Artist Spotlight: Brian Passmore

Smooth guitar rifts, combined with imaginative lyrics sung through a delightful voice of creative passion is what I heard when I first listened to “Baseball Tuesdays Bedroom Rock.” A digital album composed of a song a week, written from scratch, for 9 weeks by Toronto musician Brian Passmore.

From “Riverside Station” to “Handsome Thief” it is apparent early in the album that Passmore is a creative musical talent with the ability to portray his music the way he chooses, while still maintaining a great listening experience. The experience begins as eclectic, unique and artful and continues to take the listener on a musical ride through his brain. I could envision singing the “Ballad of Buffalo Jones” in a pub full of local Torontonians while patrons patiently wait for their Guinness to settle upon ordering it from the barkeep. “Graveyard” changes the tone of the album as Passmore showcases his fast-paced guitar playing ability, wailing on the axe with what sounds like a bit of a mean streak. “Vodka on Ice” is a tune that I became attached to with no real explanation except that I could relate to the lyrics just like any person who would listen to it. The album ends with “Last in the River”, another lyrically refined tune with meaning that is expressed through Passmore’s compassionate singing voice.

I recently sat down with the 29-year old musician to ask him about the project, his life and music career, as well as anything else he cared to share with me.

The York University graduate, who left the school with his BFA in music, has been a musician since he first picked up a guitar when he was 16, but it was an interesting cassette tape that got him interested in music, “The first cassette I bought when I was a kid was MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This.’ I remember leaving Sunrise Records and my dad telling me that ‘music is a really great thing’ and he was pleased I was showing an interest in it. So thanks dad, and thank you Hammer.”

Passmore admits that he did not become a very good musician until his 20’s, but after applying to university he decided that music was what he loved far and above anything else so he made the decision that he would go for it as a living. Does he admire fellow musicians? Did someone inspire him to live his dream? “I’ve had a lot of guitar heroes and musicians that I’ve looked up to over the years. Jimmy Page has been a constant since I discovered Led Zeppelin in middle school. His approach to writing and playing is just so different from any other guitar player and the fact that he is still out there playing with the same enthusiasm and passion all these years later is amazing. The Constantines are a band that I really love. They just come across as a really hard working band who are in it for the right reasons. As great as their albums are, seeing them live and how they are able to raise the energy of a crowd puts a smile on my face every time.”

Musician Brian Passmore - Photo courtesy of Fotis Kanteres

Musician Brian Passmore - Photo courtesy of Fotis Kanteres

His musical talents are showcased in abundance in “Baseball Tuesdays Bedroom Rock.” I asked Passmore about the project, “The idea behind it was to write and record a song from scratch every week, for nine weeks and then post them online, whether they sounded like solid gold or solid garbage. It was an interesting and fun process to have a self-imposed deadline on my song writing that I’d never had before. You can check out and download all nine songs for free on my bandcamp site.”

The musician surrounds himself with his passion. When he’s not creating solo projects such as “Baseball Tuesdays Bedroom Rock” he teaches guitar and piano privately and runs after-school guitar clubs at numerous public schools. He also plays guitar in the roots rock band The Key Frames, who recently released their debut album “Out on the Point.” I asked him about The Key Frames and how he came to be in the band, “The Key Frames are a five piece roots rock band with drums, guitars, bass and banjo. Everyone in the band sings at one point or another during our shows and we all have different musical tastes and backgrounds so it keeps things diverse. I joined the band after answering a craigslist ad just over a year and a half ago. Not the most interesting story but I became part of a great band and I was able to sell my old bike at the same time! Thanks craigslist. The future looks bright for The Key Frames. We’ll be touring out East in late August to sell our album and spread some joy and I know we’re all looking forward to getting started on our second album.”

The Key Frames - Photo courtesy of Suleiman Merchant

The Key Frames - Photo courtesy of Suleiman Merchant

The success of The Key Frames seems almost definite, as their upbeat and cheery sound could appeal to fans everywhere and the album release was one of Passmore’s recent highs. I asked him about other high points in his music career and also asked him if any low points made him think twice about his chosen path, “A recent high was pulling off a successful album release gig at the Dakota Tavern with The Key Frames. Seeing all our friends and family and some strangers come out to support something we have put so much of ourselves into was a real great feeling. The low points I’ve experienced are pretty much the opposite. Playing to an almost empty room or putting music you’ve worked hard on out there, only to receive little to no acknowledgement is always tough.”

It’s always a tough task for someone to pick a favourite anything, but I thought I would test Passmore with the question of picking his favourite song, score or piece of music, as well as his favourite gig. He was more then ready for my question with this response, “That’s like picking a favourite beer…When I want to sound smart and refined I’ll say Beethoven’s ‘3rd Symphony’ because it ushered in the romantic period in classical music. When I want to sound poetic and introspective; Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ (but Jeff Buckley’s version of it). If I want to raise an eyebrow I’ll say ‘Since U Been Gone’ by Kelly Clarkson, because it’s just the perfect lesson in how to write and execute a 3 minute radio single. If I want to score some hipster cred I’ll just make up a name of a song and tell people ‘you probably haven’t heard of it because it’s still pretty underground.’ ‘Hotline Operator’ by Constantines and ‘Black Math’ by The White Stripes are two songs, great rock songs that never disappoint. But to answer your question I don’t have an all-time favourite.” As for favourite gig, he responded “Playing the Horseshoe Tavern a couple of years ago with my previous band (The Nastasha Pasternak Band) was definitely a lot of fun. So many talented musicians have stood on that stage over the years and it’s nice to be able to say I’ve played there too.”

Passmore is another local artist from the great city of Toronto who is going places with the talent he was given in life. Whether he’s playing with The Key Frames, composing solo projects, or even teaching his craft to adoring students, he is doing what he wants to do with his music and that is really what life is all about. What does Passmore have planned for the future? Does he have a plan? Or will he let the tides of time take him down whatever musical path it chooses? “In five years I hope to be playing more gigs and I’d like to get into song writing for film and television.”

When asked if he had anyone to thank he responded, “Mike and Margie at Tuneology, a music school I worked for when I first started out, have always been really great in supporting my personal projects and bands along the way. Also, MC Hammer for writing ‘U Can’t Touch This.’”

I’d like to thank Brian Passmore for sitting down with me for the interview and I wish him nothing but good luck in his future music endeavours.

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