Sand Point native Andrea England is pictured hosting one of the first live shows for “Four Chords and the Truth” in Toronto back in 2016.

TORONTO: A former Strait area resident has started a successful songwriter circle that began with live shows and continues through the global pandemic.

Andrea England, host/curator/founder of Four Chords and the Truth is formerly from Sand Point, said although he has lived in Toronto for the past 20 years, she still considers Nova Scotia her home.

“Home is home; it’s in every fibre of my being,” she told The Reporter. “If I could’ve pursued my career to the extent that I have here, there, I would have.”

After going to StFX and Dalhousie University, travelling overseas, then taking her masters in Ottawa, in the late-1990s, England joined a band, then started writing.

This culminated in the solo EP Eyes Wide Shut, which received heavy radio play. The day it was released, England said she was in a motor vehicle collision.

“The day I found out that my song was playing on the East Coast, and was number one on the countdown at time, this was like 1999, I just had a car accident,” she recalled. “I was in rehab trying to figure out how to sit up again. I had lost my memory.”

Following six months of rehabilitation, the very first gig she booked was the Stan Rogers Folk Festival main stage.

“You can’t imagine how nervous I was,” she recounted.

After coming to Toronto, England hosted a songwriter circle, then in 2016, she founded “Four Chords and the Truth,” based on events she previously attended, such as an East Coast Music Awards SOCAN songwriter circle hosted by Bruce Guthro in Saint John.

“That was really a big part of my music business experience,” she noted. “I was terrified, but it went really well. So my familiarity with that whole thing and song writing really got ingrained in me really early.”

Because of her love of song writing, and while hosting other songwriters in her home, England realized that many top songwriters were unknown. She also noticed that circles were not common outside of Atlantic Canada, and the festival circuit.

“In the general public, hearing the story behind the songs is not something, outside of those two particular places, that’s not that common,” she pointed out. “So many of my songwriter friends, we have all these songs that I want people in Toronto to hear them.”

England decided on the venue, then reached out to songwriters, including Colin MacDonald from The Trews, who appeared in the first show with Serena Ryder.

“Serena came by, well that was so wonderful,” she said. “So I kept that surprise guest thing going.”

Photos by Mike Highfield
Serena Ryder performed with Colin MacDonald, with The Trews, during the first Four Chords and the Truth show five in 2015.

After the first show sold-out, England knew she had something so she reached out to the owners of another venue, and decided to put on four shows per year.

“I want to keep the calibre of writer really high, and I wanted to have it be a bit of an experience, not have it be every day,” she said.

At the end of season two, England said Tom Cochrane was brought in as a surprise guest, a show which was a turning point, and which forced England to presell tickets months in advance.

“From that night onward, we’ve been selling out the show without a lineup announced,” she stated. “That night, the first show sold out before I was even home, and then a couple of weeks later, the whole year was sold out. Since then, the last three years in a row, we’ve sold out before announcing lineups.”

Now 22 shows later, England said it has featured artists like Rose Cousins, Sylvia Tyson, Scott Helman, Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle, Reeny Smith, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, and Danny Michel.

“I’ve been so blessed to have so many songwriters come and do this,” she said. “They’ve really embraced it.”

After the global pandemic made live performances impossible, Four Chords and the Truth went online.

Unaware that the online option was available, England said she was approached by the Songwriters Association of Canada who connected her with a company that provided them with a platform that included virtual tables, a virtual backstage and a virtual merchandise store. Some of the proceeds from the online event went to the Unison Benevolent Fund, Canada’s music industry charity, she noted.

“We replicated the feeling (of live shows). They came early, they hung out at their tables,” she reported. “We had people from Nashville, northern Ontario, Halifax, and Toronto. I think we pulled it off so I think we’re going to do another one virtually.”

At their next show, England added she will be debuting two new songs, one which she wrote during the pandemic called “My Parents House,” the other is “Halifax.”

“Four Chords and the Truth” can be found online at: https://fourchordsandthetruth.com/2021/02/05/3-18-21-four-chords-and-the-truth-21st-confessions-online/.