Tom and Sarah Jade Loewen have spent time in the recording studio and performing at various venues around the region, but admit that they are happiest playing for friends and family around their backyard bonfire.
On their website they characterize their brand, Copper and Iron, as “a singer-songwriter duo with a unique, earthy sound, blending original music with an eclectic range of modern and classic songs.” Their music draws on a variety of instruments, including guitar, cello, mandolin, harmonica, violin, and drums.
They moved to rural Pelham, just off Highway 20 East, about 12 years ago. Tom has roots in St. Catharines, while Sarah Jade grew up in Haliburton and Northern Ontario.
“Sarah was the country girl who grew up with horses,” said Tom. “I was the city boy, and not familiar with the rural lifestyle. I thought, ‘Oh, we’ll give it a year out here,’ but after a couple weeks, we knew it would be home.”
Pointing to a couple mares in a fenced paddock to the south of their property, Sarah Jade said, “I’ve had the white horse out there since she was born on our farm up north, 22 years ago. And the other one is about 20. She was given to us for free, and our kids learned to ride on her.”
Tom and Sarah Jade grew up with music, playing guitars in their high school years. They both play the piano as well.
“I started playing the fiddle when I was about nine,” said Sarah Jade. “And the mandolin, which I often play, has the same strings, so it was an easy transition.”
“There is some talent on both sides of our family,” said Tom. “Sarah’s dad was musical, and I have some great uncles from way back in Ukraine and Russia who were in a band. Growing up, we both loved to listen to music, and to sing.”
The couple met while performing during services at Southridge Community Church, which their family attends. Tom also works at Southridge, overseeing all of the Sunday morning experiences at the church’s three locations in St. Catharines, Welland, and Vineland.
“We started writing songs and performing together about a decade ago,” said Tom. “Our first gig was at the Jordan House around 2012. We were just there having a drink at the bar, and got talking to the manager about music. We told him that we perform live, and he hired us on the spot.”
The moniker Copper and Iron took a while to evolve.
I read somewhere that copper and iron were the metals that were associated in ancient times with Mars and Venus, which were the planets aligned to male and female
“When we started performing, we called ourselves Slings and Arrows, which kind of felt like it suited us at the time.” Said Tom. “But we discovered that there was already an existing band with that name. Since we both write songs, sing, and play, we wanted a two-word name for our duo. I read somewhere that copper and iron were the metals that were associated in ancient times with Mars and Venus, which were the planets aligned to male and female. So that’s what we settled on.”
Though both Tom and Sarah Jade are clearly spiritual people, religious themes are not the dominating influence in their music.
“For us, our music is art, an expression of the shared experiences that we have in life,” explained Tom. “We write about our relationships, our friends, our kids.”
They write about heartbreak as well.
“Over the course of the pandemic, we started to explore some of the indigenous issues that were taking place, particularly the 1492 Land Back Lane confrontation [Haudenosaunee protesters occupying a development they argue stands on unceded Six Nations territory] down the road in Caledonia. And so we released a single during the pandemic called “1492,” in which we wrote about that struggle. And we had a friend who died a couple of years ago on Christmas Day. Sarah wrote and recorded a song, something of an anti-Christmas song called Cold December Night, in an effort to just process that pain.”
With no recording studio in their home, Tom and Sarah Jade book time with friends in the music business who have such resources.
“Our first album we made with a good friend of ours named Derek Elliott, who has a studio in St. Catharines,” said Tom. “Drew Williams, who has been our drummer for years, also has a recording studio at his place. And just before the pandemic, we actually met and became friends with one of our musical heroes, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter named Ron Hawkins, who has a legendary band called Lowest of the Low. Ron actually produced our last album, recorded in a friend’s barn in Beamsville. That was a great experience.”
The Covid pandemic crushed Copper and Irons’ live performance schedule, so they resorted to online gigs, such as a Canada Day celebration for the Town of Pelham.
“Prior to the pandemic, we had done some performances at Mahtay Café in St. Catharines, along with some other gigs,” said Tom, “but we've been a little slow to come back to live performances, partly because our kids are at a different age now, and also because we are shifting away from doing cover band material, wanting to do more of our own stuff.”
Both Tom and Sarah Jade enjoy playing to local audiences at various venues, including wineries on the Beamsville Bench such as Redstone, Thirteenth Street, and Honsberger’s. They will be performing at Pelham’s SummerFest this year, along with the Thursday supper markets, starting in June. They will also be playing at a North Pelham Hall fundraiser in August, and are available for weddings, private parties, corporate events.
“We really enjoyed playing at a staff Christmas party for the Town of Pelham,” said Tom. “The Town has been very supportive of our music.”
“We have a lot of different influences,” said Tom. “I love jazz, but most of our material is drawn from the styles of Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King. That's the pinnacle for us. We are also huge Beatles fans, and so are our kids,” he said, as he lit into a guitar and vocal rendition of Paul McCartney’s song, “Blackbird.”
We just believe that music is best when it's shared among a small group of people, where we can look each other in the eye
“I think that’s when we're at our best,” continued Tom. “I mean, we have this thing we call ‘making it small.’ We just believe that music is best when it's shared among a small group of people, where we can look each other in the eye. Our music is most appropriate to a more intimate environment, where people want to hang out, connect, and get to know each other while listening to songs, the words. That's really what suits us.”
“We want to fuel a love for the enjoyment of music,” said Sarah Jade. “Our daughter, Wynter, will sit at the piano and plunk out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,’ and even tries to compose her own songs. We definitely encourage our kids to listen to the mood of the music.”
“I think if kids grew up loving music, they'll figure out how to play. It's soothing, healing. Music is powerful,” added Tom.
Original music by Copper and Iron is available on iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify. Information on upcoming performances is available at www.copperandiron.com, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CopperandIronMusic.
They will be performing in Pelham at Summer Chill on June 9 and August 11 at 5:30 PM, and at Summerfest on July 15 at 5 PM.