Blessed with an absolutely unique vocal quality, Megan Bonnell is on tour with the Great Lake Swimmers during a run of Canadian dates in support of her stunning new CD Magnolia.
She performs at Bo’s on Oct. 30th.
The extraordinary project was released last spring.
For Magnolia, Bonnell teamed up once again with producers extraordinaire Chris Stringer (The Wooden Sky, Timber Timbre) and Joshua Van Tassel (David Myles, Gypsophilia), to create an engaging collection of 11 new songs, showcasing a very specific time in her life.
The vision going into Magnolia was essentially to create a bigger, more lush sound than what was featured on her first sonic outing, Hunt and Chase. “Often it kind of makes it clear what it needs to become, and the direction that you need to go with it,” she said of the process of building a particular tune in the studio. “These are such personal songs, and I think what myself and the producers did was just listened to them a lot and we came to the same place where it was like – we wanted it to be bigger and classier – sort of a fuller sound with a lushness. I just wanted it beautifully done. We also wanted it to be polished but still bold and adventurous. To me, I think that’s what these songs are.
“I find I’m wearing everything on my sleeve with these tunes,” she said. “They’re pretty heartfelt, so we didn’t want to hold back in the production.”
There are indeed highlights galore, from the rhythmic delights of Golden Boy and the dream-like, transporting feel of the opening cut Can’t Have You. There’s an ethereal quality to Bonnell’s music, but at the same time it’s always accessible and nicely grounded, too (check out the gently reflective tones of Family and the poignancy of Lucky Man).
Magnolia has been described as a dynamic and emotionally endowed album that bares honest, raw and vulnerable songs.
“Magnolia started to take shape back in 2013,” explains Bonnell. “I was touring my first album Hunt and Chase and as I did, new songs started to arrive, and thank goodness for that. It was in the making of this record that I was able to make a certain kind of sense of the world around me.
“Love came and went, and then came again, and my family found itself blessed by the birth of my beautiful sister’s first little girl. Things were changing. I wanted to move forward, but I didn’t want time to diminish history’s meaning.”
Bonnell released her debut disc Hunt And Chase in 2013 on Nevado Records.
But a love for music was just a part of life from her early days. She grew up about an hour north of Toronto.
“I had an older sister, and we had a big old piano,” she recalls. “I think I was about three or four years old when I started clomping around on it,” she added with a laugh. Her sibling approached it with a more poised manner, “She’d be playing Fur Elise, and I’d be playing Chopsticks louder and faster,” she said.
As she got older, Bonnell started to play more by ear – which in turn has also shaped how she approaches songwriting to a degree.
“It can feel limiting when you don’t know the more technical side of things, but on the other hand, it’s really nice because all of the songs really do come from the heart and you are emotionally thinking what you want to hear next as opposed to theoretically what would make sense – that kind of thing,” she explains.
Bonnell also went to an arts high school where she studied classical voice – which provided a wonderful foundation for building a rare and mesmerizing vocal talent. “I started to learn the more technical side of things and I think that was a great foundation,” she said. “Even though that was never really my style of singing, in the end it was such a great sort of groundwork – it was really strengthening.”
She eventually produced an EP with a friend. “That was honestly the first time that I seriously started exploring songwriting, and I just fell in love with it right away,” she said, adding that it did take some time to find her own voice.
“From there, there was no turning back.”
Meanwhile, she has toured Spain with John Grant, opened for Passenger at BIME Live festival (Bilbao, Spain) and performed at Barcelona Jazz Festival and The End festival (London).
She also did a full North American tour supporting Justin Nozuka, and has played at noteworthy summer festivals across North America such as Taste of Toronto, Field Trip Music Festival and Gateway Festival. She recently shared the stage with Matt Corby in Toronto.
“To this day, I still feel like I’m changing and evolving. With the past two albums, I’ve really felt like I’ve hit my stride, and know what it is that I want to be doing.”