“With her soaring vocals, impressive songwriting ability, and multi-instrumental prowess, Vriend is truly an all-in-one package”
–Obscure Sound (February, 2008).
Whether at the International Leonard Cohen Festival in Berlin, the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, or at her hometown Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Ann Vriend mesmerizes audiences around the world. Her vulnerable yet exquisite voice is often the first thing which turns heads, while her songs maintain an infectious, natural knack for melody, her lyrics reveal a literary depth rarely found in contemporary pop music, and her stage presence, balanced perfectly between breathtaking, heartbreaking, emotion-filled songs and charming, witty humor, make for a completely engaging show. Her albums have all been critically acclaimed, selling over 10,000 copies to date, without the help of a record label.
Ann was born in Vancouver, BC, but moved to Edmonton, Alberta at age 5. Early on her parents discovered their 3-yr-old could pick out nursery songs on a Fisher Price xylophone. Ann’s musical talent developed from there to the violin, but eventually shes settled on the piano at age 9, which she chose in order to accompany herself singing. In her teens Ann was persuaded by her school principal to perform her original songs at a high school talent show. Encouraged by the success of this performance, she began singing in public more often, performing and co-writing in local bands. Ann then completed a 2-year music program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.
Within 7 months of graduating, Ann was recording at Sony Studios in NYC, with complimentary tickets to a concert of Paul Simon, her favorite in her parents’ vinyl collection. That same year she released an astonishingly popular demo, which garnered her immediate radio play on local stations across Alberta. Her debut full-length album, “Soul Unravelling”, was released in 2003, and is now in its 5th pressing. “Waterfront,” a romantic piano ballad from this album, was placed on the DVD release of the hit US TV series “Party of Five” (2006).
Ann’s writing reveals the influence of ‘70s singer/songwriters such as Simon, Leonard Cohen, and Cat Stevens, combined with baroque pop melodies and orchestration of Brit pop bands such as the Beatles and Coldplay, weaving her own manipulations of harmonic structure and turns of phrase into these accessible styles. Ann’s gripping, dynamic vocals are a stunning combination of old-school soul influences such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, and the honest, heartbreaking delivery of traditional folk/country singers such as Dolly Parton or Emmylou Harris. Ann’s overall sound has roughly likened her to pop innovators such as Kate Bush, Carole King, and Regina Spektor, but, as noted by a number of critics, “Vriend stands out from the crowd” (Drum Media, 2007); “Her style is her own” (South Australian Independent Weekly).
Ann’s 2nd album, “Modes of Transport”, (produced by Paul Brill in New York City, 2005) garnered rave reviews in Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Australia, and charted in radio stations across Germany and Canada, including receiving commercial radio play in Ann’s hometown of Edmonton with the playful single, “Feelin’ Fine.”
Ann spent 2005 and 2006 touring North America, Western Europe, and Australia, and also received songwriting commissions, including for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. She also was invited to perform at speeches made by honored humanitarians such as Romeo D’Allaire and Stephen Lewis, and represented Canada at for Canada Day in Washington, D.C. for an outdoor concert and singing of the national anthem.
In June, 2007, Ann released The Clandestine EP”: a signed, limited edition, 5 song disk containing 2 live tracks and upcoming material from her next upcoming full-length album. The EP received commercial radio play, charted in the Top 30 on Toronto’s CIUT radio, and received 4/5 stars in Toronto’s NOW Magazine.
In March, 2008, Ann’s much anticipated 3rd full-length album, “When We Were Spies”, produced by Juno Nominated producer Douglas Romanow, was released. The album tells the tale of the treacherous, clandestine love affair of “former agent Ann Vriend” and an agent from “the other side”. As the story goes, Vriend eventually defected so as to choose love and honesty over secrets and lies, and wrote an album of epic, cinematic, passionate pop songs about her experiences.
In less than 2 months the album has sold nearly 1,000 copies (despite the “Top Secret” nature of the initial promotional tour!) AnE Magazine rated the album 4.5 stars out of 5, while Scene and Heard had this to say:
“From the first track, Vriend showcases her range and playfulness. The rest of the songs focus on one or more ways for her to sing the story of a former spy. Wow! This better be good. Thankfully, it is. The emotional ups and downs sung from Vriend’s perspective keep your ears attentive, always looking for the next tune. Her black hair, pin-up beauty and spy fashion—all black with briefcase and gun—add to ‘When We Were Spies’’ polish and catchy musical finesse… Excellent music. Great Stuff.”
AnE Vibe gushes:
“Ann Vriend drives me nuts; how can music be this good and she’s not plastered on billboards from L.A. to N.Y.?? “Spies” is a complex album full of subtleties wrapped in memorable tunes…. Vriend is an exceptionally talented artist.”
Agent Ann Vriend will spend the rest of 2008 on her Top Secret Tour. Secretive or not, as Pop Matters puts it, “This is one well-kept secret everyone should have access to.”