On Tuesday, April 7, 2009, NewSong Recordings will release Montreal-based producer/singer-songwriter Chris Velan’s third full-length album, Solidago. Chris Velan will tour in major and secondary markets in the spring and summer of 2009 supporting Solidago. Interviews and photos are available upon request.
A classically trained guitar player from the age of nine, Chris Velan’s musical ambitions developed early. He studied with acclaimed classical guitarist Davis Joachim, and began writing songs and forming rock bands in high school and while at Middlebury College. Similar to many post-college young professionals gravitating towards careers with job security that also offer opportunities to have a positive social impact, Velan was drawn to environmental law and earned his degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. To maintain sanity during law school, he and his brothers put together the roots-reggae band Equalizer, and went on to share bills with such artists as Burning Spear, Michael Rose and Andrew Tosh. Just a year into being an apprentice attorney at a Vancouver law firm, Velan became restless with cubicle life, and set off to wholeheartedly embrace his artistry.
Solidago marks a snapshot of Velan searching for and accepting his place in the world after leaving his position as a lawyer. From his travels to West Africa, Montreal and California, the collection of 11 compositions on Solidago reflects his effort to make peace with an enduring struggle for self-acceptance and having a voice. Solidago highlights Velan alongside producer/guitarist Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips, Jackie Greene, Jack Johnson’s drummer Adam Topol, guitarist Dan Lebowitz of ALO, Sarah Johnston of Bran Van 3000, horn player David Ralicke of Dengue Fever, and additional members of the Mother Hips. Solidago is evidence of Velan’s distinct eclecticism as he mixes pop-folk melodies with African-influenced guitar stylings, reggae bass lines, global rhythms, Southern California harmonies and 80’s synths.
In 2002, Velan’s life took an unexpectedly meaningful turn when he finally decided to leave his law job to join two college buddies for a humanitarian documentary film project in Guinea, West Africa. With the help of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the three spent one month touring refugee camps holding concerts and meeting local artists among the Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugee inhabitants. During that tour, the filmmakers met six musicians, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and went on to center their documentary on their music and story. Velan acted as the musical director to the film, "The Refugee All Stars," and later produced their U.S. debut album, Living Like A Refugee (Anti-).
While working with the Refugee All Stars, Velan continued to hone his own original music and independently released his debut album, "It’s Not What You Think" (2003). During the summer of 2005, he recorded his sophomore release, "Twitter, Buzz, Howl," in a makeshift barn studio in the country outside of Montreal. Distributed by Fontana North, the album charted on Canadian college radio while the single, "Best of Me," received airplay on commercial radio stations in Montreal. Velan’s haunting folk-reggae track, "Shiver," went on to be featured in the well-known, internationally-released mountain-bike film "Roam" and has gained Chris fans throughout the UK, Germany and Netherlands.
As his latest album title takes its name from the late-blooming Goldenrod, Velan sees himself as a bit of a late bloomer. Although he gained quite a following with his band Equalizer, it wasn’t until his trip to West Africa that he became convinced that a career in music was his truest calling. Solidago is very much a personal journal through a year of transition; a portrait with an underlying urgency to keep fighting. His heartfelt lyricism explores the fragility of a shared human condition, looking both inward and outward to a broader global community. Velan comments, "My songs map a winding but determined path from indictment and reproach to surrender and acceptance; from jettisoning unwanted baggage to arriving at a place of refuge and strength. Solidago is also a reaching out to a world community; a desire for connection in a disconnected time. A call for something better."
Over the past four years, Velan has spent time on the road performing throughout North America appearing at the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Ottawa Blues and Folk Festivals, and has opened for Johnny Clegg and Corrine Bailey Rae. While touring the East Coast with ALO (Brushfire Records), Velan met Tim Bluhm and subsequently headed off to Los Angeles to begin writing songs for Solidago and he started performing monthly shows at Hotel Café. His burgeoning presence on the Southern California music scene and his co-bill with ALO at the Bowery Ballroom (NYC) in October 2007 caught the attention of Gar Ragland, the Music Director and President of NewSong Recordings. Ragland comments, "Velan is a brilliant songwriter, and one of the most captivating performers I’ve ever seen. His songs have the rare quality of being both accessible and undeniably original. A singular artist, his influences represent the eclecticism that is at the heart of NewSong’s mission."
Operating in partnership with NewSong Music (producers of the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, the NewSong Academy and performance showcases across North America), NewSong Recordings aims to identify talented artists whom they discover through their special events and music community, and then work closely with to advance their careers through both the release of their records and artist development. Chris Velan is NewSong Recordings second artist as they debuted their label with the release of Diana Jones’s My Remembrance of You, which was voted "#1 Country Album of the Year" in 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. Velan will celebrate the release of Solidago with a national tour commencing at The Living Room in NYC on Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Additional tour dates will be listed at http://chrisvelan.com .