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ESTABROOKS BROS Q & A with The Estabrooks Brothers

Interview by Ren Tomovcik
Photo (left) by Sundari Photography

Combining the flavours of Big Band brass with fresh pop and soul sounds, Jonathan and Bryan Estabrooks are The Estabrooks Brothers, a vocal duo emerging on the capital's music scene.

Their shows in May on the NAC Fourth Stage will mark the launching of their act, as they prepare to record an album this fall with a tour to follow. This is the first big step on the road to success as a vocal duo, but there is certainly lots more to come from the Estabrooks Brothers!  

Jonathan Estabrooks
shares some thoughts with Ottawafocus as the duo gears up for their NAC debut.

Jonathan, what was Ottawa's influence on your development as artists?

We grew up in Ottawa, a city that without a doubt, shaped our paths in music, both as a duo and individually. It is an unusual city in the sense that it is often referred to as a “government service town.” The description doesn’t always denote excitement or an arts scene, but yet the vibrant nature of this city was incredible and afforded countless opportunities for two young performers or ‘stage animals!’ From the age of 7 and 11 we grew up in front of an audience, whether performing at the Kiwanis Music Festival, with Ottawa Little Theatre, Opera Lyra Ottawa, The Company of Musical Theatre or alongside local entertainer Dominic D’arcy, a lifelong mentor who was instrumental in getting us to where we are today.

Are your musical tastes very similar, or do you bring different flavours to the band's sound?

Growing up together may not always result in similar musical tastes, but I think the fact that we were performing together all the time kept our musical influences in line with one another. I would say some of our biggest influences come from the great piano men like Billy Joel and Elton John, but then they also include the likes of Stevie Wonder, Chicago, Oscar Peterson, Roy Orbison, The Beatles and of course many of the great classical singers and instrumentalists.

ESTABROOKS BROS Photo (left) by Jonathan Lung

What's the first time you can remember being truly affected by a piece of music? 

I guess I would have to go with ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles. I was about 7 or 8 at the time and my grandmother had passed. We were very close and as with any loss it was tough. While in the car on our way to the funeral the song came on the radio. Somehow it encapsulated that moment and how I was feeling so perfectly: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they're here to stay,” wanting so much to go back in time, just a day. It’s a beautiful lyric that to this day brings vivid memories, both happy and sad, of that time in my life.

 Aside from your passion for music, what are your greatest loves in life?

Food is without a doubt our combined weakness and passion. Shout out to our Mother, the best cook in the city. We were raised on hearty and healthy meals, some from her Ukrainian roots but also just great fresh ingredients and leftovers for days. Bryan has since mastered the art of cooking himself, and I fare not too badly.

We were also heavily involved in Alpine ski racing as part of the Nancy Green Program at Camp Fortune for many years, until a lack of time forced us to choose one or the other. We chose music.

What artists would you love to collaborate with?

The chance to talk to Billy Joel about lyrics, or to write a tune with Stevie Wonder or Elton John would be incredible. It would be an honor to share creative energy and the vibrancy of stage performance with any of the masters of song.

Photo by Jonathan Lung

What advice would you give to young musicians who are just getting their start and still waiting for their "big break"?

My advice would be “don’t wait for your big break!” You’ll be waiting all your life. I have always believed that luck is your ability to recognize opportunity and be prepared for it. As Dominic D’arcy has always told me, “Do one thing each day towards your goal, whatever it may be.” I can honestly say that that is how I live my life. Practice everyday, know your strengths and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. If you believe in what you have to offer, your risks will pay off. If not, you’ll be able to look back on the attempt and know that you gave it your best shot.

What are your favourite places to play or see live music in Ottawa?

Growing up in Ottawa, we rarely had the chance to see others perform as we had as many as 4 shows a week from Opera Lyra Ottawa, local telethons, the Tulip Festival and as MCs for Canada Day. By age 19 we had left the city for Toronto and then New York City. I am hoping to explore the Ottawa music scene a great deal more and have a chance to take in some great music.

Photo by Jonathan Lung

Ottawa's music scene doesn't quite have the high profile of its more famous brethren, Montreal and Toronto, but it's getting there! Do you feel there has been a surge in musical talent coming out of Ottawa lately?  Is this building momentum toward establishing the capital as a musical powerhouse in Canada?

I think that Ottawa has a great deal more talent than we are given credit for. Comparing the Market of five years ago to now, there is a vibrancy of people and live music that is infectious.  From theatres and opera companies to Broadway, the list of success stories is mind-boggling. We are a unique city with an iconic landscape, and I think our music scene can and will be a force to be reckoned with.



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