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Arkells' Max Kerman's advice to music students: perform with New Orleans swagger

Grant Lawrence

Arkells lead singer Max Kerman knows a thing or two about show business.

Arkells have been on an incredible roll of late, releasing hit single after hit single. They also sold out their hometown Tim Hortons Field stadium in Hamilton earlier this year, an event that has been called Hamilton's largest open-air show in decades, attracting more than 24,000 people. On Oct. 19, Arkells release their highly anticipated new album, Rally Cry.

Max Kerman recently stopped by CBC Music Mornings with Raina Douris to chat about this year's Canadian Music Class Challenge, in which the band has two songs on the official song list: "Knocking At The Door" and "People's Champ."

"I played cello up until Grade 9 or Grade 10," Kerman told Douris. "And I had a pretty good time in that class, but there was actually a creative writing teacher named Mr. Morgan who had a lunch-time guitar jam, in one of the classrooms. So it wasn't an official music class, but it was a place to go play music. We played Neil Young songs together, and there was only a handful of people there, but I remember in Grade 11 and Grade 12 that being a very cool place to be."

Recently, a video surfaced on Twitter of a young Kerman fronting a high-school band performing Weezer's "Sweater Song." It turns out that was Kerman and his neighbours playing at the North Collegiate high school talent show in Toronto.

"We performed two songs," Kerman explained. "The first was 'The Sweater Song' by Weezer, so we were all wearing sweaters. After that song was over we took them off to reveal yellow shirts and we launched into Coldplay's 'Yellow.'"

Kerman also dished out some advice for music students who have signed up for the 2018 Canadian Music Class Challenge and are learning one of the Arkells songs.

"You know what, both those songs have a soulful horn arrangement," Kerman said. "I love going to New Orleans and just hearing the music and so my instruction would be: don't play it like uptight high-school kids, play it like bombastic, two in the morning on-Bourbon Street. Like, I know you can't do that in class, but play it with that kind of expression."

Listen to the entire interview below.

There's still plenty of time to sign up for the Canadian Music Class Challenge. Video entries are due on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Good luck with whatever song your class chooses to play!

And here's some added extra incentive direct from Kerman:

More to explore:

Sign up now for the Canadian Music Class Challenge

Check out our official song list for the Canadian Music Class Challenge

Canadian Music Class Challenge: the prizes

Key dates