What was your vision for "Emancipation" when you first started to conceptualize the album?
Wow….well I must say that my initial vision for Emancipation was quite different than the finished product. Starting with a very conservative view of process, I soon realized that I was much happier just letting go of pre-planned ideas and letting the hidden me come out in studio. Sometimes who we think we are is quite different from reality. One thing I did learn was that too much planning can often stifle creativity! At one point I was not happy with the direction that some of the songs were taking us, so my producer and I decided to keep some and start from scratch on the rest. Well for someone who wants to be in total control all the time, this can be quite stressful! My producer, Brandon Pitts was really great about giving me room to grow and stretch, allowing me to explore avenues and inner depths I had not counted on or known to exist. So the title itself was not part of the original vision. “Emancipation” was really just that, emancipating myself from pre-conceived notions, limits and things which just held me back; I was now able to express my self in so many ways.
You started with piano, and played flute in high school, but how did you end up playing sax?
There are always things you do in life because “you have to!” All along I have played many instruments. After many years of piano, I actually started playing flute in elementary school and moved to a new school system for high school where those students were only just beginning to learn how to play instruments. So I started playing clarinet with my new classmates. By my senior years, I was fortunate to play my flute in the stage band and jazz band. There were some pretty amazing sax players in that elite group and I was inspired! After high school, while pursuing higher education opportunities, it became very evident that if I wanted to survive as a working musician, I would need to acquire saxophones skills. With concentrated study I was afforded many new performance opportunities as a result. I have great regard for the versatility in performance styles and options that playing several instruments has provided for me.
Who, above all others, would you say has had the most significant influence on your style and choice of material to perform?
I am often asked this question and always have difficulty answering. I don't have any one influence per se, there are far too many to mention and these influences have been life-long and life-changing. As a child growing up, home was filled with music from all genres; the radio or recordings were always being played and discussed! I was constantly exposed to vocal and instrumental music, ensemble and solo artists as a matter of course each and every day….that is a LOT of music over time! As for what I choose to perform, I tend to look for melodies close to my heart and rhythms that make me want to dance. I borrow from classic as well as contemporary jazz and popular artists and create new music ideas by being in the moment and often, just having fun!
Is being one of the few prominent women instrumentalists mostly fulfilling, or do you find it to be a challenge?
I used to buy into the "Woman Instrumentalist" thing bigtime! Now I just consider myself to be an artist. If you cover yourself with labels, you're really limiting your possibilities. I used to play alto saxophone for a prominent big band and every time I would be setting up with the guys, people would see me and say, "Oh, you must be the singer?" just because I was a woman. I was so determined to be recognized as an instrumentalist, I refused to sing, thinking no one would take my playing seriously. While recording the track “The Siren" my producer, Brandon, kept saying, “This needs vocals!” and I kept saying, “Fine….who are we going to hire?!!?” Now we joke about how he was determined to lock me in the studio if needed just to get me to cut a vocal track! Truth be told, “The Siren” with me singing has received much greater airplay than I would have ever expected. Thanks Brandon! Getting rid of the labels really helps the creative juices run freely as you are less likely to limit your view of your own abilities. All this said however, I do take being a role model very seriously. We have all been given gifts that many of us never use. I am here to say “Do what is in your heart, share what you have been given and you’ll be the greatest YOU that you can be!”
What would you define as the most life-changing event so far in your career as a musical artist/performer?
Well, I have had some pretty amazing performance stories that I have often shared, but these days, I have to say that without a doubt, it has been the completion of my EMANCIPATION CD. It is a major accomplishment! Then add to that the humbling experience of having my music promoted and accepted in ways I would never have dreamed of, right out of the starting gate. I have experienced many weeks on top ten radio charts across Canada and great exposure on radio stations and internet radio throughout the world. Many thanks to you folks at SmoothJazz.com!
What are your favorite things to do when it’s all about your own personal enjoyment and satisfaction?
I love playing music. I surround myself with music and play all the time, even if it is just in my head. I hardly sit still as I am always bouncing to a beat. Then there are the movies…..I love watching movies!! The BEST time though is of course spending time with my family....