On International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women’s achievement from the past not only on record, but the exciting creators making music today. Whether it’s jamming blues in the basement, or selling out arena tours around the world, each of the picks below are worthy of your time.
Angela Harris on Emmylou Harris and Loretta Lynn
I grew up in the rural Chilcotin region of BC on heavy doses of Classic Country and Bluegrass music. Life was challenging and complex, yet simple and easy.
My dad and grandpa were trappers and millwrights, and my mom kept things going at home. She was also a Country singer and songwriter at the time and she sometimes performed around BC.
Watching my mom connect with people through her songs at campfire sing-alongs, family parties and community events, inspired me, and I fell in love with music. I would listen to all the old records in our home over and over again, and sing along to every song. My favourite singer was Emmylou Harris. Her album ‘Elite Hotel’ shook my world and remains a stand out for me. I play it every time I need to ground myself. Kitty Wells is another major influence in my life. She was set to perform in Williams Lake, BC when I was young so my parents took us kids to go see her show. From the moment she graced the stage and sang her first note, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve been honouring the call ever since. When I became a mother, I questioned whether or not a woman with children could have a successful music career, this is when Loretta Lynn’s music and story influenced me, and empowered me to forge on. And recently, I wondered what a realistic trajectory for a simple, down home woman like me could be, and then Brandi Carlile became the most-nominated female artist at the Grammy’s, and delivered a classy, honest and outstanding performance for the world, which lit a fire in me like never before.
Barbra Lica on Ella Fitzgerald
I became a professional singer because of Ella Fitzgerald. The first time I heard her sing “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” with Louis Armstrong, I remember physically falling over. Up until that moment, life was about doing what my parents told me and going through the motions of being a kid in school. The day I heard Ella sing, I was sure there was magic in the world and that it was somewhere on a stage or in a recording booth. The idea of “happiness” was an abstract concept that adults spoke about until I identified it as Ella Fitzgerald’s voice. I wanted to be her with every molecule of my body, and for years, I adopted a rigorous daily training schedule, blasting her music in my room, memorizing her solos, her dovetails, her phrases… Because of Ella, I understand the transportive ability of music, and while I now acknowledge that I can’t actually BE her, I’m grateful for the trip.
Alex Pangman on Connie Boswell
I was an impressionable high school kid when I first heard The Boswell Sisters. Their 3 voices sounded swingingly like one, as they romped their way through a 1930s repertoire, red-imagined with their own exciting arrangements with some of the hottest sidemen New York City had to offer in the dirty thirties. I grew so fond of their sister harmonies and inventive arrangements, swoops and tempo changes, feel changes and scatting, that I was known (on more than one occasion!) to drive past my exit on the highway, totally lost in their magic. Their lead singer, Connie Boswell, was a remarkable voice: clear like a bell, earthy, bluesy, fluid like a bird with glisses and crescendo and diminuendo, and always singing from her heart. She was, to me. Perfection. In the black and white videos I saw of the group, the sisters were always seated when they sang. I didn’t think much of it, until I found out the reason why: Connie Boswell was in a wheelchair, unable to walk since the age of 3, from polio. Her sisters sat together in solidarity (and probably to some degree to disguise her condition.) She rose to prominence on the power of her talent, she survived past the years of the sister act to become a solo recording star, and to record with the likes of Bing Crosby (at a time when Crosby was the juggernaut of stage, screen, and radio). All of this she did from a wheelchair. Seeing someone so powerful continue on with a career despite not fitting the mold, despite physical adversity, THESE things further cemented Connie Boswell as a life changing hero in my eyes. I too was born with a “dis”ability. If Connie could do it, it gave me hope that I could still give people joy through song, despite my physical limitations. In a lovely epilogue, the niece of Ms. Boswell gifted me a beautiful set of Connie’s red stage gloves, which I treasure and hold dear. I have always loved horses, and so too did she send a glossy 8×10’ of Connie riding a horse. If that isn’t a sign that we shouldn’t all strive to achieve our goals despite limitations, I’m not sure what is. And did I mention she could sing the hell out of a song?
Annie Bonsignore on Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline and her music became something of a touchstone for me as a young performer. She was so for several reasons: as a favourite of my father’s, her music was one of the few things over which he and I were able to connect and bond; as someone with extraordinary vocal control and range, Patsy gave me a large chunk of my technical vocabulary as a singer; and as a woman who endured a lot of joy and heartbreak, her life story helped me through some of my darker moments growing up in South Africa.
I would barricade myself in my bedroom for hours on end, rewinding and re-listening to hundreds (maybe thousands?) of hours of Patsy’s music, imitating and perfecting every little nuance, from her vocal ‘flip’, to her ballads, to her blues singing. The fearlessness with which she fought her way onto records, stages, and to the top of an industry almost entirely dominated by male fronted acts, instilled a confidence not just in my own abilities but also my right to share them whenever and wherever I liked.
It is hard to imagine my voice and writing style without her early and powerful influence…there was always such a strength and hopefulness to her songs, cleverly disguised in radio-ready ditties, but never escaping an emotional pain and realism that only a life like hers can bring.
Thanks Patsy, I owe you one.
Apryll Aileen on Alanis Morissette
Growing up in New Brunswick on the East Coast of Canada, the first CD I ever owned was Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill”. Even though I didn’t understand every single poignant lyric at such a young age, I understood her passion and the message she conveyed. It is still one of my favourite albums of all time. The album fully encompasses so many emotions we go through in life, from heartbreak, falling in love and striving for perfection, to addictions and mental beliefs that keep us locked in negative behaviour cycles…she truly bares her soul. She has inspired me to do the same and has certainly influenced my musical songwriting and performance style. I think her ability to strongly communicate the frustration a woman goes through not only in the dating world but also within the entertainment industry, has not been rivaled since her jagged, raw, ironic storytelling on this album. Like a ‘bottle of single malt whiskey hidden in the bottom drawer’…her songs are still potent today and taste just as good, if not better.”
Avery Florence on Madonna
I recently re-watched Madonna’s music video “Frozen” off her album Ray of Light. As a child, I remember thinking this video was weird and almost off-putting. Her stringy black hair, her strange movements & markings (Hindu). Now I see & feel differently; that different is not “weird”, and that weird is a whole lot more normal than most of what we accept as normal. I love how Madonna never lets herself be defined. Not confined to a genre, an image, a religion, she works towards freeing herself and in turn gives others that allowance & inspiration.
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it” – Martha Graham (an influence to Madonna for music video Frozen)
Bif Naked on Riot Grrls
When I was a young performer, cutting my teeth in the punk and indie scenes touring the continent and playing with all manner of Male Punk Establishment Bands, I had to step up and be pretty tough. I always tried to express myself and keep it as hardcore as all the dudes. I took a lot of pride in being able to hold my own, and I was a confident fighter and stage diver. I liked taking a stand, being political, and was determined to never let “being just a girl” in the music scene rattle me and just used it as motivation to fight harder for equal space in the pit and on the stage. I was undaunted.
Despite my tough exterior, and all the camaraderie with my male peers, something was always missing. I felt I was always searching for role models who Accurately represented me. It was always a struggle for me to defend my lyrical content when I would write songs about rape or sexuality, or having babies or falling for both boys and girls. These topics were important to me and being an authentic female front person was crucial to my identity as an artist. Eventually a movement started to take shape and there were some girl bands who were making noise, and I followed them with great interest.
The Riot Grrrl wave of feminism had my attention and solidarity, and I felt validated and encouraged. Their message wasn’t new, it was just finding me through playing gigs like Rock For Choice, and discovering exciting new bands that I liked and made friends with.
There was a movement happening, and women in bands were strong, smart, and supported each other. They weren’t anti-boy, they were just empowering for women.
There were some bands ( like The Slits from London) that likely influenced these so called Riot Grrrls,, but the truth is we all have to give the credit to the real pioneers like Siouxie Soux, Poly Styrene (from X-Ray Spex), Exene Cervenka from the band X, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, And Poison Ivy ( from The Cramps). These Iconic Musicians, these cool Women, influenced me, along with my generation of DIY punk chicks and Riot Grrrls, and their influence is endless and continual, ever active and timeless. Forever we shout: girls to the front!
Chelsea Stewart on Erykah Badu
I’ve been to many concerts over the years, but there is one that I will never forget. Back when I lived in Montreal, my Mom and I flew in to Toronto just to see Erykah Badu live (with Jill Scott). She put on an amazing show as expected, and at 5 years old, I’d never experienced anything like it! Singing some of my favorites like ‘On & On’ and ‘Bag Lady’, I was having a great time in the front row with her jazzy vocals. At the end of the show, Erykah herself pointed me out in the crowd and brought me up on stage. She put me on her shoulders as she sang and closed the show. To this day I’m still shocked that it happened, and sometimes it feels like a dream. I was definitely influenced by Badu’s music growing up, and people often say that my song ‘Perfectly Lonely’ is reminiscent of her style. I hope to meet her one day and ask her if she remembers that night, or maybe get some footage from anybody that was there.
Christina Martin on Tina Turner
My first big concert was watching Tina Turner perform in Montreal, 1993. I was fourteen. Before the concert my father took my brother and I to watch ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ at the movie theatre. Our concert seats were in the upper bowl. I was an introverted teenager embarrassed to be at a concert with her brother and father. When Tina took the stage, something electric happened that I did not expect. I forgot myself, leapt to my feet and sang and danced in our isle for the duration of the show. It was my first taste of truly letting go, and it made me feel connected to something much bigger. As we piled out of the arena I daydreamed about the fabulous places Tina would travel to perform next and wished I could be in her band. Five years later I moved to Austin Texas, and I remember walking into a club on 6th street and hearing a powerful female singer leading a Rock N Roll band. The performer sang Proud Mary, and I remember thinking “Oh right THIS is what I came here to do!” Within one year I was invited to join a 70’s rock revival band, and began recording and performing my own music.
Christine Campbell on Heart
Three of my biggest female influences are Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band Heart; and Janis Joplin. My love for 70’s rock became apparent back when I was still in diapers and my dad would play records like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple to serenade me to sleep. As I grew up, and discovered my own indisputable need to scream rock n’roll and shred guitar, it was discouraging to have almost all of my role models be male.
It’s not easy trying to be part of a boys’ club. Girls were more often the groupies than the rockers. But Anne and Nancy Wilson proved it could be done, in both the guitar and rock-singer realm, by spearheading one of the most bad ass rock bands of all time.
Janis Joplin had an even bigger impact on me. She was a lone wolf. Her style hit me like a freight train. I wanted to command that same respect, lose myself in my music, preach and emanate that same boho beauty. When I watched the documentary “Janis, Little Girl Blue”, she reminded me so much of myself. Someone who didn’t get the memo on being a girl. Someone who had serious problems with loneliness, depression and substance abuse. But she found this musical portal through which she could connect with others. And because she had such a powerful presence on stage, it helped me believe I could do it too.
What I love most about her, is that, as I watch her interviews and old footage, the success, drugs and the hardships, never robbed Janis of her beautiful down to earth self. She always promoted love and had some pretty incredible words of wisdom to share. She showed you don’t have to be hard at the core to be hard core and that you could your harness insecurities to become one of the most incredible rock n’ roll icons of all time, male or female!
Crystal Shawanda on Celine Dion
It was the first album I ever bought by myself, I was 11 years old and it made a huge impact on me. Up until that point I was mostly exposed to Country and blues music, but this was the first time I listened to a voice of that caliber. I listened over and over reading the lyrics in the liner notes, and was really drawn more to the album cuts, no so much the singles, as it was the hidden gems that were way more R&B, and soulful, and had glimpses of what I was finding in the blues. With every song I sang along to, it’s like I was reintroduced to my voice. I figured out I could do trills and runs, hit a high falsetto, and that my range was a lot wider than I had thought. Not only does Celine have magnificent highs, but she has strong defined lows, something not every female voice has, so she taught me how to control both ends of my voice. I memorized every note of that album, and still know it by heart. I seen her perform it live later that year, my very first concert, and she wasn’t just some chick singer relying on her over sexualized image. Yes she was beautiful, but she was also powerful, precise, fierce and fearless. I knew right there I wanted to be a singer and woman like her, one who would always come from a place of strength.
Darrelle London on Alanis Morissette
I can’t think of an artist who has had a greater impression on me than Alanis Morissette with Jagged Little Pill back in 1995. I believe many women of my generation would say the same thing. I was ten years old, and for me, it was about more than the music. Girls receive so many messages about what it means to be female in this world. Even though the lyrical content of Jagged Little Pill wasn’t age-appropriate and a lot of it went over my head, I still needed the message that this record sent. It was the first time I heard a female singer who wasn’t trying to sing “pretty.” She wasn’t trying to be ladylike. She was vulnerable and powerful all at once, which was extremely eye-opening. And the song writing was so great, and so gut-wrenching. It was enough to make a kid want to be a songwriter.
Denise Donlon on Sarah McLachlan
Sarah McLachlan is a trailblazing woman that rocked my world back in 1997 when she and her co-conspirators launched The Lilith Fair. It was a groundbreaking festival celebrating female performers that cracked open misogynist myths about the way women were promoted and heard in the music business.
The widely held view was that concert promoters resisted putting two female artists on the same bill because they thought the show wouldn’t sell. Radio programmers resisted playing female artists back to back on the air because they thought that listeners would tune out.
Sarah blew the concert misconception out of the water. The Lilith Fair was a massive success, grossing over $16 million that year, benefitting women’s shelters all over North America. But as for exposure, there’s still a long way to go.
Just last summer I was listening to SiriusXM on a long drive. The Coffee House channel featured one male singer songwriter after another …..and another. By the time I finally tuned out in indignation, I’d heard only one female artist – and that was in a duet – among 8 male voices back to back.
Happy International Women’s Day Warrior Women. We’ve come a long way baby, but still have a long way to go.
Music Manager Denise Jones on Miriam Makeba
It’s hard to choose one.
But I’ll choose Miriam Makeba – African woman, hair like mine, powerful pipes and conscious of and active in the liberation of South Africa and women.
She made me think beyond the Caribbean an US “say it loud, I’m Black and l’m proud” and the opportunities to expand my horizons, growing up in rural Jamaica and aware of the world.
And she was beautiful and could sing.
Diana Panton on Sheila Jordan
Sheila Jordan is a phenomenon. At 90 years old, she tours the globe ALONE meeting up with jazz artists around the world to undertake impromptu musical conversations which leave audiences moved by her emotive and creative gifts. Her energy and spirit enthrall me each time I see her and she gives me hope that the musical world embraces all ages. Born in 1928, she was raised in poverty in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town and would sing for the miners at the local pub. Her first great influence however was jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, who dubbed her “the girl with the million dollar ears”. Working primarily with black musicians, she met with disapproval from many in the white community, but she persevered and even married Parker’s pianist Duke Jordan with whom she had a child. When the marriage later dissolved, Jordan took an office job to support herself and her child, all the while continuing to sing. Among her numerous awards, she is the recipient of a Lifetime Honours Jazz Master Award by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mary Lou Williams Lifetime of Service Award for Women in Jazz. One phrase Sheila said to me that resonates deeply is “never stop, no matter what”.
Francine Honey on Joan Jett
It was the summer of 1982, I was a teenager and had my first car. I was driving around the lake on a Sunday listening to the top 20 on the radio hoping to hear Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” or Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”. Instead, I heard a new song …. drums followed by these amazingly grungy guitar tones and then the voice of Joan Jett and that scream. It was “I Love Rock’n Roll”! I cranked it up loud and was so upset when it was over, I wanted to hear it again and again! It was one of the few albums I HAD TO HAVE right away. Who was this woman “Joan Jett”? I drove half an hour to the record store immediately and found her album. When I saw her shoulder-length dark hair and wearing a PINK coat with her messy hand-written album title, I bought it and couldn’t wait to get home to inhale it. I laid on the red shag rug in our living room and threw it on the turntable and listened to the album from beginning to end reading every lyric as it was sung. This woman had rock’n roll oozing out of her pores and I LOVED it. I loved the guitar tones, her voice, the characters in her songs, the edge, her scream and the sultry softer tones all in one person. She was a woman in a man’s world doing things her own way and a hard-core rocker. Her music and that of Heart has influenced mine. If admire her edge and bravery in singing the truth as she did. Her strong presence in music taught me that it was alright to be tough as a woman in a man’s world, to be yourself and speak your truth. Thanks Joan Jett!
Heather Bambrick on Blue Vocals, Volume 2
There have been so many strong, influential women who have played important roles in my musical life. The first was Karen Oakley, who was my classroom music teacher from the ages of 10-12 years. She taught me the true joy of singing, including choral technique, harmony, “part-singing”, and more. She had a group of girls from ages 10 – 14 singing 4-part pieces in English, French, Gaelic, Latin, and German – but she never told us it was challenging! She just taught us to love it! She first created a musical spark in me, and then fanned the singing flame for the two years during which she was my teacher. My passion for singing began with her and has continued.
Years later, I remember studying for exams while in my third year of a political science degree. I had just purchased a compilation CD called Blue Vocals, Volume 2. One night, I was taking a break from studying, and played the CD for the first time. My mind was instantly blown and I fell in love with the voices of Rachelle Farrell, Dakota Staton, Annie Ross, Chris Conner, as well as the classics: Ella, Sarah, and Carmen. However, it was the discovery of Dianne Reeves on this record that affected me most profoundly. I don’t know if it was the fluid tone of her voice, the controlled range that allowed her to soar, or the emotional rawness she was able to convey without eschewing creative artistry. She created a fan in me from the first note she sang (I can still hear it now) and I’ve remained a fan ever since!
Kelsi Mayne on Wynonna Judd
My first favourite song I ever had was Wynonna Judd’s “No One Else On Earth.” My parents said I would just light up and start dancing when it came on the radio. Much like the title, Wynonna brought a certain soul to country music like no other. Not only is she a major influence on my music today, but looking back I now realize, she’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I even sing country in the first place.
Laura Repo on Iris DeMent and Loretta Lynn
I know the feeling of being stopped in my tracks to write a tune after listening to one of my many musical heroes. It reminds me of a favourite scene in Coal Miner’s Daughter, when Sissy Spacek playing Loretta Lynn leans in close to the radio to hear her favourite songs, then hushing everyone in the room so she can sit down to write her own songs. I have leaned in close to listen to Loretta Lynn sing ‘I’m a Honky Tonk Girl’, and know that same scene from my own life of trying to quiet a room so I can focus on a song, especially during the years of mothering a small child.
I wrote ‘Sleepy Baby’ after my son turned two, writing it in bits and pieces whenever I could steal a moment away for myself. The song was actually born when I discovered gardening one summer, but really comes from years of listening to Iris De Ments album, ‘My Life’. I think ‘Sleepy Baby’ was directly inspired by her song, “Easy’s Getting Harder Every Day’. I got to see Iris DeMent perform at Hugh’s Room in Toronto years ago. The best part of that concert was singing her songs in the cab on the way to the concert with Dotty Cormier (Heartbreak Hill), who is herself an incredible singer- songwriter We stood side by side in the back as Iris DeMent sang and both wept.
Liona Boyd on Joan Baez
In my most formative teenage years, the mid 60’s, all my musical muses in both the popular and the classical guitar worlds seemed to be men. But one woman stood out….Joan Baez. She not only was a beautiful singer of soulful ballads and meaningful folk songs, but was one of the most a politically outspoken figures of the decade and heavily involved with civil rights and pacifism. She filled me with admiration from the moment I first heard her singing “House of the Rising Sun”, “There but for Fortune” “Farewell Angelina” and Bachianas Brazileiras #5, and spotted that iconic free-spirited image of her and her guitar balancing on a surf pounded rock in California’s Big Sur.
I used to listen to her LPs, along with those of that other spokesperson of the decade, Bob Dylan. They figured prominently in my early collection of vinyl and I rushed to get tickets to her Massey Hall concert where I sat transfixed, absorbing Baez’s unique mix of folky storytelling and protest songs. I loved it when my first teenage crush, folksinger Jack Grunsky, (famous at the time in Europe with his “Jack’s Angel’s” group) used to serenade me with Joan Baez folk songs, so it was almost surreal to us when so many years later Jack and I sang together Joan Baez’s haunting “Donna Donna” as part of the 2017 Toronto Jazz Festival. In my 1998 autobiography, In My Own Key , recently released on Audible as an audio-book read by yours truly, I describe my straying from the classical path, and in my latest autobiography, “No Remedy for Love” my eventual transition in 2009 from being a solo artist to a singer/songwriter duo, while still playing the classical guitar in every song, including the new CD I am currently working on ( my 29th) in my winter home of Palm Beach, Florida. I find that as a “child of the sixties” I am frequently visited by that same sensual, romantic and nostalgic muse that inspired Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. When Joan Baez’s 2009 autobiography was published, of course I read it voraciously, recognizing that we indeed have shared much of the same adventurous spirit that continues to propel our two very different careers. We are both fluent in Spanish, both have strong connections to Mexico, have been through several managers and relationships, experienced the “diamonds and dust”, but, try as I might, Joan’s instant vibrato technique of wobbling her vocal cords in the shower never worked for me! Fortunately my producer has always assured me that my songs seem to be just fine without it.
I know that this year Joan Baez is on her Farewell Tour. Dear Joan has paid her dues, inspired several generations, and there is no doubt that the music of this extraordinary woman has influenced my creative life.
Lisa MacIntosh on Terra Lightfoot
I grew up in a home that was always alive with music. I started thinking back to the female musicians that my parents listened too; there really weren’t that many. The odd Barbara Streisand album, the women of ABBA, Cass Elliott but the majority of the music was sung by men.
When I started photographing my Great Hall Series, I met and fell in love with a long list of women who were taking the music stage by storm. It’s really hard to choose just one but there is one woman, a friend, an inspiration and someone that I watch in awe; Terra Lightfoot.
She is tireless, kind, a killer guitar player, a writer and has a voice like no other. She’s a traveller, believes in giving back, a laugher, a true champion to other women in her field.
I’m grateful to call her my friend.
Miss Emily on Carole King
When I was 9 years old in 1990, I found my mom’s Carole King ‘Tapestry’ album. I became obsessed! Every song was a masterpiece of heartfelt lyrics and intriguing chord structures. What was perhaps most inspiring, though, was that she not only sang the songs, but also played piano AND wrote the songs. At that time, very little of popular recorded music had female artists both performing AND writing their own songs. It changed the specifics of my goal of becoming a full time singer one day. That timeless album of 1971 helped make me the artist I am today and continues to inspire me to continue to improve as both a singer, musician and songwriter.
Molly Johnson on Carole Pope
The first time I saw Carole Pope was at a club on Yonge Street in the 80’s she was and still is so super cool, authentic, truthful, a true badass.
I saw again with her music how politics can affect music in game changing ways.
How important the message in the music is Carole was that person for me then and now.
Neena Rose on Jessie Reyez
Being such a young artist striving to make a come up in this cutthroat industry, it is incredibly easy to get swayed by words and empty promises of people who will use you. People will do whatever they need to do to make it, but that drive can cloud one’s judgement and sway one to make an impulsive decision. Personally, my passion for music began with all the songs about love and fairy tales. As I started to mature, I began to take music much more serious and I decide to pursue music professionally, however, the content of the music I listened to was getting repetitive: Find a boy, fall in love, break up, repeat. None of the music I listened to was about things that my preteen-self could relate to, but I knew there was something missing. No one ever talked about the darkness in the world, at least in the music I was listening to. I grew up with this false pretense that the music industry was all rainbows and unicorns, where everyone works together to see you win; A fairytale.
I was in the car one day and heard a song called “Figures” by Jessie Reyez. I had never heard of Jessie Reyez before but her voice was unlike any of the singers I had been following at the time. My amazing manager had always told me that overnight success wasn’t realistic, but my naivety gave me a sliver of hope that maybe it was possible for me.
When it came time to decide what kind of artist I want to be, I had no idea who I truly was, but I remembered Jessie Reyez and searched her name on YouTube and a song called “Phone Calls” popped up. With cover art of just a middle finger emoji, I was already expecting classic Reyez realness, but “Phone Calls” was more of a wake-up call than I had anticipated. The whole song is compellingly raw and so unrestrained that I had to give it a second listen. Suddenly, all of the sugar coating on the industry had disappeared; this was the first time that I truly saw the world as all the adults around me did. Jessie says what everyone is thinking, regardless of the backlash and controversy and for that, I have so much respect for her. Jessie Reyez opened my eyes with her love for music and her shameless ways of using her platform to make a real change. An artist who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, is an artist that I want to support, especially being that we are both young Canadian singer/ songwriters.
I respect Jessie for being unapologetically herself and throwing caution to the wind when she truly believes in herself. I hope to one day have that same trust in all of my own beliefs and values, and with the help of her music, I have really shifted into a more grounded and resilient human being, let alone artist. I aspire to write about life experiences as they come my way and I Although I have not been through half of what she has, I can relate to her so much. Jessie realizes that she isn’t the most technical singer around or a perfect songwriter, but she credits all of her success to her work ethic. Seeing someone so “out-of-the-box” make it, I knew I had to have that same drive and passion to achieve all of my goals. It is easy to get discouraged in this business and want to give up on all your hard work after seeing no immediate results, but seeing Jessie’s efforts pay off, even with every risk she has taken, has motivated me to keep going. I know Jessie is in this industry for all the right reasons, and that is enough for me.
Sass Jordan on Bonnie Raitt
Now, don’t get me wrong – I have huge respect and admiration for the great Joni MItchell, but my heart lies with Bonnie. Where Joni was cold, cerebral, clever and brilliant, Bonnie was earthy, sensual, warm and wild. Her 1974 album, Streetlights, was a game changer for me. It was the first time I heard a female voice that even vaguely resembled something I could actually aspire to – something I could sing along with, in a key that suited me. The whole album had this warmth and reliability, probably because it was infused with a feminine energy, something that was not a mainstay of mid- seventies rock music, or at least, not in the world I was in. Bonnie’s voice is like caramel and whisky, sweet, with a fiery edge to it, and her blues-based soul is always shining through every note she sings.
Streetlights opens with Stephen Stills’ “Bluebird”, a song you didn’t think could get any better, but Bonnie gives him a run for his money with this version – and the best part of the whole thing is it actually sounds like the band is playing in your living room. It sounds rich, velvety, and accessible – like you could be in the band. Bonnie sounds so young on this record – there is this charming, youthful voice, juxtaposed with some of these big mama blues songs, and the overall effect is just riveting – she doesn’t miss a lick, and manages to sound authentic, even though she is wading in a stream that one would think would be out of her depth. The band lopes along with her, trusting her implicitly – you can totally hear the camaraderie. The other thing about Bonnie that doesn’t get mentioned much, is that she is a bad-ass slide player – she was heavily influenced by the late, great Lowell George of Little Feat, I think. Streetlights is one of the finest examples of the mid‘70s music that made an indelible imprint on my soul. I just discovered that the amazing bassist, my friend Bob Babbitt, played on it as well – and a thousand years later, a couple of years before he left the planet, he played on my record, You Get What You Give. Music is the network that eventually brings us all together.
Beppie on Tracy Chapman
In 2009, Tracy Chapman came to Edmonton, Alberta and performed at Folk Fest. She came out as a one woman show and with only one voice she blew the entire audience away. I was in awe of her power, her confidence, and her talent. She didn’t need a band or any back up singers. Her performance has stood out in my life as the most memorable and the most impactful of anything I’ve ever seen. I remember leaving the hill that day thinking that anything is possible if you have a voice and the will to use it. That’s how powerful her performance was.
Samantha, Still Eighteen on Joni Mitchell
I really love Joni Mitchell. She’s iconic and her songs are some of the best written and most emotional I’ve ever come across. “River” is one of my top ten favorite songs of all time. I’m also loving newer artists such as Marika Hackman, Julien Baker and Billie Eilish. If you’re looking for your daily dose of girl power, I highly recommend bopping around to “No More” by DeathbyRomy in the car, or bawling your eyes out to “Funeral” by Phoebe Bridgers.
Sue Foley on Memphis Minnie
At fifteen I found myself in a record store in Ottawa looking through the blues section. I had just become infatuated with this music and each week I’d trudge my way downtown to get a new gem for my vinyl collection. One week it was T Bone Walker, the next, Robert Johnson, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, etc.
Then one week I pulled out this album that had a woman on the cover. She was dressed in a satin puffy gown, had a huge smile bearing gold teeth, she had a dice for a ring, and was sitting, legs spread, holding a large arch top guitar. Her name was Memphis Minnie.
Needless to say, I bought the album and raced home to play it. From the first line of the first song I was in love. She was everything I’d been looking for—a woman who sang the blues, wrote her own songs and played the hell out of the guitar. I remember immediately feeling less lonely, like there was someone who I could turn to and who knew the way. Today I still cover Minnie’s songs and honor her at every show. She’s one of the most amazing and profound blues artists there ever was. She’s an original badass.
Tonia Cianciulli on Georgina Stirling
I am a Newfoundland born opera singer, proudly honouring my roots. I’ve been greatly influenced and inspired by the life and legacy of Georgina Stirling, Newfoundland’s first international opera singer, an irrefutable trailblazer in the opera scene of her era.
In 1993, my grandparents gifted me a book called Nightingale of the North by Amy Louise Peyton about Newfoundland’s first international opera singer, Georgina Striling. Born in Twillingate, Newfoundland, she was also known to her international audiences by her stage name, “Marie Toulinguet.” Inspired by her legacy, I cracked the spine of this long-forsaken book off my shelf in January 2017. I read it with great appreciation for what this young girl from the commercial and fishing outport of Twillingate, Newfoundland, had accomplished out of the pure desire to follow her operatic dreams! This was no small feat in the 1800’s in Newfoundland when most women and children busied themselves with household chores and tended to duties common to growing up in a fishing outport. Several women in my own family line in Newfoundland held occupations that were connected with the sea and many of their sisters were proudly known as ship-owners. Georgina had other dreams. She was a trailblazer, paving the path for those who came after her. Georgina studied with the world renowned voice teacher, Madame Mathilde Marchesi who specifically trained celebrity sopranos of the nineteenth century. She was praised extensively by her audiences and newspapers for her astonishingly beautiful voice, operatic talents and triumphs as she toured the United States and Europe performing operas and concerts with many of the famous composers of her era, including Gounod and Verdi.
I created a concert tour across Newfoundland to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Canada, discovering that 1867 was also the birth year of Georgina Stirling. I noted that Georgina’s personal repertoire of sacred songs, hymns and opera arias matched my own repertoire almost exactly. So the Nightingale Sings concert tour was launched.
In my passion to educate a broader audience on the life and legacy of this trailblazing and empowered woman, I shared the idea of writing a new book on her with my grandfather, Calvin D. Evans, a Newfoundland author. My writing, from the unique perspective of a performing artist and Calvin providing the historical background and framework.
Much new material has become available on Georgina’s training in Italy, France and England and in relation to her life, her family, and international travels. Our new book celebrates Georgina’s accomplishments and the honour she brought to her island home, winning the hearts of her international audiences as well as through her charitable concerts in St. John’s and her hometown of Twillingate. Georgina acknowledged her debt to the inspiration of the glorious sea that surrounded her island, to Newfoundland in general, and to Twillingate in particular.
Throughout this journey I have come to know Georgina in a most beloved way. Georgina had a special gift that touched her family, friends and audiences in a miraculous way. She had her own story, her own path, her sorrows, demons and her own light. We are all individually blessed to leave our footprint on the path of life’s journey; little pieces of ourselves scattered around for the world to remember us. I’ve chosen to share my experiences as an opera singer to lend compassion and understanding for the significance Georgina Stirling played in Newfoundland and Canadian music history. Our book will be published this fall by Flanker Press in Newfoundland. Watch for it!
Zoelly on Ariana Grande
There is one Female Artist that inspires me the most, and that is Ariana Grande.
Ariana is a female pop artist who started her career very young by acting, participating in musicals and much more. I feel like I can connect to that because I’m always acting and finding as many opportunity’s as possible to sing.
Ariana Grande has an incredible range vocally and this constantly inspires me to keep training my voice to get to that point.
This artist not only influences me vocally, but also impacts me where I can learn from her. Sometimes I will watch her live performances and see how she does things so that I can learn from her and apply her amazing stage presence to my performances and other musical aspects. I think it’s super important that other artists watch and learn from each other.
Ariana has impacted me since I started singing and she is one of my favourite artists and will be for a long time.