Learn to Sing
Papillon inspires with her beautiful soothing voice and guitar, and
thoughtful poetry. She comes across as an intuitive musician and
dedicated artist. She released her third album The Currency of Poetry
in October of 2011 which landed in the top 20 of !Earshot's national
Folks/Roots/Blues chart. She is preparing to embark on a Canadian
coast-to-coast tour during which she will be traveling with VIA Rail's
Onboard Entertainment program, providing onboard performances for the
travelers as they make their way between Canadian cities. What an
original concept! I think that her music will be perfect against
the setting of our gorgeous Canadian landscapes. Via Rail
passengers will be up for a treat! For more info on this artist and
touring dates, visit: GabriellePapillon.com
|Interview by: Valerie Bastien|
Valerie: Can you please introduce yourself!
Gabrielle: I’m an indie/folk singer-songwriter based out of New Glasgow (Nova Scotia) and Montreal (Quebec).
Valerie: Talk to me about your music. What inspires your writing?
Gabrielle: I think the things that inspire me tend to come from life around me. Sometimes it’s a book I’m reading, or a play, or a great movie or TV show. Sometimes the inspiration comes after playing a show, where I feel like I had a strong connection with the audience and I feel like I got as much from them and my faith in life at those moments is so palpable that I just need to sing. Sometimes it comes at the end of a long tour, or even just a big talk with someone I love and my heart is full, that’s when the notes will come to me and I listen for that one line and melody that usually sparks a song. The urge to sing is always there and the notes are always just waiting to come out. Sometimes, I’m just going about my day, cooking my eggs and all of a sudden there’s a song that wants to come out. Just like that.
Valerie: Tell me about your latest album. What makes you proud?
Gabrielle: I released The Currency of Poetry in October of 2011. In a lot of ways for me it’s kind of been ‘the little album that could’. I had received a small FACTOR grant and was going into studio to record four songs with plans to eventually record more and put out a full album sometime in 2012 when I hoped to have more funding. At the same time I had four songs that I had already recorded in late 2010 for another project that was very dear to me but ultimately not getting off the ground or out of Montreal very much and I felt like those songs were languishing a bit. I was thinking about all of this one night and had an epiphany of sorts and decided I’d put the 8 songs together and release them as one album. I produced the album with a lot of help from friends on a shoestring budget. I’m so proud of what we (my bandmates, my co-producer, my sound engineer, and everyone involved in the project) were able to make out of this project with limited time and funds.
Valerie: Why did you feel the title represented the overall delivery of this album?
Words and lyrics are so important to me. I think my best songs are those that come in these little moments of inspiration. The acorn or the seed comes in the form of a phrase in melody. I don’t know how else to express it. “The currency of poetry and rhyme” was a line that came from the song One Small Frame and it was one of the first songs I’d written where I had patiently and carefully chosen each word. Every single word had weight to it and, and while I had always been very picky with my lyrics, writing that song marked a transition for me that there was no turning back from. I place value in words and to me, poetry is a kind of currency. Maybe some of the most humane currency. I guess it speaks to what kind of artist I aim to be and where I feel the integrity of my songwriting needs to be.
Valerie: How do you feel you have grown musically since your beginnings in the music industry that makes you unique and who you are today?
Gabrielle: I think my answer to that last question sort of answers the first part of this question adding of course that touring, and playing so many shows has really brought out the performer in me. Each tour I feel like I get to know my audiences better and I learn how to own the space on that stage and how to fill it. Surprisingly though, I think one of the significant ways I’ve grown lies in a shift in my perspective on running the business end of my music career. Though initially it made me feel quite small and overwhelmed, having to do all of my own management and booking has become far less daunting. I think for a long time I was really going along with the mind that eventually I’d team up with an incredible manager or booking agent and then things would get easier. Aside from the fact that that may not in fact be a very realistic perspective, the more I book and the more I manage and plan my own career (granted with lots of advice from other industry folks) the more I envision and like the idea of doing these things myself. I used to feel sort of inferior when I’d fill out those sonicbids submissions and list myself as booker, manager etc. Now I am actually proud of it. When I think about people like Ani Difranco, who I respect as much for her business acumen as for her incredible gifts as an artist, I realize that my path can be my own and it doesn’t have to measure up to anyone else’s standards. It’s a pretty empowering realization—one that I struggle to stay focused on, but it gets easier and easier to do so. I think (I hope!) there will come a time when I’ll need to partner up with someone to help manage the workload, but I don’t feel like such a lost lamb in the meantime.
Valerie: What is the first single for this album and what is it about?
Gabrielle: No Common Ground sort of came about one night after I’d had a conversation with one of my former publishers. She had a lead on this TV show that was going into production and one of the central characters was a vampire. She encouraged me to try and write a song that could potentially be considered for the theme song for the show. I don’t really write that way. I am not someone who can decide to write a song about something and then follow through with the idea. What does happen is that sometimes I start writing a song and initially I just go with the flow and let the words present themselves and then after that initial flurry of birthing the song I realize what it’s about and then I focus on that. Well I guess the idea of vampires and the theme of wanting to be more human or to co-exist with humans and yet to be so inherently un-human and to have to live this endless life with that knowledge kind of struck a chord with me. And maybe there is something very human in that sort of struggle. That, and I studied History, Liberal Arts, and Classics so the biblical imagery of a town or a city being forsaken or damned and the references to Rome burning came from there. I envisioned a scenario in which amid the carnage of Rome being sacked (in a hypothetical world where vampires actually exist) there would be room to wreak all kinds of inhumane havoc because it was already being perpetrated by humans. In their cruelty and inhumanity the human and the vampire were actually more alike. Oh sometimes my imagination just gets carried away. In another life I’ll be a screenwriter ; ) Oh and I never actually submitted the song for consideration for the show. Maybe I should write my own show.
Valerie: What is your favourite song on this album?
Well shoot! That’s like asking me which child is my favourite! Years in Our Bones means a lot to me. It’s about my great-grandmother. She was born in a lighthouse on the same night her father drowned at sea. Just before I released the album her son (and my grand-father) Charles Papillon died at the age of 93. He was pretty special. I carry their history with me. I carry him with me. If I have to pick a song as my favourite then, right now, that’s the one. I have to emphasize though that every song on this album is dear to me for unique reasons.
Valerie: What song would you hope for people to relate to specifically and why?
Gabrielle: To be perfectly honest I hope that every song speaks to someone. Some women in Saskatchewan came up to me after a show in North Battleford one night. They each told me their stories about a small part of their lives and their struggles and their choices to be farmers and how much they felt like Dust to Gold (which is a song about struggle and hardship and trying to run a farm) really spoke to them. That’s amazing. I’m not a farmer and yet somehow I was able to communicate the sentiments in a way that struck a chord with folks who are. It practically moves me to tears to think about it. Then again there are love songs that mean so much to people or songs about just making your way in life and keeping your head up like Paddle and Row that people seem to find meaning in. That’s kind of the point of music I think. Every song should speak to someone in a personal way. I think one of my favourite moments on a stage ever, was when I was in Montreal for a quick stop between tours and I was playing at my favourite musician/artist hangout Grumpy’s Bar with lots of friends in the audience and everyone started singing along to the chorus of Outlaws and Criminals. It was so joyous and fun and amazing and unprompted. None of us are really prairie outlaws but damned if we weren’t all singing about it like it was our story.
Valerie: Do you have any near future touring plans? Where can we buy your music and see you play?
Gabrielle: I hit the road again for my fourth Cross-Canada tour at the end of March 2012, starting with some showcases at CMW. We head West, then East and then circle back to tour Ontario and Quebec in May. My tour dates are up on my facebook page through an event we’ve created for the tour and also through my website. You can buy my music at a show or through CD Baby and iTunes or even by emailing me through my website if you can’t get to a show and want me to mail you a copy.
Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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