One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. Every so often, I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully, these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me.
Nat and I go way back: we first met working at a chocolate store here in Edmonton and later were housemates for a year or so. We cooked and crafted together and had long conversations about how to live a creative life. Every now and then she would pull out her cello to practice and I was in heaven. I've missed her terribly since she moved to Winnipeg but have loved watching her music career flourish from afar.
What sort of creative work do you do?
I am a music collaborator and accompanist using my cello. I also do contract work in arts
Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?
Creativity is something everyone has, whether or not we take the moment to acknowledge and label it as such. It's not reserved for just the arts, however that is the direction I followed. So, yes I always have been driven by 'creative' pursuits. Since I was a child, I remember leaning heavily towards the arts and exploring visual mediums (collage, drawing, dabbling in photography as a teen). Dance and music lessons were a huge part of my life from the age of 5. I am privileged to have parents that saw the value in these activities; they sacrificed a lot to put six children through various lessons!
How did you get started?
I did the mandatory three to four years of piano lessons as a child, and then asked for cello lessons at age nine. After spending all of my youth and teens studying cello, I regretfully quit playing in my early 20s. For various reasons that I’m still trying to understand, I geared myself toward the behind the scenes work of “Arts & Cultural Management”, and let my cello collect dust. It wasn’t until relocating to Winnipeg in 2009 that I started playing again. The community here is very welcoming and collaborative. Word of mouth and saying “Yes!” a lot led to where I am at now: carving out my little niche of multi-genre collaborations with song-writers, theatre producers, film soundtracks, recording sessions, and some teaching. I straddle the worlds of classical and contemporary. The demand for what I do is mostly in the folk-pop genre, but I love the improvised, sound art and noise work I've been exploring more lately.
What’s your process like?
I’m still figuring this one out. It’s always changing, and not always effective. Being one that is easily bored, I often have my toes in too many pools at once. Then I procrastinate and freak out. Then I dive in and find some kind of flow. I need space, completely alone, to get my best work done. I need more time than is available. I am motivated by deadlines!
Sometimes a project just doesn’t click, which can be frustrating and disappointing. I’m learning to discern which ones those are before I even commit to them. This is often based on a gut feeling, as well as the limitations of time and space, and budgets. Most of my work is interpreting the work of others; a song-writer’s chord and lyric chart or a scene in a play or film. If I can relate to the work personally, then the music comes easily. If it’s a wedding or special event, then it’s a matter of picking out specific pieces and tunes that suit the occasion. In my improvised work, it's a compelling mix of freedom and fear, which I am drawn to.
A lot of time is spent on technique, to keep my body prepared for whatever project might be lurking. Maintaining some classical repertoire is great for keeping my chops up – even if I rarely perform that style live.
What or who inspires you?
Lately, I’ve found it difficult to tune out the din of the world or distill it into fruitful work. On good days I am inspired by light patterns, conversations with friends, images, ideas, sounds, watching a spider catch its lunch, the news, and of course…a solid deadline. Reading poetry, listening to music, and seeing lots of live music ignite my drive to create.
What’s your biggest creative struggle and how are you coping with it?
There are internal and external struggles. My external struggles are time, budgets, and physical limitations. My internal struggles are self doubt, fear of failure, and paralyzing perfectionism (limiting myself to three to avoid a self-indulgent tangent on the subject). In some scenarios, fear is a great motivator for me though!
The honest answer at the time of writing this is that I'm not coping with these struggles very well at all! It's a life-long work to be finding the balance and adjusting to whatever the reality is in the moment. Most freelancers struggle with the feast or famine scenario. I think we tend to burn ourselves out, worrying that if we turn down a gig, less gigs will happen. That said, I do keep a part time day job, which helps me feel more stable and allows me the freedom to take music gigs that really match my abilities and interests.
What’s your # 1 tip about everyday creativity?
Creativity is different for each individual, but I do remind myself that it doesn't have to mean producing something. It can just be taking pause and mental note of my surroundings for a few minutes each day.
What are you working on next?
The project I'm excited about right now is my improvised experimental trio, Civvie. We are bassoon (Alex Eastley), cello, and amplified weaving loom. Our album was released earlier this year, which you can buy here. Our loom player, Kelly Ruth just moved to Edmonton so, we're a long-distance improv trio now.
This week I'm writing some music on cello and loop pedals for a short documentary by Tyler Funk. He's a very skilled cinematographer, editor, and director in Winnipeg. Check out his work!
Over the next couple of months I'll be doing a series of about 12 solo performances around The Forks site in Winnipeg. These will be half hour pop-up shows where I'll dig out some of my classical pieces, or improvise using loop pedals.
Also, I'll be gearing up for the release of Raine Hamilton's new album early in 2018. We recorded it this past year and it's absolutely stunning work. It's tough to wait for the proper album cycle planning and execution because I just want everyone to hear it right now!
Where can we find you online?