Babe Gurr’s Butchart Gardens Summer Festival concert on July 24 is the first of several in July/August. (photo from Babe Gurr)
The multiple-award-winning singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer is well-known to many in the Jewish community, having performed at Rothstein Theatre and in the Chutzpah! Festival a number of times, including opening for Idan Raichel last year. Her most recent CD is Hearts Up to the Sun, which has earned deserved praise. On her website, Capilano University’s Gary Cristall – who, among many other career milestones, was a co-founder of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival – describes Hearts: “Musically, it is as hot as Louisiana hot sauce and the horn arrangements sound like they might well have come from there. Babe’s voice is sounding as good or better than ever. The band is great. But the songs … wow! The songs mark a step forward. They are even better than the ones she won awards for with her last release, SideDish.”
The Jewish Independent recently interviewed Gurr about her work and its beginnings.’
JI: I understand that it wasn’t until you were in your 20s that you joined a band and set off on a musical path. How did you end up joining a band, and what type of band was it? What were you doing (or planning on doing) as a job/career at the time?
BG: I joined my first band when I was 25 and it was a jazz/pop band, which was very stupid and daring of me as I knew nothing of jazz music other than what I heard of my parents’ album collection. I was living in Victoria at the time and working as a dental assistant, which never really fit as a job for me, but when I graduated high school, my parents didn’t think music could or would ever be an option and so steered me toward something respectable like working with teeth. Nothing against teeth – we all have and need them but, ugh, not for me. I really wanted to be involved with music and so I auditioned for this jazz/pop band and, amazingly, they took me under their wing and taught me the ropes of being in a band and, on the side, the lead guitar player, Dave English, would give me lessons on how to play the jazz chords on the guitar. Later on, I also started to sing and joined various bands over the years, playing rock, jazz, folk and top 40, before I started to write my own music.
JI: What was it about music that made you so passionate about it that you wanted to create it and try to make a living at it?
BG: That is a hard thing to put a finger on. I knew from a very young age I liked music and would lay on the floor with my head near my parents’ stereo speakers listening intently to the music. But I guess the pivotal point was seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show when I was a little girl – I just was completely wowed!
JI: You released Hearts Up to the Sun earlier this year, your fifth CD, I believe. How would you say your music/style has changed/evolved since your first recording?
BG: My music is a mash up of so many genres these days, pop, roots, blues, rock, world and a hint of jazz. I guess that is the result of the freedom one has when you are an independent artist and you have been around awhile, you just stop worrying about fitting in and create what you like, and then hope that you still have an audience for it.
JI: Do you have a specific creative process? If so, could you share how, in general, an idea becomes a song?
BG: I am fascinated by how a song will come to me – not that they are brilliant or complex but, still, it is a strange process, creativity. The music comes as a result of noodling on my guitar until I find something I like and the lyrics can be inspired by so many sources, some personal and others influenced by all that is happening around me.
JI: Could you tell me a bit about your band, how you guys got together, how long you’ve been playing together?
BG: I love the guys I play with, whether it is my three-piece or eight-piece band, they are all such talented players and so fun to work with. I have been playing with Nick Apivor, percussion/piano, for many years – I think we started to play in a duo in the late 1800s; actually, we met in our 20s. Then, I guess, violinist Tom Neville has been with me for about 10 or 12 years. The newer additions to the band are sax player Steve Hilliam, Malcolm Aiken on trumpet, Liam MacDonald on drums, Adam Popowitz on lead guitar and Darren Parris on bass.
JI: Are there any projects on which you’re currently working that you’d like to share with readers?
BG: There is a really interesting project that I will be involved with and we will be starting to workshop this summer, that puts together various dancers with a variety of musicians, but I am not able to talk about it yet – mum’s the word, for now.
JI: If there is anything else you’d like to add, please do.
BG: Another hat I like to wear is that of a record producer and I have been lucky enough to have produced a number of talented singers’ CDs along with my own. It probably is my favorite thing to do in the music business. I compare it to a painter who sits with a blank canvas with an idea and then takes that idea and expands and enhances it with colors and strokes or, in the musical sense, arrangements and various instruments and sounds. It is so exciting to hear a song come to life in the studio.
For information on Babe Gurr’s upcoming shows, visit babegurr.com.