Interview with Broadtree
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
N: I’ve always loved singing and performing, but I started in the world of Musical Theatre. That’s what I went to school for, and I’ve been lucky to have had many wonderful opportunities, but I only began writing music with Broadtree. Growing up, I was very academic, and if my love of performing hadn’t prevailed, I was planning on becoming a veterinary specializing in large farm animals (everything leads back to country!)
A: I started learning how to play guitar and writing songs in high school. All the kids I looked up to were in bands and I figured I needed to be in one to be cool - I was given a Yamaha acoustic for Christmas and taught myself to play. That led to a few bands over the span of my music career eventually leading to Broadtree. I absolutely love the stage, so similarly to Nicole, I’d be on stage doing theatre. It’s how we met and where we can sometimes feel so much more alive. I also have a large scale mentalism show that has a residency in downtown Toronto, which I absolutely love performing in as well. Even without music, my life needs to be on stage in some way.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
N: Armand and I are both actors - that’s how we met - so theatre will always be a huge part of my life. I think this has a huge influence on not only our energy and chemistry when we’re performing, but also on our song-writing itself. We have a unique style of songwriting that involves a lot of character analysis and world building before we even begin writing down lyrics, the same way you might analyze a play to prepare for a role. It allows us to write very quickly, because we always have a very clear idea of the character of the ‘singer(s)’, their relationship to each other, and what we are trying to convey.
A: If I’m not playing music or performing, I’m usually watching music and others perform. I’m a concert junkie and try to take in as many concerts as I can. I also try to watch as much theatre as I can. Pre-pandemic, I usually took a few trips to New York a year to watch new shows and artists on Broadway. Watching some of the best of the best do their thing is inspiring on its own. It’s amazing getting to watch people who have worked to getting to the point they’re at. It inspires me to work harder, think better, and be more creative with every performance I have or every song I write.
How long has your band been around?
N: We’re pretty new on the scene. We got together to record one duet in November of 2021, and things just snowballed from there!
A: We never expected our little COVID project to grow as fast as it did. Once we realized we had an audience, we kept creating while also using our social media as a platform for some of the things we feel strongly about, like LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, Indigenous rights, and many other important social issues.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
N: We are based in Toronto, Canada. I feel fortunate that Armand has so much experience in the Toronto music scene from his days performing in punk bands; sometimes it feels like he knows EVERYONE and it’s definitely been an advantage to be partnered up with someone who knows so much, since I knew basically nothing about anything going into this. I’m also originally from rural Nova Scotia, so once in a while some Celtic influence rears its head (like in our song ‘Love You Like’), and I think that also pushed our music in a country direction.
A: I was originally born in Mexico. While I don’t feel it’s influenced my music as much, the themes of writing songs that hit close to home is something deeply rooted in my upbringing. Living in Toronto is quite a unique place to be when it comes to country music. We’re typically the only city kids in a room full on small town artists, which sometimes means we have to fight harder to earn the right reputation. While we come from similar, somewhat smaller town backgrounds, living in downtown Toronto where country music isn’t common has it’s challenges at time.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
A: I’ll let Nicole take this one as she tells the story best.
N: Before our first album, we were releasing music under our initials, A&N, but when the time came for the album, we decided we needed something easier to find, with more of a ring to it. By this point, people had begun describing our music as ‘Musical Theatre over a bed of country music’. I love the imagery of a broad tree, a big, strong tree, connected to nature, organic and grounded. But truth be told, it’s just the ‘Brangelina’ of band names - Broadway + Country = Broadtree!
A: To be honest, it hit me and sat for a while, but before I could really think of anything else, it just sounded great. It was a perfect summary of who we are and makes for a great conversation piece, much like this one!
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
A: For me it’s the first time we ever played live in front of human beings. We’d been playing more virtual shows than we could count, but nothing ever beats the experience of playing in front of people. We had a very short set at the Mississauga Amphitheatre that went by in a flash, but I can remember every moment, from playing our first single in the wrong key…sorry Nicole…to the energy of playing our favourite tune from our first album. The energy was great, the crowd was fun, and finally being back on stage after almost two years of nothing felt like home again.
N: We often play as an acoustic duo, so a very special show for me was a show we performed in Oshawa at the Biltmore theatre - our first full-band show. It was amazing to perform with such a big sound, hear the solos really brought to life by our talented band, and having those fancy lights really made you feel like a rock-star!
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
N: There is a fantastic little place about an hour outside Toronto, The Moonshine Cafe, in Oakville, Ontario. We like to call it Canada’s Bluebird Cafe; it’s a very special little spot with live music every night, and frequent songwriter’s rounds, where Ontario country artists get to showcase their new music in front of an audience that is actually invested in every lyric and the stories that go with them. It’s such an inspiring place, and it’s the first place where we really felt the sense of support and community that country music artists and fans have for each other.
A: I’ll second what Nicole said. There’s nothing quite like writer’s rounds in a room full of people who are there to listen and take in every word of every song. There’s something special about the Moonshine.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
N: ANYONE? Oh geeze. Armand would die for a chance to play with Taylor Swift! As for me, I worship female powerhouses like Reba, and country royalty like Alan Jackson. Then you’d need Bon Jovi in there for Armand. (Now it’s a festival, apparently!) Put us before them and the Reklaws, a country duo who are basically what we aspire to be, and we could never ask for more!
A: This is such an unfair question! I think if we look at some of the artists we’ve either played with or look up to locally, The Reklaws are a duo that we definitely take after and would love to share the stage with. I’d add in artists like Dallas Smith and even Little Big Town. But if we’re stepping outside of country music, we absolutely love bands like Arkells, Green Day, Train, and so many others that we’ve been listening to for years. But I’d say no to everyone in the world if you gave us an opening slot for Taylor Swift.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
N: Getting into a band, I’d say, don’t worry about things being perfect. If you wait for perfection, you’ll never release anything. Improvement comes from just doing it, just getting your stuff out there. If you believe in it, give it a go. Also, don’t fall for scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And always support other artists.
A: I think the advice would be the same for both: stick with it, don’t stop no matter how discouraged you get, and learn how you define success. It took me a while to realize that success isn’t measured by numbers and money, but by what your art can do. And we’ve had so many moments that have truly made us grateful that we get to do what we do.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
N: I guess, don’t get so caught up in self-promotion and churning out content that you lose track of why you love doing it. If it gets more stressful than fun, take some time to recalibrate and figure out what needs to change.
A: Similar to the last question, but adding in to never let anyone bring you down for being the nerdy theatre kid, or the band that’s going nowhere, or that playing to 3 people is a horrible thing. Take every opportunity and learn and grow from it. You’ll not only be a better musician, but a much better person as a result.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
N: Our first album is very personal; the songs were therapeutic but hard to write. I will always love ‘Wendy’ best; it’s part fable, part very real story of getting everything you ever dreamed of and having it suddenly snatched away, which was definitely where we were at in life when it was written. We’re very proud of it; it still makes me tear up every time. But our single ‘Be As’, about accepting and celebrating your own identity, whatever that may be, touched a lot of people, and as artists, there’s nothing more we could ever ask for than to know your song actually affected and helped someone.
A: We are both really strong advocates for mental health, both of us living with mental illness ourselves. We truly believe that the stigma we face, just like anyone else living with an illness, is derived from a lack of knowledge and education when it comes to understanding. We wrote two songs that complimented each other, quite by accident, that address two sides of mental illness: one from the perspective of living with a serious mental illness and one from the perspective of someone living with that person. The songs are called “This Side” and “ The Other Side” and really helped the two of us come closer together in terms of how we wrote them. They still hit home to this day.
Which songs are your favourite to play and which get requested the most?
N: Our favourite song to perform is ‘Bad for Each Other’, because it’s so theatrical and we really get to ‘act’ the song and play off each other. Plus, it’s funny!
A: It sums us up perfectly in 3 minutes. It’s a fun story, it’s upbeat, it’s funny, and it’s fun - and I don’t think there’s a song out there that fits us so well.
N: Our new favourite, though, is quickly becoming ‘You Only Miss Me ‘Cause I’m Gone’, for similar reasons. It’s quite hilarious and the crowd really digs it.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
A: We always try to bring in our own personal influences into everything we write, but often times we start with a concept for a story. From there we flush out characters, a background, a theme, and even a plot that’s led to a specific character getting to where they are at the point in the song. Once we have that idea, we build the world the song takes place in, the connections that might influence the story, and pepper in our experiences.
N: From there we analyze the characters of the song, make decisions about their relationships to themselves, to each other. We always try to use lyrics that ‘paint the picture’; we want people to really be able to visualize the lyrics. A lot of our songs start out a bit depressing, but we always strive to keep a spark of hope in whatever we write.
A: The best part is we’re able to separate our own experiences to that the story we’re trying to tell can flourish. One interviewer once said that we write “amazing musicals that span 3-4 minutes”. It’s one of our favourite comments and compliments we’ve ever gotten.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
N: It depends on the song, but as I said, we do always try to keep that spark of hope, no matter how dark the subject matter. We write about love and relationships, but also self-doubt, pain, mental illness. Self-acceptance and empowerment, moving forward or just hanging on through tough times; I think, self-analysis, too, for some of our more painful songs - examining your thoughts and feelings to work through a hard situation.
A: We always want to have fun, and you’ll find that in a lot of our songs, our most single “You Only Miss Me Cause I’m Gone” being one of them. But we also realized that as we developed a following, we had a platform to focus on important things we value, particular for voices that don’t get heard much in country music. Things like mental illness and awareness, LGBTQ+ rights and equality, racial injustices, and many others. We always want people to enjoy our music, but we also want to ensure there’s a message that gets put out there to be heard.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
N: We’re usually pretty good, especially creatively (the benefit of writing as a duo is you always have someone to tell you when the lyric or bass line or whatever is not quite right - we don’t get offended there), but since we both struggle with mental illness, we’ve definitely had to navigate learning how to communicate better and make sure everyone feels supported and safe. I think in general, disagreements in bands either come from people being too precious about their ideas, or a bit too hot-headed. Luckily we’ve not had many problems with that.
A: We’ve become such close friends, even more than we were before, through Broadtree, that creatively we’re surprisingly always on the same page. We might debate about a line or word here and there, but it’s never anything more than talking it through to see what might sound better. Like any two people who spend so much time together both creatively and not, our personal relationship together has seen its fair share of tests, but I think I can comfortably say that we’re in the best place we’ve been. We’re comfortable, we both are on the same page about what we want, and have the same goals. And when it comes to a band, that’s about all you can really ask for.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
A: The future is so uncertain! If we’ve learned anything in the last two years of this plague, it’s to focus on enjoying what’s in front of you because everything can change so quickly. We don’t have a five year plan. In fact, we tried doing a one year plan and even sticking to that has been a challenge, but in a good way. Ultimately, we want to focus on continuing to write great songs, performing live, and continuing on this wild and very unexpected ride. We have lots of ideas in the works and are just excited about so many things we can potentially do, release, play, and show the world one day at a time.
N: But we are very active on our social media, so you can always keep up with what we’re doing on there - from shows to merch to new releases, you can be sure we’ll keep you posted! @broadtreemusic for all of your Broadtree needs. But shout-out to our new single and music video for ‘You Only Miss Me Cause I’m Gone’, which hit 60,000 streams in less that a month and 3500 views in two weeks!