Published on FAME Canada: Sept. 16, 2014
When Conor Gains was invited to join the Iridium Jazz Club stage by the late Les Paul, little did he know he was on the road to becoming one of Canada’s rising bluegrass artists.
The Cambridge, Ont. native first picked up his father’s acoustic guitar when he was eight, and since then has developed an attachment to the instrument. He has excited audiences in Memphis, Nashville, Cleveland, Montreal, Toronto and all across southern Ontario.
One day, Conor decided to rummage through his father’s music collection and discovered who he wanted to be like in the world of entertainment.
“I immersed myself in the music of guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Steve Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix,” he said. “I was so inspired by their raw talents, and I always asked myself, ‘What else should I listen to?’”
Conor began performing live at blues jams in Cambridge when he was 12. Seasoned musicians around the area encouraged him and allowed him make guest appearances at their shows. After a while, he gained enough confidence to cultivate his craft and reach his maximum potential and form his own band.
“When I was in junior high, I met Joel Goodman, a really competent drummer,” said Conor. “We formed a partnership and we were joined by various bass players. We’ve been playing live shows around Ontario ever since.”
Calling themselves The Conor Gains Band, the group played the 2007 Escarpment Blues Festival in Milton, where Conor was honoured to have Leo Lyons, bass player for British blues legends “Ten Years After” wish him a happy 14th birthday during their headline performance.
“That was just the beginning of my inspiration,” he said. “Meeting other performers such as Savoy Brown’s Kim Simmonds and blues guitarist Walter Trout is what really got me going.”
During the fall that same year, Conor and his journalist father embarked on a “father and son rock & roll trip,” where he played at the B.B. King’s Blues Clubs in Nashville and Memphis as well as Wet Willie’s on Memphis’s famed Beale Street. He played two nights to record crowds at the latter venue as a guest of the Victor Wainwright Blues Band.
In January 2008, The Conor Gains Band played at Toronto’s legendary music venue, the Horseshoe Tavern. Talent buyer Craig Liskey said that “Conor was absolutely amazing, and that everyone was raving about him and his band.”
Since then, the band has sold out three straight shows at Cambridge’s Café 13 where he started jamming as a 12-year-old.
Conor Gains is now at the tender age of 21, and 2014 has been a year of great accomplishments for him and his band.
This past July, the band won the 2014 Toronto Blues Society “Talent Search” competition and set out on a nationwide tour. They will also be given a showcase slot at the 2015 Toronto Blues Summit (a biannual gathering of the Canadian blues scene), a spot at the Aurora Winter Blues Festival, rehearsal time at Cherry Jam Rehearsal Studio in Toronto and consideration to represent the Toronto Blues Society at the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
The Conor Gains Band’s latest album, “Run Away with the Night” is available right now on iTunes and Amazon, and is distributed by CD Baby.
Each song was written or co-written by Conor, with the band including Mack Jordan on guitar and vocals, Aaron Hernandez on drums and vocals and Mikey Vukovich on bass. Special guests include Jerome Godboo, a 2014 International Blues Challenge harmonica player winner, the 24th Street Wailers and Matt Weidlinger.