Jaclyn Guillou is a multiple threat singer, who has been nominated for a Juno this year. Let's see what she has to say...
1. Why do you feel it’s important to be part of “Strong Women Strong Music”?
I didn’t grow up around a lot of women and that might have been because I was a pretty big tomboy growing up. As I become older and wiser I realized how much us females needed to stick together and how absolutely imperative it is to be in the company of other women! I became a lot softer and more loving, by not only the people that surrounded me but by loving myself I became the strong person that I am today. I know that my life has changed drastically in how the female arts community has shaped my life with emotional and authentic connections. Also, it is a joy to be part of this event because it is how I originally met Karin Plato, when she welcomed me so warmly into the vocal jazz community. I hold her forever in my heart for that!
2. How do you feel you’re developing as an original songwriter? How important is it have original material in you repertoire?
I began as a songwriter barely knowing 3 chords. Things have progressed so quickly its kind of astounding. Though I spent nearly 20 years studying the voice, I am mostly self taught when it comes to instruments and certainly when it comes to composing/arranging. I feel so connected to my songs that it just feels odd to not have them in a set list. Even if I’m doing a show with all standards I prefer to have one of my own in there somehow because it makes me feel alive. With my own music I can still play the role of the interpreter but it comes from a personal place so there’s no guessing around what I think it “might” mean.
3. You’re a local Vancouverite, but you’ve toured extensively throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. What do you enjoy most about touring? What do you miss most about home?
I love, love, love touring. In some ways that’s why I wanted to be a musician. I did a lot of backpacking adventures when I was in my early 20s to discover the world (and myself) visiting many countries studying various dance forms and musical instruments like tabla and pandeiro. I really enjoy getting to know people and connecting with different communities everyday, learning about them and how they operate, what makes them buzz, where the pulse is, things like that. Things I miss about home are always food related. I miss my juicer and being able to make every meal from scratch. I eat really healthy and am mostly on a plant food based diet which is not something you can do on the road. I also miss my apartment because its so cozy and I have my piano, lots of books, records and old songbooks. It’s a very inspiring place to be.
4. You’re classically trained in opera. What made you want to focus on jazz over other music genres?
I started my training in classical voice because I wanted to sing and dance on Broadway. I had a career for about 10 years in musical theatre performing in productions across Canada before getting into jazz. The opera training became a focus for me from a technical point of view because I knew that if I could fully understand the voice that I would eventually be able to sing anything. I never studied popular music and the first song I learned from my teacher was in Latin. So, it would be accurate to say that I had a strong taste for classical and traditional music as a very young child.
When I was 27 years old I was very frustrated artistically and quit doing musicals. I started discovering jazz in a more conscious way noticing all the syncopated, intricate rhythms that I had learned as a former tap dancer and how they could be transferred into my vocal work. That realization got me really fired up, as well as the yearning to be completely free in my singing through improvisation. I have been exploring the marriage of classical technique with the colourful expression of being a jazz singer in using tone, phrasing and emotion.
5. You’re nominated for a Juno for your album The Bitter Earth. What inspired you to create this album?
I’ve never made an album entirely of jazz standards and this was my first experience as being just the singer: not the composer, lyricist or even the arranger. It was an interesting process for me to encounter some deep emotions and fear when it came to being vulnerable within another persons song. The idea for the album came about really naturally over the course of several years through one of my first vocal jazz influences, Dinah Washington. The album is a tribute to her and this project developed in 2013 when the CBC asked me to perform a concert to honour the 50th anniversary of her death.
6. If you could have a coffee with anyone – living or dead – who would it be?
Betty Carter. I would just die to talk with her about the recording she made with King Pleasure, the work she did with Ryan Bryant and the struggles she faced opening her own record label BetCar Records in 1969.