Portuguese-Canadian singer-songwriter Nico Paulo dives into her intimate new EP and a newfound love of this province and its people
The COVID-19 pandemic has, and continues to, make for strange, metaphoric bedfellows.
Reflecting on the past year of largely lockdown-living and I’m sure the bulk of us can confidently say everything has not gone according to plan. But for those rare few, silver linings have emerged from the fog, and just maybe life has lined up just as it should.
FOG’S SILVER LINING
Nico Paulo can count herself in that category.
A rising singer-songwriter originally hailing from Portugal who called Ontario home for seven years, it was love and lockdown-life that brought her to Newfoundland and Labrador in the summer of 2020. Yet it is a newfound affection for this place and people that keeps her here.
“I remember the first times I came here, I would think to myself, I wish that all my friends in Toronto could see this side of Canada,” Paulo shares in a one-on-one with The Herald.
“I think, especially within the Portuguese communities in Toronto or in Montreal, it’s like super close,” Paulo says. “People don’t really go outside.”
“They might go to warmer destinations in The States or a beach island vibe to travel to because it’s a different lifestyle. I feel like people don’t travel that much within Canada,… from what I know, and I feel like this is such a shame, because this is so beautiful.
“…I connected with it from the first time I came here — I feel like so many people would. In a way… I like to preserve that a little bit more.”
Safe harbour in St. John’s SAFE HARBOUR IN ST. JOHN’S
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Paulo and her partner, Juno nominated singer-songwriter Tim Baker, relocated to St. John’s in the summer of 2020, escaping the close-quarters and claustrophobic state of Toronto-quarantine for the freedoms afforded through a more small-city style of living.
Summer turned to fall and then winter. Now, flying through the first quarter of 2021, the pair is showing no signs of island fatigue. In fact, quite the opposite.
Recorded for the Lawnya Vawnya residency program in St. John’s, the three-song collection features ace collaborators Tim Baker, Adam Hogan, Steve Maloney and Mary Beth Waldram, with Michelle LaCour and Heather Kirby on recording, mixing, and mastering duties, respectively.
“They are so good, they’re so professional, like 100 times better than I am,” Paulo laughs of her ‘dream team’ assembled for Live At First Light.
“Everything rolled out so smoothly and we were all happy and it felt so good to be there that day. It was just really something just hanging out in such a beautiful space. The vibe, the sound. It was just like everything was like a dream, really.”
ST. JOHN’S NEWEST ARTIST TO WATCH
A rising star in the visual arts community to couple with her ever-growing profile as a singer-songwriter, Paulo aims to get back in the studio sooner rather than later for her next full-length —provided pandemic restrictions remain eased, of course.
“I do have the itch. I do have a lot of songs I had already last summer,” Paulo admits, “but I don’t know. I feel like I had different expectations for the next time I recorded a record. Like, I really wanted to have a band with me and be in a room with people.”
“And now we’re all in lockdown and nothing is normal. So I have been a little bit let down about that, I’m not going to lie. And I think pushing this EP out is helping me to at least complete something and have something out. But the plan is to start organizing the songs that I already had last summer and the songs that I’ve been writing since I moved here and have a full length.”
A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
One thing is for certain in a period of looming uncertainties, Paulo has a newfound home-away-from-home on The Rock, supported wholeheartedly by her partner, peers, and the community at large.
“I feel very supported by every single person. I mean, I’ve been very happy with how friendly and how open everyone is and has been with musicians and artists. I just don’t know how to describe it,” she says thoughtfully.
“Now I can see a little bit more behind what Tim is and understand it better because I’m here.”