Just thinking here today about privilege. On a bright summer-like day here in Lacombe, it's hard not feel enlightened by the frisky robins in the yard singing with sweet conviction. And this strong Nicaraguan coffee feels like a metaphor for the privilege I take in daily, often without acknowledging its power and the cost by which it ended up in my hands. I often think back to my work and travels in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Honduras and Mexico and made hyper aware of my privilege. I've found that the only way to feel alright about it is to keep finding way to give back. Maybe you're reading this and thinking about the white privilege you see around me, as you should. It’s a privilege that makes me uncomfortable and I still don’t know how to talk about it properly. But what I’m thinking about today is more along the lines of generosity. I keep learning about generosity from all kinds of people; sometimes in the form of dollars but mainly in the form of human kindness and love in action.
I have experienced so much support from so many incredible and generous people. In the North American culture I enjoy observing and critiquing, it can feel like generosity is a dying virtue. So many people you see making decisions based on fear, greed and hurt and maybe a lack of generous people in their lives. For me, the past year has been full of changes, challenges and big decisions. It hasn't necessarily been easy on my closest friends. Some haven't been able to stick around but many have and I’m amazed by how they understand how difficult it is to prioritize art & music in life and somehow know how to support me through it all. I owe a lot of gratitude to my friends and family who share my beautifully complex dutch Christian Reformed roots - many of whom I am constantly humbled by and as my friend Tim Wood said, you inspire me to be a better human. I am also in awe of the new people who have come into my life in the past while. I want to name you all but there are too many and I don’t want to leave anyone out. Also, you know who you are.
I don’t generally like to be this publicly sentimental but there's a lot of gratitude in my heart I just have to acknowledge. I really wouldn’t have the life that I have if it weren’t for all the incredible people I get to know.
Lots of things on the horizon here: new videos, a Via Rail train tour in May with an amazing human who goes by Billie Zizi, the big move to Calgary in June and a summer of festivals, some with the “Justine Vandergrift Trio” featuring two great dudes: Harry Gregg and Trevor McNeely.
If you didn’t pick it up in the paragraphs above, I want to say thank you to all of you who have encouraged me to keep writing and playing music, especially when I am crippled by self doubt and ready to throw in the towel. Your generosity has been my refuge.
|The Hub on Ross The Hub on Ross, Red Deer||The Hub on Ross, Red Deer|
|Sing to The Empress The Empress Ale House, Edmonton, AB||The Empress Ale House, Edmonton, AB|
|Joy to The World Christmas Concert Trinity Baptist Church, Sherwood Park, AB||Trinity Baptist Church, Sherwood Park, AB|
|New Years Eve Concert McDougal United Church, Edmonton, AB||McDougal United Church, Edmonton, AB|
|International Women's Day Concert The Hub on Ross, Red Deer||The Hub on Ross, Red Deer|
I've been slowly making my move from Edmonton down to Calgary and enjoying a few month in my hometown Lacombe, Alberta. It's beautiful not being in the city and it has allowed me to clear my mind and write more. I think everyone would benefit from slowing down and spending more time looking out into open fields and just listening to the wind.
As much as I've enjoyed playing and touring as a solo act, I'm really looking forward to performing as a trio in the upcoming festival season here in Alberta. I'll be joined by Harry Gregg on upright bass and Trevor McNeely on lap steel. Harry produced my latest live-off-the-floor album at Riverdale Recorders in Edmonton and Trevor is a young seasoned instrumentalist and songwriter from Edmonton. Video footage coming soon.
I'm hanging out in sunny Calgary this weekend at Juno Fest! and I've gotta say, the Canadian music scene is rich and inspiring. Let's keep it lively and growing 'eryone!
Photo taken in Edmonton's Millcreek Ravine, March 2016. Photo Credit: Erin Walker / http://www.eastmeetswestphotography.ca/
Lately in Lacombe, I've been into making feather earrings which I often wear and sell at my shows. Something about feathers... maybe it's their lightness or their bird essence. Or that they look like fly fishing lures. Whatever the case, they're sweet and you can order them and I'll mail them to you for 20 bones.
Feather earrings for sale! It's serious now. I left the city and all I want to do is assemble these pretty little things. They're packaged and ready to be mailed so lemme know if you want a pair. #featherearrings #mamerchbaby
A photo posted by JUSTINE VANDERGRIFT (@justinevandergrift) on
It's pretty rare that my little sis actually sings with me so here's a little Christmas gift from us to you. I hope it makes your heart feel as full as mine does when I sing with Riss. This is one of my favourite Patty Griffin songs that I especially like around Christmastime.
Sitting here at my folks' place in Lacombe filled with gratitude for all the people that keep supporting and listening to my music.
Wishing you a safe, warm and beautiful holiday.
It's been whirlwind of a week with the CD release and then driving from Edmonton to Vancouver with shows on the way and in Vancouver and Victoria. I've been hosted by so many great friends and inspiring people. Every night is so different. Been playing shows with Richard Inman, Logan McKillop, North of Here and Foxglove - all amazing artists to share shows with. Tonight I play a house concert at my friend Danielle's in Cranbrook then back to Alberta for a few more Check out the tour here http://justinevandergrift.com/tour. Looking forward to home but I gotta say, the road has been really good to me and all audiences have been so gracious and engaging. I'm filled with gratitude.
Right now I'm making a living off of touring and album sales so if you want to support me, please consider ordering/downloading my new live off the floor album online through bandcamp
...and it's going to be an adventure to say the least. It's been a wild summer/fall filled with new music, new people and big decisions! The biggest of the decisions was to not go to teacher school for an Education degree and to continue playing music for a living. So far it feels like the best decision I've ever made even in spite of all the challenges. One of the main things I've been learning is that recording is an intense art from that requires a lot of experience and expertise. As a performer, singer-songwriter, there are so many things about recorded music that you don't think about. It has certainly been interesting to bring my new songs to Edmonton studios and try to make them sound the way I imagine them. I have so much to learn!
Also, I'm releasing a brand new live off the floor album called 'Sailor' in less than a week! I'm really excited to share this new live off the floor album which was recorded at Riverdale Recorders with the help of Harry Gregg. You can hear this sample track "Victimized" which is just guitar, vocal and doboro played by Nathan Burns. You can also pre-order this album digitally or physically through bandcamp and then you will be able to hear it all November 6!: https://justinevandergrift.bandcamp.com/album/sailor
If you're in Edmonton, there are still tickets for the CD Release this coming Thursday, November 5th at The Mercury Room (10575 114 St). Doors are at 7 pm (music at 8 pm with an opening set by my friend Richard Inman from Winnipeg http://richardinmanmusic.com/music/) and tickets are Tickets $10 in advance,or $12 at the door.
Ticket link: http://yeglive.ca/events/justine-vandergrift/nov-5-2015/the-mercury-room
After the CD Release on November 5 I'm hitting the road on a Western Canada Tour! I look forward to all the people I will meet along the way but I also hope to see a few familiar faces.
Check out the upcoming shows here: http://justinevandergrift.com/tour
Drawing on inspiration from the likes of Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt and Sarah Harmer, Justine has carved her own distinguished signature sound and is as comfortable wrapping her soulful vocals around a tender melody as she is belting out gospel or the blues.
Sailor is recorded live off the floor at Riverdale Recorders in Edmonton, Alberta. Vandergrift’s vision was to record an album that captures her live performance and reflects the raw emotional honesty in her songs. She and co-producer, Harry Gregg successfully accomplished that goal with ‘Sailor’. These 9 new songs will take listeners on a journey through love, loss, yearning, letting go and acceptance.
You guys there are so many things getting me all vamped up over here:
1. These past three days were so incredible over at OCL Studio's writing and recording pitchable songs with a group of truly amazing artists that I didn't want to say goodbye to: Jessica Marsh, Nuela Charles, Mike Dunn, Lindsey Walker, Carrie Day, Sean Hamilton, Bryan Finlay, Chad Thomas, Joal Kamps,JJ Shiplett and producer Justin Gray. Wow that was something!
4. When I'm back I get to play at Beaumont Blues and Roots Festhttp://bbrf.ca/schedule/ and The Works Fest http://www.theworks.ab.ca/street-stage/ and lots of other places.
This has already been a great summer as an independent artist in Edmonton and it's only just begun.
Check back soon for info on the new album.
Perhaps I've learned more than I wanted to about Human Trafficking both on a global scale and in this city. ACT does great work to combat these grave injustices in Alberta so I am so happy to be a part of this fundraising event. There are still tickets availabale for the gala if you'd like to come. See http://sperogala.ca/ for details. I'll be playing two short sets with good ol' Anthony Middel and we'd both love to see your faces.
In late February 2015, Joe Nolan flew into Mexico City and together we went back to the Quest Mexico www.quest-mexico.org house in the hills that look over the beautiful Cuernavaca, "La ciudad de la eterna primavera", the city of eternal spring. My good friend Gerardo Debbink (director of Quest) kindly allowed us to use his program room as a studio. The idea was to record a full album live off the floor using one room mic. Joe acted as a producer and helped me strengthen the songs for I'd been working on there over the previous month.
13 tracks were recorded onto my mac mini and transported back to Edmonton, Alberta in early March. It had been an amazing month of writing songs, working on a semester program for Quest, attempting to learn Spanish and going to two beautiful Canadian/Mexican weddings. The last week of my time in Mexico was mainly spent recording the songs over and over with Joe until we got a good take of all of them. Sadly, we got all the performances right but the sound quality and actual recordings from the room were an sound engineers nightmare.
Fortunately my dear cousin Mitch who runs Fieldhouse Records was able to fix up some of the tracks to be easy on the ears. We had to choose the strong tracks and only 4 made the cut which is precisely why this is only Part 1 of the Letters For Landfills Project. I intend to record the rest of the songs professionally here in Edmonton.
I want to mention that I wrote a couple of songs specifically about the corrupt state of affairs we see in Mexico today that keep the poor very poor and continue help the top 10% get more wealthy. The reality of these growing injustices becomes more and more astounding when you spend some time in the real Mexico, as oppose to resort Mexico. Quest Mexico is a non-profit organization devoted to social justice through transformative and experiential education. It's a place one can go to learn about those things and try to find his or her place in it all. It's also a place that allowed me to get away from home when I really needed to.
These songs are what they are. My opinion of them no longer matters. We all have a vulnerable and lovesick teenager inside of us. At least I hope we all do. Writing songs is one way I acknowledge that vital piece of my existence. I hope listening to them does the same for you.
When recording in Cuernavaca in the evening, the crickets seemed deafening. Recording during the day felt like both a battle and a conversation with the birds. You can hear both as a backdrop in these recordings.
As you likely know, there is very little money in the music business for artists who aren't interested in selling a brand, an image or a sexual suggestion. I'm not making music to make money but I want to keep making it, so if you like what you hear and you want it on your MP3 player, please download these recordings for yourself and pay what you would like. I'm saving up to make another album like my first two.
Thank you for accepting music from me.
Joe Nolan (co-producer)
Mitchell Veldhuisen (Sound Engineer)
Gerardo Debbink (studio host)