As the soothing sounds of an acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams“ float through the pub, all eyes are on East York musician Jennifer Brewer.
Her home bar, The Old Nick on The Danforth near Broadview Avenue, is small and it’s small stage offers is where the 39-year-old performer finds comfort.
“I could walk in here and have had the worst day of my life. There could be tears streaming down my face, but as soon as I start, it all goes away,” she said. “Your life needs to go in a box. You need to be in a focused place. It’s very meditative in a way, because you can’t go up on stage and have that going on in your head.”
Brewer has been playing guitar for over 15 years and has been running the open mic night at The Old Nick for more than five. Her background in music, she said, can largely be attributed to her family.
“My dad plays guitar and he sings, my brother plays guitar and bass, and my mother sings,” she said in an interview at her home bar. “Nobody ever chased it as a profession.”
And yet the Fredericton, N.B., native chased the music west to Toronto.
“Toronto is a huge scene. It’s a tough scene competition-wise,” Brewer said. “Local music has a really grounded level. If you don’t have a local music scene, it takes away from the community.”
That scene, that community in East York — and her place in it — stems from a need to experience live music, she said.
“We crave having something artistic in our lives, and … sitting down and watching something happen in front of us,” Brewer said. “We crave that dialogue that happens between an artist and an audience.”
Brewer counts Motown and Canadian star Sarah McLachlan among her influences. These sounds are reflected on her latest EP, Songs I Sang in Your Room, a collection of songs about lost romance.
Back on the stage at The Old Nick, Brewer finishes the soft, crooning sounds of “Dreams”. The audience bursts out in applause. Brewer simply nods and smiles.
This is her place, and she owns it.