The countdown is on for this weekend's Winterruption Festival 2017 on Granville Island! In preparation for the weekend stacked with musical acts, the Coastal Jazz marketing and communications team hit the streets to interview some of the festival artists! First up the team stopped by Bump n' Grind cafe on the Drive to chat with the lovely Robyn Jacob of Only a Visitor.
A symphony of coffee cups percussively clamouring in the background performed for us while we chatted...
Gerta: Hey Robyn! It's great to meet with you today and to have a little chat about your band Only a Visitor! Thanks for taking the time to grab a coffee this morning.
So-- when did Only a Visitor form and how did you connect with your band mates?
Robyn: Only a Visitor began jamming together at the end of 2014. Initially I was looking for singers as a way to start composing music for voice and to branch out a little from my piano compositional past. Only a Visitor began as a six-piece ensemble but we soon pared it down to a quintet of five performers. It's great to work with these women!
Gerta: It must be very rewarding to be the compositional voice behind the ensemble of singers. Do you have any new music planned?
Robyn: Well we have an album coming out in June! We just finished recording but I am going try my best to keep the momentum going. We are looking forward to our line up of shows on the horizon.
Gerta: You have recorded such beautiful music Robyn. I especially enjoyed listening to Perfect Song from your album "Tower Temporary". I noticed that in Perfect Song you include they lyrics "only a visitor" in your songwriting. Is that text representative and perhaps the genesis of your band name?
Robyn: Haha wow you noticed that, nice job! So before the band Only a Visitor I had a solo project going on called Visible Text that was primarily a project filled with jokes and little songs. It was super fun and hilarious, but soon the songs evolved into topics that were perhaps a little more meaningful. When I formed the new band, it was a continuation of my earlier concepts so naturally it had a much more purposeful and meaningful tone for me. The band needed a good name and that's why "Only a Visitor" came to mind!
Gerta: I'd love to hear more about that. What does the phrase "Only a Visitor" specifically mean to you?
Robyn: Well like you said, the name "Only a Visitor" came from the lyrics in the track Perfect Song. I wrote Perfect Song originally as a solo song for myself when I was travelling in Tofino. Tofino to me is the epitome of west coast beauty. It feels like home, yet in its wild, expressive, and limitless beauty I feel somewhat like a guest or a visitor when I travel there. I feel kind of like I am only a visitor, and am usually pretty awestruck at its beauty when I visit.. I ended up ripping off this title for the new band's name (haha), mainly because I felt that a lot of people could relate to that concept.
Gerta: I love how that's the inspiration behind your band name, and how it all came from one song. Now that you are composing for a group of singers primarily, what do you use as your inspiration when composing?
Robyn: I think compositional inspiration is best found naturally and it usually depends on specific circumstances. Sometimes I gain inspiration from another group of musicians who I admire, or sometimes I compose as a way of communicating through storytelling. Alternatively, I often write music purely to explore a compositional technique. When writing lyrics I am always gaining inspiration from multiple outlets as well.
The album that we just recorded is primarily snapshots of feelings or images from personal experiences. The album that we are working on now is a conceptual album that deals with topics on Canadian immigration issues.. it is very historical and is my way of using composition as a means to share contemporary storytelling.
Gerta: That's really interesting to hear. You have somewhat shifted from an introspective to a conceptual frame of mind with your approach to composing. It's fantastic that you're currently feeling experimental and creative with your art!
Gerta: So are there any upcoming Only a Visitor shows or exciting plans that we should be aware of?
Robyn: Well we're playing the Winterruption show with Coastal Jazz on Sunday!
Gerta: Haha, yes indeed!
Robyn: After that we are playing at the Toast Collective on March 25th with this really awesome jazz band from Seattle called Hunter Gather. They're really cool, so we are bringing them up for that show. I am really excited about that one.
Gerta: Anything else other than shows? Are you guys recording anything at the moment?
Robyn: Well we will be doing a small stage performance of our next album's material. We will be adding some more theatrical elements to the performance which will be both silly and awesome! It will be fun to experiment with that.
Gerta: So last question.. do you primarily write for yourself or for others?
Robyn: I want it to be both ideally. I wonder about that though.. I love my music and my songs. I love performing them so in a way it is kind of "about me" when I get to perform and have the opportunity to tell my story through my music. I hope audiences and listeners can find something that resonates with them, something that they can delve into personally.
Gerta: Well it's been great chatting with you Robyn and we are looking forward to having you perform as a part of Winterruption! See you on Sunday Feb 19 at 1pm and 2:10 in Performance Works!