In the 1990s, this teenage singer with big dreams, a big voice and a keyboard had her parents drop her off on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue to try busking. Minutes later, she called them: “I’m done already.” She realized there was nowhere outside to plug in.
Music fans on several continents are grateful Ann Vriend overcame the snag of her first would-be-paying music gig. For more than two decades, Vriend has belted out songs — the sad and the sweet ones, the groovers and the heart-breakers, the cries of injustice and the cries of longing – with a voice inspired by her mom’s old soul records. On her latest album, Everybody Matters, she tackles the opioid crisis that has ravaged her lower-income Edmonton neighbourhood. She gave back to neighbours with sixty Sundays of porch concerts outside her house when the pandemic scuttled her overseas touring plans. AV & the Inner City was born after Vriend asked those who sang alongside her to form an official, rehearsed act with a repertoire of her own songs plus the odd cover song and 3 part harmony soul/gospel arrangements. This soulful roots ensemble is comprised of 6 singers: band leader Vriend; Indigenous a cappella group Asani co-founder Debbie Houle; radio host, jazz singer and pickle company owner Johanna Alleyne Crystal Eyo; lead singer/songwriter of Edmonton pop/RnB band Mercy Funk Alenka Lundell; and marching band and choral singer Jenn Dahlen.
Biography by Jason Markusoff