BANFF – Musician Joanna Borromeo’s stage presence commands the room, centred around melodic and powerful vocals.
Though the Juno-nominated artist has taken a quieter approach to her music over the past decade, when the bright spotlight glows over the R&B and soul jazz singer in Banff, she wants to show everyone how she and her music have grown with time.
Music @ The Juniper returns with a trio of acts in November and December inside the Banff hotel’s Kiguli Ballroom.
The first performance is Thursday (Nov. 9) when Calgary folk/roots duo Flint & Feather take the stage at 7:30 p.m. On Nov. 30, it is Canmore classical guitarist John Goulart’s turn to woo an intimate audience.
The series’ 2023 finale is an evening with Calgary-based artist Joanna Borromeo (vocals, keyboard) Dec. 14, with her newer approach to storytelling.
“I have definitely done a lot of internal work to really, really understand what it means to be an artist and redefine what success means,” said Borromeo. “I don't wanna be just kind of like put in the box, so this solo show that I'm doing in Banff is gonna be a mix of my former work that I did and new stuff that I'm putting out.”
In the 2010s, Borromeo was shining as brightly as any upcoming musician. When she dropped her sophomore album, Kaleidoscope, which is critically her best work, it received a 2014 Juno Award Nomination for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. The album also won Western Canadian Music Award for Urban Recording of the Year.
The Calgarian was a regular visitor to California, performing gigs on famous stages like at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles.
Many musicians write songs about life experiences – good and bad – and Borromeo is no different.
However, the past decade was full of turbulent times in the world. This caused Borromeo's mind – and music – to expand to new territories. Though her sound remains very much the same, Borromeo's songwriting is also influenced by significant matters around the world, such as social justice issues and international conflict.
“I feel right now, I’m happy being in the middle of redefining how I want to be, how I want to present myself,” said Borromeo. “I think maybe that’s what it means to be an artist. I’ve learned to embrace that a lot and I find joy in that again.”
It’s not to say the talented artist is moving away from life experience stories. In fact, she is only now getting used to the idea of being reacquainted with some painful memories through music.
Months following the 2014 Juno nomination, Borromeo’s musical career abruptly halted when the artist was being weighed down by burnout, money challenges, and she was dealt a serious blow when she opened up about her sexual orientation to family.
What followed was a dark and difficult time for Borromeo, who, after growing up in a religious home, was suddenly not on speaking terms with some family. As she suffered, so did her music.
“I had to step away from all music,” said Borromeo. “I was turning down work just because I was in such a bad way, [I was] just facing a lot of homophobia within my closest circles.”
That part of Borromeo’s story does have a happy ending, but years passed before the healing process started, said Borromeo. She has a much better relationship and is back on speaking terms with some family members.
Removing herself from the stage singer she had created was heartbreaking for her. But after reflecting, Borromeo isn't nervous about reinventing herself as a musician.
From that evolution of an artist, Borromeo said it’s important to share her tough experiences for those in her old position because “there is still hope.”
“I just didn't think that I wanted to write about that until I was ready. I think it's taken me 10 years to feel like I'm ready,” said Borromeo.
For more information about the local music series and its musicians, visit www.musicatthejuniper.ca.