He spent two years rampantly researching, planning and saving money for his solo music career, yet Morgan Finlay didn't even practice with his backup band before March 28's show at Queen West's Cameron House.
Lucky for him, there was no way to tell…
Finlay and his musician mates solidly set it off and steadily played it through the final set of Darryl Hurs' monthly Saturday night gig in the Cameron's cozy back room, full of Finlay fans and those of other local Toronto musicians, such as Joel Parkes and Roger Sader, who graced the stage earlier that night.
Besides, bassist, Peter Murray, better known as Finlay's 'rock', the backups weren't Finlay's habitual musicians, but instead hires from a handful of professionals he's been connected with since his break into Toronto's Indie music scene two years ago.
"It's essential to find that band gel. Their caliber fascinates me. They study my tunes at home…so we can rehearse once…shake off the dust…or not practice…and we are ready to play a show. I am very fortunate for this," admits Finlay.
Finlay bounced on stage after midnight, tossing his tuke aside with a "That's the official winter fuckin' see ya" salute. With his "happy go lucky" sporadic stage stigma, Finlay, playing acoustic guitar the entire set, theatrically transitioned from an Egyptian dance, to karate kicks, to the running man, arms waving and head rolling, keeping it colourful for the crowd.
"I have always loved the stage…the more space I have the crazier it gets…I usually get people a little bit riled up," he says.
If you like Dave Matthews, you'll appreciate Finlay's lyrical laments from tunes off his CD release, Uppercut. Take, for example, "Blessed in my salvation, She has lit my eyes ablaze, Lover gone with morning, And daylight come again" from Zensong, or how about The Reason Why's "And you believe in you, Like I believe in I, What's beautiful to you, Is that the reason why?" Even Finlay's vocals have the same classic Matthews' tone, ranging from deep vibration, to a soothing high pitch. He does, however, throw in a few unique "na na na na na's", "do do do do do do's and "wo oh oh oh oh's" throughout a set.
Other eclectic Finlay musical influences mentioned in the same breath as Dave Matthews include; Mark Knoffler (Dire Straits), Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Metallica, Faith No More, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
The band kept up the crowd's energy with a jamming session, when Finlay vacated the spotlight, continuing to groove side stage. Other 'keep you on your toes' elements included the funk-inspired In a Perfect World and a Neil Young cover Don't Let It Bring You Down.
Before coming to Toronto, Finlay moved from Vancouver to Montreal, expecting to pursue his career as a solo musician there, but he quickly realized his belief that "Toronto is where it all starts". While overworking in Montreal, he uncommonly pursued music's business aspects, ordering and scouring Toronto's Yellow Pages, and researching via the net, for our city's 'best' recording studios, graphic designers, managers, and so on.
"I knew almost instantly I couldn't start it in Montreal…and worked like an idiot to pull off the Toronto thing… I like that challenge…land in a city and start swimming right away," says Finlay.
Following two big missions to Toronto, when he met and played acoustically for Canadian producer, Matt DeMatteo (Edwin, Big Wreck, Ashley MacIsaac) and his current bassist, Peter Murray, he had them convinced. Now, an official Torontonian two years later, Finlay's name is known around town, having played several gigs at popular Indie venues such as C'est What, the Rivoli, the Cameron House and Clinton's Tavern. But, Finlay's real exposure and support comes from the college/university circuit. Since January 2003, he's toured regularly across Ontario hitting approximately 20 different campuses through Ottawa, Toronto, London, Waterloo, Windsor and even into Montreal, Quebec.
"There are a whole lot more bands fighting for the same spots at the same place in Toronto… the campus circle is really receptive to my stuff…I started the ball rolling…and now know the bookers…I can always fall back on that," says Finlay.
Like all aspiring musicians, Finlay wants bigger and better things, but he's adamant about remaining in control, refusing to sacrifice his creative freedom and the 'business is business', decision-making process. Because of these reservations, he's hesitant about record deals.
"I want to be doing this all day and concentrating on it all the time. I am a control freak…I can admit that these days…with record labels…to hand over my entire career… I don't know how eager I would be to jump into that," Finaly admits.
Perhaps success for Morgan Finlay is just around the corner, after opening for Tom Cochrane and Sass Jordan at Windsor's Freedom Festival last Canada Day, with potential upcoming gigs in Burlington, Pittsburgh and Detroit, as well as aspirations to tour across the country once more money lines his pockets. Finlay admits to the United States yearn and possible European endeavours, but making a stance on his home turf comes first.
"Taking it a step at a time is my main focus…and coming to Toronto was a wise thing…I will start breaking out once I have a foundation," says Finlay.
Despite bigger gigs, eye-catching CD covers and web sites, raving reviews and picture perfect photos, Finlay realizes it's time to get back to the drawing, I mean, writing board, because in the end, it is only the music that will make them listen.
For more on Morgan Finlay visit www.morganfinlay.com.
Writer: Sophie Nicholls