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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interesting People: Mary Stewart

'Where everybody knows your name...' is a tune that has been on repeat since Pioneer first became an official Danforth-easter, and discovered how close knit this neighbourhood really is. This is ironic, since this post is about music and in particular about a musician who writes better lyrics than that but who does actually know everybody's name.

If you've ever stopped by relish Bar & Grill on any given Sunday you may have met Mary Stewart, who by our account, is only a temp at the local tapas joint since she is a rising star in the music world and our very own secret local celebrity. We sat down to chat with Mary, after being blown away by one of her Friday night performances, to get the dirt on this east end diva.

Q. How did you end up here along the Danforth?

A. I came to Toronto a few years ago from Halifax, and ended up in the east end sort of by fluke. I’m a musician so we were looking for a place that would have enough storage space for our musical gear and the house was just perfect. We’ve since moved from that place, but just around the corner since I really didn’t want to leave the neighbourhood.

Q. How long have you worked at relish?

A. Well, ironically, I’ve only worked there for about a year, but it was places like relish that really kept me here in the east end. My first moment at relish when I was just a customer, made me feel like I was home – it was a place I could come and have a glass of wine at the bar and not feel out of place for being alone.

Q. What makes you love living along Danforth East?

A. Running into people I know is the best. I feel at home here. I love that I go out to do some shopping for instance and run into five people I know while I’m out. It’s a real community. Very welcoming. And I love the farmer’s market!

Q. As a musician, do you think there’s an opportunity here for more live music? Does this neighbourhood support live music or are we too family oriented?

A. Since I’ve been here, I’ve watched the musical scene really flourish. There is a definitely a huge audience for live music. The community is hungry for it. Our Sunday night open mic event is all local musicians from the neighbourhood, and the lineup is always packed with performers. Joanne, the owner of relish, has really nurtured the music scene here – she pretty much has live music seven days a week.

Q. When you’re not working at relish or performing, do you have your own favourite watering hole?

A. The Rusty Nail just down the street is my favourite place to go. It’s a total dive bar, but it’s great. They have a pretty good live music line-up.

The sensational Ms. Stewart has already made some mega-watt appearances on the stage, released a CD or two and made a few music videos. She sounds a little like Lisa Loeb, a little like Feist but a lot like herself (particularly when she sings her haunting acoustic version of Salt & Pepper’s 1989 hit Shoop). She’s launching her new album Chances Are I Like You this Thursday, Feb 21 at the Rivoli (9 p.m. $10 at the door). If you want to hear more of our local rising star check her out at

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