Québécois singer-songwriter Gabrielle Shonk locates a raw vulnerability within an indie-folk sound on her debut self-titled LP released this past September. Tracing through her own experiences with a voice that pierces and taunts in equal measure, the 29-year-old has earned comparisons to the likes of Alicia Keys, Fiona Apple and Adele.
To kick off the new year, Georgie caught up with Gabrielle by phone at her home in Quebec City.
G—Could you tell us a little about your background?
Gabrielle Shonk—I am French Canadian. Actually, I was born in the States in Providence, Rhode Island, and we moved to [a suburb of Quebec City] when I was five or six. My dad is American and my mom is from Quebec City.
G—Is French your first language?
GS—Yes. I went to school in French and everything; my whole upbringing was in French in Quebec.
G—Your English is absolutely perfect.
GS—I would say English has always come more naturally to me; I love both though, but my main musical expression language is English.
G—Who would you say are your greatest musical influences?
GS—I like a lot of old stuff, from the folk scene: Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I listened to a lot of soul music growing up, too: Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding. I have the vinyl of “Let’s Stay Together”, and listen to it maybe once a week and I never get tired of it.
G—Which aspect of the musical process do you enjoy more, songwriting or performing?
GS—I think it depends on the moment in my life. At the moment I’m feeling very creative, so I’m very much into writing music; but I do love performing live. I like being out there, meeting people and sharing the music. I’m going back into songwriting right now but I’m still playing shows, a bunch of shows.
G—What came first, was it writing songs or the desire to put yourself out there and share the music?
GS—I have always loved singing, but creating music came very young for me. When I was ten I would make up pop songs in my head and write the lyrics down; I was always creative in that sense. When I started playing guitar, I started by covering songs, but very quickly after I started writing my own songs, inspired from the chords I had learned. Writing was kind of omnipresent throughout my whole career. I have only been pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter in the last couple of years with the making of this record, but it has always been present.
G—How does it feel to have your debut self-titled album released?
GS—I feel as if I was waiting for this for such a long time, so it got to the point that when it finally made it out, I was ready for it. But I had to work through that in the process. I am a bit of a perfectionist – finishing and saying “this is done” was hard. In a few years I will probably look back and want to redo the whole record differently. But I see that in a positive way, because I want to evolve as an artist and move forward. It’s something I am proud of. It’s also great to watch the record get a second life though the eyes of the fans. They take such different meaning from it which makes me look at my own music differently. I love having the songs out there living their own lives.
G—Your hit single, “Habit”, was about a breakup. How do you feel about that relationship now and do you still talk?
GS—I wrote that song a long time ago. It was when my first relationship ended, which was a long one I guess. I don’t talk to him anymore.
G—Do you think he has heard the single and knows it’s about him?
GS—I have no idea. I don’t know if he knows it’s about him or if he’s heard it.
All my close friends know it’s about him. It was a case of two people who changed, broke up, and never bumped into each other again. It was a while ago, and I’m completely healed from that experience now. It’s interesting to see where life experiences can bring you, so much good has come from that song. It feels like a win for me I guess.
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change