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'A little bit dangerous'
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, March 14, 2009
To learn more about Lucie Idlout's new album, check out her website at www.lucieidlout.com
She launched the album in Iqaluit following her latest European tour alongside the band Giant Sand.
Idlout plays Ontario, Alberta and B.C. this month and then travels across the East Coast in April.
"It's going to be an intense tour," she said of her Maritime schedule. "Different towns, different clubs every night. We're playing the U.S. after that."
Now based in Toronto, Idlout grew up in Pond Inlet, Iqaluit, Resolute Bay and Rankin Inlet, spending time in Ottawa and Montreal, as well.
News/North interviewed Idlout earlier this month as the songwriter took a brief break from her "constant" tour schedule to enjoy some caffeine at Toronto's Rustic Cosmo Cafe.
News North: When did you know that music was going to be your vocation?
Lucie Idlout: When I had a whole tour booked by an agent that I had never really met before in '98. I played National Aboriginal Day in Ottawa, (then) the Canada Council for the Arts invited me to play a showcase in Montreal and then I had an agent approach me who wanted to represent me. He booked me for a European tour and that's when I knew. It happened that quickly.
NN: What has the reaction to your music been like from European and American audiences?
LI: Europeans are just amazing overall. They seem to be really open to whatever it is that we're doing and they listen to music in a different way. They seem to appreciate it for different reasons. Canadian audiences are really great and I have a super-duper experience here, but going to the states and over in Europe people approach music in a different way. They're less conservative in terms of how quickly they attach themselves to an artist or a song. I've actually done way more international touring than I've done domestic touring.
NN: You chose to release Swagger in Iqaluit. What was it like playing back home?
LI: Playing in front of a hometown crowd, for me, is nerve-wracking. It's probably the scariest thing I've ever had to do in my life. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to release a CD any other way. Given the opportunity to release it in Italy first or Iqaluit, I have to pick Iqaluit. If it wasn't for Iqaluit I wouldn't be where I am right now. It's just really hard when you can see your cousins and your mom and your siblings and a pile of your dearest friends in the crowd looking back at you.
NN: In terms of people's curiosity around the world about the place where you come from, what, if anything, do you share about the North with people who have never experienced it?
LI: It depends. I have to develop a relationship with somebody before I'm prepared to speak about the North, because people are generally ignorant about the North and what our experience is, and that frustrates me and it never ends positively in that case. But if I'm speaking with someone I've developed some sort of relationship with, I'm more than happy to share anything about the North that I can offer. I don't consider myself to be an ambassador, yet at the same time I come from Nunavut territory. That's part of who I am, and it makes up part of my everyday life.
NN: How, if at all, does the North inform your new album?
LI: Well, it certainly informed the first album in ways. But, right now, I would say that I just happen to be a singer/songwriter who happens to be Inuk. I'm more interested in the human condition in a universal way. I'm more interested in relating to people generally and not isolating my audience or my potential audience.
NN: You have referred to experiencing a period of writer's block in the past. What is your writing process like?
LI: There's no one answer to that. It's sort of different in every situation. Sometimes it's just a question of having a melody in my head that I need to expound on and develop along with lyrics and a riff in one process. Sometimes it's just a question of marrying a lyric to a riff that are both written at completely different times. I think the songs that tend to work the best are the ones that are written in the same moment without stopping until the damn thing's done. That's usually based on almost a feeling of pining, needing to get something out of my head. When I wrote Swagger, it was written throughout the process and so even at the point where we were mixing most of the track I was still writing and recording tracks for it. At the end of it, I probably recorded 30 songs altogether and ended up with the 10 that I wanted to have on there. In terms of the next album, I've probably got 10 tunes that I'm ready to go with and I probably need another 20 or 30 to choose from. Your life is constantly changing, and your experiences are changing. It affects the subject. It affects the mood. It affects the style and mostly what I want to put out are albums that make sense from start to finish. So songs need to feel like they're siblings to one another, and I think that's why I like to do it that way. Songwriting usually comes fairly easy to me. If it feels kind of sexy and a little bit dangerous, then it's probably going to turn into a song.
NN: When do you know a song is done?
LI: When I call up a friend and make them listen to it. It doesn't usually stop with one person. I usually call four or five or 10 people in a row and make them all listen to it. They're mostly in Nunavut but I have people here in Toronto, too. It makes for a pretty hefty phone bill sometimes.