I used to lock myself in the church in Ayton, near Walkerton, Ontario, and play that
crazy boogie-woogie music on the old pump organ. On Sundays I’d follow the play list.
My mom was the local “piano player.” Her side of the family had all the music –
old aunts playing rag-time violin and piano, local dances, church events, old folks
home – and they gave the music to me.
At 11 years old I was playing weddings and high masses with the choir where I was
initiated into those big, somber, Catholic dirges in A-minor. Requiem Masses for the
Dead didn’t exactly rock, but these were paying gigs. In high school I started to
write songs, but by the time I graduated from Trent University with an honors BA in
Philosophy and Literature I had no idea what I wanted to do… or if there is a God.
I set out to play in piano bars in CP Hotels and Holiday Inns where I developed my
extremely dark and self deprecating sense of humor and worked it into my act.
A couple of years later, in the early 1980s, I was a one-person, piano act in rock
clubs, but all roads kept leading back to Elliot Lake and Thunder Bay, like some
recurring nightmare. So I woke up.
After a year of retailing on Yonge Street, I started to guest for local hip shakers like
the great Micah Barnes and David Ramsden and found myself on the gay circuit near Church
and Wellesley (in Toronto). Those were great times and I loved it.
I recorded two records in the 1990s (see My Music) and was sort of pegged as a female
Tom Waits. This is not a bad thing, if you’ve gotta to be pegged, but my obsession
with the music industry was not working for me on any level. So I stepped out.
I was a caregiver for the elderly and for dying AIDS patients for a number of
years. In 1997 I joined Greenpeace as a full-time staffer running the phone canvass
and I started to write again.
I met John Timmins when he joined Greenpeace in 2007. He and I spent a lot of Sundays
and vacation days in 2008 recording In the Nickelodeon. My writing grew to a new level
as I finally felt completely free to follow my own ideas, to trust them, and not even
think about possible success or failure. I was dreaming new riff lines and arrangements
for the songs, writing them in my sleep. I was living in these songs, writing parts over
and over, recording them, changing them. It was the most intense experience of my life.
I knew it would be the best work I would ever do and contain the best of me and my
connection to this world we live in.
Musically also, I discovered that the banjo was the instrument that could relay the
melancholy and humor in these songs. And I knew that John Timmins could do this – I
found his musical feel to be very close to mine and he is a joy to play with. I also
found myself adding his vocals to some of the tracks. This was new for me and it added
another dimension to my songs that works really well.
If I do nothing else with the rest of my life, if my story ends here, I will die happy
having made In the Nickelodeon.
- My first EP, Don’t Talk to Me, was produced by John Punter in 1992. He had worked with Roxy Music and Japan and obviously liked my sound.
- In 1997 I recorded Good Bye and Good Luck with Duke Street Records. The greatest things that came out of that period were a few songs that I still play and my acquaintance with great talent like the late Oliver Schroer and George Koller.
- I don’t think it’s premature to say that In the Nickelodeon is my masterpiece. I self produced it in 2008. All the great players need naming here. They are: Eric Brown, Christopher Plock, John Timmins, Katherine Wheatley and John Wojewoda. I look forward to playing it live. And I’m very pleased that Maple supports it.
Thanks for your interest. Be well.