Gabrielle Shonk: More Than Just A Voice

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Gabrielle Shonk
RBC Bluesfest
July 9, City Stage 7pm

In the current music industry, even a cursory television appearance can be all it takes to make your career take off. For Quebec City's Gabrielle Shonk her brief appearance on La Voix (Quebec's version of The Voice) garnered enough attention to take her already budding career up a notch. Gearing up for the launch of her long since finished debut LP, we talked with Shonk about launching right, moving between folk and jazz, and moving between languages.

Ottawa Life: Can you briefly walk me through how you got from La Voix to where you are now?

Gabrielle Shonk: I was doing music full-time before La Voix, but I was doing mostly cover songs and gigs at bars. I was writing songs, and shows for that here and there but no EP. I've been writing since I was 14 but I never released anything until I put out "Habit." I went on La Voix in 2014, I was on for two shows so it gave me a foot in, foot out opportunity, with a lot of visibility. After that people started following me. Before the show I had an EP project of five songs, and so when I went on I put it on hold. After I was done I figured why not do a full-on record. The show motivated me to do it, since there were people who wanted me to do it. I started working on the record with musician friends in Quebec City, and we finished it and sent it in. I wanted to do it all independent. I released "Habit" just to have something out there. I had been doing a lot of jazz so people didn't know what to expect. People thought it was going to be jazz and I was saying "No my original stuff is going to be more folk and pop influenced, along with soul and blues. I released it and it went really well, that's when the whole industry started giving me attention and ended up signing it with Universal to release in September.

I know your album has taken some time now to actually come out, as it's been finished for aw while, so why did that happen?

I had planned the release of "Habit" to coincide with the album in the fall. But since everything happened after I released the track, I had to hold back because there was an opportunity to do it with a team. Before it was just me by myself in an apartment with some help from my friends. I decided to be patient to shop around and build the right team with the right people.

How did you start working with Simon Pedneault and what do you feel he's bringing to your album?

Simon has been a good friend of mine for a while. He lives in Quebec City and we've been in the same music scene for ten years now, so we knew each other. At some point back in 2011, I did a show with a few of my originals, and Simon really got hooked on it, thought I was special. He was getting into producing and wanted to work with me. At one point in 2013, I sent him one of my songs, and he worked on it in the studio and made an arrangement, that's how it started. We kept doing that, along with my stuff on the side and then after La Voix we decided to do the full-on record. He's very open and has a good ear, we're very aligned musically so I knew he'd help me in the direction I wanted to go.

You also funded it all yourself?

I funded it from day one, now Universal's financed it. I paid for the whole thing with cover gigs, working 3-6 nights a week to make it happen.

What caused you to shift from Jazz to folk over the last little while?

My dad is a blues musician, so I grew up with that and soul records. My parents are also big folk fans so I grew up listening to Tracy Chapman and Janis Joplin so it was deeply ingrained. When I went to school for music I feel deeply in love with jazz and went into that for a while. Writing though I was always drawn to folk, that kind of soulful colour, and the voices

How do you decide which parts of your songs will be in English or French?

I wasn't writing any songs in French, because English is my first language. I speak more French than I do English, but my artistic side is from my dad and he speaks English. It was my first take on French for this record. I worked on an author to co-write the French lyrics for this record. I had ideas for songs to be in French, it was just trying it out and seeing what felt right.

Do you ever find it hard to switch back and forth live or on record?

I think now I'm used to it, but I feel like the French songs are definitely harder to sing since I haven't sang in French as much. My voice feels natural in English so it's just different because of the shape of your mouth. We spent a lot of time working on the French songs so it sounded right in my voice.