Artist Interview: Laila Biali

In advance of the premiere of her live-to-tape performance, we spoke with Laila Biali about playing through a pandemic, upcoming projects, and her favourite musical memory.

What has music-making looked like for you this year? What, if anything, has anything shifted in your personal practice?

Travel has been virtually eliminated. With the exception of a trip out west this summer to see family and capture some live-to-tape performances, we’ve been in Toronto since mid March. For freelance musicians used to traveling every few weeks – every few days, in high season – this has been a big shift. We quickly had to turn our own living room into a stage of sorts; and while the opportunity to reach wider audiences online held promise, it was also a daunting task, if I’m honest. That’s why it’s such a treat to finally be able to access venues that are observing safety protocols, to capture a live-to-tape performance where other people are assigned to handle the video and sound. Managing all of that on our own was overwhelming, to say the least – but a means to an end, of course.

Who are some of your favourite BC musicians?

Jodi Proznick, who joined us for a handful of performances this summer. I’m also a mega fan of Adam Thomas, who I get to work with a fair bit also. There are so many, too many to name here: Phil Dwyer, Brad Turner, Bruno Hubert, Bernie Arai, Steve Kaldestad, Jesse Cahill, Tilden Webb, Katherine Penfold, Jill Barber, and the list goes on…

Can you share one of your favourite musical memories?

Performing with Sting for the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in New York City in 2015. I was pinching myself that I got to sing backup for an iconic artist at an iconic event!

Is there anything you’re working on this fall/winter/into next year? If so, can you tell us about it?

Always. I just released a single in celebration of Leonard Cohen’s Birthday – Anthem. I’m about to release another Fall single, to celebrate Joni Mitchell’s upcoming birthday. There will be a holiday single as well, and all the while I’m dreaming up ideas for my next album. I want to make it quite different than the past couple I released.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when the pandemic is over?

Travel to see family in other cities – my parents and sisters out west, who I was fortunate to see this summer, and my mother-in-law in Silver Spring, MD, whom I miss more than words can express!

Lastly, what was your favourite moment of the Frankie’s set?

We were really going for it as a trio, and there were a couple of times where, in my enthusiasm to try something new and different, I almost got totally derailed. But we all had a laugh, right there in the moment. (I’m not sure the audience will notice, and it certainly made for an exciting set!)

This special pre-recorded live performance was available for two weeks after its stream date. It is now available to donors above $50 as part of our performance archive. If you are interested in seeing it and have the means to support us through this difficult period, please make a donation.