Across the Board
Across the Board (ATB) is an award-winning rock band from Toronto, Canada who have been making waves globally. 2018 was a phenomenal year for the band. They received an Indie Music Hall of Fame award for hitting #4 on the mainstream iTunes Rock Charts for their newest release “Sonic Boom”. They also won “Best Rock Song 2018” at the Radio Music Awards and were for a Covenant Award nominee for Best Rock Album. Formed in 2013, ATB quickly gained popularity with their YouTube cover series “Pick Up and Play” – now with over 500 videos on Youtube—imprinting their unique and innovative musical style and videography on both contemporary and classic rock songs while featuring other local artists as guests. Across The Board received airplay on terrestrial FM and College radio throughout the globe for their last three pop rock albums and is currently in studio working on their fourth full length record “Wild Ones”. ATB also collaborates regularly with other local and national musicians on projects such as “Indigal”- the Canadian Independent Female Artist Collective, “She’s Listening”, in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
The catalyst to start writing music for me (Jackie, lead singer/songwriter, Across The Board) was truly picking up a guitar at the age of 10 and finding a chord progression within a few minutes of learning how to strum. I realized immediately that this was music, and that I could make my own songs--being a music lover early on. To this day, even though I play other instruments including the piano, I always write songs using my guitar first and foremost.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Oh my God, the craziest thing that has ever happened was being pulled up on stage with Walk Off The Earth at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto during their set and playing in front of thousands of people in that stadium---from one of the most iconic stages in my experience as a music lover and concert-goer, let alone a musician. As fellow Canadian musicians and super fans of that particular band, it was a wonderful moment that not only motivated us to find our way on our own to play stadiums of that size, but taught us an important lesson about how crucial our fans--particularly our super fans, are to our progress and trajectory as a band.
What has been the high point of your music path?
So far, watching the title track off our most recent album "Sonic Boom", soar to #4 on the Canadian iTunes Rock Charts--mainstream charting sandwiched inbetween bands like Paul MCartnery and AC/DC--it was a crazy moment. I kept refreshing the screen to see if it was real! It was!!!
Let's take a short break and check out an ATB video!
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
For me (Jackie), songwriting starts with a chord progression and a line--typically a line I can't get out of my head, that becomes either the hook or the basis behind the song. From there, a melody turns into a song structure, a chorus a bridge, and the lyrics seem to find their way inbetween the notes. To say that songs write themselves may seem to oversimplify a process that can often feel like giving birth before the end of it all. Some songs come easy--they have been mulling around my head for awhile and are waiting to get out. Other songs are more elusive, even evasive, and require harder work, more thought, trial and error---even a co-writer to make it to paper. The process is sometimes intiated by an instrumental track or hook already written musically. But most of the time, that musical melody comes after a chord structure is laid down and before any words come to fall on the page (for us).
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
The biggest challenge facing indie artists today is to be heard among the noise that is the internet. The internet is both a blessing and a curse---although we are all just one important influencer away from sharing our music widely, we also need to find our way to that person through so much muck. Just as we are able to put out quality music online for our fans to hear--new musicians, those who are experimenting with genres and styles, or people who just want to publish some noise are also in line to be heard --and the challenge comes in finding a way to either assist our fans in finding us, through curated playlists, specialty sites and other music influences, but also to find our way to our fans---who also get lost in the noise and sheer magnitude of endless low quality offerings, pages and productions that unfortunately clutter the space. It is a daunting challenge at times, but we are most certainly up for it!
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
We have always loved Walk Off The Earth---since before they broke with their viral covers on Youtube. We have been hard-fast super fans and see them as musical mentors--trail blazers and innovators. Sharing the stage with them would be a combination of awe-struck fan girl-boy excitement, and sheer pride--all packaged into the best night of our professional lives!
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Rehearsals happen twice weekly for Across The Board---we start with a short meeting, some business chat and planning and possibly a few drinks--depending on the schedule. We then head to our studio downstairs at the ATB House from the "man cave" where we tend to meet up (aka Garage)--as a band with a "band house" where Jackie and Andy live, we have a full service studio in the basement with both digital and analog capability, as well as a photo/video studio for green screen productions or stills--we can record videos, audio, or use the analogue set up and just rehearse/perform. We typically have a set list we want to go through for an upcoming show and take each song one by one, perfecting any little glitches or trouble points, as well as adding any enhancements or choreography we might like to see in a show. Sometimes we play musical chairs and switch instruments on stage-- most of us are multi instrumentalists which makes for an interesting and unexpected twist on stage. We will practice transitions between songs, and time the set to make sure it fits into the guidelines that we have been giving by the venue we will be playing at. If we have new material to learn, we break it down and make our way through it, instrument by instrument, harmony by harmony. Rehearsals typically last a couple of hours and end back up in the mancave where the band unwinds a bit and disperses. We keep in touch with a running messenger chat on Facebook and/or Whatsapp. Sometimes we also have a running text thread--we don't have a calendar per se--but everyone keeps their own and Jackie keeps reminding everyone about rehearsals, shows, TV appearances, commitments etc.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I just wrote a song (Jackie) about my battle with cancer which has been a distraction and an interruption to say the least. I was diagnosed this past July with breast cancer during one of the busiest and most successful periods of time in our band's history. We've been selling out shows, winning awards and nominations and moving on a nice tight trajectory, writing, producing, creating, performing. I wanted to try to capture the frustration, the "interruption" of it all in a song--and this song has been very difficult to write. I suppose it's because I am still in the middle of my battle--having not quite finished chemo, waiting for my surgery, yet continuing on with everything else in life as if it was just another part of my "to do's"---this song hasn't written itself like so many others seemed to have. I suppose because I haven't really come to any kind of agreement with my cancer as to what our relationship is. Am I a survivor, a victim, a short stop on it's way to something bigger, or I am the last stop on its way to obliteration. The jury is still out on this. It might take several more months to finish this particular song. And it might go through a few revisions before I "get it right"-- I think it's tough to write about pain. Until the pain is past. It's difficult to find a conclusion or to really understand an emotion until you can get yourself at some distance to the pain. It will come in time.
What's coming up in the future?
As we are in studio right now recording our 4th album, "Wild Ones" (new working title)--we have a release date of March 15th, 2019 and a big CD release party planned for the Toronto Opera House. We have a couple of TV appearances coming up-- one this coming week on Global morning television and another similar show in April on CHCH Television in Hamilton, Ontario. We were nominated for a Covenant Award by the Gospel Music Association of Canada as a crossover artist for our album "Sonic Boom" and we will be attending those awards in January in Edmonton, Alberta. We are involved in a big indie band competition called "The Bout" at The Hideout in Toronto, through the months of January through May, and we are in the processes of planning our next tour this coming Spring and Summer.
Tell us where fans can access your music!
YouTube Videos (Over 500!)