Metro/Handout Andrea and Cindy, who together make up Scarlett Jane, draw on their travels and ethnic roots to create the genre they dubbed “Folk-noir”.

I have said this before. “Indie” is not a genre. It’s a stop on the musical path to artistic self-discovery. Alright, I never said it quite like that before, but the point remains the same.

Many independents are simply striving to rid themselves of the designation in favour of the next rung on the showbiz ladder, but the experience is for most, necessary and invaluable. Free to explore their creative vision unbound by the shackles of corporate intervention, this is where artists can develop that musical identity that shapes their career. If not, it’s time for something with a dental package.

The following acts have either arrived at, or risen above the level of those elite few who are divinely blessed to earn their living at that which they were destined.

1. Andria Simone: Imagine early Amy Winehouse with better hair. Andria is what I call an “open-heart” songstress. Exposing the vulnerability nestled between playful shrugs, the sassy singer-songwriter unabashedly commands the stage like the R&B divas that inspirited her.Her EP, Nothing Comes Easy, is a remarkable debut that ends like her live shows: All too soon. She’s set for a repeat performance at Toronto’s famed El Mocambo on May 3rd, but she’ll be touring soon, so lookout folks. You’re in for some home-cooked, bluesy retro-soul, sandwiched between two slices of Canadian funk! Tasty.

2. Delhi 2 Dublin: DJ Tarun Nayar needed something special for the Vancouver Celtic Festival on St Patrick’s Day in 2006. With a Punjabi father and Irish mother, he turned a combination of live musicians from two polarized cultures into the most unlikely, but positively electric musical acts.  Sanjay, Andrew, and Ravi bring percussion, electric guitar and sitar to Sara Fitzpatrick’s rousing violin. I caught their act at Saint Rocke in L.A., and the blend of electronica, Bhangra beats, and celtic melody was undeniably contagious. Their new album, Turn Up The Stereo will make you do just that, but if you get the opportunity to see them live, seize it.

3. JP Saxe: At 20 years-old, no one around him questions why he has no plan B. His number one fan, a.k.a. “Dad” cultivated his son’s talent by “getting out of his way”. Soul singer Erin Hunt says “JP was just born a singer-songwriter, and he embodies it. Quality music just flows from him.” Saxe credits his passion to his grandfather, renowned cellist Janos Starker, who dedicated himself to improving the world through the gift of beautiful music. Intent on carrying on the legacy, JP just released his first EP, Acoustic, and is working on the album this summer as he closes in on a distribution deal.Remember his name.

4. Marla Joy: This girl is a swag-machine onstage, probably because her pipes are so ridiculous. She’s like a soul-salad of Aretha, Otis Redding and Tina Turner. Marla has appeared with icons like K.C and The Sunshine Band, The Temptations, Mary J Blige, and Prince. Two years ago, Seventeen magazine called her their “Artist to know”, and those girls are 19 now! So, the release of her new EP Perfectly Flawed, is perfectly timed. Produced by Grammy winner Syience, it’s launch next month will make a lot of people wonder where she came from, and where she’s been. Right here, baby! Right here.

5. Mena Hardy: Here’s a no-nonsense, axe-grinding, singer whose boots were made for rockin’. Part Janis, Part ZZ Top, can she be our next Rock Queen? This era needs one, and Mena’s got the fierceness, and the passion. With her band, The Shotgun Revolutionaries, she creates her own brand of southern-style rock, with hits I’m a Loser at 17 and The Way She Goes, and she’s just getting started. Among last year’s winners in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, she’s rolling her experience into her new EP, featuring collaborations with Runed front man, Sane, and ex-Econoline Crush drummer, John Lalley. Hardy gives a lot on and off-stage, all just for the opportunity to do it again. She has her sights set on an eventual tour, and I for one, would buy a ticket. But I’d prefer a free one. Just sayin’, Mena.

6. Scarlett Jane: Manager Jake Gold has a knack for uncovering talent, and he has once again struck, umm…gold, with this delightful duo. Andrea and Cindy draw on their travels and ethnic roots to create the genre they dubbed “Folk-noir”. Sometimes referred to as the Everly Sisters, or the musical offspring of Stevie Nicks and Blue Rodeo, their silky harmonies and instrumental synchronicity almost make you forget that you are looking at two exceptionally striking ladies. Almost. They pride themselves on work ethic, heartfelt songwriting, and staging performances that connect with their audience. An audience which is growing by the minute as they promote their album, Stranger, on a massive tour across Canada and Europe. Their cross-genre appeal extends to fans of country, rock, and people with ears and eyeballs.

7. Tyler Wilson Band: Fate sat me next to Tyler on a flight, and his Neil Young biography sparked the conversation, but it was his wife, Lisa, who exposed his multi-instrumental, singer-songwriter identity. The band, with Myles, Tim, and Butch has a classic rock vibe infused with old school Blues a la Creedence Clearwater Revival meets the Black Keys. A guitar aficionado, Tyler doesn’t just play a telecaster, he also built one. Yeah, you read that right. The unsuspecting rock star magnetism that materializes on-stage is born of substance over style. Lisa says that while he could draw lightning from his guitar if he wanted to, “he’d rather play one note that means something.” The rest of the boys are as diverse and committed as he, which is probably why their self-titled CD is my pick for times when you just want to stop everything, pour a drink, put your feet up, and listen.

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