SYDNEY: A Sydney-based group that has been gaining international attention will be visiting the Strait area in December.

Pretty Archie will play a concert at the Strathspey Performing Arts Centre in Mabou on December 13.

“Our sound is kind of a mashup,” said band member Colin Gillis. “Some people call it Americana, we call it Canadiana.”

Gillis formed Pretty Archie with long time friends Brian Cathcart, Matt McNeil, Redmond MacDougall, and Scott MacLean. Their music is high energy and upbeat, and blends elements of country, folk, and bluegrass. The group’s original songs feature arrangements for vocals and acoustic instruments including guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica.

Gillis said the sound is reminiscent of bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and Great Big Sea.

Most of the band members grew up together in the Sydney area and began playing music for fun. They formed the band in 2012 and released their first album, Steel City in 2013.

“We were buddies before we were band mates,” Gillis said. “We all kind of went off after high school to do our own thing for a while… but then after a few years of that, we realized we wanted to give this a go and see what would come of it. We got together writing our first tunes and making our first record and we haven’t really looked back since.”

The group takes its name from a busker in the Sydney area well known to locals as “Pretty Archie.” Gillis said he is known for his colourful antics and love of music.

“We thought the name really represents how the important thing about music is loving music. It doesn’t matter if you do it for a living or not,” Gillis said. “We also like it because when we’re on the road and run into a random Cape Bretoner, they usually know who he is, so it’s kind of a nice little tip of the hat to home.”

Gillis said many of Pretty Archie’s songs are inspired by the musicians’ experiences as young adults in Cape Breton.

“We’re all around the same age and so we all kind of go through the same things, be it love gained or lost, or trying to figure out a way to live here in Cape Breton,” Gillis said.

Recently, the group has started to gain recognition from a much wider audience. It has been nominated for multiple Music Nova Scotia and East Coast Music Awards.

“We just finished our very first European tour and we’re headed to Scotland in January for a tour there. We’re just starting to branch out to the international markets, which is exciting for us,” Gillis said.

The group is also gearing up for a tour in Australia next year.

Although Pretty Archie’s music is inspired by Cape Breton life, Gillis said it seems to resonate with people around the world.

“In Europe, people would come up to us and say that they really relate to a song about having to leave home for work for example,” he said. “It’s a lot of things people around our age deal with.”

December’s concert in Mabou will feature some of the group’s favourite songs over the years as well as new material from their latest album Hanging On which is scheduled for release in October.

Tickets are available by calling 902-945-5300 or visiting: For more information on Pretty Archie’s music, visit: