She has been heralded as “honest,” “thought-provoking,” along with “clear, well-trained and hauntingly beautiful.” Canadian songstress and guitar player, Steph MacPherson exudes all of these qualities, traits, and so much more. She’s constantly evolving her sound, and we think she’s the next best thing you haven’t heard, or you may have. Her voice is emotive, producing a precise and pristine sound. In a short time, Steph has had the distinct pleasure of performing at Lilith Fair, which was a concert tour and traveling music festival featuring notable women in music, such as Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, Tracy Chapman, Emmylou Harris, and Jewel, simply to name several. Her newest album, Bells & Whistles, hits US stores in January. Find out what she had to tell us about Lilith Fair, her upcoming album promotion and tour, and other interesting factoids based around this exciting, up-and-coming musician! Take it away, Steph…
GGM: You’ve had extensive vocal training, unlike many musicians that I know of; they mostly just pick up a guitar, start singing and/or playing. What made you want to do that, and explain how that has benefited you?
Steph: The voice training was my parents’ idea to begin with. I was a very vocal child. I blame them for introducing me to Disney, and my older sisters for Madonna and Tiffany. That’s some fun sing-along material! The problem was that I could only ever remember the words to one verse (if that) and the chorus, so I’d just repeat those until eternity. I imagine my Mum and Dad decided if I wasn’t going to shut up, I’d better at least do it right, and have a wide variety of repertoire to call upon. I am, of course, kidding. They recognized that I loved to sing, and put me in lessons to nurture that passion. 🙂 It has benefited me immensely. I’ve never lost my voice on a tour. Even on my first one of Canada, which was 30 shows in 33 days. That’s a lot of strain on any voice! It also gave me a really good grasp on my natural abilities and range, and gave me the tools I needed to expand upon those. Once you know how to do something safely (and yes, you can sing un-safely), you can really have fun with it!
GGM: You were selected through an “online talent search” to perform at Lilith Fair, which is a legend in itself, and has prominent names behind it, like Sarah McLachlan, Erykah Badu and Sheryl Crow, among others. How was that experience, and how has that opened more doors for you?
Steph: That was an extremely exciting and surreal experience for me. I met some of my biggest influences because of it. I also, however, missed the cue for the big finale where we were all supposed to join forces on the main stage to sing a Patti Smith song. I was too wrapped up watching Sarah perform, and didn’t get to there in time! Lesson learned, Steph. The festival served as an amazing experience for me to see what it’s like to be a part of such a big name event, and as my fist introduction to many key players in the Canadian Music Industry. It also helped to give my career a momentum injection, and motivated me to try and keep it rolling along.
GGM: I think you’ve received so much accolade and reward in such a short time with your career, how do you feel about all of your awards for your endeavors? Overwhelmed, thankful, a little bit of both?
Steph: All of the above, absolutely. It’s such a challenging industry, and you just never expect people to be taking any particularly close attention to you, and then all of a sudden they single you out and give you a pat on the back. It just goes to show that you have to be doing this because you love it, and you want to be successful, while never actually expecting anything. I think entitlement and ego are dangerous, and we should always try to keep ourselves in check. Might be my idealist nature here, but I think people appreciate genuine gratitude, no?
GGM: Bells & Whistles was released in Canada on April 17, 2012, and you’re anticipating a release date of in the United States of January 15, 2013, which I’m sure took much hard work and dedication. What are your plans for the upcoming release in the US?
Steph: We’ll be driving down the West Coast, all the way to L.A., starting January 9th, 2013. Our plans are to play well, have a blast, and make some new friends! I’m pretty excited.
GGM: Do you have any words of wisdom, encouraging advice, for women who aspire to achieve the level of musicianship you have?
Steph: My only advice is to keep practicing, and learning, and challenging yourself. It’s the only way to navigate any difficult thing in life. “Practice makes perfect”, or whatever… Always keep in mind that there is no such thing as “Perfect”, but as long as you’re willing to take risks, and you’re still learning and challenging yourself, then you’re on the right track.
GGM: Now for the “Fun Questions.” What was your first concert you attended, and do you have a favorite one?
Steph: I don’t actually remember my first concert. How awful is that?! My first memory of a “show” is watching a local children’s entertainer that used to come and play in the food court at our local mall. I remember loving her, but I don’t recall her name. I’m extremely bad at playing favourites. I’ve loved so many shows over the years, from Jann Arden at the Royal Theatre in Victoria, telling us about pooping her pants on stage, to Sarah Harmer, playing the music that first shaped my writing style. My favourite recent show took place during a local festival called Rifflandia. It was a band called Austra. The lead singer has the most phenomenal voice tone and control. The whole band is polished, and has such an engaging energy when they perform. And, of course, Lilith Fair was a big one.
GGM: What was your first album on vinyl, CD and/or cassette?
Steph: Hahaha… probably Tiffany. I had such a crazy mix of music in my house. I grew up with my Mum, Dad, younger brother, and two older sisters. At any given time, we had Sesame Street, Tiffany, Madonna, The Rankin Family, or CCR, pumping out of our living room speakers. I loved it all.
GGM: What are the top 5 albums you can’t live without?
Steph: I think it’s ever-changing, with a couple of staples. Like I said, favourites are difficult for me. Right now I’d probably say:
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
The Band – The Band
Kathleen Edwards – Voyager
GGM: What’s your guilty musical pleasure?
Steph: Beyonce. I feel no guilt. That woman’s got pipes.
A big thanks to Steph for her interview with us. We had such a great time interviewing her, and wish her all the best of blessings and success! Good luck, Steph!
Pre-buy and purchase Bells & Whistles HERE!