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TBS Talent Search 2018



From left – Dave Barnes & Meghan Parnell from Bywater Blues, and Brian Blain, the host of 2018 Talent Search.

After narrowing the field to six finalists who showcased on Sunday, July 1st, the last day of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, and after careful deliberations, the jury selected Bywater Blues band as the champion, with Glenn Marais & The Mojo Train as first runner-up, and Lela Tequila Blues Band as second runner-up. Bywater Blues took home a jam-packed professional-development package including festival gigs, mentorship meetings, studio time, graphic design and much more. Huge congrats to all the bands!


Here are the Six Finalists for the 2018 Talent Search.

This year the competition fever took place on Sunday, July 1 between 12:30pm-4:30pm at the OLG Stage on Cumberland Avenue in Village of Yorkville as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. The event was free and open to public.

🎶 Schedule
12:30pm – Azalyne
13:10pm – Lela Tequila Blues
13:50pm – Glenn Marais and The Mojo Train
14:30pm – Gravely James
15:10pm – Bywater
15:50pm – Gavin McLeod Trio

Click for the Facebook event page.

Azalyne | Whitby, ON

Azalyne is an emerging singer/songwriter, playing the piano, guitar, electric guitar and the ukulele. She has always loved music and hopes to use music to bring joy and happiness to people’s lives. Azalyne has been performing for 5 years and finds her sound is modern jazz.  She has been performing both solo and as member of girl band Girl Pow R for the past year performing in over 60 shows with a busy summer ahead as a solo artist at many festivals and town events throughout Ontario. Azalyne wrote and composed her original, “You Are Mighty” that soon to be launched.

Bywater | Toronto, ON

New Toronto-based band Bywater debuted in early 2017 with a bang – completing a small acoustic tour in Vancouver and Vancouver Island in the spring and shortly afterwards winning the Merriam Music Emerging Artist Award from the 2017 TD Oakville Songs of Summer Festival. Harnessing the sounds of southern soul, blues and gospel, Bywater is led by the raw, powerful vocals of Meghan Parnell and the soulful slide guitar of Dave Barnes. Rounding out the group are Alan Zemaitis on keys, Mike Meusel on bass and Bruce McCarthy on drums. Bywater has just finished the recording of their first album and expect a release in summer of 2018.

Gavin McLeod Trio | Milton, ON

Gavin McLeod is an eighteen year old singer, songwriter and blues guitar player from Milton, Ontario.
With a focus on blues rock originals and covers, the Gavin McLeod Trio that formed in November of 2017, hopes to bring blues music back to a younger audience. The group blends blues essentials with a rock and pop songwriting style, focussing heavily on the electric guitar. Gavin and his trio have performed at shows such as the 2018 Talk About Talent Showcase, the 2017 Jamming for Joy Christmas Toy Drive Concert (organized by Gavin himself), and recorded their material at the Mill Town Sound studio.

Glenn Marais and The Mojo Train | Newmarket, ON

The Glenn Marais band put on an amazing show with precision instrumentation, tight vocal harmonies and amazing rock, blues and funk improvisation. When the band gets cooking, they call it catching a ride on the mojo train and audiences love the improvisation and spontaneity of their shows. The band features Glenn Marais on guitar, harmonica and lead vocals, Manny DeGrandis on Bass and vocals, Jeff Saulnier on Drums and vocals, Nick Bogoeff on Saxophone, flute, clarinet and vocals, and Jesse Karwat on keyboards and vocals.

Gravely James | Port Colborne, ON

Chris Madronich AKA “Gravely James” is a Canadian singer, songwriter, guitarist and wild child born from the steel city of Hamilton and raised in Port Colborne. A semi-finalist in 2 categories and a finalist in one for the 2018 Canadian Song Writing Competition, James is an accomplished and creative songwriter but is best known for his engaging performances and high energy that are routed in blues, rock and soul. Chris’s style of writing is inspired by themes of travel, dreams, people watching and will almost always have an element of blues hiding somewhere in his charm. Gravely James never disappoints live!

Lela Tequila Blues | Toronto, ON

Lela Tequila Blues is a brand new blues band very active in Toronto, fronted by Lela Coles, a blues singer originally from Halifax, now residing in Brampton, Ontario.  Lela comes from the old school of gospel music since a very early age. Lela recently moved to Toronto and is in the process of creating a website and filming videos for proper distribution of her blues band. This new project is completed with the fancy guitar playing of Leo Georgulis, originally from Big Silver Blues, the exceptional keyboards of Alexander Zlotnik classically trained artist and back up by the rhythm section of Jose Atristain and Tim O’Hara., originally from the Don River Blues Band.



Each year, the Toronto Blues Society searches its undiscovered blues talent from across the region. Six finalists are selected to perform for a professional development package including festival gigs, mentorship meetings, studio time, graphic design and much more!

Eligibility: The TBS Talent Search is open to emerging Canadian blues artists who have not appeared in the finals of the talent search in the past, who do not have national distribution and would be considered an “undiscovered” or “rising” artist by their peers. Applicants must reside in the province of Ontario and within 500 KM of Toronto.


1995 – Maureen Brown and Big Hand
1996 – Robin Banks
1997 – Rockin’ Highliners
1998 – Jake & the Blue Midnights
1999 – Ronnie Douglas Blues Band
2000 – Scotty Doubt Band
2001 – Big Mark & the Blues Express
2002 – David Rotundo and the Blue Canadians
2003 – Dylan Wickens Band
2004 – Bharath & the Catfish
2005 – Wickens/Knight
2006 – The Undesirables
2007 – Douglas Watson R&B Revue
2009 – catl.
2010 – The 24th Street Wailers
2011 – Bradleyboy Mac Arthur
2012 – Irene Torres & The Sugar Devils
2013 – Sugar Brown
2014 – The Conor Gains Band
2015 – Michael Schatte
2016Spencer MacKenzie
2017Dan McKinnon

2018 – Bywater Blues



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TBS logo and WBR artwork by Barbara Klunder

The Toronto Blues Society acknowledges the annual support of the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and project support from FACTOR< and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Broadcasters, The Canada Council for the Arts, the SOCAN Foundation, SOCAN, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.