Home MooseFest Why Tannis Slimmon is now sharing her billing with Lewis Melville

Why Tannis Slimmon is now sharing her billing with Lewis Melville


Roots Music Canada is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a one-night festival called MooseFest, June 4 at the TRANZAC. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be catching up with some of the performers. Today, it’s Tannis Slimmon.

When Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville perform June 4 at the TRANZAC as part of Roots Music Canada’s fifth anniversary bash, MooseFest, the show will look a lot like what we’ve come to know as a Tannis Slimmon show.

Lewis, after all, has been her musical partner in crime for her entire solo career, co-writing and recording with her and playing on-stage alongside her.

What’s changing is simply the billing, Tannis explained, a nod to the duo’s long standing partnership.

“We’ve been playing together so much just as a duo in the last few years that it just makes sense … to acknowledge his incredible presence in my career,” she said.

For Tannis, the original decision to bill herself as a solo act came after the break-up of several bands she’d been a part of, including the renowned Bird Sisters.

“I had put a lot of … work into building a band’s name,” she explained.

“But then when it ends, you think, ‘Oh, gosh, I put all that work into it. Now I kind of have to start again.”

So when she went out on her own, so to speak, she and Lewis decided together that she’d do it under her name and hers alone – though they both supported each other’s projects.

More than 20 years later, she laughs when I suggest that they’ve been together long enough now that she can be confident they won’t break up.

Tannis first met Lewis more than 40 years ago, in 1982, when he joined a band she played in called Higher Learning, which was made up of students from the University of Guelph. The band played the first ever Hillside Festival and eventually evolved into the Reverbs.

“The bass player, who was kind of the leader of the band … thought that the guitar player might be quitting, and he decided to call up a local studio … and see if that person who ran the studio knew of any musicians,” she said.

“And he knew this fellow who had just come off the road … And he was in Elora living with his mom …so he came to our gig the next day and joined the band that night.”

Tannis and Lewis would both go on to have accomplished and varied careers in music with Tannis performing in acts like Benji and the Reverbs and lending her gorgeous vocals to more than 100 recordings, including those by David Francey, the Rheostatics and Willie P. Bennet. Two years ago, she was presented with Folk Music Ontario’s Estelle Klein Award for lifetime contributions to Ontario folk music.

For Lewis’ part, he was an original member of the Woodchoppers Association and a member of Vertical Squirrels. He has performed or recorded with Skydiggers, Rheostatics, Grievous Angels, Cowboy Junkies, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Kim Stockwood and Barenaked Ladies. He’s also a skilled visual artist.

Both Tannis and Lewis have had parallel careers at the University of Guelph, which ended for Tannis with her retirement in 2018.

She prefers to call it her “redeployment.”

Read about our other MooseFest performers: Dave Newland, Onion Honey, Noah Zacharin, Tragedy Ann, Lynn Harrison, So Long Seven and the Memberz.

“I’ve been able to do music so much more freely,” she said.

“It’s been amazing to be able to go to a rehearsal during the day on a weekday, you know? It’s very, very liberating that way to be able to say yes to, you know, a lot more things.”

One thing Tannis said yes to, is being part of our incredible line-up for MooseFest, our one-night festival celebrating five years of Roots Music Canada.

We’re so excited to have her as part of the show June 4 at the TRANZAC. Reserve your tickets HERE.



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