Folk Roots Radio Episode 591: feat. Kay Howl – Pink Trees & More New Releases

Folk Roots Radio Episode 591: feat. Kay Howl - Pink Trees & More New Releases

London ON based singer-songwriter Kay Howl joins us on Episode 591 of Folk Roots Radio for an in-depth conversation about her music. You may not recognize the name Kay Howl, until we tell you that as Kay Oh Chay, she was the big voice behind the keys of the fun bluesy duo, The Oh Chays. She’s now back with a new identity, new direction and a wonderful new album, “Pink Trees”. It’s a great interview – we hope you’ll stay with us to check it out. As always, we wrap up the episode with more new releases, and this time around they are all by female artists as we hear from Flo Perlin, Tenise Marie, Tess Anderson, Allison Russell, Katie McNally Trio, Tania Joy, Katherine Priddy and Madeline Doornaert. Check out the full playlist below.

Best 2020


Kay Howl first landed on our radar as the driving force behind the South Western Ontario duo The Oh Chays, who also featured Mike Sugar Authier on guitar, percussion and backing vocals. Known for their upbeat and fun songs, powerful vocals and playful stage banter, the duo were finalists in the 2014 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search and represented Toronto Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2015. The Oh Chays may be no more, but the dynamic vocal delivery and fun stage presence lives on as Kay Howl.

“Pink Trees”, which was produced with Marty Bak at SLR studios in Windsor ON is a personal and powerful statement – a coming out record, and very much a ‘this is who I am’ recording. Featuring 11 tracks, it packs quite a punch, and a recording that Kay feels is best appreciated in full album format.

The new album actually follows up on another solo effort – the transitional “Kay Oh Chay” EP from 2019, though the uplifting and heartfelt lyrics on that album were more in the vein of previous Oh Chays releases.

Pink Trees  is currently available as a digital release on Bandcamp. Band versions of some of the songs on the album will be released in the coming months.

Kay Howl will be joining Sarah Smith on her European dates set this September – playing keyboards and bass in Sarah’s band, while also opening all the shows with a set of her own songs. She will also be joining Sarah Smith for the The Melissa Etheridge Cruise which departs Miami FL on November 12.

Kay is also a member of The S’Aints, the all-star band featuring Jody Raffoul, Jeff Burrows from The Tea Party and Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar, who perform annual Christmas shows and record holiday albums to support local charities in Windsor ON area.

Show Notes

We started out the episode with Flo Perlin, from the UK, who uses the metaphor of a painter to uncover the deepest aspects of herself on “Slowly Unfold” from her latest album “Characters”.

Creativity as a way of communicating is a big part of Flo’s life and Characters journals Flo’s exploration, getting to know the different aspects of herself and her relationship to them, exploring themes such as family roots, identity, relationships, belonging, mental health and the significance of self-reflection.

We followed that with Tenise Marie from Argenta BC with her latest single “Give Me A Chance”, a song directed towards a romantic partner, and capturing the moment of realizing – you don’t have to repeat the same old mistakes, and that they really are seeing you just as you are.

“‘Give Me a Chance’ captures the moment I realized I could break the cycle and evolve beyond repeating my same old mistakes. This was the moment I realized my life could be different. New things are hard, though, and growth doesn’t come without pain. When you change one part of your life, it sends a ripple through the rest of it. The song is addressed to a romantic partner, comparing the recipient to wine and noting their nuance, their difference in depth and flavour. It’s about the fear and beauty of a precious moment when someone looks at you and you know they are seeing you for exactly who you are. Being understood like that by another person can be both a meaningful and frightening experience. In the chorus, I drop all pretense and sense of occasion; the lyrics are simple and direct. ‘Give Me a Chance’ is a vulnerable plea for patience, love and acceptance”

“Don’t Believe In” is a powerful true story from Vancouver based Tess Anderson about the impact of falling pregnant half way through her music school program, and seeing her dreams ripped away when she decided to make the difficult decision to have her child. Read the full story in Tess’ own words and check out the great video. We’re really looking forward to hearing the rest of her EP!

“I was 19, newly-wed, halfway through my music school program, working a minimum wage part-time job, and ready to take on the world in a career as a musician – when I found out I was pregnant. I always wanted to be a mother, but becoming one before I had built a career at all, right after my family had moved away overseas, and at a point in time where I could barely afford rent, was definitely not how I imagined it happening. What I had dreamed would one day be the most exciting moment of my life instead became one of the most terrifying, isolating, and difficult. I took a year off school – and frankly off of music – to have my baby, and went back to finish my program when he was 9 months old. After graduating, I watched all of my friends move on and begin building successful careers for themselves while I was at home with my 1-year-old trying to figure out how to survive, let alone build this career I had dreamed of my whole life.”

“In the fall of 2018, full of imposter syndrome, I attended a music conference in Victoria at which I played a one-song showcase for a panel of mentors. One of the mentors happened to be Ryan Guldemond, the frontman of Mother Mother – one of my favorite bands. I received really positive feedback though, and afterward I reached out to Ryan about potentially co-writing with me. I didn’t expect him to say yes, but he did. I went to his studio and within 3 hours we had completely written and recorded a demo of “Don’t Believe In”. There was something so magic about that co-write. Ryan managed to pull everything that I was feeling at the time out of me and turned it into a song that literally changed my life. By simply having someone who I admired and looked up to so much listen to me, believe in me, and believe that I was capable of doing everything I dreamed of shifted everything. Just a couple months later I started booking shows around Vancouver, and ended up playing 42 shows within 6 months in 2019. These gigs funded the recording of my debut EP, and despite 2020 being such a horrible year to be a musician, I have continued to grow as an artist and the whole EP will be out this summer.”

“I’ve waited two and half years for you to hear this song and I am so excited it’s finally here. This song came out of one of the darkest times of my life, but it has continued to grow in meaning as the years go by. I hope that it can inspire those who are feeling trapped in their current circumstance and help them see that things do get better if you just hang on, don’t give up, and believe in yourself – even when it feels impossible.”

Nashville based Allison Russell, a member of both Birds of Chicago and Our Native Daughters, and formerly of Canadian band Po’Girl is becoming a huge sensation with her first solo album, the critically acclaimed “Outside Child” – a recording that’s all about resilience and survival, and the redemptive power of art, after escaping a traumatic childhood. The song we play on this episode, the powerful “4th day Prayer” tells how, when Allison was growing up in Montreal, she would spend all the time she could in Westmount Park to get away from her abuser.

“When I first went to live with my mother and her new husband, my adoptive father, after the foster home in Verdun – it was in a flat above an audiologist’s shop on Rue St. Catherine in Westmount. He worked for the audiologist and we got subsidized rent. It was there that the abuse began. I was 5. Westmount is a wealthy enclave – and though we were very poor – even the food banks were richer there. And there was the Park. I spent as much time as I could in that Park – to get away from him. There was an old climbing tree, much beloved, on a little island in the heart of the park – a huge old willow bent almost double that was eventually propped up by poles. I was devastated to hear that it was finally felled by a storm in 2010.”

The instrumental on this episode is another from Boston fiddler Katie McNally and her trio. You can find “Worthley Pond” on their sophomore release “Now More Than Ever”, an album we heartedly recommend if you, like us, enjoy original fiddle-driven instrumental music.

“Who I Am”, the latest single from Uxbridge ON singer-songwriter Tania Joy, is a song about naming those unspoken fears that make us who we are, embracing them, and pushing past them. You’ll be able to find it on from her forthcoming album “I Will Stand”.

UK singer-songwriter Katherine Priddy’s new single is the beautiful “Indigo”, one of the first songs she ever wrote. It comes from her forthcoming album “The Eternal Rocks Beneath”.

“Indigo was loosely inspired by an old tree in the village I grew up in, Alvechurch. It had fallen a long time ago and lay sprawled out across the top of a hill – a big pile of glorious, sun-warmed limbs. A childhood friend and I would often go there to play on it, and later in my teens I would sometimes walk up and lurk in its shadows for a furtive smoke. But one day the council got rid of it altogether – no longer did its body drape itself across the field to act as a climbing frame for kids or a spot to stop and think. I always thought that was a great shame, so I suppose Indigo was one way of memorialising this old monument, as well as a reflection on the other transient elements of childhood, something I think the new album touches on a lot. I suppose that makes sense, seeing as this album contains so many of the early songs I wrote during my teens. It’s almost a way of packaging up this chapter of my life and drawing a line beneath it. The eternal rocks beneath – the foundations of what has been and the bedrock for whatever follows next.”

We wrapped the episode with folk/pop singer-songwriter Madeline Doornaert from Windsor ON with a piano driven version of the title track from her debut album, “Muddy Water”.

“Muddy Water is on autobiographical ground – childhood memories in ‘Sunscreen’, abuse unmasked in ‘Harvey High School’, frustration at being gaslighted in ‘Running Back’, and self-advocacy in ‘Lost It In The Laundry’ – blended with my abiding love for some of the great singer-songwriters of the 70s like Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Janis Ian. My producer, who is also my long-time partner, Dane Roberts worked to underscore my songs with smooth guitar licks, energetic acoustic guitars, and analog percussion. One of my favourite parts of the process was finishing recording for the day and then driving somewhere and listening to the song over the car speakers so we could determine what the song needed next or what changes we needed to make.”

That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.

If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!


You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)


Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)

Flo Perlin
Slowly Unfold
Characters (2021, Self)

Tenise Marie
Give Me A Chance
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Tess Anderson
Don’t Believe In
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Allison Russell
4th Day Prayer
Outside Child (2021, Fantasy Records) CDN

Katie McNally Trio
Worthley Pond
Now More Than Ever (2020, Self)

Kay Howl
Pink Trees (2021, Self) CDN

Kay Howl
High On A Woman
Pink Trees (2021, Self) CDN

Interview: Kay Howl discussing her new full-length album “Pink Trees”.

Kay Howl
Natural Disaster
Pink Trees (2021, Self) CDN

Kay Howl
Must Have Been Love
Pink Trees (2021, Self) CDN

Tania Joy
Who I Am
(single) (2021, Self) CDN

Katherine Priddy
Indigo (Radio Edit)
The Eternal Rocks Beneath (2021, Navigator Records)

Madeline Doornaert
Muddy Water (Reprise)
Muddy Water (2021, Soul City Music Co-op) CDN

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

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