It’s easy to assume a career in music would be a birthright for someone like Kandle Osborne. After all, as the daughter of 54-40 front man, Neil Osborne, music is part of her genetic makeup.
But for this Bardot-esque, Victoria-born beauty, growing up surrounded by Canadian rock royalty wasn’t the first-class ticket to musical stardom you might expect—or even what she thought she wanted.
Listening to her critically acclaimed debut album, In Flames—a dark and sultry blend of rock, blues, and a touch of country twang—it’s hard to believe Osborne’s haunting voice isn’t the product of years of training. But, she says, “I had no idea I was going to be a musician. When I was a kid I couldn’t sing or play anything, and I really didn’t care to.” It wasn’t until her late teens when Osborne learned how to play the guitar that she realized she had a knack for song writing.
When she and her sister Coral formed The Blue Violets with their friend Louise Burns, Osborne was content to take a backseat, writing songs and getting her sister to sing them. When the band dissolved, it forced Osborne to become more confident—not only as a solo performer but also as a singer. “I found myself alone with all these songs and no one to sing them. So I made myself learn how to sing properly.”
Determined to make it as a solo artist, Osborne tried doing what any child of a successful, well-known musician father would do—she reached out to his connections. But her initial attempts to get her name out there weren’t taken seriously. “I thought, if I start a band it will be easy because I know everyone—but no. The people in the industry who I thought would help me basically said, “Good for you, honey.”’
Osborne felt her only choice was to carve a reputation separate to that of her father’s, so she moved across the country to Montreal—where she hooked up with indie heavyweight Sam Goldberg Jr., of Broken Social Scene.
She and Goldberg first collaborated on Kandle, Osborne’s self-titled EP, after she offered up her talent behind the lens in exchange for Goldberg’s guitar skills. “He wanted me to do a photo shoot for [Broken Social Scene]. He asked me what I would charge, and I said ‘Nothing, if you play guitar on my EP.’ He said if I was ever in Montreal we should start a band, and I showed up a month later.”
Their musical partnership has continued well beyond the EP, with Goldberg co-producing In Flames alongside Osborne’s father. The album—featuring guest vocals from Béatrice Martin (Cœur de pirate) and Sam Roberts—reflects a more mature sound, which Osborne acknowledges. “When I listen to the EP I hear a weaker singer. I’m very proud of it but there’s a big difference between that and the record. I took risks and I can hear the confidence in my voice. The skill is greater now.”
“When I listen to the EP I hear a weaker singer. I’m very proud of it but there’s a big difference between that and the record. I took risks and I can hear the confidence in my voice.”
Since moving to Montreal, Osborne has gained popularity on both the Montreal airwaves and the festival circuit, including performances at Osheaga and Pop Montreal. But she has yet to break through on a national scale—something she partially credits to a lack of Canada-wide media exposure available to up and coming homegrown artists. “How do you get heard in this country? Quebec is great because it has lots of TV shows and tons of magazines, but we’ve done them all.” All of which begs the question—now what?
For the time being, Osborne’s main focus is on trying to push her music outside of Quebec, which will mean lots of cross-country touring. She’s also looking to find a new manager, a job she’s been doing herself for the past six months.
There may be challenges ahead, but Osborne is a woman in charge—and she seems well prepared to handle whatever the industry throws at her. “The biggest thing is to be confident in who you are and what you want to do musically. If you feel weak and insecure about who you are as a writer and a musician, you’re going to listen to other people and you’re going to regret it. I always make a point of going with my gut.”
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