The music industry would likely describe Allison Crowe's career as a slow build. Crowe's evaluation is considerably more plainspoken. She calls it success on her own terms.
"If something doesn't look good to me, I'm not going to do it just for the sake of it," Crowe said. "So far I've found it's the sanest route for me."
The music business is about the only thing that rankles the otherwise easygoing Crowe. Can't blame her for that. The Nanaimo-born performer, who turned 28 last week, had an unpleasant brush with the industry back in 2003, an experience she describes as "nine months of insanity."
Crowe was signed to a deal that was to result in a recording with major-label distribution through Sony Music. The deal fizzled. She headed back home to Nanaimo with her dreams sidetracked and faith in the industry all but lost. "I learned a lot about the music industry in about three weeks," she said.
Not that she necessarily needed anyone's help. Crowe -- whose YouTube cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah has notched more than 4.3 million views -- is an independent success story with her own record label (Rubenesque), six self-financed releases and numerous world tours under her belt.
Crowe has been a fixture in the B.C. media since 2000, when, as a plucky 19-year-old, she first started gaining momentum as an artist. Her slow ascent to the top hasn't been without its pitfalls, but Crowe is where she wants to be as an artist.
"It's slow going," Crowe said from her family's home in Nanaimo. "It's a grassroots thing that I do, more than anything. But you can really see where things are growing. Sometimes it feels really slow but when I look at it I think, 'Oh my gosh.' A lot has happened in 10 years."
She moved to Corner Brook, N.L., in early 2006 with her then-boyfriend, now her ex-fiancé. Following the split, she toyed with the idea of moving back to Vancouver Island but something about Newfoundland spoke directly to her, so she stayed.
"Both places are home now," she said. "I'm attached to both coasts."
Not surprisingly, the fondest memories of her Nanaimo upbringing involve music. First, there were classical piano lessons, which began at age five, followed by classical vocal lessons at 13. While a student at Woodlands Secondary School, she took band, choir and musical theatre. Crowe also took summer music classes at Malaspina College, even though she was still in high school.
Interruptions? There were a few. "As I broke different limbs I had to take breaks," Crowe said laughing. "I was clumsy."
Those were minor in the grand scheme of things. Music has been her primary, unrelenting focus for as long as she can remember.
"I'm not any less stubborn than I was 10 years ago. If anything, I'm more."
When she was younger, Crowe remembers having a book of Christmas carols with the piano and vocal transcriptions included. She used to play First Nöel around Christmastime, a tradition that continued once she began staging her annual Tidings concerts 10 years ago.
The seasonal affairs continue this week with concerts Friday at Pender Island's Community Hall and Saturday at Victoria's Alix Goolden Performance Hall. The Tidings Tour, which includes further stops in Ladysmith (Dec. 4), Campbell River (Dec. 5), Vancouver (Dec. 11) and Nanaimo (Dec. 12), will wrap Dec. 18 in Crowe's adopted hometown of Corner Brook.
Allison Crowe, burned once by the music industry, is happy to hurry slowly to success doing some good for others along the way Photograph by: Billie Woods, Courtesy
Touring Canada in December can be gruelling, but in this case it's worthwhile, Crowe said. Most of her Tidings concerts are fundraisers, which give back to social causes Crowe feels passionately about.
"I've been given a platform in which to help people, so why not? It's amazing to be able to help. I enjoy that."
One of Crowe's favourite songs to perform at Tidings events is Cohen's Hallelujah, her signature song. The tune was in the running for use during a key scene in this year's blockbuster hit, The Watchmen, but was eventually deemed too beautiful by the film's director, Zack Snyder.
Crowe can live with that assessment. "[Leonard Cohen]'s people granted me the rights to use it, so I like to think he heard it and liked it," Crowe said of the song, which required approval to be included on her hour-long national TV special from 2003.
With time off over the summer, Crowe turned to painting. Her boyfriend, an actor, was part of a Newfoundland theatre festival that ran from May until September, so Crowe often joined him on the road. Inspired by the sunset in Cow Head, N.L., where the festival was based, Crowe painted an acrylic landscape on canvas that wound up being auctioned off on eBay for $262 US.
In typical Crowe fashion, the proceeds went to a charity.
Victoria Times Colonist