Unabashedly carving out her own unique musical niche, singer Elizabeth Shepherd continues to mow down ‘the rules’ with her latest project Heavy Falls the Night.
Local fans can revel in the magic when she performs at The Matchbox on March 23. Doors open at 7 p.m. with showtime at 7:30 p.m.
Packed with gems, the CD is a delight from the opening strains of What Else to the playful syncopation of Seven Bucks and the dreamy, hypnotic sensibilities of A Song for Dinah Washington.
Critics may squabble over whether she falls into pop or jazz categories, but the joy of Shepherd’s music is that it evades strict categorization.
“These are songs that are dear to me, about the people who matter the most to me, about their suffering, their stories, the threads that link us for better of worse,” she explains. “I’m proud of this record because it’s honest and the one that comes closes to my voice, my heart.”
From London to Tokyo, Shepherd has captivated audiences and critics on both sides of the pond.
Raised by ministers of the Salvation Army, an early exposure to the brass band sounds mixed with her love for classical and house music, disco and hip hop.
“Definitely, most people in the Salvation Army are quite musical. There’s a lot of playing in bands and singing in choirs,” she explains of her musical heritage. She describes her father as a strong musician in particular.
“Dad would play the piano and mom would sing. I would often fall asleep to that, so it’s a beautiful childhood memory.”
As the years passed, Shepherd began to have a desire to explore music outside of the church as well. She started listening to folks like Bob Marley, the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. “It was really exciting,” she says of those days when her own tastes were crystallizing.
A career in music wasn’t immediately obvious, and Shepherd mulled over a number of directions. She studied French poetry for a time. Then she considered musical therapy. She finally opted to study jazz at McGill University in Montreal.
She returned to Toronto in 2004 and worked as a server at a piano bar. Eventually, the Elizabeth Shepherd Trio became a staple group in Toronto’s soul jazz scene, performing all over town in jazz and other concert venues alike. But what was supposed to be a demo turned into a jam session resulting in the CD Start To Move.
Her follow-up full-length project Parkdale features an older, wiser Shepherd that continued to capture a youthful sparkle. Not surprisingly, both projects landed Juno nominations.
With Heavy Falls the Night, the originality shot to new heights as Shepherd opted to produce the disc herself. “I new I had a specific idea of how I wanted each song to sound,” she says of the project, which was recorded over the span of about 14 months. Thankfully, she was thrilled with the results.
Looking ahead, Shepherd feels comfortably settled in the routines of creating and performing music. It may not all be glamorous, but it’s the most fulfilling life she could imagine.
“I feel like I have all these ideas, and no matter what, I would never stop writing music. It’s really about the sheer joy of coming up with stuff.”
For ticket information, call The Matchbox at 403-341-6500 or visit www.thematchbox.ca.