Velvet Rope

February 11, 2013

in Press

The Velvet Rope

Tannis Slimmon is releasing In and Out of Harmony this week at Guelph’s Little Theatre.

VR Guelph had an opportunity to catch up with the singer/songwriter and talk to her about her incredible career, collaborations, and coming to the Royal City to release the album.

Tell me about being a part of the Royal City Music Scene.
Guelph is a great music town and the reason why I stayed on after I finished what was supposed to be a one year exchange from the University of Manitoba. I joined my first band when I was here at University back in the 80′s and soon after, met the other two members of The Bird Sisters when our respective bands played at the first Hillside Festival. I helped organize Hillside for several years until The Bird Sisters got too busy touring in Canada and the US.  We released three albums over the eleven years we were together. I’ve played in and recorded with a number of other great Guelph bands like Big Smoke, Benji and Crows Feet, and sung harmonies on lots of other people’s albums as well as live. Over the years, I’ve sung with a number of choirs in this area and beyond from Choral Stimulation to the Guelph Chamber Choir. I organized Women in the Groove concerts for a few years which showcased women’s music, dance and spoken word. I’ve presented concerts for musician friends passing through and needing a gig and a bed. I’ve played numerous benefit concerts in the community over the years, often collaborating with other Guelph musicians.
You have performed with a multitude of talented artists. Anyone on your radar to collaborate with?
I’m excited about the upcoming live performances of songs from my new album. Each show is a collaboration with several of the 24 musicians who performed on the album. My work with fellow musicians Katherine Wheatley and Jude Vadala, and projects with choir like Guelph’s Ondine Chorus and Toronto’s Essentia Vocal Ensemble are all creative adventures. David Francey and I have talked about the possibility of doing something together and I work with my partner Lewis Melville on a daily basis. Collaboration is a normal part of my musical life. I’m currently working on some ideas based on growing up in rural Manitoba that are inspired by the paintings of William Kurelek.
Your releasing your new album at Guelph Little Theatre. Tell me about this album.
There’s so much to tell. I see it as an intricately woven tapestry of my musical influences, including Malian melodies and instrumentation, a touch of jazz, gospel, salvation army street band, folk and country. Underneath the musical exterior it is an exploration of politics, social issues, life changes, emotional mysteries, and events in the day to day life that pertain to my age and experience.  My passion is singing, and particularly singing harmonies and counter rhythms, and stretching things vocally, and in that regard, I think that each album has been somewhat of a progression from the last.

Visually, the album package itself is quite beautiful. The theme colour is green and I was able to use a number of Lewis’ illustrations, some of which are whimsical depictions of botanical scenes, richly coloured and quite intricate. He drew a number of illustrations specifically for particular songs.

You’ve been performing for a long time – what can you tell me about the evolution of your performances? What advice can you give to new musicians who have been following your career?
The bands that I have been in over the years have really helped to shape my evolution as a musician and a person. Many of the musicians I’ve played with are now life-long friends. I’ve become much more comfortable as a performer and feel more able to express myself vocally as a lead singer.  But I also enjoy harmony and backup singing and supporting other performers.

I’d encourage a new musician to invest in building a musical community. Follow your dream; do it because you love it. Try to avoid false expectations, and approach the music business in a sensible, practical way. Remember that music is not a commodity but a language that connects people.

Anywhere specific you’d like to perform, or perform at again?

Specifically, the Sharon Temple north of Toronto (a building with fantastic acoustics and a fascinating history) and the Aud Theatre in Virden, Manitoba (an iconic old theatre where I first sang in the music festival when I was in grade 4), but music has taken me all around the world and opened doors to people and places and I hope that will continue in places like Europe and South America. Oh, and perhaps somewhere warm during our Canadian winters.
As someone in the music community, is there an independent band or artist you’re particularly fond of?
There are so many in this community that I love that it’s hard to start naming them because I’m bound to end up missing someone special. But I’d like to also acknowledge all the studio and sound people that help all the independent bands and artists in this city, as well as folks in our music stores and all the music teachers.
Do you have a special message for your fans who plan to attend the show?
Wear something green and come with an open heart.
Tannis Slimmon In and Out of Harmony CD Release
Saturday, February 16th
Guelph Little Theatre

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