Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer. Brook Roberts, left with guitar, Lauren Mann and Zoltan Szoges rehearse with Hillcrest Elementary students on Tuesday, May 30.

BC Searchlight Winner Visits Acoustic Avenue

Lauren Mann takes to The stage after a week of working with Hillcrest School students

Traffic is busy on Acoustic Avenue.

Following last Saturday’s well-attended concert and CD drop by Green Room, comes award-winning singer/songwriter Lauren Mann.

The Calgary native, who has recently put down roots in this province’s Southern Gulf Islands, started touring full time in 2011 with her first album Stories From Home, a collection of self-produced home recordings.

Mann followed this with the 2012 release Over Land and Sea, produced by Aaron Marsh and called “a sonic tapestry saturated by sunlight,” by Exclaim Magazine.

The diverse instrumentation and beautiful harmonies centred around Mann’s gift of songwriting garnered the attention of listeners and critics alike, with the songs Weight of the World, Over Land and Sea, and I Lost Myself going into regular rotation on CBC Radio 2 nationwide.

In 2014, Mann and her band, affectionately known as the Fairly Odd Folk, were the winners of the CBC Searchlight contest, rising to the top of more than 4,500 bands from across Canada and was named Canada’s best new emerging artist.

At the end of 2014, she also won Alberta’s Peak Performance contest.

“It was a busy year with those two big things happening, but so exciting,” Mann says. “It felt like so much of the hard work we put in was worth it. It was fulfilling to get so many fans come onboard to support us and having CBC behind us had made a huge difference in my career.”

Since her start in 2011, Mann has captivated audiences with an impressive live performance at more than 650 shows across Canada and the United States.

She has shared the stage with bands such as July Talk, Reuben and the Dark, The Strumbellas, Rusted Root, The Matinee, Balkan Beat Box, Phox, among others, and has set herself apart not just as a songwriter, but as an engaging performer.

“Honest and affectionate, with a little bit of whimsy,” is the sentiment behind songstress Mann’s album Dearestly.

The songs are a poignant narrative of dark and light set against the backdrop of different landscapes, and chronicle years of touring and personal joys and struggles.

Musically, the album travels from moments of sparse simplicity to bombastic choruses, anchored by Lauren’s vocal prowess and beautiful melodies.

Washington Post named Mann “one of the best indie-folk rockers that you’ve never heard of,” which has been changing with the release of Dearestly along with cross-Canada touring that brings her music to new audiences.

Her inspiration comes on her travels and simply from life experience, she says, noting she keeps a notebook and cell phone with a recording app so she can record snippets of music or lyrics while on the road.

Much like putting a puzzle together, when she gets home, Mann sits down at her piano and crafts the snippets into songs.

Keen to share her talent and expertise, the artist and her husband and bandmate Zoltan Szoges, are spending this week working with students at Hillcrest Elementary and in a songwriting class at Salmon Arm Secondary.

“It’s been really really cool; I haven’t had the opportunity to do this in the past and it’s nice to be here, a nice change of pace,” she says enthusiastically.

“The energy of the kids and enthusiasm is fun and it’s pretty surreal to hear the students singing my songs.”

While she has driven through Salmon Arm many times, Mann has never stopped for more than gas or food. She is planning to change that this week.

“One of my favourite things is to explore and get a feel for where you are,” she says. “I am going to enjoy the week and I am looking forward to the concert on Friday as well.”

Mann will perform in concert on Friday, June 2 at The Handmade Shoppe.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available online at acousticavenue.tickit.ca, in person at Acorn Music or by reservation at 778-489-5408.

Doors open at 6 and The Ugly Mug serves hot and cold entrees, snacks and wine and beer.