POP Okanagan SPECIAL FEATURE: Aaron Gordon

As we count down the days until Pop Okanagan in Kelowna, oook.ca contributor Katie Brennan sat down with 4 local musicians to hear their thoughts on Pop Okanagan and the Okanagan Music Scene and to find out when and where you can see them play during Pop Okanagan. Recently, she sat down with fellow oook.ca onctributor Aaron Gordon to discuss Pop Okanagan and his own music career. Here’s their chat.


oook: How is it for you to be an independent musician in Kelowna? Do you tour a lot or do you play here quite regularly?

AG: I have found that Kelowna is a great place for an independent musician to start growing and shaping his/her craft. Venue owners are, for the most part very approachable, and there are a good variety of resources for the starting musician. With several open mics, Parks Alive Programming, and a fairly supportive group of local radio stations Kelowna is a great place to start taking the steps towards a career in music. But when it comes down to making money here, a vast majority of the venues don’t pay well enough for a band to stay here and succeed. We play over a range from Kamloops to Penticton but a majority of our shows are still here in Kelowna. We had as many as 10 shows in August alone.


oook: What are the available venues like in Kelowna?
AG: We have a very wide variety of venues here in Kelowna. Everything from small cafes and pubs, to the streaming cafe, night clubs, and theatres. There is a lot here, but getting into the bigger ones is hard, and filling them can be even harder. Some are more artist friendly than others, but the fact remains, if your good enough and have a good attitude, the venue will continue to book you. Finding a good paying venue at an early stage is difficult here, but those venues come in time.


oook: What’s your sense of the music scene in Kelowna and in the whole Okanagan in general? How has it changed over the past 5 years?
AG: 5 years ago, I was only just starting to attend Open mics myself and had no idea the musical culture Kelowna had to offer. But I think the Okanagan music scene has been suffering over the past 3 years. A couple venues that use to be the major supporters of local music will now, hardly ever book a local act that doesn’t have a booking agent and a professional press kit, but who could blame them with the new liquor law depleting their revenue stream. If they don’t book the out of town acts that already have a bit of a following, it can be more difficult to pack the venue. I have been seeing more this year in the way of local support with the live after 5 series at The rotary centre, New open mics popping up, The Pop Okanagan Festival, and the soon to be re-instation of The Habitat Open Mic starting this November the 2nd. These supports for local music are where starting artists need to be. I think the easiest way into the local music scene is by impressing someone who is already diving into it. They have the information and it’s much easier to find if someone who’s done it can “Take you under their wing.” It’s the kind of industry where it’s all about who you know and meet. Network, and you’ll survive anywhere.


oook: What are your thoughts on playing Pop Okanagan?
AG: I think this is an amazing way for Kelowna to become aware of the talent we have right here in the Okanagan. There are more local acts in this event than I’ve ever scene at one time over the course of one weekend. I really think Kelowna Music Fans are in for a treat. The problem seems to be getting the word out to them. It’s no longer sufficient to just send out a Facebook invitation. More people delete them before they check it out these days. I’ve talked to several friends whom I only see on occasion. Only 1 out of 15  music lovers were even aware of the festivals existence.


oook: What do you think Pop Okanagan brings to Kelowna?
AG: Pop Okanagan is bringing the opportunity back to the local musician. It’s going to be an amazing networking opportunity for both in and out of town bands. It will also help boost the local bands fan base with more than decent exposure. My hope is that people will catch the locals, and be more inclined to check out their shows in the future.


oook: How do you think Pop Okanagan compares to Breakoutwest?
AG: I don’t think it’s going to have quite the flood of people that Breakoutwest had simply because many of the bigger names aren’t here. But that’s not a bad thing. Having a few less big names means  and few more smaller bands are getting the opportunity for growth. That’s huge in and of itself. I think it will be successful regardless.

oook: What are you working on right now?
AG: A lot..  I have been getting into a fair bit of industry related projects lately including an artist on artist interview series called “Live From Music City” airing on Castanet once a month via Ryan Donn. I’m also re-instating the Habitat Wednesday Night open mic and  providing easy access for starting musicians to the resources they need to start generating some buzz. Photography, Graphic design, booking, recording and the like.
As for my music, I’m working on a crowd funding project to get my 2nd EP recorded. We released the first EP “Moving On” in August and while it had a great reception, many people were disappointed that a few songs I play live were not on the album. I want to get that to them as soon as possible. Basically fans will be able to donate a certain amount of money to my project for various incentives. It’s all still on the drawing board but that’s where we are at.
For more information on all of this, check out www.aarongordonmusic.com


oook: Where and when will you be playing for Pop Okanagan?
AG: Thursday the 13th, I’m on at 10:00pm at the Grateful Fed Solo with a STELLAR Line up of acts including Mark Irving, Windborn, and Thomas Kjorven. I’d pay to see this show and I’m already playing in it :p
Friday the 14th, I’m on at 9:00pm with my full band at The Habitat with a bunch of bands I had never before had the chance to listen to. I’ve checked them out and I must say, I’m very excited. The other bands at The Habitat that night are Windmills, The Rococode Duo, Sex With Strangers, And The Dudes!
Saturday the 15th, I have a show 7:00 to 9:00 with the band at The Bike Shop Cafe which, although is not part of the festival, should be fun none the less.

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