Spotlight on... Brandon Agnew
By Ren Tomovcik

Whether he’s providing the beats for a good ol’ fashioned blues band or composing mellow, introspective solo tunes on his guitar, Brandon Agnew is definitely an up-and-coming talent to watch on the Ottawa music scene. 

Since his arrival in the capital just over a year ago, he’s wasted no time getting involved, and his musical projects have been making Ottawa listeners sit up and take notice.

Brandon AgnewBrandon moved to Ottawa from the Niagara region in 2008, after having spent several years actively promoting Niagara’s burgeoning arts scene.  Innovative and entrepreneurial, he applied his creative talents to the development of new and exciting arts ventures in the region, becoming closely connected with a major downtown revitalization project and partnering in 4triple5, Niagara's living arts space.  He also ran a vegetarian cafe called Cafe Verde, which he was inspired to create after travelling to Costa Rica and San Francisco.  It’s little surprise, then,  that upon his arrival in Ottawa, he didn’t take long get his hands into several creative collaborations, and he hit the ground running with a zest for new adventures in the capital city.

Last year, Brandon began performing with local rock group Harvey Cartel, who were looking for a drummer to complete their onstage outfit.  He's since become involved in a number of Ottawa-based musical projects, performing with Dave Norris & Local Ivan and Lisa Poushinsky, while also showcasing his original work with Scott MacIntosh and Benny Gutman.  He records his original music under the name rehevoli, along with an ever-changing crew of collaborators. This year, he's planning to put together a small folk ensemble to create more original songs.

Brandon’s love for music has been with him all his life.  His creative aptitude was already evident at a young age, when he got his first drum kit from his grandmother - a piano player who wanted to improve her rhythm through percussive study.  The drums were the most exciting thing in his grandparents' house, and he was eager for a set of his own, so he asked if he could borrow them.  Soon afterwards, he began taking drum lessons and jamming with friends as a young teen.  Since then, he has expanded his prolific musical repertoire to include several instruments, and has performed as a drummer, percussionist, acoustic guitarist and singer, with the odd piano and bass performance along the way. 

Brandon Agnew - Photo by Jesse HildebrandWriting his own songs was a natural progression for Brandon.  A self-described "folkie," his songwriting process is simple and organic:  "I'll just hear or see something that catches my ear or my eye, and expand on that," he says.  "Sometimes, what originally starts off as a chorus for a song ends up finding its place as an opening line, or vice-versa." 

He finds daily inspiration in whatever medium he's working with, whether it's music, photography or food.  "I like playing with space," he explains. "Organizing, arranging, designing, cooking...I have a love for documentary photography as well, and I enjoy my time behind the lens!"

Is there anything he doesn't do?  Well, one thing's for sure, the capital will be seeing more of Brandon in the near future. So keep your eyes (and ears) open!

(Check out the music player at the bottom of this article to listen to his original track Smoke & Mirrors).

Brandon on Ottawa + Inspiration

What places in Ottawa do you find inspiring?
"I'm a big fan of the Raw Sugar Cafe in Chinatown; it reminds me of what we were building on Queen Street in Niagara Falls. The Manx has a cool vibe as well."

How is the Ottawa arts scene different from Niagara's?
"Ottawa is a bigger city, obviously - so there's more venues to perform in and more active musicians. I've met some hipsters along the way, so in that sense I've been very fortunate."

How is performing/creating as a solo artist different than working with a band?
"A band requires more space, but the inside jokes are better!"

Who are some artists or other creative people that inspire you? 
"I'm a big fan of Richard Julian, who's based in NYC. He plays in a side project with Norah Jones, Lee Alexander, Jim Campilongo and Dan Rieser called the Little Willies.  I've been listening to Jason Collett and Daniel Lanois and Luke Doucet like a good Canadian boy. Rae Spoon's latest album is solid as well. We opened for Rae at the Black Sheep Inn a few months back."


  • rehevoli. ~ The Rainbow, May 31st (opening for The Wind Up Radio Sessions)
  • Dave Norris & Local Ivan ~ Zaphod Beeblebrox, June 3rd (supporting Eric Vieweg + Graven)
  • rehevoli. ~ The Branch Restaurant, June 20th (Kemptville)



Brandon says: "Smoke and Mirrors is a song I recorded with my old band inside an abandoned bank in NF.  It's about saying goodbye and moving on."

rehevoli - Smoke & Mirrors

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