British singer-songwriter embraces north through Blueberry Jam

Holly Rees is slowly becoming Canadian. The artist, originally from Newcastle, U.K., is on a Canada-wide tour and made the trip to Flin Flon to play at the Blueberry Jam Music Gathering.

“I've clicked over to viewing distances the Canadian way,” she said.

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“When I would drive five hours in the U.K., if I was going down south, I'd be like, ‘That's really far. Now, I do five hours and I go, ‘Oh, whatever. It's fine.’”

She followed up her weekend performances at Blueberry Jam with a show at Johnny’s Social Club, with the backing from Mark Kolt on keyboard, Dean Martin playing Drums, Mark Matejka on bass and Marc Provencher playing guitar.

It’s the only stop on tour where Rees played with a band. She said the impromptu band stepped up after only a couple rehearsals.

“It’s really cool,” she said before the performance at Johnny’s.

“That's the mark of good musicians - they just get it, and some of my songs are a bit weird. They were really, really awesome.”

Rees performed a few songs solo, a few with Kolt on piano and a few with the backing of the whole band. Performing with a full band on Aug. 15 was perfect timing, as Rees announced her first studio recorded single with a band the next day.

“I always want to build up and build up,” she said.

“Next year, I think my focus is going to be full band.”

Rees organized the tour herself, emailing venues across Canada to figure out dates to play. After emailing Kolt about playing during Blueberry Jam, he organized a show at Johnny’s to help cover her travel costs, while also putting together the band.

“I like being independent,” Rees said.

“I'm not really not looking for a label and I like the sort of team that I have around me. I think it's really important to just organically grow the people that you work with.”

Rees announced on Facebook a few days after performing that the Johnny’s show broke her merchandise record. She sold more shirts and CDs in Flin Flon than at any other show.

Rees also supports her music through the crowdfunding site Patreon.

“I really like [Patreon] as a way of putting little demos,” she said.

“I really like getting feedback on songwriting, but when you reach a certain level, you don't want to be putting that on your public platform because you want people to just get the really good stuff that's finished and done and recorded well.”

Rees has 15 performances left on her tour before she heads back to England. The final stop on her tour will be in Sackville, N.B. Rees said she’s embraced the long drives, picking up friends along the way in a van she bought for the tour.

“I kind of enjoy the driving because it's so much less stressful than U.K. driving,” she said. “I've never had cruise control before my life - oh my god, it’s incredible.”

Fans packed into Johnny’s for the show, and after the show finished up, Rees expressed regret she had to leave.

“Flin Flon has won my heart,” she said during the performance at Johnny’s.

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