Calgary artists make Folk Fest debut

Posted by Elizabeth Cameron on 30 July 2017


Ask Nils Mikkelsen, the sound producer half of Calgary duo AM Static, if there are any plans for a tour in the future, the answer is brief: no.

Despite a JUNO nomination in 2016 for best Electronic Album of the Year, AM Static is a breakout band that isn’t really trying to be a band.

Yet there they were, performing for sizeable, chilled-out crowd at the 38th CFMF this weekend on Prince’s Island Park.

“I don’t think either one of us has ever been keen on the idea of (a tour),” says vocalist Chris Austman, who’s a voice over artist when he isn’t in the studio ironing out ideas with Mikkelsen.

“Very early on, we knew we had the most fun sitting in the studio together writing things. So we were really hoping in the future to start writing for other artists.”

Between them, Mikkelsen estimates they’ve written 150 songs in the past six years.

“Everything is done just the two of us,” he says. “Which can be tough to do, to find the time, because writing can be so time consuming.”

It makes for plenty of long hours in the studio – something Austman refers to as ‘the weird curse of song ideas.’
Perhaps it’s that drive that landed them on the CFMF stage for the first time. It was a good match for their dreamy digital rhythms and acoustic, soulful melodies.

“I like shows where you can sit down, you shouldn’t feel like you’re obligated to stand up. You can just sit there and enjoy the music,” says Austman.

“A lot of the fun comes out of the fact we’re relaxed enough to just let them be themselves … a lot of people were on their phones for half of the show, but hey, that’s just humanity being themselves,” he adds without any sarcasm.
He’s just happy to be there, as is Mikkelsen.

“I’ve been here in different capacities, sometimes as a fan and sometimes for work as a sound technician, but this year has just been playing and it’s definitely been the most enjoyable,” Mikkelsen says.

Benjamin Longman, a folk artist from the U.K. who now lives in Calgary, poses for a portrait at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 29, 2017.


Benjamin Longman, a folk artist from the U.K. who now lives in Calgary, poses for a portrait at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 29, 2017.

The festival also brought Londoner (as in, England) and newly-minted Calgarian Benjamin Longman to it’s lineup for the first time this year.

“I feel like any minute now someones going to say oh sorry, we thought you were someone else,” Longman says. “I feel so privileged to be here.”

It’s been two years since he arrived from the U.K. and he’s already making his mark on Calgary’s music scene – the CFMF being one of the more significant achievements thus far.

“This is probably the biggest festival I’ve played so far,” Longman says. “To me, folk music just feels so natural and earth-driven – the way that classical music seems like it has grand aspirations to make you feel different things, the way that rock music just makes you feel good sometimes.”

He describes his sound as lyrical-alternative-folk music, his creative ear influenced by having classical musicians for parents and a somewhat-early introduction to cello.

“(The cello is) huge in folk music right now, I feel like my parents might have foreseen it,” Longman says with a laugh.

“But my musical taste is such a mishmash … it all contributes to what I do in some way.”