West coast band has stories to share

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Music: Lion Bear Fox performing at RPAC Feb. 22

Three west coast singer/songwriters with unique musical tastes have come together to the delight of a growing fan base.

Lion Bear Fox has been impressing audiences with its range of multi-genre music after the three musicians brought their solo careers together as one five years ago. The band boasts guitar players Cory Woodward and Ryan McMahon and pianist Christopher Arruda, who are heading to Okotoks Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. to perform at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre.

“Our music is a collage of three different songwriters who decided to start being creative with one another,” said Woodward. “When we first met I was into Springsteen anthems classic rock, Ryan was doing the Bryan Adams thing and Christopher was very theatrical. It’s a mixture of our distinct styles.”

What resulted was a combination of folk, rock, blues and soul with a hint of country.

When it comes to creating music, Woodward said each of the three musicians begins on his own and then they work collaboratively.

“We are writing at the same time so we put it all into the pot and it transforms immensely when we start getting into that collaboration part of it,” he said. “Our record last year started with 40 songs. We gave some time and space to each one of them and the ones that were shining through were the ones that we recorded. The majority started off on our own and turns into a never-ending collaboration.”

When the trio initially came together, each was working on his own.

“It started with Ryan saying, ‘You guys want to come out on an acoustic tour that I’m doing,’” he said.

Shortly after forming Lion Bear Fox, they entered a radio singer/songwriting competition, for which they credit much of their success. Although they didn’t win any huge prizes, Woodward said they learned various aspects of the industry from the importance of social media to creating a business and marketing plan.

“Now we have a website, tours and recorded an EP,” he said. “We had a drive to acquire that; there’s a level of professionalism that has taken over.”

As the years progressed, Lion Bear Fox found itself performing at bigger venues and festivals.

“We have a larger fan base,” Woodward said. “People are following us. We are seeing the same faces.”

Lion Bear Fox was selected as one of the top 20 unsigned British Columbia band in 2012 and has released two albums the past five years. Finding a name for the band followed several discussions.

“Christopher and I were having lunch one day and we got into a discussion of spirit animals,” he said. “I’m Metis. When I was growing up my dad would take my brother and I out camping. On one particular adventure we had a mini-ceremony with spirit animals and I just resonated with the bear ever since.”

Establishing Arruda’s name was simple due to the large lion tattoo on his chest. McMahon’s animal took more discussion and was finally decided based on his personality traits. McMahon’s quick wit and slyness was an easy fit with the fox.

In the years that followed, writing songs and playing music evolved.

“It’s really interesting what our spirits and attitudes were like in the beginning as opposed to what they were now,” Woodward said. “In the beginning I would liken us to teenagers who just got together to play. It was freewheeling with no ultimate intentions of it leading to some final point.”

Taking their craft seriously now, the storytellers write about their own personal lives and experiences.

“It depends what we’re going through at any particular time but the last couple of years a lot is about family,” he said. “It makes for wonderful stage conversations.”

Woodward said he’s a firm believer that vulnerability creates connections and that has been his mandate from the beginning.

“I’ve written songs about suicide, addiction and recovery,” he said. “These are all things that I’ve had experience with in my life. At the same time I’ve written songs about the absolute beauty of life and the purpose. When you hit those topics it’s the conversations and stories that you’ll get from the audience afterwards that fuels my purpose.”

Having that kind of impact and influence on the audience is what makes the hard work worthwhile to Woodward.

“It gives me a reason to leave my family for three weeks when it can be very hard driving those highways and sleeping crappy hours,” he said. “You go on the stage, share some stories and meet folks afterwards. It gives me enough drive to keep me going.”

Tickets to see Lion Bear Fox perform cost $25 and can be purchased at the Okotoks Art Gallery or by calling 403-938-3204. To learn more about the band go to www.thelionthebearthefox.com

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