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Still Loyal to Her Roots

Despite success, singer Allison Crowe doesn't forget where she came from

Derek Spalding, The Daily News
Published: Thursday, June 05, 2008

The shadow of an eating disorder that Allison Crowe obsessed about in high school will always follow her, but at 26, the rising independent music star from Vancouver Island never looks back as she walks toward a bright future of world music tours and a strong fan following she has built on her own.

Crowe has released six albums on her Rubenesque Records label and has turned down several big contracts in order to maintain full control of her career. She actually rescheduled a show in Paris at the end of a short European tour so she could return to her hometown for this week's official opening of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

Nanaimo's rising star needs to be commended for her conviction. She's avoided the easy way out and turned down several lucrative record deals, which is impressive considering the mountainous task of distributing her own CDs and booking international tours. But with some savvy Internet networking, Crowe pulls it off.

For me, she moves into the ranks of Kimya Dawson, who refuses to sell her albums in Wal-Mart simply because of her principles. She joins reputable icons like Radiohead by offering her music to fans for free via her website.

"It's really important to do what I want and write what I want and work with whomever I want," she told me Wednesday from her parents house. "This way, I maintain control over the creative process. It's more of a grass roots way of building, rather than exploding all at once."

Allison Crowe - Buck Lake, Canada - Billie Woods photo

Singer Allison Crowe will be at the official opening of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre this weekend

Crowe's home at mom and dad's in Nanaimo after a European tour that included stops in Scotland, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and France. At this point in her career, one might think, she's too big for the Harbour City, but by rebooking her second Paris show she tells everyone that her hometown loyalty is probably as firm and unshaken as her artistic integrity. With her fiance waiting for her back at her new home in Newfoundland, the maturing artist spent nearly 30 hours on a plane before crashing at her parents on Monday. She has time to rest and prepare for Saturday's show at the VICC. She plays three short sets throughout the day as the public visits the $72-million facility.

The change of plans to return home shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Crowe has been holding an annual Christmas performances at the historic St. Andrew's United Church every year since 2003. The first Tidings concert was a spin-off of her Christmas CD of the same name released that same year, coinciding with a live television broadcast. Tidings raises money for local community organizations such as women's groups and homeless outreach programs. The television broadcasts have aired every year for the past five years and has received critical acclaim across the country.

She writes original music mostly from her piano and her acoustic guitar, but each of her CDs typically covers songs from some of her favourite artists, a practice she does for sheer fun. Crowe is well-known for her version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which appeared on the first Tidings album. But she has others, including Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time," appearing on her latest album Little Light.

Sitting with her acoustic, Crowe turns yet another song into one of her own. As she says, Lauper has an "amazing voice and often overlooked." You can visit the Daily News website and click on the link to have a listen for yourself.

"Sometimes it seems like a particular song would work well in a different way, like with the piano or guitar, so I just sit down and try it," she said. "But mostly I do it because I like playing it and it's fun."

Also on the new album, fans get a second version of "Disease," a track Crowe wrote when she was 17 and coping with an eating disorder that discouraged her from eating and encouraged her to work out extensively. She may carry that disease with her forever, but she never lets it phase her.

It was after a show in Dublin, Ireland that she sat down and pounded a much more aggressive version of "Disease." The show had a small turnout and she was discouraged. That moment of disappointment, however, turned into a more apt rendition of her deeply personal song.

Getting her name out there has not been an easy task, but it's been an "exciting" experience, Crowe explained. Whether its networking with artists from around the world on websites such as MySpace or putting all her music on the Internet for free, she has become fluent in modern
Internet marketing.

Crowe added the Paris to her latest tour after connecting online with friend Emily Green, who performs under the name Sugar Plum Visions.

"You meet these people online and then you start making plans for shows," Crowe said. "It takes a lot of planning, but it's so worth it."

Offering music for free online also gives her an edge.

"For me, as an independent, getting the music out there is the most important thing," she said. "People feel its stealing from the artists, but for those who have listened to the music and like it, they usually buy the album. If they don't, they come to the shows. It's all about

Crow plays three mini-concert sets this Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Her latest CD is available at Fascinating Rhythm in Nanaimo and Lyle's Place in Victoria. Sample it online at


The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2008



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