Kingston Live podcast establishing Kingston as Canadian music capital

Local singer-songwriter Nick Babcock performs during a recording session for the Kingston Live podcast
Local singer-songwriter Nick Babcock performs during a recording session for the Kingston Live podcast (supplied photo)

Johnny San, co-host of the Kingston Live podcast, has no shortage of praise for the Kingston music scene.

“We’ve talked in almost every episode so far that Kingston has a disproportionate amount of talent for its size,” said San. “It needs to be exploited somehow, so this is kind of the start of that.”

Since beginning production on the podcast at the end of 2018, San and his co-host Riley Jabour have featured a variety of Kingston area musicians and industry leaders, learning more about the scene themselves as they work to inform the masses about what Kingston has to offer musically.

“This started with (executive producer) Rob Howard, and Rob is all about big ideas,” said San. “He came here and was really struck by the music scene. His thought was that we need to brand Kingston’s music scene as a music capital. No one else in Canada, even Toronto, is trying to brand themselves as that. So the idea behind the podcast is kind of the starting point of that vision.”

Howard, who moved to Kingston 10 years ago, sees music as a potential economic pillar in Kingston, similar to other major music cities like Nashville, Austin, or St. John’s.

“I’m from Toronto and there’s a great scene there,” said Howard. “But you come here and you realize that the scene is extremely special and unique. The thing that struck me was how overlooked and under-leveraged it was as an economic force. I think musicians, venues, and hardcore music fans realize it, but the average person might not.”

The first episode of Kingston Live was released on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, and featured The Wilderness and Jay Middaugh, who directed the Live in Kingston feature film. Each episode is around an hour long and shares its focus between both musicians and non-performers in the music industry, such as concert promoters and musician support organizations like Joe’s M.I.L.L. Howard, as executive producer, focuses on marketing and distribution, as well as liaising with Tourism Kingston and other partners. San records and manages all the technical production, while co-hosting with Jabour, and Peter Sanfilippo writes and researches each episode.

San and Jabour have both been amazed by what they’ve discovered while working on the podcast.

“It’s the depth of it all,” said Jabour. “There is a never-ending well of quality talent. I hadn’t heard of (Kingston band) Deux Trois before the podcast. They have such a unique sound. Even beyond bands, I’ve been really surprised at how many non-musicians contribute to the scene and drive things forward. There’s a wealth of opportunity.”

Kingston Live’s ninth episode came out at the beginning of August, and as the audience continues to grow, Howard has ambitions to move the Kingston Live brand into other areas.

“We have plans to partner with local promoters like KPP to co-present live music shows, especially ones that are featuring local talent,” said Howard. “We have great organic growth on Instagram, so we’ll be expanding to other social media channels because we aren’t anywhere else yet. We’re exploring a regularly published print magazine, not only for residents but visitors in hotels and restaurants and such with concert listings and featured artist profiles. What we intend is for this to be a bit of a movement.”

Kingston Live is available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and Apple Music.

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