Herald’s Q&A: Basia Bulat

Decorated Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat returns to Newfoundland for a lengthy cross-island tour this April.


Q: Coming off of two very successful and well received studio albums, do you find mounted pressure to achieve a certain level of songwriting or success?

A: I don’t really think of it that way because you can’t really control what other people are going to see in your work. I’ve been very lucky that some of the works that I’ve done have been recognized in certain ways and some have been looked at in other ways. Definitely I try to look at the work as its own thing and not in the context of how other people see it, because it’s so external. It definitely doesn’t have any barring on what you are going to make. You can’t control what you make in a certain way and how it’s going to be seen by other people. You have to feel true to yourself.

Q: Your writing, for my money, has a lot of personality and emotional honesty in it. Is there ever a nervousness in putting yourself out there for the world to see, so to speak?

A: More than my own general anxiety in daily life? Probably not. I think writing songs is kind of one of the ways that I have found that I connect to people. It’s really a kind of reaching out. When I was a kid and performing in front of my friends or working on things you do have that (nervousness) as anyone would with any kind of work that they’re doing, but as time goes on it’s really just your relationship with your work itself and your connection to it. It becomes something deeper and just something really different.

Q: The first time I had the pleasure to see you perform you opened for Hey Rosetta! at Mile One Centre in front of a sold out crowd. Just you, a harpsichord and some other instruments. What goes through your mind when you’re in front of a crowd that size and multi-tasking solo?

A: Well there’s two things. One, I love playing with a band also but I think what also appeals to me about solo performance is there’s nothing to hide behind. That show in particular was so special and I think it also speaks to the fact that audiences in Newfoundland and St. John’s in particular, have become so strong and has such a presence in the show. It’s a force and I think that has a lot to do with music being so important culturally and being such a part of everyones lives. That’s something that people talk about all the time with Newfoundland being a very special place and you feel that energy when you play. Every city has it’s own personality and energy and that feeling from night to night, but my experiences in St. John’s have always been that of a willingness to connect musically with whoever is on stage and I’ve always found that very powerful.

Q: With this particular tour of Newfoundland you’re really going to have a wide taste of the island, with performances in most every major market here. I’m sure you must be looking forward to that and experiencing more of the island?

A: That’s been a part of the dream for a long time. I’m bringing the band for the St. John’s show and I’m going to do the other shows myself with a whole bunch of instruments and some little surprises here and there. It’s a bit of a mix in that way. I’m actually coming early and am going to spend a good bit of time in Newfoundland exploring and really having a writing trip.

Q: You released Good Advice little over a year ago to this point with great fanfare. Have you begun to let ideas formulate for a followup? What, if anything, is the game plan?

A: The minute I finished the last record I had ideas or new songs and that always kind of ends up happening, but they take different lengths of time. Some songs you can write quickly and others take a lot of work. There’s still so much happening in terms of just the touring schedule for this year so it’s hard to know how quickly I’ll be able to make another record. I’d like to make another record really quickly just because where the ideas are going and I’d like to keep writing, but that’s sort of the eternal struggle with a performing musician, is that you love both and you’re pulled in two directions.

Basia Bulat performs this April at Arts and Culture Centre’s across the island with special guests Hannah Georgas (St. John’s only) and Brianna Gosse. Tour stops include St. John’s, Corner Brook, Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander and Labrador West from April 19-26. Visit www.artsandculturecentre.com for ticket information and much more. 

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