Patrick Brealey

The music and musings of Canadian songwriter Patrick Brealey

Category: Uncategorized

Todd Simko 1966–2012

Todd SimkoThe world lost a great man, father, musi­cian and sound engi­neer when we lost Todd Simko on Sun­day, April 22th, 2012. I had the hon­our and plea­sure of spend­ing many hours, days, weeks and months with Todd as he recorded my first demos as a solo act, which led to he and I mak­ing my first full-​​length album. To be quite hon­est, the album took an unprece­dented length of time to make and surely we could have fin­ished quicker if we weren’t so busy hav­ing such a great time hang­ing out. Todd was a gen­er­ous, thought­ful, imag­i­na­tive spirit who I am proud to call a friend. The mem­o­ries I have flood through: Todd test­ing the sounds of var­i­ous pieces of wood so we could get the “per­fect” sound of me sweep­ing a broom; being nearly crushed in the back of a bor­rowed pickup by a piano that Todd bought from a local 2nd hand store – why I was in the back with the piano and why Todd decided to drive up the steep­est hill in New West­min­ster are both beyond me; lis­ten­ing to the sounds that came out of “Karate Todd” when we recorded a pro­posed theme song for a kids’ car­toon involv­ing crime-​​fighting, kung fu chick­ens – we didn’t make the cut; the reac­tion of Todd’s wife, Minna, when Todd came in from his back­yard stu­dio and ran­sacked the kitchen look­ing for the ideal sound­ing pots and pans to record that would add a cer­tain clank to one of my songs, “What the hell are you record­ing out there? Stomp?!”; invent­ing a dance called “The Frog Boo­gie” with Todd’s then-​​3 year old daugh­ter Emily; hav­ing a pint at the Thirsty Duck Pub and lis­ten­ing to Todd’s wild desire to win a local meat draw; and I remem­ber laugh­ing. A lot.

I met Todd at the Media Club in Van­cou­ver in 2005. He had come highly rec­om­mended as a sound engi­neer by friends who had recorded with him and he was all ears when I told him I wanted to put a few songs to tape. In a flurry of Simko-​​styled energy it seemed like the next day that Todd was patch­ing together a remote, guerilla-​​style record­ing stu­dio in our rehearsal space. I’ll never know how he got those sounds out of that oddly-​​shaped, moldy-​​carpeted, concrete-​​walled room. Todd was always excited by a chal­lenge and loved to try new things. If some­one said they wanted to record in an igloo Todd would have not only fig­ured out how to build an igloo but he would have been thrilled to know what the out­come would be. Todd didn’t use a text­book to fig­ure things out. He expe­ri­enced life. He made mis­takes. He learned. He wasn’t a clas­si­cally trained musi­cian but he knew what sounded good to him. He wasn’t out to make music that sounded per­fect. In fact, Todd loved what he called “happy accidents”.

Todd loved it when I made mis­takes record­ing. Flub­bing a note. A cough. A squeaky chair. He felt those were the magic moments that make record­ings unique. Todd had no inter­est in mak­ing “gridrock” as he labeled it: music that is edited with record­ing tech­nolo­gies so much that it ends up sound­ing ster­ile. It’s music that may fit on Top 40 radio but doesn’t fit in the heart. Todd wanted rough purity. I recall my voice crack­ing while record­ing a song and instead of hear­ing “Okay, let’s try it again” through my head­phones when I fin­ished I heard, “Happy acci­dent!” as Todd shouted glee­fully, “That’s the take!” I resisted at first but ulti­mately Todd con­vinced me to keep the take. Life isn’t per­fect. Mis­takes are what make us human. There is an impli­ca­tion of truth, of the human ele­ment, in moments when our guard is down. To Todd’s credit, I now love those happy acci­dents that ended up on my album. Things that may seem tech­ni­cally wrong at first are actu­ally just unique – and as an artist that’s all I could strive for. I’m glad Todd fought to keep those moments on record and that he was able to see what was spe­cial from a long way away. And now as I look from a long way away, I real­ize Todd was a happy acci­dent. He was a quirky, cre­ative, curi­ous and unique indi­vid­ual who I came to love.

Today would have been Todd’s birth­day. He left us far too early. I could go on and on with how much he taught me and how much we would laugh as we sat in his stu­dio lis­ten­ing to all of the strange sonic roads we would travel before get­ting to our des­ti­na­tion, but for now it is time to let go of what is gone and cher­ish what is in my heart.

Todd, I love you brother and I will always miss you.


Leon Knight Wrestlemania

I thought I’d let you know that Patrick Brealey (that’s me!) will be hav­ing a musi­cal wrestling match with Leon Knight & the Neon Lights (a screw­ball coun­try band I con­ve­niently play with) at the Cameron House this Fri­day, April 20th, 6:00–9:30pm. The band includes myself (vocals, ac. gtr); Rob Fen­ton (vocals, fancy slide gui­tar); Chris Staig (elec. gtr, rock moves); Kevin Walsh (upright bass, freestyle rhymez); and Leon Knight (cussin’, fussin’, hus­tlin’). Join us!

Cameron House Residency Extended

I’m pleased to let you know that my res­i­dency at the Cameron House has been extended for the fore­see­able future. That deserves a hoot! Please join myself and a cast of oth­ers on Fri­day nights start­ing at 8pm. I aim to please.

Canadian Music Week

Just so ya know, I’ll be play­ing as part of Cana­dian Music Week at the Cameron House on Fri­day, March 23 at 8:30pm. Come for the music, stay for the rib­aldry! Play­ing with a full band!

Cameron House Residency

I am pleased to let you know that I will be play­ing a reg­u­lar gig at Toronto’s ven­er­a­ble Cameron House dur­ing the month of March. I will be there on Fri­days start­ing around 8:30pm — what a rea­son­able hour! — with a vari­ety of peo­ple on stage with me includ­ing Rob Fen­ton (dobro) amd Michael Her­ring (upright bass). So mark your cal­en­dars and I hope to see you at 408 Queen St. W. (one block west of Spad­ina) some­time in the near future. Check out the lovely poster cre­ated by Pearl Rachinksy!

Cameron House Toronto - Patrick Brealey Residency

CBC Radio Play

Well now isn’t that nice? Word on the street is that my songs “Some­thing to Do with You” and “I Don’t Want to Hear Another Love Song” were played on CBC Radio Two this past week. I’m as happy as a plum!

Cacophony of Whistles

Check out the audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion in Peter­bor­ough, Ontario. Them peo­ples love to whistle!!

Love Lies Bleeding

Not only a great name for an album, but a beau­ti­ful flow­er­ing plant as well. Behold, the Ama­ran­thus Cau­da­tus, also know as Love Lies Bleed­ing. Dig it, Romeo.


Ode to Summer

Now that Sep­tem­ber has us in its warm (yet cool­ing) embrace, we accept once again that our planet pro­vides us with sea­sons that make us appre­ci­ate change, through vibrant colour shifts and howl­ing winds. In other words, sum­mer is gone, get over it.

I had a fab­u­lous sum­mer. Got to play the Eagle­wood Folk Fes­ti­val, sev­eral dates in Ontario as well as play­ing on a con­sis­tent basis with the blue­grass sen­sa­tions known as the Sud­den Val­ley Boys and had tons of fun goof­ing around with Leon Knight & the Neon Lights, a screw­ball coun­try band in which our fear­less leader Leon has yet to show up to a gig for. One of these days.…

I also got to see a few parts of Ontario I had never been to and I’d like to pro­claim some­thing Ontar­i­ans have known for a long time but the rest of the coun­try may not know: Ontario is beau­ti­ful. Sure it doesn’t have the ooh-​​aah inspir­ing rugged peaks of the Rocky Moun­tains. And maybe it doesn’t get as wind-​​whipped and won­der­fully ocean swept as the Mar­itimes. Granted, the sheer expanse of the Prairies as they roll to the hori­zon as cer­tainly taken more than a few breaths away. But Ontario is dif­fer­ent. It’s quiet. It’s sub­tle. It’s rocks and trees and lakes and blue­ber­ries and rivers and charm­ing towns and won­der­ful peo­ple and chip trucks and storms and apples and cot­tages and canoes and birds and swim­ming and so much more. It’s the Cana­dian Shield. You really have to expe­ri­ence it.


Southern Ontario Tour

Hey there! Just a few upcom­ing live shows to tell you about. Here goes!

Sun. Aug 21 — Dakota Tav­ern (Blue­grass Brunch 11am-​​3pm) — Toronto, ON
Sun. Aug 21 — Not My Dog (w/​ Kyp Har­ness) — Toronto, ON
Mon. Aug 22 — Moon­shine Café (w/​ Sarah Mac­Dougall) — Oakville, ON
Tue. Aug 23 — The Spill (w/​ Sarah Mac­Dougall) — Peter­bor­ough, ON
Wed. Aug 24 — The Liv­ing Room (w/​ Sarah Mac­Dougall) — Kingston, ON
Thu. Aug 25 — Branch Restau­rant (w/​ Sarah Mac­Dougall) — Kemptville, ON
Fri. Aug 26 — Eagle­wood Folk Fes­ti­val — Pef­fer­law, ON
Sat. Aug 27 — Eagle­wood Folk Fes­ti­val — Pef­fer­law, ON
Sun. Aug 28 — Eagle­wood Folk Fes­ti­val — Pef­fer­law, ON
Sun. Sept 4 — Toronto Island Marina (Leon Knight & the Neon Lights) — Toronto, ON

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