Sarah Slean first appeared on the Toronto live circuit in 1997; the release of her independent debut EP Universe followed soon afterward. Already an accomplished, classically trained pianist, the Pickering, Ontario, native pursued her studies in the music program at the University of Toronto while gradually carving out a name for herself as a charismatic, ebullient live performer. When a number of relatively high-profile opening stints helped Slean sell over 4,000 copies of Universe, the major labels soon came knocking. After much deliberation and a reported bidding war, Slean eventually struck a joint deal with Warner Canada and Atlantic in the U.S. The unorthodox pact allowed Slean to release a full-length independent album before her contract kicked in; the resulting record (1999's Blue Parade, released independently on Big Brother, her own label) showcased Slean's significant maturation as a songwriter. When coupled with her wistful delivery, Slean's contemplative, piano-led pop drew immediate (and well-founded) comparisons to the work of artists like Tori Amos and, to a lesser extent, Sarah McLachlan. In independent terms, Blue Parade was an indisputable success -- not only did it frequently register as Canada's most popular independent record on weekly sales charts, but it also helped Slean's burgeoning, intensely devoted fan base develop on an international level. After another slew of live shows (including a living room tour with Tory Cassis), Slean retreated to a New York studio to record her long-awaited major-label debut. An eponymous EP followed on Atlantic in the summer of 2001. ~ Mark Pytlik, Rovi