Nanaimo singer has built success on her terms, even though it has taken time
By Mike Devlin, Canwest News Service December 10, 2009
The music industry would likely describe Allison Crowe's career as a slow
build. Crowe's evaluation is considerably more plain-spoken. 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 Nanaimoborn performer, who
turned 28 in mid-November, 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 4.4 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."
Nanaimo singer Allison Crowe began
staging her annual Tidings concerts 10
years ago and most of the concerts are
fundraisers for social causes that she
feels passionately about. The
tradition means touring Canada in
December, but she still considers it
She moved to Corner Brook, NL, in early 2006 with her then-boyfriend, now
her ex-fiance. 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
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
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 Noel
from it around Christmas time, a tradition that continued once she began
staging her annual Tidings concerts 10 years ago.
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.
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 emotional 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, Nfld., 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.
AT A GLANCE
Where: St. James Hall, 3214 W. 10th Ave.
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $22 or $17 for students and seniors on the door. $20/$15 in
advance, from High life Records, Zulu Records, or from
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