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Beauwater look to build on ECMA success

Newfoundland blues-rock group Beauwater features, from the left, Michael Maddox, Jonathon Reid and Greg Newhook. The band recently picked up an East Coast Music Award.
Newfoundland blues-rock group Beauwater features, from the left, Michael Maddox, Jonathon Reid and Greg Newhook. The band recently picked up an East Coast Music Award.

ST. JOHN'S, NL — The members of St. John's rock band Beauwater have played together for almost a decade, and are now in the midst of a particularly fruitful period.

In April, the band earned an East Coast Music Award for best blues recording, honouring its 2016 sophomore release, "Lovers, Fools and Kings." The band was in Saint John, N.B. for the awards, having also received an opportunity to perform at a showcase, and were surprised enough by the nomination.

"We just had our showcase set … which was to a packed house," drummer Michael Maddox told The Compass. "We really won the crowd over and we were excited and just happy to do that."

Members of the group — Maddox, guitarist-vocalist Jonathon Reid and bassist Greg Newhook — were still taking their gear off stage when the winner was announced.

"We just ran off stage as quick as we could and we barely made it to the back," said Maddox. "I didn't really hear our band name. I heard them announce the album's name. We just lost it."

Reid and Newhook are both from Norman's Cove and graduated from high school at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown, while Maddox is from the Conception Bay community of Adams Cove and graduated from Carbonear Collegiate.

It was Maddox who placed an ad on a message board looking for people to jam with. He heard from Newhook, and the two started working together. Newhook and Reid had a musical history, and when a group Maddox and Newhook were in fell apart, Reid was brought on board.

"I used to live off of Higgins Line in St. John's and so did Greg, and Johnny either got fogged in or snowed in when he was doing a turnaround to Alberta. So he was staying with Greg and he was wondering if anyone played any music around, so they came over for a jam — and that was nine years ago. We've been a band ever since."

Their shared love of classic rock brought them together initially. Reid and Newhook were also fond of the blues, and as their chemistry developed, the music started to centre around bluesy riffs and rhythms.

"Johnny really turned me on to guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan and all that stuff," said Maddox, also pointing to the early-1970s output of the Rolling Stones as a pivotal influence on the band's music. "A lot of our classic rock heroes are heavily influenced by the blues, so I think it was bound to happen anyway."

After releasing their debut album "Movin' On" in 2011, Beauwater took their time to prepare for a second album. The band hooked up with St. John's singer-songwriter Chris Kirby — known to have an affinity for rhythm and blues, soul and funk — to produce their most recent effort. Maddox said the band was more than impressed with Kirby's contributions to the music.

"Chris really helped our writing," said Maddox. "He really focused on certain aspects that were lacking from our previous album. On our previous album, we did no pre-production — we just had a bunch of songs … What Chris brought to us was a way of scheduling and putting focus and really developing our songwriting side. It was a pleasure to work with him. He came in and was like a fourth member."

The ECMA win opened the band's eyes to the value of hard work. Having played together for so long, they've recognized the challenges of attracting an audience in a St. John's music scene dominated by traditional folk music.

"It's just something we do that we really enjoy," said Maddox. "We do it in our spare time. We all have jobs … But this win was a major surprise. It motivates us to keep doing it and just getting better at it."

With that in mind, the band is considering opportunities on the mainland for gigs.

"That's the first time we got to play a show off the island in our nine years of being together, so we kind of got bitten by a bug while we were up there."


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