Entertainment Local

Brother Neil to launch new album

By Susan Doolan, Special to Postmedia Network

Neil K. Parent, also known as Brother Neil, will release the first single from his second album on June 1. SUBMITTED/PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

Neil K. Parent, also known as Brother Neil, will release the first single from his second album on June 1. SUBMITTED/PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

Neil K. Parent, aka Brother Neil, has upped the ante with his soon-to-be released second album.

The first single drops June 1.

“It really has turned into something special and already exceeded my expectations,” said Parent, who recruited a bunch of professional musicians, many he had performed with in the past, to help recorded the album.

The Barrie-based musician feels Away Avenue Away, the name of his second full-length album, is an evolution of his sound from the blues-oriented Bonfire Confessions of his first album to more roots music, more rhythm and he added horns to five songs.

“Almost every track has got a different sound,” he said, adding that many of the tracks were inspired by his wife of 15 years and their children.

Time is one song that is so emotional for him, he has a bit of difficulty performing it. As for his children, their favourite song is Turn It Up. It’s a fun tune with a message about enjoying the moment and not sweating the small stuff.

“(They) crank it up in the morning and know all the words,” he said.

Longtime friend Mike Whaling, who was also featured on his last album, purchased an old dance hall and turned into a recording studio, Sarah’s Hall Studio in Russeldale. The two musicians, have toured together in the past and spent the last two-plus years working on the album.

Writing songs is Parent’s idea of fun - that and playing old standards from the American Songbook.

He also enjoys seeing other bands when he has a chance.

Music, although not his full-time job, has been a part of his life for a long time. His mother played accordion and a grandfather was a big band drummer in Northern Ontario. Born in Kapuskasing, Parent spent most of elementary school years at St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, which is where he received most of his vocal training. He taught himself how to play the guitar and can remember playing the organ by ear at the age of six or seven.

Nevertheless, he stopped singing for a while and it was a high school teacher who brought him back to it, persuading him to audition for the Sound of Music. Parent did the show with Whaling, his best friend in high school.

More recently, after Bonfires Confessions was released they also toured together.

In earlier years, he was also into jazz. When he was living in Newmarket, his neighbour was a jazz musician who played with Norman Amadio, who played the piano at his sister’s wedding nine years ago and Parent sang a song with him onstage. That led to recording and doing shows together. It was a dream come true for Parent because his grandfather had played the drums with Amadio in Timmins.

Parent also has performed with the acapela group FATE and the 10-piece Uptown Swing Band.

He is known in jazz circles as Neil Kristian.

In one of the highlights of his life, Parent took his team, Airborne 11, to the winner’s circle on the Global television series Canada Sings!” in 2011. His group, named for the airport where they worked, won a $10,000 donation for Ronald McDonald House.

His work indirectly played a role in songwriting. When his union put out a call for someone to update their archival labour songs, he signed on. He ended up writing some new tunes, which were featured on a double CD recording Unionation.

Through it all, he earned the nickname Brother Neil.

While he was in Hollywood, Maryland working on this project with a group of other people, he met Cody Wilder, a country blues musician from Nashville. He encouraged Parent to record his own material.

“The first one (Bonfire Confessions), I wanted to leave something for my kids - now I wanted to leave something better,” he said.

Watch for the release of Away Avenue Away, at www.brotherneil.com

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