55 in 2019 in the Main Pop Charts in Germany, reaching the top 10 on some stations, and reaching #1 on Bayern1, which has a listenership of approximately 3.3 million. Well-known and beloved radio host Werner Reinke from Germany’s HR1 station presented an hr-long live recording and interview with AV this past February and actually cried during AV’s performance, immediately calling a friend to book her at one of Germany’s most esteemed blues festivals.
Based on that success AV was presented the opportunity to open for Brit soul/pop artist Lisa Stansfield for 6 dates in Germany at the end of 2019– during which you could hear a pin drop during each of her performances, despite being a largely unknown artist to Stansfield’s fans. AV sold every piece of merchandise she had in the country, and a 21-date spring 2020 tour of Europe was solidly booked, with many shows sold out by early February, 2020. And a brand new album was to be released in conjunction with it.
But then: 2020.
So, rather than touring it occured to AV to bring her very own neighborhood the music they had, unwittingly or not, inspired. She performed a free concert every Sunday afternoon, for 26 weeks running, rain or shine, on her front porch– for any passersby, and from people from the rest of the city who heard about the concerts. What began as a humble, solo show with a very small speaker for amplification soon grew to a multi-act weekly mini festival, complete with a professional sound engineer, and cooperation and participation from the whole street and block, many of whom took great pride in hosting these weekly events on their turf. The concerts attracted people from literally all walks of life, local and suburban, and thus the new album was launched not half a world away, but on the very street where it was written and inspired.
It is now time to release the album– single by single, music video by music video–beyond the front porch and to the world– though anyone who already wants to hear the whole thing can purchase the songs in digital or physical form from the AV Store. The album, and its first single, is called “Everybody Matters.” Its video was filmed in McCauley, with many of the porch concert participants and neighborhood hosts as the actors appearing alongside AV. The album was produced by AV herself, with the album’s vocals and keys co-produced with esteemed Canadian/British producer Chris Birkett (Buffy Sainte Marie, Sinead O’Connor), and features virtuosic Hammond organ playing by former Edmontonian Doug Organ; alongside AV’s vocals and keyboard playing’; percussion and drums were played by Edmonton’s Fred Brenton (Kimberlite Records); and drum programming by Edmonton’s Brandon Unis (Velveteen Studios). 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.
AV has sold more than 25,000 albums off the stage, and in Canada has been a guest on such esteemed shows as CBC’s Vinyl Cafe with the late Stuart McLean, as well as Holger Petersen’s “All Natch’ll Blues” and “Saturday Night Blues”; in Germany AV has performed on the popular ZDF “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. She has recorded at Sony Studios and the Hit Factory in NYC, and worked with esteemed producers such as Ray Bardani and Joe Chicarelli. By his request she has worked with multiple number one hit songwriter Dan Hill, and more recently, in March 2020 co-wrote the light-hearted, pandemic-related local Edmonton hit “Isolation Groove” with singer-songwriter Martin Kerr. Her radio success in Canada includes a gold rotation with songs “Feelin’ Fine” and “St. Paul”, and has many songs on rotation in stores and restaurants, such as Que Saeda, Coles, and Walmart; and with every release AV’s music consistently charts on college radio, as well as listener supported stations such as Alberta’s beloved CKUA.
“Edmonton vocalist turns soul on its head, belting out delicate introspection in the form of fire.”
“Don’t miss her!”
The Toronto Star