Make No Bones About It Evening with Andy Mason-Sunday, March 7th, 2010 at 5pm
Andy Mason is an award-winning First Nations (Upper Cayuga/Mohawk) singer/songwriter/actor and multi-instrumentalist, with over twenty years on stage as a musician or actor. His unique style and voice has won a few accolades, and continues to win over fans.
He has maintained that he remembers singing before talking; listening to the radio as a small child, by six he learned to imitate the voices of the singers of his favorite songs. In a family of musicians (his late mother, his sister, and three older brothers who all played music), Andy was always more interested in music and the stage than most anything else. By age seven, he taught himself to play drums and percussion. He sang in choirs, and tried acting too, landing a small part in an ‘operetta’, where people immediately recognized his potential.
In 1979, he was invited to play for his high school assembly. It was a turning point for him; while teaching himself songs by Supertramp and Stevie Wonder, two of his many influences then, one of his older brothers lent him a Rickenbacker electric guitar which he took home to teach himself. Within a few months, he was playing original and cover songs on stage, both on piano and guitar, to standing ovations for his high school in Smithville, Ontario. He moved to Toronto in 1983, with 15 dollars and a beat-up SilverTone guitar, and pursued a career in both music and acting. He was soon introduced to musicians/actors David Campbell, Don Francks, Gary Farmer, Graham Greene, a then-seventeen-year old Eric schweig, and Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman. He became a regular peformer at the first all-Native run coffee house in Toronto, The Native Expressions Night, at the Trojan Horse Cafe on Danforth.
Within a year, on the urging of his father, the late James E. Mason, OMC, he was accepted into K.Y.T.E.S., a unique ensemble community theater group, who took youth from the streets and taught them job skills, confidence and theater skills. The troupe toured Canada in ’85, and was the subject of a Sunrise Films Documentary, directed by Deepa Mehta, and featured music by Andy and his sister Corine.
At a coffeehouse beside the legendary El Mocambo, in front of peers and family in 1986, he was given the name Kahn-tah-wi-wim’-tchi-get, which in Anishinabe(Ojibway) means, “He who makes Beautiful Music”, or simply, “Beautiful Music Maker”. While doing theater and busking around Toronto, he met others busking on Yonge Street, and they formed a band called 4 Way Street, covering the songs of CSNY. (Andy was always a fan of Neil Young; when he was given his Ojibway name, he was learning songs from “Rust Never Sleeps”). They relocated to the Ottawa and Kingston area, and toured around Canada from ’88 to ’95, opening for many major acts along the way. CSN had even heard of them; Andy met them at their show in ’89 at the NAC in Ottawa. Crosby and Nash reportedly liked their sound. The late great Jeff Healey jumped onstage to perform CSNY songs with them at the Penguin Club, Canada Day 1993. In late summer 1995 one member, John Law, had met Michelle Chiasson, at a show in Delta, where 4 Way Street played an outdoor party for the carnies. Soon after, John and Michelle left Ontario behind, got married, and became award-winning singer/songwriter duo “The Laws” (http://www.reverbnation.com/thelaws). After John’s departure, Andy went on his own, playing solo shows as well as with other bands, and helped others develop their craft.
In 1994, Andy won “Adult Male Vocal Performer” on local Ottawa program “HomeGrown Gafe”, on CJOH-TV, one of the first performers to play his own original compositions on that show. He also fought for buskers’ right to play and busk in Ottawa in the early 90s’; many buskers at the time were harassed by authorities for playing on the street and the Byward Market. Soon after, that changed somewhat due to Andy’s and others’ efforts.
He moved to the Lower Mainland of B.C. in ’98; relocated Ottawa musician David Roy Parsons (http://www.myspace.com/davidroyparsons) encouraged and helped him to put together an album of songs he had been writing since his coffeehouse days. The result was “Long Walk 49”; the title song written in the KYTES days, one of the featured songs in the Sunrise Films documentary.
The late songwriter and friend of Andy’s and John Laws’, Ed Daley, once called Andy ‘the most versatile voice to come out of Ottawa in years’. Brian Rading from the Five Man Electrical Band, who played shows with 4 Way Street, and who played with Andy for his last solo show in Ottawa before Andy moved to British Columbia, encouraged and assisted Andy with his songwriting. John Law once told someone that Andy was ‘the Harmony Master’, quite the compliment, as both John and Michelle Law are accomplished harmony singers. He played mandolin, harmonica and banjo and sang backup vocals for Joey Only on his debut CD (http://www.myspace.com/xjoeyonlyx), as well as several David Roy Parsons’ recordings. He shared a win with Star Nayea at the Native-E Music Awards in Albequerque, New Mexico in 2008, in the “Mainstream Song of the Year” category, for his song “The Battle Raging”.
Over the years, he has acted on stage and screen, and has done occasional extra work in movies and television, and continued playing music with various others. In 2002, he teamed up with guitarist/music producer Michael Arthur Tait(http://www.e-balance.ca/stringbenderproductions/testimonials.html, http://www.myspace.com/mikeguitarstringbender) and they formed ‘Andy and the Tricksters’, playing both Andy’s and Mike’s original music, opening for Native acts such as George Leach and RedBone for crowds of up to 10000. He has also shared the stage with the late Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, Joanne Shenandoah, Willie Dunn, and Keith Secola. He has taken part in powwows as well, either as a powwow singer or playing his own music.
He relocated to Ottawa in the summer of 2009, to begin new projects, and still occasionally plays with “4 Way Street”, and old-time rock and roll cover band “Lightning”. He continues to pursue his many interests.