Toronto guitar master’s expanded global sound gets special showcase at Roy Thomson Hall
Self-made guitar star Pavlo Simtikidis relaxes in Toronto on the Danforth.
Pavlo Simtikidis is not a man who operates by convention.
For example, the 42-year-old master guitarist, who specializes in Mediterranean-style instrumentals and will be performing selections from his ninth album Six String Blvd, at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday, gives one lucky concertgoer his signature guitar nightly when he’s on tour.
He also started his own line of Meritage wine and in his 14-year career has built his following by playing live, from craft shows across North America to now having twice sold out Massey Hall.
Even Friday’s Roy Thomson Hall gig, part of a 19-day cross-Canada tour, will be different from the other dates: guest singers John McDermott, Mark Masri and a string quartet will be making a one-time-only appearance.
He’s sold over 500,000 albums in a 14-year career with very little radio airplay — and done it his way.
“I find when I follow my passion and do it for the right reasons, it always finds a way to succeed at some level,” said Pavlo, 42, while nursing a glass of red wine during an interview last week at a popular Greek restaurant on the Danforth.
His refusal to compromise is also key to his musical approach as well. His Universal Music-distributed, independent release Six String Blvd — available through his website, www.pavlo.net — contains the type of fluent and lively Mediterranean-style instrumental guitar music that is joyful and very easy on the ears. (In 2002, launched and won a copyright infringement lawsuit against R&B icon R. Kelly, who “borrowed” Pavlo’s “Fantasia” guitar motif for the hit “Fiesta” without permission.)
Alex Cuba plays guitar on “Cuban Brass Cowboy,” Sultans Of Strings‘ Chris McKhool lends his magical violin to “Mediterranean Jig,” and there’s an instrumental version of Gordon Lightfoot’s classic “If You Could Read My Mind” that’s endorsed by the man himself.
And, per usual on a Pavlo album, there is an unusual collection of instruments with exotic names like erhu (a two-stringed Chinese bow instrument); duduk (an Armenian wind instrument); ney (Arabic flute); baglama (a Turkish bouzouki of sorts) and the six-stringed Greek tzoura, adding an international flavour to the work’s dozen wordless songs.
“For me, I’ve kind of come full circle,” admits the Toronto-born Juno Award winner, who started playing guitar at the age of 10.
“I’ve tried to sing a few songs on some of the albums, but my first two albums were all instrumental.
“So I went back to my roots. The only difference is, I’ve travelled the world a hundred times since.”
“It’s still guitar-based, but I’ve really been influenced by the sounds I’ve heard during my travels.
“I go to South Korea and I draw 2,000-3,000 people per concert,” he marvels. “I have a deal in China where they sell my album through these unique initiatives, and Taiwan is one of my biggest album markets.
“It’s because it’s instrumental, and because of the infectious grooves that Mediterranean and Latin music bring to the table, it opens up to the world . . . no language barrier.”
Now he wants to collaborate with Sting. The pop superstar hasn’t even been contacted, but Pavlo swears, “I don’t care if it takes 10 years, but it’s going to happen.”
Wise men don’t bet against Pavlo Simtikidis.