Wildflour to serve up jazz
As with many singers and musicians, Belle Plaine has moved around some.
She’s been there, done that, started over, held down a few different jobs, visited or lived in a number of cities.
And, as with many singers and musicians, she’s spent some time in the Bow Valley. Along with stops in Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C. and Australia, Plaine spent some time working at The Banff Centre.
On Sept. 3, jazz singer Belle and upright bass player Elizabeth Curry will play Banff’s Wild Flour Bakery as part of a western tour from her home in Regina to Vancouver Island. The pair have already covered, in support of Plaine’s album Notes From A Waitress, the eastern portion of the country. Waitress followed her debut EP, hello from Belle Plaine.
Plaine will share the stage with Banff’s Andy Bacon.
One thing about moving around, said Plaine as she headed out on a tour that will keep her on the road until Sept. 22, “is that the songs piled up. I’ve been writing songs for years, mostly from personal experiences, including being a waitress obviously. I’m really looking forward to heading west and getting back to Banff.”
While working as a waitress, mostly in Victoria, was fodder for songwriting material, in Banff, Plaine was at The Banff Centre in 2007 for a lighting work study.
While in Banff, though, she also stepped up to the open mic at Bruno’s Bar and Grill. “That was one of the first places I played a song and sang. I’d sung for years before, but not seriously, and I was terrified.”
Despite being terrified, Plaine is now roaring along, making music her career.
“Banff was kind of an incubation period for me.”
Plaine was born and raised on a farm in Saskatchewan. She was performing by age five and was the ringer in local events. She began classical voice lessons at age six and continued through high school.
When she was 18, she knew what she wanted out of life – to write songs, perform and have a home recording studio.
As does happen, though, the road to where you’re going sometimes has twists and turns.
After high school, Plaine studied jazz at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan College, then switched focus to sound recording. She then moved to Calgary to work in recording at a studio, then realized that wasn’t for her.
Needing a change, she moved to Victoria to study environmental science, which she found was also not the right choice. But, having fallen in love with the Island capital’s arts community, she dropped UVIC and began to sing, while waiting tables in a coffee shop.
Co-workers who heard her sing told her they were starting a band, and she was in it. Open mics followed, along with songwriting.
An itch to travel carried her to Australia, though, where she waitressed at a less than five-star restaurant, lived in a house with 10 roommates and gigged with a pack of mongrel musicians.
She discovered she wanted to be a singer. Again.
She also started playing the guitar. “I got dumped by an Aussie and I didn’t want to find a guitar player and a new boyfriend at the same time.”
In 2006, she moved back to Regina, had the stint in Banff, and now remains in the prairie capital. At the time, she thought she’d moved to Montreal, but a short-term job in a theatre turned into four years…
In 2010, she went into music full-time and now she’s the proud owner of a pair of recordings.
hello was recorded in 2011, Waitress in 2012, with just eight months between. “I had some momentum after the first one,” she said. “And I’ve spent more time promoting this one (Waitress) so it feels more like a complete project.
“I’d been working hard writing songs for a couple of years before the first one and I finally realized I could be a professional musician. I had to prove to myself I could do it.”
During her travels and work, Plaine has jotted song ideas down wherever she is. She keeps a stack of them, but, when it comes down to actually crafting a song, she has a method all her own.
She pulls out her notes, sits down at a typewriter, and bangs them out.
“It’s a weird method, compiling all the little bits, then typing. But it’s satisfying to hear the click of the keys and I think the typewriter takes the emotion out of handwriting them.
“I try to keep an objective viewpoint of the words I’ve written. Also, I co-write with Jeremy Sauer. We’re the core of the band and grew up within an hour of each other.”
These days, Plaine has no day job and is working strictly on her music. “I saved up some money and thought I’d try it for a couple of years,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I had an escape plan, but I’m quite happy with the way things have progressed.”
After her current tour, she plans to spend October at home in a provincial park writing, learn how to shoot a bow and maybe go hunting with an uncle. “Then I plan to spend the winter working creatively.”
While jazz in Canada isn’t in the mainstream, radio-wise, Plaine said she’s had great support from CBC, CKUA and random requests for her music from programmers at university stations as diverse as Burnaby, B.C. and Windsor, Ont.
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