Popular acoustic rock duo Open Mind reunites for 20-year anniversary
After eight months of recording on two different continents, holding numerous webcam meetings, and dedicating countless hours to late-night collaborations on Skype and Garageband, singer-songwriters Cynthia Kerr and Chantal Chamberland are about to release their first Open Mind CD in 16 years – aptly titled Over Oceans.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of their successful debut in Hamilton’s burgeoning music scene, Open Mind has re-worked a few of their most popular songs and written several new ones.
“Once we started collaborating again, the songs took on a life of their own,” says Kerr, who now resides in Australia. “It’s very exciting, and we’ve been having a lot of fun working together again.”
“As soon as the process started, the lyrics and music poured out of us like we were on songwriting steroids,” adds Chamberland, who’s enjoyed a successful solo career as a contemporary jazz artist. “We have so many Open Mind songs that we couldn’t fit them all onto this CD. In fact, we have enough material to record another one, which we plan to do this summer while Cynthia’s in Canada for the CD release concert.”
Some of the musical arrangements on “old favourites” add a contemporary edge to their renowned folk-rock mix, with beautiful layers of harmonies and haunting vocal effects.
“I would describe the new sound of Open Mind as ‘contemporary singer-songwriter’ with some of the tunes possessing a pop twist,” explains Chamberland, originally from St-Lambert, Québec. “I am so fulfilled by my musical endeavours in the contemporary jazz genre that I didn’t think I was looking for anything else, musically speaking. When I put my 12-string guitar on and got into it, it was like getting my musical ya-ya’s going. I could only compare the feeling to when you’re on a rollercoaster and you’re at the top of the hill anticipating the first dip.”
“The sound that evolved while we worked together on this project is best described as ‘edgy yet ethereal’,” adds Kerr, a Cambridge, Ontario native. “Our voices have matured, and I think the creative freedom of recording at home – any time of the day – also made us more uninhibited with both the musical and vocal arrangements.”
Over Oceans will be released on June 26 when Open Mind performs at the Westside Concert Theatre in Hamilton, Ontario.
In the beginning
The story of how songwriters Cynthia Kerr (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Chantal Chamberland (lead vocals, 12-string guitar) met is legendary in their old stomping ground – Hamilton, Ontario. It was an early morning in the summer of 1987, when Kerr overheard her new neighbour playing guitar and singing on her front porch. A quick introduction and some jamming ensued – and Open Mind was born.
A popular fixture in Southern Ontario in the early-1990s, Open Mind’s career crossed borders even back then. In their heyday, the duo performed at Nashville’s renowned Bluebird Café, headlined at several Canadian folk festivals, toured college campuses across North America, and shared concert stages with the likes of Junkhouse, Crash Vegas, Spirit of the West, and the Barenaked Ladies. Open Mind was also invited to open the Ontario and West Coast legs of Sarah McLachlan’s Solace Tour.
But perhaps their most celebrated contribution to the Canadian music industry was the 1990 release of their video-single “Give Us Back The Night”, a protest anthem about violence against women, which was quickly embraced by women across the country after the Montréal Massacre on December 6, 1990. The song catapulted Open Mind into the national media spotlight, with appearances on Global TV, City TV, MuchMusic, CBC Radio, and high-profile interviews with respected journalists Vicki Gabereau and Peter Gzowski.
The duo released three CDs – The Stones We Carry (1991), Suspect Terrain (1993), and Live At La Luna (1994) – before disbanding when Kerr moved to Australia on a new adventure.
Chamberland branched off into the world of jazz, releasing four critically acclaimed solo CDs – including her most recent The Other Woman which debuted in the Top 10 at Canadian jazz radio. She’s also earned several industry award nominations, secured a licensing distribution deal in South East Asia, and has performed three times as a mainstage artist at the prestigious Montréal International Jazz Festival.
In 2009, Chamberland and Kerr reunited to record Open Mind’s 20-year anniversary CD Over Oceans – a collection of new songs and some old favourites with contemporary musical arrangements – which will be released during a special performance on June 26 at Hamilton’s Westside Concert Theatre.
"Over Oceans" nominated for the best Female Adult Alternative Recording of the Year - Hamilton Music Awards 2010