AV’s perception of inner-city living changed when she moved into her McCauley home in 2008. Her new album, Everybody Matters, sheds a light on the realities of poverty, homelessness and addiction she’s been witness to over the last 14 years.
“I’ve gotten to know lots of people in the neighbourhood from all walks of life, and so I feel like I know the stories of lots of people and I’ve realized that trauma is a really big thing,” says AV. “I learned about trauma, and I learned about addiction and I’m still learning.”
The album has been a work-in-progress for three years and came to fruition in 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement inspired a AV to rethink the direction of the album. A few months prior, AV wrote a song called Everybody Matters, which states “Everybody Matters; some a little more.” The single was released in March 2020 and is a social commentary on what society says versus what it does when valuing human rights in relation to race, homelessness and mental health. AV’s album was already completed and titled, slated for a spring 2020 release, but AV went back to that track and decided to create the album around it. She then went back to her repertoire of songs and selected ones that better fit the tone of the new album.
“I was trying to get at the fact that by taking the microcosm of this little neighbourhood as a subject matter; it wasn’t just about the neighbourhood — it was about everybody, everybody matters,” says AV.
The album is stripped down compared to her previous albums, which she says have more pop songs. AV is listed as one of only four musicians who appear on the project, and the whole album’s instrumentation is only keyboards, vocals and drums. A mixture of blues and soul, AV wanted each track on the album to have its own personality.
“I spend a lot of time when I’m on the phone or when I’m writing looking out the window which is partly why I see so much I guess in the neighbourhood,” says AV. “And I wanted each track to have different feelings that you have at different times of the year based on the weather, how busy it is outside, etc.”
AV spent the last two years developing unique bonds within the community when she started doing porch concerts. The socially distanced outdoor concerts began in 2020 when AV felt stir-crazy after canceling her European tour. She decided to set up on her front porch and play music. Even if nobody came, at least she was doing what she loved. But, more and more people showed up with lawn chairs in tow to watch her performances.
“A byproduct of all that is that I know way more of my neighbours and I feel a lot more intimately connected to the neighbourhood,” says AV.
The music video for the title track was filmed in AV’s backyard in the style of a porch concert. Her most recent video for Anything I Know was filmed on the streets of McCauley and downtown, and features shots from the summer porch concerts. Both videos feature members of the community.
AV is planning Canadian and European tours in celebration of the album’s release, and tour dates are expected to be announced in the coming months. Before that, AV is heading to Toronto in June for a special performance with her Inner City Choir, a group of five local artists she put together who were all guests during her porch concerts.
Find Everybody Matters at annvriend.com/music—store.html