If music is what feelings sound like, then songwriters have a special all-access pass to emotional catharsis; Canadian Jazz-Folk singer-songwriter Catia Dignard has taken beautiful advantage of that to let go of long-held grief with her moving new single, “Safekeeping.”
All at once ethereal, haunting, and intimately personal, “Safekeeping” explores and resolves the residual sorrow that Dignard has held close since the untimely loss of her father in the late ‘80s. Dignard was just 17 when she received the shocking and traumatic news that her father had suddenly died.
“‘Safekeeping’ is about saying goodbye when you were not able to at the time,” explains the Montréal-born, Toronto-based artist. “This time around, with the song, I didn’t want to miss my chance.”
Two years of isolation caused by our global pandemic provided the circumstances and time for Dignard to focus inward to bring some deep, precious pain to the surface in musical form.
“‘Safekeeping’ was brewing inside during the latter part of the pandemic,” she recalls, “a time that was conducive to introspection and during which I felt that I had a lot of ‘unfinished business’ with myself, still carrying the sorrow and guilt from this fateful day towards the end of the ‘80s when I received the news of the sudden passing of my father.”
With a contemplative piano progression supporting a lush, rich horn section and Dignard’s wistful vocals delivered with a touch of melancholy, “Safekeeping” travels a definitive path along the emotional spectrum right between solemn despair and unbridled hope.
“During the whole process I didn’t want to compromise on the mood that this music would convey,” explains Dignard, “which meant striking a balance between darkness and light.”
It turns out that Dignard’s quest to be true to this artistic vision would be an international one. She says the stars aligned last March when she started working with Franklin, Tennessee-based saxophonist, singer-songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Dick Aven. She had met Aven a year prior through both participating with the artistic community of Isaac Banks, an Australian radio DJ, and owner of Banks Radio Australia. Rising up to the challenge of long-distance collaboration, Dignard and Aven hit it off creatively very quickly during their first video writing session.
“After just a few minutes, Dick turned around and struck some chords on the piano while I started singing ‘my thang’ to him from Toronto,” remembers Dignard.
The musical chemistry was palpable.
“Dick became my arranger and producer for ‘Safekeeping’, playing almost all instruments, except for fretless bass played by Nashville-based Roy Vogt.”
Networking and finding like-minded and talented international musicians to create with is a hallmark of Dignard’s artistic journey. Prior to “Safekeeping”, Dignard released “Rather” in June 2021, a collaboration with a stellar group of Havana, Cuba-based musicians including guitarist-producer Miguel Ángel Wong, recorded at Manane Records Studios in Playa, Havana.
Traveling and soaking up global influences to shape and inform her music is an extension of Dignard’s early life. With Acadian heritage and having lived in Latin America and North Africa during her childhood, Dignard draws continued inspiration from the sea and her travels.
Musical and academic education has also gone hand in hand for Dignard. While studying vocal jazz under the tutelage of Catherine Bastarache and Marie Vallée and attending multiple workshops and musical camps in Québec and Europe in the early 2000s, Dignard was also pursuing a second university degree. During this time, she also gained performing experience as lead vocalist for jazz guitar virtuoso Mike Gauthier’s combos at Bishop’s University and participated in Kim Richardson’s jazz jams at Montréal’s Dièse Onze club.
These formative years encouraged Dignard to start writing and recording her own compositions with her partner, double bassist Jean-François Martel. That led to collaborations with trumpet player Maxime St-Pierre, guitarist Louis Trudel, Cuban pianist, and JUNO nominee Rafael Zaldivar and the recording of Dignard’s debut album, Strange Coziness, released in 2018.
Since then, Dignard’s music has found its way to Canadian radio with airplay on CFLX in Sherbrooke, Québec, and CIUT in Toronto, as well as international airplay in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.
Now settled in the very internationally influenced city of Toronto, Dignard also recently collaborated and performed with Toronto-based funk-rock and soul band Bad Breed at the Canadian Music Week and Bloom online music festivals. This while pursuing a Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies at the University of Toronto and currently working on more new music for release in the fall of 2022.
Even with these very busy, tandem creative and educational paths to follow, Dignard knew the time was right for a musical pit stop to wrap up the very significant ‘unfinished business’ of coming to terms with loss and finding peace with the feelings she had been holding close, in ‘safekeeping’.
“We all have these tales of missed opportunities, of regrets, of these things left unsaid,” notes Dignard. “I also feel that there was a lot of love and dedication put into this piece, as all those involved were aware of what it represented for me.”