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Karen’s Top 10 Favourite Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “the mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions…” Here are a few of my favourite inspirational quotes. Live long and prosper!

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
~ Leonard Cohen

“Always be a first rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of somebody else.”
~ Judy Garland

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”
~ Marianne Williamson

“The future depends on what you do today.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
~ Chinese Proverb.

“We think we understand a song’s lyrics but what makes us believe in them, or not, is the music.”
~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
~ Voltaire (Evelyn Beatrice Hall  in The Friend’s of Voltaire)

“Avoidance of the shadow dampens the personality.”
~ Carl Jung

“I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be anywhere.”
~ Keith Richards

“Don’t try.”
~ Charles Bukowski

Top Ten Motivational Books

Inspiring, motivational and sometimes hilarious, each of these books and their author’s voices have had a significant influence on my day to day life. Highly recommended to start your new year! Click on each title for more info.
 
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Kaizen; The Japanese Secret to Lasting Change by Sarah Harvey
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
You Are A Badass By Jen Sincero
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Sophie Mas

 

Top Ten Holiday Films

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas nearly made it on my top ten films of all time, I love it that much! It kicks off this list of Holiday films that always get me in the spirit of the season, many thanks to their beautiful musical soundtracks! Click on the titles for more info!

White Christmas (1954)
The Polar Express (2004)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Elf (2003)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Bonus!
Paul Reid’s The Littlest Angel (1974)

Karen’s Top Ten Books on Music

While music expresses that which cannot be put into words (yet cannot remain silent), books about music and musicians speak to songs and songwriting. Here are a few that I have enjoyed and recommend. Click on each title for more info.

JUST KIDS ~ Patti Smith
LADY SINGS THE BLUES ~ Billie Holiday/William Dufty
HAPPINESS BECOMES YOU ~ Tina Turner
HOW TO WRITE ONE SONG ~ Jeff Tweedy
ZEN GUITAR ~ Philip Toshio Sudo
GOLD DUST WOMAN The Biography of Stevie Nicks ~ Stephen Davis
FROM CRADLE TO STAGE ~ Virginia Hanlon Grohl
GIRL IN A BAND ~ Kim Gordon
MORE MYSELF ~ Alicia Keys
BROKEN MUSIC ~ Sting

 

Testify!

The first reviews of Femoir are in and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the fabulous feedback from some fantastic people!

“Absolutely stunning! Mesmerizing. The arrangement compliments her lush and soulful contralto. Well done!” ~ Cassandra Wilson, Vocalist

“With Femoir, Karen Myatt is making music great again. She is, far and away, the best new artist to emerge from Atlantic Canada in recent memory, and this is the finest and most important album to come from Canada’s east coast in a generation.” ~ ArtsEast

“Soulful, smart, spirited, sexy, and sassy…bold and beautiful, Femoir is a masterful and meaningful work of melodic art and Myatt is a musical tour-de-force.” ~ Celtic Life International

“Beautifully produced. Karen has a great vocal. A jazz influence with hints of Kate Bush! Highlight tracks – Another Country, Dancing Barefoot, Femoir, and Jezebel. Sister Moon is also fab!” ~ James Zada, Welsh Producer

“Wow! This is stunning!! Love it! It has everything from moody Celtic soundtrack to smoky jazz feels. I even hear some David Gilmour-esque guitar in there too. Wonderful vocals!” ~ Steve Gibbs, Guitarist

“Wow! What a great achievement! Karen’s voice is strong, clear, and full of color and passion!  The arrangements are terrific!  The singing, the harmonies, instrumentals…Great! Great! Great! ~ Janice Jackson, Vocalist

Karen’s Top Ten Music Documentaries

I have had the good fortune to have enjoyed many incredible music documentaries over the years. Here are a few that inspired the writing, recording, and presenting of Femoir. Click on the titles for more info.

Amazing Grace
20 Feet From Stardom
It Might Get Loud
Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music
Summer of Soul
Sonic Highways
What Happened, Miss Simone?
The Punk Singer
From Cradle to Stage
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

 

Faces of Femoir ~ Becca Guilderson & Dominique Leblanc

They are the voices behind the voice on stage this Friday night for Karen’s ‘Femoir’ release concert, but both Becca Guilderson and Dominique Leblanc are musical powerhouses in their own right.

What is your own background?
BG: I was always interested in singing and performing. I left high school to attend Mount Allison University for vocal studies, before coming to Halifax where I participated in the first year of Neptune Theatre’s Music Theatre Performance Program. I have been based in Halifax for the past 11 years as a singer/actor/musician and have been fortunate to work with many local companies, including Neptune Theatre, Shakespeare by The Sea, and The Chester Playhouse. I also spent many years working at the Grafton Street Dinner Theatre as both a performer and as Music Director.
DL: I grew up in a very musical family. My dad plays every instrument under the sun and my mom plays the jukebox. So naturally, I love to pick up instruments and start jamming. Since I travel a lot for work and rarely stay in one place for a long time, wherever there is music it feels like home.

How long have you been singing?
BG: For as long as I can remember! However, I started studying and contemplating working in music seriously as a teenager in New Brunswick.
DL: My parents joke that I started singing before I could talk. In fact, I sang so much as a child that they had to make rules for “when and where Dominique was allowed to sing in the house.” As the years passed, I began training and even attended post secondary school for music and theatre. The house rules, however, still exist to this day.

What inspired you to start?
BG: I have always loved telling stories and being able to communicate with an audience through song.
DL: It was definitely ingrained in me from the beginning, but neither the spark nor love ever disappeared. I always knew that I wanted to work in the music and film industry, and so I made sure I worked hard to learn from the best.

Are they the same reasons you continue to sing today?
BG: Yes! It makes for such a unique and beautiful shared experience.
DL: Absolutely. What I love most about this field is that you are constantly learning. Whether it is technique, genres, songs, or meeting new people. Age doesn’t matter – I am always learning from the people around me.

What have been some career highlights?
BG: Pre-COVID-19, I was lucky to work in musical theatre a few times with Neptune Theatre (Cinderella and Peter Pan), and I have also spent lots of time over the past five years working with (singer/songwriter) Ian Sherwood, who is always such a treat to work with!
DL: I have been fortunate to have been involved from a very young age and have worked with some of the industry’s best people in both Canada and the USA. Keeping in touch with those who I have learned from and connected with is so important. I just returned home from performing in Toronto and it was an awesome show with even greater people, so that was pretty fun.

How do you know Karen, and in what capacity have you two worked together previously?
BG: Karen and I first worked together at The Theatre Arts Guild on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and then got to keep the train rolling professionally on a show at The Chester Playhouse called The Marvellous Wonderettes. I am a huge Karen Myatt fan, and it is always a joy to be asked to perform with her in any capacity. Only the best experiences to report!
DL: Karen and I met when I was about 13 years old doing a show at Neptune Theatre where we played sisters. Naturally, we got along super well and ended up working together again when I was older. It is always a joy to work with good people that can make you laugh until you cry, especially during the long hour days. Karen is definitely one of those people.

What are your musical plans for the rest of 2021 and for 2022?
BG: I have started the ball rolling on some on my own solo music projects and there are whispers of theatre in the wings!
DL: Over the pandemic, I have been working on my (travel friendly) home recording studio. I also love writing in my downtime. In the new year, I will be expanding that and recording lots of new music.

 

The Story of Femoir

Karen Myatt has her grandmother to thank for her love of music.

“I grew up in a musical home, and I have been singing for as long as I can remember,” shares the singer. “My grandmother, Madeline Joudrey – who is now 102 years old – played the piano daily and still plays entirely by ear. I was raised on the music of Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, and Rosemary Clooney to name but a few.”

While she remains inspired by her family matriarch, Myatt found other influences after leaving her hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“I studied music in New York City, discovering the rich culture of jazz, blues, and Broadway. Today I find inspiration in all musical styles and art forms. Music has always been both a physical and spiritual experience for me, so I still sing for the same reasons that I did as a youngster. What changed was my yearning to share ideas that may reach someone in some small but important way.”

Much of that desire evolved out of sheer life experience.

“I have had the great fortune to visit some of the greatest cities in the world and be touched by various cultures. This, along with a passion for novels, films, and music, led to my development both as a person and as an artist. The result has been a deeper connection to the world, its history, and the amazing array of art there is to be consumed and created. Expanding my mind and heart awakened my creative spirit.”

That artistry came to full fruition with her recently released sophomore recording, Femoir.

“It is tough to pinpoint exactly when the idea for the album planted itself in my psyche, but it definitely had something to do with a cappuccino and a cannoli at a café in Rome. That afternoon, it occurred to me that many of my favorite countries, characters, and cultures share a common theme; the preservation and promotion of beauty, sensuality, intuition, and creativity – all eternally feminine traits.”

A musical melange of original compositions and contemporary standards, the 14 songs on Femoir explore the transcendent feminine spirit through a fusion of soul, rock, jazz, and worldbeat.

“Without sounding too abstract or ethereal, everyone and everything has this divine connection. It is a story that has been told throughout history and will continue to be told into the future – women, female archetypes and figures, but also the presence of the feminine spirit in all people, places, and things. The theme of a universal, infinite narrative is present throughout the album, however there is another motif of mystery, a sort of unseen, unspoken spirit. It is incredible how this little idea sort of whipped itself into being – the seed was planted, though it was the many voices and souls that came together that really allowed it to grow and become a living, breathing expression.”

Some of Canada’s most renowned musicians appear on the new album, including Chris Mitchell (saxophone), Matt Myer (trumpet), Lisa MacDougall (keyboards), J. Rimbaudelaire (guitars), Adam Fine (bass), Geoff Arsenault (drums), Shimon Walt (cello) and Jennifer Jones (violin).

“The recording process allowed me to discover a new voice, and being surrounded by world-class musicians and technicians made the experience all the more inspiring. It was magical. The time and the team were just right, and it all fell into place. A “let go and let God” sort of experience. There were moments where I would say, “there – what is that whirring? That hum? Who’s playing that – it’s so cool!” But there would be no related track, no decipherable instrument, and so it was chalked up to the frequency that was created when sounds blend and a new sound emerges – the ghost in the machine – and it whisps in and out all over the album. I like to think that is the Femoir spirit.”

Myatt believes that most people relate to a song as it rings true in their own lives and memories.

“A really great piece of music can tell many stories through one narrative, so the listener has the freedom to interpret, fill in the blanks, find themselves in the song. Perhaps the most important thing is knowing what not to say – leaving a space between the notes, where the spirit of the song can live – like little secrets that are whispered amongst the words and melodies.”

With the album launched – along with a video for the title track – the coming months will see Myatt and her band touring across North America.

“It is a very exciting time, and I could not be more grateful. This journey has been beyond fulfilling. My grandmother is very proud.”

www.femoir.ca

Karen’s Top Ten Fashion Designers

Designer Diane von Furstenberg once mused that “Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it.” Femoir was as much influenced by fashion as it was by music, literature, and travel. Below are my favourite fashionistas. Click on each to learn more.

Coco Chanel
Donatella Versace
Diane Von Fürstenberg
Mary Quant
Elsa Schiaparelli
Vivienne Westwood
Thierry Mugler
Christian Dior
Giorgio Armani
Alexander McQueen

Friends of Femoir ~ Heather McGuigan

Heather McGuigan is the founder and director of HopeTotes, a national not-for-profit organization that provides everyday essentials to women in need.

When and why did you start Hope Totes?
I started HopeTotes in 2005 after working a promotional gig at a trade show. I saw a lot of booths giving away/throwing out a ton of beauty products and thought, “Something could be done here to really help people. Something low cost, something with a direct impact and something lots of people could be a part of.”

What are your roles and responsibilities there?
At the moment…everything! Over the years I have had the privilege of working with some incredible people who have elevated and expanded this organization. What I love are these kinds of joint projects – where people take the experience or opportunity they have and use it to help those around them.

What are the challenges involved?
One challenge that I have recently faced is getting our Totes to a few remote communities where they are desperately needed. Trucking routes, available space and scheduling has been tricky. I am still working on it!

What are the rewards?
The reward is knowing that someone, at a critical point in their lives, knows that we care. To provide the basic hygiene items that not only improve self esteem but helps to alleviate a financial burden when money is so tight. The other part is uniting communities to volunteer in simple ways. Sometimes volunteering can be hard to commit to. Where do I start? How much time can I give? A project like HopeTotes is simple, direct and proves that small acts of kindness can change the world.

Who are your clients?
Our clients are typically the residents of women’s shelters across Canada. As women arrive, fleeing abuse and poverty, they receive a Tote with everything they need to feel clean and cared for as they embark on the difficult recovery process.

How can the public get involved?
Information on volunteering can be found on our website. The holiday season is the biggest for giving, and we invite people to make some Totes with their family and friends and donate them to a local shelter. We provide you with a how-to sheet and some of our beautiful, handmade Totes to fill!! Financial donations are also greatly appreciated.

What does the organization have on tap for the rest of 2021, and going into 2022?
My hope for 2022 is to get our wheels churning again! A lot of restrictions were put in place in terms of in-kind donations, so I am excited to begin filling and assisting HopeTote donations across Canada.

www.hopetotes.ca

Karen’s Top Ten Travel Destinations!

While it is true that “the journey is the destination,” I have had the good fortune of visiting some of the most incredible places on the planet. Here is my list of top-ten travel spots (so far!). Click on each to explore!

Rome, Italy
Florence, Italy
Paris, France
London, England
Derry, Northern Ireland
Montréal, QC, Canada
New York City, NY, USA
Charleston, SC, USA
Havana, Cuba
Saint Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, Barbados

Faces of Femoir ~ J.Rimbaudelaire

Guitarist J. Rimbaudelaire was an integral part of the writing and recording of Femoir.

What are your own roots?
I am originally from Montreal. However, I have lived in Halifax for the past 20 years. I started playing guitar as a teenager, inspired by punk and metal. My tastes and playing have both evolved over time, and these days I listen to everything. I can’t play everything, mind you…lol…but it is fun and exciting to stretch out as a player.

Who are your favourite guitarists?
There are so many that I love and listen to – Jeff Beck, Hendrix, The Edge, Marc Ribot, Prince, St. Vincent, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page, Tom Morello, Buddy Guy, Frank Zappa, Johnny Ramone, Jack White, Ani DiFranco, Joe Walsh, Keith Richards, Jonny Greenwood, Thurston Moore, J. Mascis, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Duane Allman, Andy Summers, Joe Perry, John Frusciante, PJ Harvey, Johnny Winter…these may seem all over the place stylistically, but there is a thread that weaves them all together; feel, guts, and soul. If I had to choose one, however, it would be Pete Townshend. No one has ever used the guitar so masterfully to craft and orchestrate music.

What guitars did you use for Femoir?
For the electric stuff I used a ’75 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe for the heavier tones, a ’76 Fender Telecaster for the lighter edges and a 2012 Squier Telecaster for the stuff in between. There is a 2016 Gibson Les Paul Standard on there also, as well as a ’78 Gibson Firebird. The acoustic parts were done with a 2009 Takamine SE – a stunning instrument with rich and robust tones. For amps I varied between a Fender Blues Deluxe and a Marshall Class 5 – both are tube-driven and bring extra warmth to the album. For effects, I kept it simple with only a Boss Blues Driver and an old, beaten-up EH Memory Man.

What other guitars are you playing these days?
My main guitar is a 1996 Honeyburst Gibson Les Paul Standard. I also have a newer PRS SE Hollowbody, an older Ibanez Artcore Hollowbody, and an older Epiphone Sheraton II.

How essential was the guitar to the writing and recording of Femoir?
It was important in terms of the structure and architecture of the songs. I think it was Bruce Springsteen who said that if a tune can stand on its own with just a voice and a single instrument then it will stand the test of time. So, the original songs on Femoir were crafted on an acoustic guitar and then ornamented with the other instruments, like flesh over a skeleton or leaves upon a tree. Really, a lot of what I ended up doing was about getting out-of-the-way – allowing the songs to breathe on their own. That is something that I learned over time – when not to play. As Miles said, “music is the space between the notes.”

What was the process like for you?
Along with being incredibly professional, Karen is very personable and made all of us feel welcome and a part of the project. She knew what she wanted but gave us the space to do our own thing. Because of that, each of us was able to bring a unique voice to the recording. It was a real honour to play with Chris, Matt, Adam, Lisa and Geoff – they are incredible musicians and amazing people. Make no mistake, however, it was Karen’s vision that brought the whole thing to life – Femoir is her baby.

Do you have any advice for younger guitarists?
Play. Play for joy and for yourself. The only guitarist you must be better than is the guitarist you were yesterday. And listen – not just to other guitar players but also other great musicians. A real turning point for me as a player was reading Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo, which is a must-read for any musician. The revelation was that I didn’t have to be the best or flashiest player out there, or sound like anyone else – I only had to be myself and be true to my own voice.

Karen’s Top Ten Songs

Most people relate to a song because the story or narrative sticks with them – it rings true in their own lives or memories. A great song can tell many stories through one narrative, so the listener has the freedom to interpret, fill in the blanks, find themselves in the song. The most important part is knowing what NOT to say – the space between the notes is where the spirit of the song will live. Not just the lyrics, but the musical story is also important here. My favorite songs have melodic phrases or specific solo instruments that share their own voice in the story, like little secrets being whispered between the words. Here are my top ten favourite songs – click on each to listen.

The Rain Song ~ Led Zeppelin
Us & Them ~ Pink Floyd
Mercy Mercy Me ~ Marvin Gaye
Moonlight Motel ~ Bruce Springsteen
Love Is Blindness ~ U2
God Only Knows ~ The Beach Boys
Lilac Wine ~ Jeff Buckley (by James Shelton)
Ghost on the Canvas ~ Glen Campbell (by Paul Westerberg)
De cara a la Pared ~ Lhasa de Sela
The Garden ~ Rush

 

Faces of Femoir ~ Christian St. Germain

It takes skill and an experienced ear to bring all the sonic elements together into a cohesive recording. Audio technician Christian St. Germain brought Femoir to another level.

When and why did you first get involved with music?
I did not grow up in a very musical family, so it is hard to pinpoint where the love of music originates from. I do remember, though, when I realized the power it has and when I really got hooked. Back in the mid 70s I used to get to school by bus and of course, back then, the older and cooler kids got to sit at the back of the bus. One day, I boarded the bus with my ping-pong paddle on which I had drawn the logo of the band Yes. The moment the cool kids from the back of the bus noticed I immediately became cool as well and was allowed to hang out with them! In my teenage brain music now equalled being accepted and part of the gang! I then heavily got into listening, discovering, talking about and sharing all the music I could get my hands on. I was also always drawn to the technical side of things. So being an audio technician made a lot of sense to me and that career happened quite naturally.

What are the challenges of the vocation?
The main challenges of this vocation are, of course, the financial instability and the unpredictability of the workload (or lack of it). On the other hand, those challenges can also become the rewards. You never know when a really well-paid gig might come up or when a not-so-busy period turns into an amazing time touring the world…anything can happen! Or nothing! But life has a way to even everything out and, looking back, it all turned out quite well for me.

What have been some career highlights?
If I was to pick one career highlight, I would have to choose a period of time. I was extremely lucky to experience what I think were the last “unreal” years of the music industry before the internet made the selling of a physical support for music obsolete. At the time, I was the full time, “everything audio” guy for French artist Lara Fabian. She had just signed a huge record deal with Sony New York to do an English album and we got to travel and produce it in all the great American studios (Hit Factory in NYC, Larrabee in LA, the Record Plant in LA, Capitol Studios in LA, etc) with top producers (Walter Afanasieff, Pat Leonard, Glen Ballard, etc)  the most amazing engineers (Mike Shipley, Mick Guzauski, Ross Hogarth, John Kurlander, etc) and amazing top musicians (Steve Lukather, Mickey Curry, Vinnie Colaiuta, Bruce Gaitsh, etc.). Once the album was released, we got to promote it doing live performances on US television, including The tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good morning America, and The View. Those were my “I can’t believe I got to experience this” years!

How was your experience with the Femoir project?
As a professional audio technician, the “gigs” I enjoy the most are the musical ones. So, when the Femoir project came my way, I was thrilled. I knew from the beginning that this project would be one of high standards. Great songs, great musicians, and a world class singer…what more could I ask for?

What stood out to you?
What stood out with this project – besides the quality of the song writing (which is the most important element) – was the sense of cohesiveness and purpose behind this collection of songs. The whole process was well thought out and it leaves the listener feeling that he or she is being taken on a musical journey with meaning. We now live in a fast-paced world and today’s popular music reflects that as well. But, thankfully, not everything has to be that way. Femoir is proof that the “concept” album – listened to and enjoyed as a whole – is a worthwhile and inspiring experience for both creators and consumers alike. I know Femoir will find its way through the sea of noise…because anything made with love and passion can only be met by love and passion.

What’s on your agenda for the rest of 2021?
For me 2021 is definitely looking brighter than 2020…I am currently working on songs for the next Lara Fabian release and hope to get back to touring soon!

www.audio360.ca

Karen’s Top Ten Films

Femoir was inspired by an array of arts ~ music, theatre, dance, literature, fashion, painting, photography, and more. Certainly, cinema informed the writing and recording process. Here are my top-ten films of all time. Some are obvious choices, while others might come as a surprise. See for yourself ~ click on each title to watch the trailer.

Goodfellas
West Side Story
Cinema Paradiso
The Lives of Others
La Dolce Vita
Manhattan
Rear Window
Roman Holiday
Betty Blue (37.2 le Matin)
Down By Law

SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE!

Faces of Femoir ~ Adam Fine

One of the finest musicians in Atlantic Canada, Halifax bassist Adam Fine lent his grit and grooves to the recording of Femoir.

What are your own roots?
I’m Jewish with my family roots in Toronto and Yarmouth NS, and with ancestors in various places all over Central and Eastern Europe. I grew up in Toronto, and I’ve been in Halifax for 21 years now.

When and why did you start playing music?
I played piano and French horn as a child and was terrible at both. Based on very little knowledge, I decided I wanted to learn electric bass at age 15, and it swept over me like wildfire. I played in all the school bands, skipped non-music classes to I could play more, and just hung out in the band room every second I could.

Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Not at all. Through public performances, playing music was a thing that provided access to ‘cool’. Now it’s more like a daily meditation and a thing to do with friends. Even more so with Covid making performances rare and extra special, I feel like the practice IS the goal.

How have you evolved as an artist over that time?
Well, my listening habits have certainly changed: Prog rock --> Pure-laine jazz snob --> open-minded world-music dilletante --> smooth Jazz and Yacht rock. I can get around my instrument pretty well, but I’ve never really been much of a technician. I think playing with other humans has always been my focus, and I think my ability to react and respond to what’s going on has gotten better with age. I hope that continues.

What are the challenges of the vocation?
Other people will give more interesting answers, but they’ll be embellishing. Scheduling and carrying heavy gear are the two greatest challenges to being a professional musician.

What are the rewards?
For sure: good friends and a sense of accomplishment. Actually, my favourite thing about music right now is that it happens so quickly—you get together with some nice people, you make something you essentially get to enjoy immediately (even if it’s in a half-finished state like a record or workshopping material in a rehearsal), and then you all go home! I work as a city planner in my other life, and things take years to come to fruition. Music is so fast and so fun, and you get to enjoy the choices you make right away, and if things go wrong: no big deal!

What have been some career highlights?
Playing all the jazz festivals in Canada with Gypsophilia I think were my highlights, we had such a good time on the road, and audiences were really good across the country. Getting from gig to gig was stressful—lots of late nights combined with early morning flights—but the performances were among my favourite.

How was your experience with the Femoir project?
Karen’s a very talented singer, she’s got a really hot band, and the material is fun to play. What could go wrong with that?! I’m sorry that Covid has slowed the record’s release, but I’m sure it’s going to make a splash. I’m very excited to play with the band again at the Cohn.

What makes a good song?
I don’t have an answer to this really. I think I could find exceptions to just about any rule I make up about songs!

What makes a good live show?
Variety for sure. And at my advanced age, it shouldn’t be too long.

What are your thoughts on the current state of Atlantic Canada’s music scene?
I’ve been so disconnected from the scene lately; I’m going to decline to answer. I’m sure there’s solid music being made, but I don’t know what it is right now.

What’s on your creative agenda for the rest of 2021?
I’m setting the bar low—now that things are opening up, I’d just like to keep adding some regular performances and rehearsals to my schedule. Next year maybe I’ll think a bit bigger!

Karen’s Top Ten Books

Books are conveyors of ideas and emotions. Engaging, entertaining and educational, literature of any genre is a vessel of human drama. Call me old-fashioned (and I do acknowledge the importance of eBooks), but I still love the feeling of holding an actual physical work of fiction or non-fiction in my hands. Here are a few works that I have enjoyed over the years and that informed and inspired Femoir. Click on each title for more information.

Skinny Legs and All ~ Tom Robbins
Suite Française ~ Irène Némirovsky
A Moveable Feast ~ Ernest Hemingway
Trinity ~ Leon Uris
The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath
Devotion ~ Patti Smith
The Alchemist ~ Paulo Coehlo
Jane Eyre ~ Charlotte Brontë
Flâneuse ~ Lauren Elkin
The Greatest Miracle in the World ~ Og Mandino

Faces of Femoir ~ Darren van Niekerk

As the man behind the mixing board at Sonic Temple Studio in Halifax, audio engineer Darren van Niekerk brought Femoir’s 14 tracks to life.

When and why did you first get involved with music?
I’ve always been surrounded by it. My Dad is a guitar player and singer with the church choir, and when I was growing up, he owned a record store that shared a space with a musical instrument store. I’d go in to “help out” when I was a kid so I could monkey around on all the keyboards they had in stock. When I was 10 Dad showed me a few chords on the guitar and that became my obsession. Fast forward a few years and I had dropped out of Aerospace Engineering at Ryerson University, returned home and was about to chase my girlfriend from our band out to Nova Scotia where she had applied to MSVU when I decided I needed to find something to do with my life once I got there. I wasn’t confident enough as a guitar player to chase that dream professionally so she asked if I’d ever considered the studio. I applied to Nova Scotia Community College, got my work term at The Sonic Temple, married the girl, and the rest – as they say – is history.

Are they the same reasons you do it today?
I guess so, yes. Music was the only thing I wanted to spend my time on. It was one of the few things that felt natural and comfortable to me, tapped into an energy that I didn’t find anywhere else.  It still is; when you lock in with your clients and that energy comes out, it’s an unmatched high.

What are the challenges of the vocation?
I think working with people. I’m a very shy person by nature, but I do enjoy this. You work with so many different personality types, often during the same session. It’s important to be able to connect on some level with everyone around you in that space, keeping everyone’s energy drawn into the creative circle. Also, maintaining your cool, which I think I handle well enough! Particularly when working in a studio built around vintage analogue equipment, things don’t always go as planned or things break down. And this also bridges back to the different personalities, learning how to work with the difficult ones as well, because we all have our quirks! I need to keep the ball rolling and make sure the upsets don’t become upsetting. Life happens, sometimes you just have to make sure to flow through it all so the clients stay comfortable and inspired. And after all that, just being a dad – I have 4 children at home, some with higher needs and work in an industry that demands so much on a personal level in terms of time and energy that it’s hard not to drop a ball now and again with that kind of juggling act.

What are the rewards?
When you’re in a session with a bunch of capable and inspired musicians and creativity starts flowing, time disappears. And it becomes so personal when you share these experiences with the artists – I feel like I leave the studio having created something beautiful with friends. It’s a connection that stays with me and fuels the next projects that come through because the experiences shape you on both a professional and a human level.

What have been some career highlights?
There have been so many; recording drums for Bryan Adams (we still have his toaster!), recording strings for K-Os, working with and learning from respected producers like Don Smith, Tony Doogan, Gavin Brown, Eric Ratz…Tony and Eric – in separate phases of my career for each – ended up feeling like mentors, as I had the opportunity to work on several albums with each. They were great opportunities to steal all their tricks! Their individual styles though both felt in tune with what I wanted to bring out in my own work going forward as an engineer/producer, so I have a great deal of appreciation for the time I got to spend with either of them.

How was your experience with the Femoir project?
Thoroughly enjoyable, inspiring. The musicians chosen for the project were all such amazing players and really wonderful humans to be around in the studio. How easily they all worked together, fed off one another for ideas and inspiration, and how well they locked in to bring it all together on a take honestly makes for some of the most memorable moments in any recording career. I quickly discovered early on that this was my favourite way to record, and this project fit the bill pretty nicely!

What stood out to you?
There seemed to be a great deal of clarity with what Karen intended to do with the album, how she wanted the music to be conveyed emotionally to how the ideas and concepts within the music would be flow into the imagery, the marketing, the promotion…ideas and inspiration were invited, but the intention of the album was always kept forefront. It was a wonderful process to see unfold.

What makes a good song?
Haha! This is so subjective to me. There are songs with beautifully complex arrangements, sonic and harmonic textures and deep multifaceted lyrics that draw me in but go over other listener’s heads…Then, there are songs with no apparent depth, no real complex meaning or structure, but something in them – be it rhythmic, a quick lyrical hook, a barrage of guitars – grabs you, digs in to you and forces you to listen because it “just feels right”. A good song grabs you and transports you in some way, and that’s so personal. I think that’s beautiful.

What are your thoughts on the current state of Canada’s music scene?
I’m not sure I have a formal opinion on it as I’m not sure I’m up to date enough on it all! I mostly see so many of us chomping at the bit to get up and going again, to get out and live again, make a livelihood out of it again…One thing I can say, watching the money dry up, the sales dry up, the shows disappear…it was inspiring watching artists take to their online communities to keep creating something, keep engaging with fans and people in general. It was beautiful to see the will to survive and the desire to create bloom out of something that looked so bleak. That obviously goes beyond our own country to the rest of the world throughout these last 19 months or so, but it was beautiful watching how our maritime artists not only pushed through this particular struggle but also how they helped push others through. To me it drove home a sense of community that binds all of us together. I’m very interested to see what Canada’s music scene becomes on the other side of this.

What’s on your agenda for the rest of 2021?
Balance. Being a father of 4 and largely being the one responsible for the home front, I’ve decided to build out my facility at home to accommodate small recording projects. I’ll still be on deck at the Temple for projects, but this gives me some options post-Covid (whenever the hell THAT happens!) to get back into what I love doing most now that everyone is in school while still being able to be the at-home parent as much as I can for them. Balance.

www.thesonictemple.ca
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Karen’s Top Ten Albums

Choosing my “desert island discs” proved to be a bigger undertaking than I expected. There are certain recordings that had a huge impact on me at particular periods of my life, though many of these would eventually fall off. Others, as in the list below, have struck a chord and stuck to me over time. It got me thinking about what it is that makes a great album. Flea from the RHCPs once said that there are only two types of music – music with soul and music with no soul. Soul is the thread that ties these wondrous works together and I listened to them over and again as we were writing and recording Femoir. Click on each title for more information.

What’s Going On ~ Marvin Gaye
Tapestry ~ Carole King
Nothing Like the Sun ~ Sting
Pet Sounds ~ Beach Boys
Sonic Highways ~ Foo Fighters
Rumours ~ Fleetwood Mac
Dark Side of the Moon ~ Pink Floyd
Blue Valentine ~ Tom Waits
Achtung Baby ~ U2
New Moon Daughter ~ Cassandra Wilson