For 12 years in a row, Salt Spring Coffee has been a proud sponsor of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, held on Jericho Beach. The Festival brings together emerging and established musicians from around the world, celebrating community, warm summer days, and tasty food. Anyone who has been to the Festival can agree that there is (pardon the cliché), something “special” in the air.
This year, we were able to meet one-on-one with Aidan Knight, a Victoria-based songwriter and namesake for the Canadian experimental folk band, Aidan Knight. Aidan and his collaborators, Julia Wakal, Colin Nealis, David Barry and Olivier Clements play a multitude of rare instruments, including the electric mandolin, Flugelhorn, Glockenspiel, Omnichord and Wurlitzer, and have released 3 albums, starting in 2010.
Aidan Knight has recorded and performed with Hannah Georgas, David Vertesi, and The Zolas, and shared stages with Patrick Watson, Tegan & Sara, and Dan Mangan among many others. He plays his distinct brand of orchestral folk-pop in theatres, festivals, house concerts. He even tours BC by bicycle! We were instantly struck by how deeply inquisitive and reflective Aidan is, and noted his warmth, friendliness and incredible sense of humour.
Born and raised in Victoria, BC, Knight grew up with lots of musical influences. His father had a love for collecting bizarre musical instruments, and his mother was a brilliant singer and songwriter (Aidan gives her credit for his raw, evocative vocals). His mother put her musical career aside to become what Aidan calls a “shoestring” entrepreneur. Aidan’s childhood was anything but ordinary: he grew up in the second hand store that his parents owned in the heart of Chinatown in Victoria, called “The Living End”. During this time, he encountered many interesting people and different cultures, which undoubtedly influenced his musical style.
When we asked Aidan about his musical inspiration, he explained that he looks up to Dan Mangan and bands such as Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire. He also takes alot of inspiration from screenwriters who paint strong, llifelike characters and also from the diverse people he’s met while travelling. When asked to describe his music in 1-3 words, Aidan responded with “orchestral” and “somewhat sad.”
After chatting about his musical style and background, we wanted to get Aidan’s take on the challenges that face artists in the Canadian music industry. He characterizes success as the “perfect confluence” of hard work, talent and luck, and he feels incredibly fortunate to have found success in the industry. He believes that the most important way to rise above the challenges of a fiercely competitive industry is to remain true to yourself. Words to live by!
We were very inspired by Aidan’s thoughtful reflectiveness, and we playfully decided to change gears, bringing up the topic of coffee. Interestingly enough, Aidan’s parents were fully enchanted by the specialty coffee culture in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, and in 1994, they opened their own espresso shop in Victoria called “The Grace Bistro”. It was one of the original places to find quality espresso in Victoria. Although he himself isn’t a self-described “coffee connoisseur”, Aidan appreciates specialty coffee culture.
With that in mind, we closed our chat with a probing, deeply philosophical question: “Aidan, if your music was a coffee, what coffee would it be?”
Not missing a beat, he answered: “Cold brew. It takes a long time to make, and although it may not be for everyone, you always hope that it will be refreshing.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. We’d like to thank Aidan for taking the time to chat with us, and wish him luck on his journey as an artist. Thanks also to everyone who had a hand in bringing the Vancouver Folk Music Festival together. We’re already looking forward to the next one.