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Four winter stars 

Giana Lauren, Jon Bryant, Natasha Peach and Kim Wempe are four local up-and-comers destined to light up the festival stages.

Gianna Lauren


Gianna Lauren is made for winter, or so she says. "Months' worth of armchair time, reading and drinking tea," she says. "The winter season forces you to relax and get creative with yourself."

On her album Fist Through a Heart, Lauren is a bit of a mystery. She's part wallflower, part rocker, all intrigue. With a sound akin to Mary Timony, Lauren's poetic yet gritty. She trades the acoustic guitar for an electric, infuses strings and soft vocals, as if she's whispering secrets into the wind.

"I grew up listening to Elton John, the Rolling Stones and Carole King, but when I started writing my own music at 14 years old I got into female singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan," says Lauren. "Eventually I found my inner-rocker and ended up playing post-rock bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, The Stone Roses and Sonic Youth. Now I find inspiration in the talented people around me."

The Edmonton native came to Halifax via Ottawa this time last year and has settled in quite nicely, discovering the artistic community she once desperately longed for.

"I'm so pleased to be sharing the night with Brooke Miller and David Celia, so you might see me gawking at their amazingness," she says. "I have been rehearsing a more technical solo performance involving loops and a second vocal mic, so have mercy on me as I experiment."

w/David Celia, Brooke Miller, Sat. Jan. 30, 8pm at FRED, $10

Jon Bryant

We carry our experiences, internal landscapes and emotions everywhere we roam. For some home is where we’re raised, for others it’s a fictional place within the caverns of the imagination. Jon Bryant needs Two Coasts for Comfort.

“I asked my best friend Andrew Veysey to name the album. I told him to listen to it a few times through and find a commonality between each of the songs,” says Bryant. “He told me that since I had sourced so much of my inspiration from different places that I’ve lived and called home, it seemed fitting.”

Two Coasts for Comfort is an 11-track collection of ethereal acoustic songs. Lyrically Bryant charts his own map, taking note of Europe adventures, life in the Pacific Northwest (“Seattle”), and finding his own spiritual purpose in “The Halleujah.”

As a Christian he honed his musical craft in the church; however, his music isn’t explicitly religious (save for the cover of “Were You There,” a hymn). Bryant understands everything comes from a divine and pure faith; his Damien Rice meets John Mayer-like vocals can reach angelic highs and heartbreaking lows.

“I draw all of my inspiration from friends, places, experiences. The day-to-day excitement of living, hurting, laughing and learning,” he says. “I have a Moleskine that I carry in my back pocket. Sometimes when a thought, phrase or compelling idea pops up, I jot it down and hope it makes sense when I read it later.”

w/Ria Mae, Thursday January 28, 8pm, FRED, $10

Natasha Peach

“I once read in an interview that your first album is your diary about all of the things you’ve been through in your life,” says Natasha Peach. “And once that’s been written the space is then created to step outside yourself and write everything else.”

A touch hermit-like in nature (she says she loves winter for the guilt-free hibernation factor), last year was all about Peach unpeeling herself. She first started playing around town at The Company House and The Wooden Monkey. With some nudging from fellow musicians, Peach says she’s coming into her own.

“Truthfully I am still shocked and honoured that I’m even in this festival,” she says. “If I’m lucky my good friend and musician Ria Mae is going to join me onstage for a few songs.” Akin to songwriters such as Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Sarah Slean, Peach is ripening into her own proverbial fruit. With bold heartbreakers like “All I Ever Wanted,” a ballad of longing, “Beautiful Lie,” and “Without You,” Peach knows how to leave listeners wanting more.

“I find now that my newer songs are a bit more global, for lack of a better word,” she says. “I’m able to get outside of my own stuff and write about the people in my life or maybe a story or scenario that I’ve created in my mind. There’s always some of me in there but I think now there is more of a fantasy element that wasn’t there before.”

w/Charlotte Cornfield, Thom Swift, Ken Whiteley, Thu. Jan. 28, 7:30pm at The Company House, $20

Kim Wempe

Kim Wempe should be a Maritimer. Despite her prairie upbringing, she’s got a voice that belongs here. With her narrative-driven folk songs and vocal delivery that is as powerful as the Atlantic itself, Wempe knows exactly where she needs to be.

“Nova Scotia is not where I was supposed to end up and I never thought I would live here,” she says. “I ended up coming here for a jazz program at St. FX and instantly fell in love with the place. It felt like home which was such an odd feeling since I obviously had a place I called home.

“I grew up for 13 years in Saskatchewan and lived in Alberta for quite awhile after that, and all my family was there, but it just didn’t feel like it was where I was supposed to be anymore.”

The title track from Wempe’s latest release, Where I Need to Be, permeates her newfound sense of place. It even gained her some East Coast Music Awards attention. These days she’s hibernating with Charles Austin at Echo Chamber recording her follow-up, Painting with Tides. Rumour has it Old Man Luedecke, Joel Plaskett, Thom Swift and Erin Costelo are lending a hand.

“I’m really excited to spill my guts about my new material coming out,” she says. “I’m really proud of all the songs on the album and how much I’ve grown lyrically, vocally and performance-wise. It’s pretty cool when you can pat yourself on the back for something.”

w/Ria Mae, Thursday January 28, 8pm, FRED, $10
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