Ian Cromwell of Locals Lounge on getting ahead with community support

Behind every song, there is a musician. Behind every musician, there is a story. Locals Lounge is known for its monthly intimate sessions at the landmark Railway Stage & Beer Cafe. Host and curator, Ian Cromwell sits down with some of Vancouver’s finest musicians to discover the human being behind the microphone, accompanied by live performances.

Born in Vancouver and raised all across Canada, Ian Cromwell has one true home: the stage. A classical violinist by training, Ian has spent more than 20 years performing with classical ensembles, symphonies, quartets, and as a solo performer. Ian’s love of the stage put a guitar in his hands some years later, and he hasn’t looked back since. Over the past eight years, Ian has been regularly rocking stages in Vancouver and beyond as a solo artist.

Ian’s love and deep passion for music transcends the cerebral classical genre and takes root in the full-throated, no-holds-barred, primal scream of rock and alternative music, tempered by an affinity for upbeat and memorable pop hooks. Blended together with his signature powerful vocals, Ian’s musical range is sure to please anyone who describes their musical taste as ‘eclectic’. We connect with Ian to shine a light on his work and Locals Lounge.

Aza Nabuko and Ian Cromwell Photography by Leah Gair

Tell us about the birth and mission of Locals Lounge

Locals Lounge started in the fall of 2016. I’d been a gigging musician in Vancouver for about six years at that point and had the opportunity to meet some really incredibly talented musicians who were also really wonderful and interesting people. In a musical climate where anyone can carry their favourite music around in their pocket, it had become very difficult for these musicians to support themselves and break out of their small personal networks. Vancouver has lots of great musicians but it’s also very difficult for anyone to find them, as we are losing venues and don’t have a strong musical culture.

The idea of Locals Lounge was to solve both of these problems by connecting the audience to the human being behind the microphone. As a musician, I get to walk into rooms where live music is being played and feel like I’m at home. This is a privilege, especially in a city that has a reputation for being a bit unfriendly. I want everyone to be able to share in that experience, and this was my way to try and make that happen.

Tell us about the journey of Locals Lounge since launching, how has it grown since and where are you taking it?

We started this with a team of three, and only a vague idea of what we were doing. I knew a bunch of musicians, the Belmont Bar (now closed) offered me one Sunday night each month, and that was basically it. We crawled through a bunch of months with empty rooms and no money for pretty much the whole first year of the show, but we’ve never had a problem booking top-notch talent and I’m so grateful to the musicians who gave their time and talent to this weirdo experiment in its early days.

Since then I really feel that Locals Lounge has become a mainstay of the local music scene. We are a part of the environment here. People have discovered their favourite artists at our shows. People have made new friends at our shows. Which meant that when COVID-19 shut down the live music industry, we had a lot of community support and goodwill that allowed us to immediately shift operations online. In the first three months of quarantine, we did nearly 30 live-streamed shows supporting over 40 local acts. At times it felt like the early days of the project where we had little more than our reputation and a desire to do something that brought people together. And I think we did that.

Can you tell us about your experience working in British Columbia’s music industry?

British Columbia is in a tough spot, geographically. Mountains to the east, ocean to the west, and a border to the south means we’re hard to tour to from outside the province/country. Which means that if we want to have a thriving music industry, we need to do the work ourselves. And we can’t do it by simply replicating the model that was designed 30 years ago for places where lots of large cities are within driving distance and a self-financed tour is simply a matter of locating a vehicle and calling a few venues. The longer we keep doing that, the longer we’ll remain anonymous, waiting for someone to “make it big”.


Locals Lounge | Photography by Leah Gair

What lights you up about your work?

The city of Vancouver has a ton of little cultural pockets. We are blessed with a level of ethnocultural diversity that is nearly unmatched in the world. We have an exciting opportunity to mix these cultures together and create sounds that the world has never heard before. Even a subtle shift in our collective consciousness about the value of diversity – not as something that checks a feel-good box on a grant application but as a powerful resource – has the potential to spark a revolution. Nothing gets me more fired up than the opportunities I’ve had to use this project for that purpose.

What do you consider to have been the most difficult challenges along the way?

Inertia. Audiences expect to access music in the way they’re used to. Musicians expect to make money in the way their forebears did. Grant agencies and the philanthropic sector are eager to fund “innovation” but highly reluctant to be innovators themselves. People seem to want the world to change, provided that change happens externally. And the people who benefit are the capitalist class who acquired their wealth by creating the system the rest of us are running around in.

What are some of the greatest moments you’ve had?

The collaborations we’ve done with other local music innovators and community champions: the 5X Festival, AfroVan Connect, Emotions Open Mic, Anza Live, Root Dwellers Community Showcase, Pacific Sound Radio, CreativeMornings/Vancouver, A Better Life Foundation. Music is the best way of bringing people together for the purpose of strengthening our bonds of shared humanity, and I’m so proud of the opportunities we’ve found to do that.

But my favourite part of this job is seeing people coming back to see an artist they’ve never heard of because they know they’re going to have a great time and see friends and hear something amazing from the stage. That’s the reason I do this, and it fills my heart to see it succeed in this way.


Tonye | Photography by Leah Gair

What’s the best piece of advice you received during your career that you would pass forward?

Do not do this to get rich. And do not do this alone. Talent and drive are crucial, but they are not enough. Especially for musicians in British Columbia. To get ahead, we need to be blowing wind into each other’s sails.

Do you have any upcoming ways that readers can support Locals Lounge or upcoming projects?

Our COVID-19 pivot was a really tough slog for the whole team. We’re taking a brief pause to breathe and re-assess how we can best serve our community as the summer months bring a respite from quarantine. In the meantime, we’ve got a huge library of interviews and performances, both from our in-person and online shows. Anyone interested in seeing Vancouver’s music scene from a human-eye view should sign up to support us on Patreon, where $1/mo will unlock a treasure trove of video and audio, and give you a front-row seat to whatever comes next for us.


Learn more about Locals Lounge

Facebook | Instagram

Missy D Teaches us Vulnerability

Harmonizing her Rwandan, Ivorian, and Zimbabwean heritage with a confident—and bilingual—voice, Missy D is a tour-de-force ‘femcee’ in the Canadian Hip Hop/Rap and Soul scene. 

Missy D released her debut album When Music Hits You Feel No Pain in 2016 and was a Storyhive Music Video Edition 2017 winner for her song “XX” featuring Kimmortal. In 2018, Missy D was an SXSW Official Artist, representing for a B.C. showcase. She is also apart of the Hip Hop and Soul duo, Laydy Jams. 

Missy D by David Markwei Productions

Rapping about her roots since she was 11, Missy D has long been an outspoken champion for diversity and resilience. This year her voice became even more powerful with the release of her newest 6 track EP, YES MAMA. With tracks produced by David Tallarico, Jay 808 Beats, and Mantra Beats, the EP is a rich account of Missy D as an artist—her experiences, outlook, and her relationship to the Motherland and her blackness. Balancing vulnerability and confidence, YES MAMA has been celebrated with glowing reviews and was recently flagged by CBC’s list of top 25 albums to listen to this season. 

Her latest music video for the title track premiered this past Mother’s Day. With an enlivened beat and lyrics bursting with gratitude, YES MAMA details the love for all our mother figures within our families and chosen families in a way that is sure to get both parties dancing. 


YES MAMA, Missy D (2020)

Directed by
Alexander Farah and Lawrence Le Lam, YES MAMA’s innovative video concept impressively integrates COVID-era video calling, creating an enriching audio-visual experience with maximum relatability.


Missy D by Christopher Edmonstone

Follow Missy D 


Award-winning B.C. artist Joey Stylez performs on Facebook Live this Saturday, June 20th

Join Joey Stylez, one of Canada’s top 25 rappers of all time voted by CBC on Facebook Live, June 20th at 3:30PM. Joey Stylez will perform alongside his band, with a special guest appearance from Carsen Gray and the performance of his soon to be released single “You Driving Me Crazy (Indian Girl)” which features the legendary drum group, Northern Cree.

Joey Stylez ‘2 Die 4’


Livestream Details:
: June 20
Time: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm PDT
Join the livestream here:


Joey Stylez by Jack Gambell


Joey Stylez’s story is as unique as the music he creates. This Juno-nominated Hip Hop artist hit the ground running in the early 2000s with internet and mainstream hits that challenged society’s views of Indigenous people. With online streaming in the tens of millions and collaborations with big names such as Dragonette, Bun B & Ty Dolla $ign, Stylez has showcased his talents to the delight of his fans. He has charted on Canadian top 40 radio and has served as a role model to Indigenous youth, as he overcame a troubled past and gained a respectable following. Stylez inspired a generation of Canadian musicians, including The Weeknd, and was recognized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as one of the top 25 Canadian rappers of all time. He has opened for artists such as Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Billy Ray Cyrus. His catalogue has tracks with the likes of Grammy Award-winning producer James Ho (Malay). He continues to tour extensively and create chart-topping hits.

Joey’s journey was not without twists and turns. Growing up in Saskatoon, a mid-sized city on the prairies of Canada, he had gone down a path of darkness that few return from. With friends and family members on the same path dying, and the statistics for Indigenous youth dismal, the future did not look promising for him as a young man. He had fallen into a life of crime and violence. But, one night while sitting in the back of a police car and facing a certain prison sentence, things changed. He prayed, and promised his deceased cousin Kevin and uncle Isho that if he could possibly avoid incarceration, he would turn his life around, which he certainly did! He feels that his prayers and promises were heard. Joey’s life experiences instilled in him, a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. His early music, which served as healing medicine, told a story of the current reality of being an Indigenous youth in Canada. He became an online force as he released song after song and video after video, that shared that story with mainstream North America and across the globe. He had the honor of opening Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation process at a Winnipeg event along with Blue Rodeo and performed his critically acclaimed song Living Proof that illustrated the horrors of Canada’s Residential School system, which his Plains Cree Koohkom (Grandmother) had attended.

Joey’s Koohkom was a major force in his life. Speaking no English, she followed the traditional Cree culture and her spirituality was instilled in him. He attributes his participation in traditional ceremonies as part of who he is, how he survived his past and what brought him to the successful place he enjoys today with his family, whom he lives for.  Traditional ceremonies, not unlike religions around the world, include a connection to the spirit world and the use of medicines that have been harvested for many thousands of years. These ceremonies are known to lead to healing miracles. Joey feels that his life has been nothing short of miraculous and gives thanks daily for his many blessings.

While he practices his Cree traditions, Stylez has lived in major cities across North America such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver while he performed across the world. He is as comfortable in Tokyo or Los Angeles as he is in a tiny Indigenous community in northern Canada or Europe. With many awards and accolades under his belt, he cites the greatest award he has ever received is knowing that his strong work ethic has inspired others to success.

Follow Joey Stylez

Discover more livestream events from British Columbia’s creative industry on Showcase BC.

Haida Gwaii’s award-winning singer Carsen Gray counts blessings in her latest single ‘Sah ‘Laana’

Hailing from Haida Gwaii, B.C., Carsen Gray is a Haida Indigenous and mixed descent award-winning singer/songwriter.

Earlier this year Carsen released the official music video for her latest single ‘Sah ‘Laana’. The lyrics, supported by the beats of Vancouver-based producer Vago, thank God for the beauty of the land on Haida Gwaii and the blessings Carsen counts in her life, including her four-year-old son Matisse and one-year-old daughter Josette.

The accompanying music video, directed by Patrick Shannon’s InnoNative company and sponsored by the Taking It Global non-governmental organization, features visuals of Gray surrounded by nature and family.

Carsen Gray – Sah ‘Laana (Official Music Video)

Carsen’s early career took off when she became a regional finalist in the CBC 2015 Searchlight contest leading her to the creation of her debut self-titled album, released in 2017. Following the debut release of her singles, “Supernatural” and “Wanna See You” reached number one on the NCI FM Indigenous Music Countdown.

That same year, Carsen was awarded “Best New Artist” presented by SiriusXM, at the 2017 Indigenous Music Awards. Since then Carsen has performed at National Aboriginal Day for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and JunoFest Vancouver the following year.

Photo by Liz Rosa 

An unstoppable force with her soulful lyrics, captivating voice, and energetic sound, Carsen proves to be paving the way as an artist infusing Pop with Trap, Indigenous sounds, R&B and Soul.

Listen to Carsen’s music on Spotify and learn more about her here.