Allison CroweSinger/songwriter Allison Crowe has this advice for aspiring musicians:
“Never give up. Just keep doing it and eventually it will all make sense.”
Credit: Billie Woods
Long before Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was the ubiquitous cover of choice for musicians to abuse and misuse, there was singer/songwriter Allison Crowe’s version in 2004. Her soulful, tortured take on this Canadian classic made media around the world take notice. Never heard of her? You’re not alone, and it’s time to change that.
For 15 years, the Nanaimo native — who now divides her year between B.C. and Newfoundland — has been defiantly DIY, making a career for herself through non-stop writing, recording and touring. She started her own label, Rubenesque Records, in 2003, and has since self-released eight EPs and albums, including Tidings, the basis for her eighth annual seasonal concert at the St. James Hall, Dec. 11. For the 30-year-old Crowe the reward is modest but satisfying: a fiercely loyal, international fan base, and all on her own terms.
“There was an opportunity in 2003 to sign to a label, and when I got into the thick of it, I realized that’s not what I wanted at all,” Crowe says, over the phone in St. John’s. “I prefer to be able to do, write and play what I want. That just means too much to me.”
Crowe acknowledges that while a label might be the dream for a lot of musicians, the reality is drastically different.
“Whether it has to do with wanting to change your image — which kind of freaked me out — or change how you wrote or play or who you work with, I’m not into that,” Crowe laughs. “I’m pretty headstrong and stubborn, so I would be hard-pressed to have someone tell me what to write!”
It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to rein Crowe in. A classically trained pianist and guitarist, her influences run the gamut: there are echoes of folk, jazz, pop, soul, rock and blues throughout her records, and her breadth of covers rivals that of any cabaret artist.
Crowe says this diversity will be reflected in her Tidings concert, which will feature Christmas standards and a few of her personal favourites, including songs by Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, the Beatles and, likely, that Cohen cover. Crowe anticipates seeing familiar faces in the audience,
citing fans who come out every year to celebrate the holidays with her. That closeness with her fans only validates her choice to stay independent all these years. She admits it hasn’t always been easy, but she has some advice for fellow artists still struggling with the uphill climb.
“Never give up — because sometimes you really want to,” she laughs. “Just keep doing it and eventually it will all make sense.”
Allison Crowe performs Dec. 11 at St. James Hall (3214 W. 10th), 7pm. Tickets $15-$20.