PRESS RELEASE IMMEDIATE
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY:
Canadian Pop Music in the ’90s
Two-Hour CBC Special Airs Consecutive Thursday Evenings, Sept. 15 and Sept. 22 at 8 PM ET (8:30 NT)
Features Tom Cochrane, Shania Twain, Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo and Many, Many More.
(Toronto/Vancouver/Montreal - August 29, 2011) It was the decade marked by hit songs from Canadian performers as diverse as Tom Cochrane, Sloan, Loreena McKennitt, The Tragically Hip, Shania Twain, Blue Rodeo, Céline Dion, Moxy Früvous, Barenaked Ladies, Great Big Sea, Jann Arden…the list of great performers and their classic songs goes on and on! It was the 1990s, and it’s celebrated in the new, two-part documentary LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: Canadian Pop Music in the ’90s, premiering on CBC Television on Thursday, Sept. 15, and concluding Thursday, September 22, both evenings at 8 pm ET/PT (8:30 pm NT)
The ’90s were boom years in Canadian music, with record-breaking sales and more international success stories than ever before. LIFE IS A HIGHWAY looks at this explosive period, when Canada’s superstar divas and rock gods shared the charts with DIY indie bands, Celtic virtuosos, worldbeat ensembles and hip-hop heroes. For the sheer variety of different types of pop music exploding onto the music scene from coast to coast to coast, the 1990s was an unparalleled decade.
Featuring thrilling performance footage and candid interviews with such major stars as Sarah McLachlan, Tom Cochrane, kd lang, Barenaked Ladies, Jann Arden and The Tragically Hip, as well as alternative music groups like Rheostatics, Sloan and Dream Warriors, LIFE IS A HIGHWAY explores this hit-laden era in Canadian music. The two-hour documentary presents over 40 of the decade’s most unforgettable songs, from Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” and Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine” to Snow’s “Informer” and Bran Van 3000’s “Drinking in L.A.”
Other performers taking a star turn in the specials include Bryan Adams, Crash Test Dummies, Lhasa, Ron Sexsmith, Les Colocs, Jean Leloup, Ashley MacIsaac, Rascalz, Spirit of the West, The Rankin Family, Natalie MacMaster & Jesse Cook, The Doughboys, The Odds, Bass is Base, Choclair, La Bottine Souriante, Big Sugar, The Tea Party, and Our Lady Peace.
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY is the latest installment in the critically-acclaimed series from the same team that brought you the specials Shakin’ All Over, This Beat Goes On and Rise Up, chronicling Canadian pop music in, respectively, the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
As with the previous episodes of this decade-by-decade music documentary series, the film showcases not only the Canadian music of the decade, but includes interviews with artists of the ’90s and those who followed them - all sharing personal observations about influential musicians and their songs.
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY covers the time when Canadian music, in all its ragged glory, truly came of age.
Hosted and narrated once again by Jian Ghomeshi (who also appears in this installment performing with his own band, Moxy Früvous), LIFE IS A HIGHWAY is directed Gary McGroarty and written by Nicholas Jennings. Producers are Gary McGroarty, Nicholas Jennings, Luc Châtelain and Nick Orchard. Executive producers are Nick Orchard and Luc Châtelain.
For CBC’s Independent Documentary Unit: Linda Laughlin, Senior Producer; Michael Claydon, Area Executive Producer, Independent Documentaries; Mark Starowicz is Executive Director, Documentary Programming.
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY is produced by Soapbox Productions Inc. and Echo Media Inc. in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, developed with the assistance of British Columbia Film and with the financial participation of the Canadian Media Fund created by the Government of Canada and the Canadian cable industry, the Québec Film and Television Tax Credit administered by SODEC, the Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit, and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.
For media access to images:
(Click on Photos, then CBC Television, then Documentaries, then Doc Zone)
For further information, screeners, interview requests, etc. please contact:
Soapbox Productions/Echo Media
O: (416) 656-6970
M: (416) 997-6970
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: Canadian Pop Music in the ’90s looks at the explosive decade when Canada’s superstar divas and rock gods shared the charts with DIY indie bands, Celtic virtuosos, worldbeat ensembles and hip-hop heroes.
Hour One of LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: Canadian Pop Music in the ’90s looks at the rise of Canadian indie bands like The Tragically Hip and The Barenaked Ladies, along with the explosion in popularity of Celtic music artists and an eclectic array of chart-topping hits from Bryan Adams, kd lang, Crash Test Dummies, and Tom Cochrane, including his classic song, Life Is a Highway.
Hour Two of LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: Canadian Pop Music in the ’90s looks at the remarkable diversity of Canadian music in the ’90s, from the phenomenal international success of Canadian pop divas like Shania Twain, Céline Dion and Alanis Morissette, to popular performers like Blue Rodeo and Jann Arden, to ground-breaking urban music by Dream Warriors, and singer/songwriters like Ron Sexsmith.
Hour One (CBC Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8 pm ET)
Hour One of LIFE IS A HIGHWAY explores Canadian pop music in the early part of the ’90s decade, when the alt-rock revolution was launched by homemade cassettes and bands like Barenaked Ladies suddenly became household names. Recalls the Ladies’ Ed Robertson: “This indie cassette of ours was number one at the major retailers, ahead of the latest Madonna and U2 releases. It just made no sense.”
But the group that every Canadian indie band looks up to is the Tragically Hip. Through interviews, the documentary examines the Hip’s rise to become defacto leaders of the alt-rock scene, sharing its stage with acts like Toronto’s Rheostatics and Vancouver’s the Odds and appearing on late night U.S. television, including a stunning Hip performance from Saturday Night Live.
Celtic music emerges as a major trend in Canadian music in the ’90s. LIFE IS A HIGHWAY looks at fiddle and step-dancing phenomenon like Ashley MacIsaac and the Rankin Family. While most of the music arises from the East Coast and Atlantic Canada, Vancouver’s Spirit of the West brings punk-rock energy to its sound and becomes one of the decade’s most influential Celtic acts.
The first half of the decade also features an eclectic array of chart-topping hits from Bryan Adams, kd lang and Crash Test Dummies. One of the biggest-selling acts is Tom Cochrane, whose mega-hit single, “Life is a Highway,” became one of the era’s most defining and influential songs. Describing its influence, Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida recalls, “It was an amazing thing and it ended up being a big song for us, sonically.”
Hour Two (CBC, Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8 pm ET)
Hour Two of LIFE IS A HIGHWAY demonstrates just how massive and diverse Canadian music became in the 1990s. Songs range from Snow’s “Informer” and Bran Van 3000’s “Drinking in L.A.” to Blue Rodeo’s “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” and Jann Arden’s “Could I Be Your Girl.” Featured songwriters like Ron Sexsmith carry on a long tradition of Canadian artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell, telling compelling stories about matters of the heart and of the land. Says producer Pierre Marchand: “When I hear a Ron Sexsmith song, it’s songwriting at another level for me. It’s just classic.”
The Nineties is also a breakout time for Canadian urban music. The decade opens with the Dream Warriors, a “boombastic” hip-hop duo that mixes reggae, jazz and even TV game-show themes into their inventive sound. We see the Dream Warriors perform their hit “Ludi” on British TV’s Top of the Pops and hear artists like Bass is Base’s Ivana Santilli and Bran Van 3000’s James DiSalvio pay tribute to the duo’s huge influence. Canadian major hip-hop anthem “Northern Touch” is also featured, bringing together Vancouver’s Rascalz with Toronto rappers like Choclair.
The biggest commercial trend of the ’90s, without a doubt, is the rise of Canadian pop divas. LIFE IS A HIGHWAY explores the phenomenon of Céline Dion and Shania Twain, whose albums sell unprecedented millions during the decade. Alanis Morissette, the raging rock goddess of the era, becomes the voice of a generation with her provocative, groundbreaking hit “You Oughta Know.” “That song allowed us to be angry and sexual and talk about dirty things,” acknowledges Sarah McLachlan. “It freed a lot of women.”
Everything I Do (I Do It For You) - Bryan Adams
Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm - Crash Test Dummies
Constant Craving - kd lang
Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane
Save This House - Spirit of the West
Fare Thee Well Love - The Rankin Family
Consequence Free - Great Big Sea
Le rap a ti-petang - La Bottine Souriante
Sleepy Maggie - Ashley MacIsaac
Reel Rumba - Natalie MacMaster and Jesse Cook
Coax Me - Sloan
Shine - The Doughboys
It Falls Apart - The Odds
Grace, Too - The Tragically Hip
The Lady of Shalott - Loreena McKennitt
King of Spain - Moxy Früvous
If I Had a Million Dollars - Barenaked Ladies
Claire - Rheostatics
One Week - Barenaked Ladies
L’amour existe encore - Céline Dion
Because You Loved Me - Céline Dion
Building a Mystery - Sarah McLachlan
Any Man of Mine - Shania Twain
Don’t Be Stupid - Shania Twain
You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette
Ludi - Dream Warriors
Informer - Snow
Funkmobile - Bass is Base
1990 - Jean Leloup
Drinking in L.A. - Bran Van 3000
Northern Touch - Rascalz
Hasn’t Hit Me Yet - Blue Rodeo
Secret Heart - Ron Sexsmith
Could I Be Your Girl - Jann Arden
Clumsy - Our Lady Peace
Save Me - The Tea Party
La celestina - Lhasa
Turn the Lights On - Big Sugar
Tassez-vous de d’la - Les Colocs
Bobcaygeon - The Tragically Hip
(in order of appearance)
Dave Bidini, Rheostatics
Jeff Martin, The Tea Party
Jake Gold, manager
Steven Drake, The Odds
Craig Northey, The Odds
Brad Roberts, Crash Test Dummies
Jeff Rogers, manager
Chris Taylor, musician/lawyer
Ellen Reid, Crash Test Dummies
Andrew Dale, The Once
Brenley MacEachern, Madison Violet
Ben Mink, Songwriter/Producer
Chip Sutherland, manager
Sébastien Plante, The Respectables
Jimmy Rankin, The Rankin Family
Ed Robertson, Barenaked Ladies
Raine Maida, Our Lady Peace
Ian McKinnon, Rawlins Cross
Sean McCann, Great Big Sea
John Mann, Spirit of the West
Gord Sinclair, The Tragically Hip
Alan Doyle, Great Big Sea
Alec O’Hanley, Two Hours Traffic
Donnell Leahy, Leahy
Jim Corcoran, musician/radio host
Yves Lambert, La Bottine Souriante
Mary Jane Lamond
Mike Campbell, MuchMusic VJ
Tony Singh, Punjabi by Nature
Derek Andrews, concert promoter
Jay Ferguson, Sloan
Craig Millett, The Idlers
Ian D’Sa, Billy Talent
Chris Murphy, Sloan
Matt Murphy, The Super Friendz
Joel Plaskett, Thrush Hermit
Tony Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers
Melissa Auf der Maur, Hole
Coco Love Alcorn
Paul Langlois, The Tragically Hip
Brendan Canning, Broken Social Scene
Matt Zimbel, Manteca
Mike Ford, Moxy Früvous
Jian Ghomeshi, Moxy Früvous
Ben Worcester, Said the Whale
Ivana Santilli, Bass is Base
Chin, Bass is Base
José Contreras, By Divine Right
Terry McBride, manager
James DiSalvio, Bran Van 3000
Luc Plamondon, songwriter
Claude “Mégo” Lemay, music director
David Foster, Producer
Pierre Marchand, producer/songwriter
Mary Bailey, manager
Eon Sinclair, Bedouin Soundclash
Capital Q, Dream Warriors
King Lou, Dream Warriors
Sekou Lumumba, Bedouin Soundclash
Anne-Marie Withenshaw, MusiquePlus VJ
Jay Malinowski, Bedouin Soundclash
Greg Keelor, Blue Rodeo
Dallas Good, The Sadies
Phil Maloney, Hey Rosetta!
Raven Kanatakta, Digging Roots
Gordie Johnson, Big Sugar
Mojah, Truths & Rights
ShoShona Kish, Digging Roots
Stéphane Archambault, Mes Aïeux
Liam Corcoran, Two Hours Traffic
THE CREATIVE TEAM
GARY MCGROARTY – Producer/Director
For the last 30 years, Gary McGroarty, the producer/director of LIFE IS A HIGHWAY, has worked internationally in music, film, television, animation and multimedia. During that time, he has held numerous creative and executive positions and has worked extensively in Europe, the USA and Canada.
After film school, Gary started off in the music business as manager of the band CANO that produced six albums for the A&M label from 1976 to 1984.
After CANO he returned to his first love, film. He started a production company with partner Hall Train that specialized in animation and special effects. They produced television show openings for Much Music, music videos and commercials.
In 1993, Gary joined Epic Interactive Media, the UK's largest multimedia communications company as the Director of Consumer Publishing. There, he was responsible for acquisition of intellectual property rights including joint ventures and co-productions. He negotiated worldwide distribution deals with several major multinationals and also formulated marketing strategies. He oversaw title design and also executive produced feature films and television series.
In 2000 Gary completed directing, writing and producing Stand and Be Counted, a 4-hour TV series with David Crosby (of CSN&Y). The series tells the story of the role of music and musicians in the political activism of the 20th Century.
He directed Shakin’ All Over, the two-hour, prime time TV special based on the critically acclaimed book Before the Gold Rush, by Nicholas Jennings. The TV special told the story of the birth of Canadian music in the 1960s. It aired in January 2006 on the CBC.
The success of Shakin’ All Over led to the two sequels: This Beat Goes On (about Canadian pop music in the 1970s) and Rise Up (about Canadian pop music in the 1980s). Once again, McGroarty directed and acted as associate producer on both two-hour documentaries.
Now he’s back with the two-hour LIFE IS A HIGHWAY, dealing with Canadian music in the 1990s, as a producer as well as director.
Another installment in the series, dealing with Canadian music the decade beginning in the year 2000, is now in development.
NICHOLAS JENNINGS – Producer/Writer/Researcher/Interviewer
Nicholas Jennings, who wrote, researched, conducted the interviews, and produced LIFE IS A HIGHWAY, is one of Canada’s most respected music journalists. Nicholas was the music critic and feature writer for Maclean’s magazine from 1980 to 2000. In addition to Maclean’s, he has written for Saturday Night, Billboard, Words & Music, Inside Entertainment and Hello! magazines, reviewing literally hundreds of recordings and interviewing and profiling many of the world’s leading artists, from Oscar Peterson, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney to Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall and Shania Twain. For newspapers, he has written extensively on music for The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and, from 1992 to 1998, contributed the “Global Grooves” column to Toronto’s eye weekly.
Jennings is also one of Canada’s finest music historians. He traces his interest in music history to Yorkville’s famous Riverboat coffeehouse, where he witnessed performances by many legendary musicians as he worked there as a dishwasher while studying journalism at Ryerson University. That experience eventually led to his first book, Before the Gold Rush: Flashbacks to the Dawn of the Canadian Sound (Penguin), a critically acclaimed history of the Yorkville era of Canadian music in the 1960s that became a national best-seller.
Jennings’ next book, Fifty Years of Music: The Story of EMI Music Canada (Macmillan), examined Canadian music over a half-century-year period, as seen through the perspective of one of Canada’s foremost record labels, and received praise for its lively anecdotes and engaging design.
With his deep knowledge of Canadian music history, Jennings has been commissioned by record labels to write extensive liner notes for many of the country’s top artists, including Ian & Sylvia, Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Stompin’ Tom Connors. He penned an 8,000-word biography of Gordon Lightfoot for Songbook, the popular four-CD Lightfoot box set issued in 1999 by Rhino Records.
Of all of Jennings’ work, Before the Gold Rush has brought him the greatest acclaim. Mojo magazine described the book as a “treasure trove,” Billboard pronounced it “indispensable” and Quill & Quire called it “an invaluable addition to our understanding of our musical heritage, popular culture and political history.” Maclean’s cited its storytelling qualities, saying “the narrative runs like a train, picking up passengers one by one, tracking their interrelationships, creating an underlying sense of accumulation and momentum.”
Before the Gold Rush formed the basis of the acclaimed TV documentary Shakin’ All Over. Jennings provided the research, conducted the interviews, wrote the narration and acted as associate producer for the two-hour program. First aired on CBC in 2006 and released on DVD by EMI in 2008, Shakin’ All Over attracted rave reviews across Canada. Montreal Gazette called it “must-see viewing” and the Winnipeg Free Press found it “superbly crafted,” while The Globe and Mail declared it “vastly entertaining and an education.”
The success of Shakin’ All Over led to the two sequels: This Beat Goes On (about Canadian pop music in the 1970s) and Rise Up (about Canadian pop music in the 1980s). Once again, Jennings wrote the narration and acted as researcher and associate producer for both two-hour documentaries.
Now he’s back with the two-hour LIFE IS A HIGHWAY, dealing with Canadian music in the 1990s, as a producer as well as writer, researcher, interviewer.
Another installment in the series, dealing with Canadian music the decade beginning in the year 2000, is now in development.
JIAN GHOMESHI - Narrator
Jian Ghomeshi is an award-winning broadcaster, writer, musician and producer. He is the host and co-creator of the national daily talk program, Q, on CBC Radio One and CBC TV. Since its inception in 2007, Q has garnered the largest audience of any cultural affairs program in Canada and has become the highest-rated show in its morning time slot in CBC history.
Mixing insight and opinion with unscripted wit, Jian shifts seamlessly from editorial essays to moderating debates on the air. He has interviewed an array of prominent international figures from prime ministers to sports stars and cultural icons. His feature interview subjects on Q have included Woody Allen, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Barbara Walters, Tom Waits, William Shatner, Jay-Z, Al Gore, Margaret Atwood and - in a television world-exclusive -- Leonard Cohen.
Jian has presented a number of television documentaries, including The End, Screw the Vote, and Philanthropy Inc., and spent three years as the host of the Gemini Award-winning CBC TV program, Play. He has appeared as a contributor or guest on programs ranging from CNN Today and The National, to Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
As a writer and interviewer, Jian has been published in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The National Post, El Mundo and The International Herald Tribune.
As a singer, songwriter, and musician, Jian was a member of multi-platinum selling folk-rock group, Moxy Früvous. He toured internationally during the 1990s and shared stages with a variety of artists including Bob Dylan, Ani Difranco and Elvis Costello. Jian continues to write and produce music through his company, Wonderboy Entertainment, and has managed the international career of Juno-winning electropop performer, LIGHTS since 2001.
He has worked with many arts groups including the National Ballet, the COC and the Radio Starmaker Fund, and he is a former member of the Board of Governors at the Stratford Theatre Festival.
Toronto’s NOW Magazine named Jian “Best Media Personality” in TV or radio, in the fall of 2009. In September 2010, Jian was awarded the prestigious New York Festival international broadcasting Gold Medal for “Talk Show Interview” of the year for his feature length world-exclusive with Leonard Cohen.
Born in London, England, of Iranian descent, Jian lives in Toronto, where he enjoys supporting a losing hockey team and eating pistachios.
Luc Châtelain – Producer/Executive Producer
Luc Chatelain started his career at Montreal-based L’Équipe Spectra in 1978, where he actively participated in the growth of the company and eventually became, in 1995, Vice-President in charge of developing the film and television sector. He has acted as producer and executive producer on hundreds of hours of programs (drama, variety shows, performing arts, children’s television programming, and animation) as well as many documentaries and feature films. In 2010, following a strategic restructuring, Luc become the sole shareholder of the television production division. He is now President-Founder of Echo Media, the new parent company heading all film and television activities.
Nick Orchard – Producer/Executive Producer
Nick Orchard has been, since 1990, owner and CEO of Vancouver-based Soapbox Productions Inc., a multi-faceted production company providing dramas, comedies, documentaries and children’s series to broadcasters around the world. Nick has been in the film and television business for over half a century, beginning as a child actor on stage, radio and TV. Amongst his award-winning productions are Northwood, Double Exposure and The New Beachcombers, along with a host of documentary series and specials, including, for CBC Television, the specials Shakin’ All Over, This Beat Goes On, and Rise Up, chronicling the decade-by-decade history of Canadian rock and pop music starting in the 1960s, and the documentary special Magical Mystery Cures, that aired in Spring 2011 on CBC.
THE PRODUCTION COMPANIES
Founded in 2010 by Luc Châtelain, Montreal-based Echo Media is a company formed from the restructuring of the various film and television production branches of L’Équipe Spectra, including its companies Spectra Animation, Films Zingaro, Amérimage Spectra, Virage and Sogestalt. Current Echo Media titles include Life on the Block, a 26 x 30 minute prime-time animated series for the whole family, set to air on Radio-Canada; 19-2 Season 1 of a 10 x 60 minute dramatic series for Radio-Canada about the day-to-day lives of two Montreal cops on the beat; the animated series Toopy & Binoo, an enormous success in Canada that has also been sold to 179 countries; Logistika, a documentary showcasing the extraordinary logistics behind the worldwide organization of the touring Cirque du Soleil; Memories Corner, a feature film co-produced with France’s Noodles Production and shot in Kobe, Japan, which has the 1995 earthquake as its backdrop and has just been selected by the prestigious Pusan Film Festival in Korea; and Relève Québec-Haïti, a 3 x 60 minute documentary series for RDI and a 60 minute special for Radio-Canada chronicling the efforts of a small team of construction work drop-outs who redeem themselves by rebuilding an orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti, following its destruction by the earthquake. http://www.echomedia.tv/
SOAPBOX PRODUCTIONS INC.
Vancouver-based Soapbox Productions was formed in January 1990 from a partnership of Pat Ferns and Nick Orchard, with Orchard becoming sole owner of the company in 1993. The company has amassed an impressive list of production credits to its name, including them the series Northwood, Cosmic Highway, Double Exposure, Cosmic Odyssey, The Great Race, Head’s Up!, Island Escapes, and What Were They Thinking. Other credits include Life on the Vertical, Shadow Warrior: The Dave McTaggart Story, Happy Birthday Blues: John Baldry in Concert, O.Com: Cybersex Addiction, two New Beachcombers MOWs, a three-hour history of comedy group Second City, the documentary Magical Mystery Cures, and the musical history series including Shakin’ All Over, This Beat Goes On and Rise Up, of which Life Is a Highway is the fourth installment. http://www.soapboxproductions.ca/