When jazz-pop chanteuse Elizabeth Shepherd performs at the Park Theatre this Friday, March 18, it will be a sort of homecoming. The 33-year-old singer was born in Winnipeg.
“I’m not a true Winnipegger, but all my closest friends live in Winnipeg and so I’ve spent a lot of time there,” Shepherd explains by phone from her home in Toronto. “I have a real soft spot for Winnipeg. I guess there’s a certain connection to the place you’re born, so when you roll into town there’s a certain ‘Wow, I get it’—the laidbackness and the friendliness and the very sort of unique beauty of the place.”
It seems that Winnipeg has a soft spot for Shepherd in return. Her appearance at the Park Theatre last year was sold out.
Since then, her most recent release, 2010’s Heavy Falls the Night, was longlisted for the 2010 Polaris Prize.
“The Polaris Prize was great because prior to that I’d only gotten strictly jazz nods,” Shepherd says. “Any nomination for anything is hugely flattering, but the Polaris was really nice to feel like, OK, people other than jazzheads are getting what I’m doing, because I don’t think that what I’m doing is that jazzy.”
Indeed, it was her interest in the samples used in house and hip hop music that initially led Shepherd to jazz. Those influences, and a variety of others, still inform her work.
Shepherd says she currently has two albums in the works. She and her husband are also expecting their first child in September.
“With having a child in there, I have no idea what the timeline of things is going to look like,” she says. “So, I’m just trying to stay flexible and be smart with my time while I have it.”
SLOW DOWN, MOLASSES
Tyson McShane was a late bloomer, not picking up the guitar until he was 17 and making “annoying noises” in his basement for a few years before turning it into something serious.
Now 30, the Saskatoon-based city planner has turned that into a band that includes a geological engineer, a journalist, a CAD engineering student, a touring sound tech, a college professor and a university administrator in its lineup.
“We’re not a normal band in any way. Because of our other commitments, in a way the band becomes a fluid , open thing,” said McShane in a phone interview from a gas station in Valemount, B.C.
“We’re not 18, trying to go on year-long tours and signing to a label. We’re really glad to have this situation that you can leave town for awhile, and that the band isn’t going to keep (other members) from doing something else that’s important to them.”
The band released its new album Walk Into The Sea on March 15.
“One guitar player was in Halifax for most of the year, our trombone player had a child. Because everyone has these commitments, I guide things and pull people in as I can,” said McShane. “We’re not limited by being a four piece and all having to play on the record. Everyone is excited just to be involved when they can be.”
Slow Down, Molasses is currently on tour across Canada.
“(It) made a lot of sense to quit playing music and be adult, but it’s too much fun and too important to us. It’s something I feel like I just need to do at the end of the day.”
Catch them live at the Lo Pub Saturday, March 19. Visit www.myspace.com/slowdownmolasses.
– Matt Preprost
The award nominations are piling up for Toronto singer Emilie-Claire Barlow.
Barlow’s latest album, The Beat Goes On was released last October, and has since garnered accolades for her jazzy take on ’60s music.
The most recent stamp of approval for the album came at the beginning of the year, when it was nominated for a Vocal Jazz Album of the Year Juno award — Barlow’s fourth nomination in the category.
The album is an expansion of Barlow’s previous work, which drew upon the 1930s and ’40s, and a reflection of the 1960s-era icons that inspire her, which include Motown, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Bob Dylan.
“I just felt it was time to do something a little different from the last two records,” Barlow said. “I started looking at the songs of the ’60s and they really struck me. This is not an attempt to sum up the ’60s or call these the best songs of the decade. These are songs that hit me, sparking ideas of how to re-create them in my own way”
Barlow credits the album to the performances of guitarist Reg Schwager, bassist Ross MacIntyre, saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and drummer Davide DiRenzo, all of whom are traveling with her on tour across Canada.
“Toronto has so many talented musicians to choose from,” said Barlow. “The recording process is a magical thing. It feels like a luxury to me to be able to realize these ideas with these great players.”
See Barlow perform at the Park Theatre Tuesday, March 22. Visit www.emilieclairebarlow.com.
Published in Volume 65, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 17, 2011)