Some country music from the city

Artist in profile

Toronto-based band One Hundred Dollars cite country singer George Jones as an influence.
Image supplied by: Supplied
Toronto-based band One Hundred Dollars cite country singer George Jones as an influence.

Who: Simone Fornow, lead singer of One Hundred Dollars

1. One Hundred Dollars’ style of music is unusual, to say the least, in today’s music scene. What got you interested in that stripped-down style of country?

When I was a kid, like Grade 11 I guess, I was a total raver—I was all about hip-hop and the club scene. But then I went to visit my brother out east. He was living in Cape Breton, playing bluegrass fiddle music with a band. He left me at his place one night as he went out to play a gig. I was sitting there, and I picked up one of his George Jones CDs. The first song I heard on that album was “One Drink,” and it just moved me like nothing I’d heard before.

2. Would you count George Jones as a major influence, then?

Oh yeah, definitely. He’s probably my biggest influence.

3. What about the rest of the band? What are their influences like?

Well, if you listen closely to our music, there are lots of elements that aren’t strictly country. The other guys in the band are definitely influenced by people like Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, but they like stuff like psychedelic rock and Nirvana, too. I think that shows up in our music. We’re not going to pretend that we’re from the country or anything. We all grew up in and around Toronto. So our songs reflect that, and our sound definitely uses our more urban influences.

4. How has your writing process worked in this band?

I like ballads; I like the story-telling elements of song writing. A lot of songs out there today introduce the concepts they’d like to get across without following up with the story. They don’t wrap it up neatly. It seems to me, then, that our generation is going to be known for being inconclusive. I like to play around with lyrics, but I always try to tell a story, start to finish, because I think a song should always conclude. I guess I’d say that lyrically I’m not conservative. I write things that you wouldn’t find in any other country song. Structurally, though, I’m pretty traditional. I think the standard verse-chorus structure works well with the way I write lyrics.

5. What kind of stories do you usually try to tell in a song?

Well, we released a 7’’ with this one label, and when it got out a lot of other labels starting asking us to do a 7’’ with them too. So we’ve been going around this massive country, from label to label releasing EPs. What we try to do is incorporate something of the region we’re currently in into the music. A lot of Canadian music is all about the landscape, but I want to sing about the shitty things that are happening to people here.

6. Would “My Father’s House” be a good example of that?

Yeah. We did that one in Vancouver. It’s about a woman who inherits a slum from her father. She’d like to improve conditions, but ends just losing a lot of herself into it. It talks about the broke migrant workers forced to do the shittiest jobs while living there … it’s a good one.

7. How do you feel about the country music we see on CMT these days?

I don’t have strong feelings about it. I’m not a big fan, though. I think country music’s appeal is that it’s a little rough, but the way these albums are getting produced today, they’re too clean. It doesn’t conserve that tradition of form and at the same time fails to tell a strong story. I don’t really mind it, but the guys in the band can’t stand it. I like Brad Paisley. He’s singing about subjects you don’t really hear about in country these days. Carrie Underwood does that too, and I admire her for it, but I don’t really like her voice or her music too much. But I try to look for the good in all music, and there is good in all of it.

8. Is it special for you to play in Kingston?

I don’t have any special connection to the city itself, but I do have a good friend who lives in Kingston, Laura. I always love coming to see her. But it’s nice to play here anyways. We’re always treated well in Kingston.

One Hundred Dollars play The Mansion tomorrow night with Attack in Black. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

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