Last summer, Owen Steel was unpacking at his dad's place. His friend was over. He had things to do---but instead, he checked his email, found one unread message, and learned that he would soon be playing his first-ever set at the Evolve music festival. "I got really excited," he recalls. "I think I jumped off the bed and ran downstairs and I called my band immediately."
Now 22, Steel's prepping for his second year playing the Antigonish fest. He's one of two artists there representing foodclothingshelter music, a two-year-old artistic collective (read: a group of musical friends from St. Andrews, New Brunswick). Co-founder Luke Macdonald calls it a "support system" for rising Atlantic musicians; Steel calls it "a big bucket of inspiration," but struggles to really define it: "I've always been a little confused as to what foodclothingshelter really is. I don't think any of us really know... It's basically a group of friends who've played music together growing up, and put a name on it."
Steel's style fits the foodclothingshelter bill: His songs, mostly acoustic, ooze with a youthful optimism that only a Maritime kid could have. You hear it in "VW Van," where he yearns to afford a real VW: "It's got a tape player and a kitchenette/It's the best summer time that we haven't had yet." It's light, but his raspy voice---groovy like Waits, slurry like Dylan---gives him a sound well beyond his 22 years.
"I want to stomp my foot really hard," he says, describing his musical aspirations. "I want to have a tambourine around my ankle; I wanna have a gritty-sounding guitar; I wanna sing songs about dogs and...and lightning."
But Macdonald's plans for the future are more practical: bring on more artists to foodclothingshelter from across Canada, and get serious financial backing. "We're very sort of at a grassroots level right now," he says. "We started it as a group of friends, but obviously it can't be that. It has to be more."
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