BY MARK WEBER
With a stop in Red Deer for a Jeans Off House Concert on April 15th, Winnipeg-based trio Sweet Alibi is a band that exudes soulful vocals and strong musicality from the get-go.
Their latest CD, Walking In The Dark, was released late last year and the group is now on tour across Canada.
WCMA (Western Canadian Music Award) winners Jess Rae Ayre, Amber Rose and Michelle Anderson have been crafting their music since 2009 with over 360 shows across Canada and numerous festival performances. Ayre and Rose shine as lead vocalists, while Anderson’s vocal harmonies, banjo and guitar talents come full circle to create the band’s signature sound.
“We had a lot of success with our second album, so there was a bit of pressure in making something that was at the same kind of level. So we spent a lot of time in pre-production in the writing of the songs and thinking about what the meanings of the songs were to us,” said Rose. “We put a lot of time and work into it.”
The teamed up with producer Murray Pulver, who used to tour with country band Doc Walker, after listening to several of the projects he had guided to fruition over the years. “We really liked the sounds of his harmonies and the general feel of the music that he produces – he’s really good at getting out the emotion of the song.
“We spent quite a bit of time with him just going over the songs and arranging them – we wanted the CD to flow really nicely. That was a big thing for us.
And as you listen to Walking in The Dark, that becomes all the more clear. Compelling tracks like Keep Showing You delve into actions of love and unwavering support.
That tune leads beautifully into the comparatively breezy, pleasant, pop-oriented tones of One Chance. The title track slows things down with a simple musical structure which really allows the engaging vocals to shine all the more. Moving to the Country, a live cut, provides another look into what makes the trio tick – a fun approach to their artistry that certainly leaves an impression on their audiences.
Their first self-titled album was released in 2011 and produced by Mitch Dodge (Crash Test Dummies). In 2013, they produced We’ve Got To with Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities).
As to the group’s beginning, “I was dating a drummer that Jessica was working with in a blues band and I used go watch them play all the time,” explained Rose. “I enjoyed Jessica’s singing, and we would sometimes get together and just jam. out. At the time, I was doing open mics in Winnipeg.”
As time went by, she and Ayre continued to sing more together and it wasn’t long before they realized they could very well be onto something. Ayre eventually brought her other friend Anderson into the mix.
“She said she was going to have me and Michelle over to her place for a rehearsal, and we would see if something came out of it. So we did that, and wrote our first song Pick Me Up that night. From there, we would get together once or twice a week and continued writing until we had 14 or 15 songs. Michelle knew Mitch Dodge really well and he had seen us play and also did some drumming for us. He also offered to produce us, so we made our first CD. It was a little overwhelming, and took us about a year.
“We didn’t quite know what we were doing,” she added with a laugh, saying they put all 14 songs on the project. “We were excited, and it was great – it was a great lift-off for us.”
The CD also helped open the doors to the group landing their first tour bookings nationwide.
”It got us a lot of attention, and that’s when we decided okay we’ve got to get more serious and make another album.”
As for Rose’s own musical leanings, it all started during childhood when her dad taught her to play the guitar.
“My mom bought me my first guitar when I was 10.” She started playing tunes by folks ranging from the Gin Blossoms to Joni Mitchell to Carole King. “I know that Jessica had always been singing in choirs, and that she took piano lessons and started playing guitar when she was in a blues band.
Anderson is classically-trained in guitar and also plays the banjo.
And of course, the three can sing like angels.
“I always sang for talent shows and stuff but it was hard for me to do it – I’d forget the words and be crying afterwards,” she explained with a chuckle.
“It’s hard to build the confidence, but after watching Jessica sing for a couple of years and then singing with her – when you see a good singer and they tell you that you’re a good singer, it kind of gives you the confidence you need.”
Meanwhile, they aren’t slowing down bit.
“We have a blast as a band. It really brings us together because we have gone through so many different experiences together whether positive or negative. We always find a way to laugh,” she said.
For more information about their local show, find ‘Jeans Off House Concerts’ on facebook.