Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

What started as Curtis Labelle’s pandemic project has turned into two seasons of a livestreamed show with Juno award-winning guests and viewers from all over the world.

Chattin 88, which streams Wednesdays at 6 p.m. on Facebook (and is re-aired on Shaw Spotlight on Tuesdays and Thursdays), has 32 episodes wrapped — and is anticipating a “bigger than ever” third season.

The show’s host and producer, Labelle, is a Red Deer musician who interviews his guests virtually while sitting behind a piano keyboard — hence 88 for the number of keys on a piano.

His interviewees have ranged from Dayna Dixon, CEO of Canadian Music Week, to Rob Laidlaw, a JUNO-nominated songwriter who’s performed and produced for Kim Mitchell, Alannah Myles and Alannis Morrisette.

Labelle is also committed to giving airtime to talented local musicians, such as Jesse Roads, Levi Cuss, Curtis Phagoo and Mike Szabo.

He said he knows he’s getting their names out globally, since participants in the show’s livestreamed chats have hailed from as far away as England, India and Mexico.

“We are aiming to provide aspiring and professional artists with entertainment opportunities,” added Labelle, who also wants to showcase industry professionals.

He admitted it wasn’t initially easy to book heavy-hitter for the show — such as like Kate Davies, an A&R label representative. Labelle admitted he had to call in some of his music industry connections.: “We had to get some clout, so I (contacted) people I had done projects with…

“We have some big Canadian names lined up for the rest of our 2021 season,” he promised — and a Christmas show in the works.

Chattin 88 is produced with a small crew, including Cassandra Hinnegan and Joanna Vassos, at Hot Shoe Studio. Labelle feels COVID restrictions “have not stopped us from growing,” but he’s eager to return to a live audience.

People can tune in at Replays are uploaded to Chattin 88’s official YouTube channel and are available on Spotify and other podcast streaming services.

When Labelle isn’t interviewing music folks, he’s working on expanding his music career as a “rock pianist.”

Now under the management of Allen Music Management from Toronto, Labelle’s rebranding his stage image and developing new music and a new sound. He describes his style as expanding on from being Elton John-esque to incorporating some Lady Gaga pop panache, and the classic flourishes of Michael Bublé.

For the past two years he’s been writing his own music. He feels “blessed to have the best band ever,” with Logan Klaus on guitar, Matt Dubois on bass and Nygel Lauzon on drums.

“They have been providing some great new challenges with my music and allow me to be my true self when it comes to songwriting.”

Labelle has released three singles so far in 2021, and has five more waiting in the wings. His next release, Tainted Wood, is coming out digitally on May 26.

Beyond that, he’s planning a first full-length album to coincide with a 2022 cross-Canada tour that will hopefully be possible once the pandemic wanes. Labelle explained, “I have got to keep busy…”

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