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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Canadian Duo ES:MO (Elizabeth Shepherd & Michael Occhipinti) Have Released Their Debut Album

Photo Credit: Camille Gladu-Drouin

Fifteen-time Juno Award-Nominated Canadian artists Elizabeth Shepherd (Montreal) and Michael Occhipinti (Toronto) have teamed up to create their new musical duo, ES:MO, and have released their debut album, “The Weight of Hope”.

Focused on genre-less creativity and exploration, Elizabeth Shepherd and Michael Occhipinti’s ES:MO combines both artists’ extensive musical backgrounds, international acclaim, and a lengthy list of prestigious awards and nominations, namely, their fifteen Juno Award nominations combined. Often crossing paths while on tour, both artists have had successful, independent careers before embarking on their new venture. Elizabeth, a multi-dimensional vocalist, has twice been long-listed for the Polaris Prize and has performed at iconic venues around the world including the Hollywood Bowl. Michael, a versatile, creative guitarist, has performed with multiple legendary artists including DVSN and Bruce Cockburn among many of his other achievements.

ES:MO’s upcoming debut album “The Weight of Hope” showcases their remarkable talents as musicians, highlighting their ability to artistically adapt existing songs by adding contemporary elements that reflect their own musical personalities. Drawing from a variety of musical inspirations, the duo aims to compliment the songs they cover while letting their own individuality shine through. Michael explains -"it's like walking a tightrope - we want to honour the song and have the artist be both pleased and surprised”. With Michael’s exceptional mastery of the guitar and Elizabeth’s stunning and

soulful vocal delivery, the duo arranged all of the songs on their album themselves and produced the album alongside Canadian Folk Music Award ‘Producer of the Year’ winner, David Travers-Smith. The first single off of the album, “Any Other Way”, is a song originally written by Stax Records artist William Bell, later covered by Toronto music scene icon Jackie Shane. The first song they recorded for the project, Michael and Elizabeth honour Shane’s legacy as an incredible performer and transgender pioneer, while also paying tribute to the R&B sound of Toronto’s Yonge St. in the 1960’s.

Featuring other re-imagined pieces including Stevie Wonder’s “Visions”, Leonard Cohen’s “Night Comes On”, Gordon Lightfoot’s “All The Lovely Ladies”, and Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” ES:MO’s first project beautifully spans time, genre, social issues, and borders. The album also features an original song, “October Daughters”, inspired by the artists’ four daughters - all born in October – the song touches on the gifts girls bring to society, and the encouragement of their strength. The final song on the album, “Moon Ray”, is a promise of what is to come from ES:MO in the future – a brief glimpse into their next project of original, atmospheric, and electro-infused songs.

“The Weight of Hope” serves as a creative vehicle of exploration for the multi-disciplinary duo, showcasing their in-depth musical knowledge, awareness of musical history, and fascinating skills as musicians. The project expertly crosses through multiple genres, from R&B to Americana to Jazz and Folk. Combining their astounding talent and ability to re-create existing musical works, ES:MO’s debut album is a masterful exhibition of both Elizabeth and Michael’s individual musical skills and the limitless nature of both their talent and creativity.

Tour Dates

Friday Nov. 19 - Workshop, Acadia University, Wolfville NS

Saturday Nov 20 - Concert, The Marina, New Glasgow NS

Monday Nov. 21 - Selkirk College, Nelson BC

Thursday Nov. 24 - Langham Theatre, Kaslo BC

Friday Nov. 25 - Cranbrook Community Theatre, Cranbrook BC

Saturday Nov. 26 - ArtsPlace, Canmore BC

Thursday Dec. 2 - Hugh's Room Live, ON



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