The Vancouver Sun had a chat with Elizabeth Shepherd about her latest tour. In this piece, Shepherd revealed some unexpected challenges during her path towards motherhood and provides some insight into her song choices for her first standards album. Here is the piece below:
JAZZ SINGER BRINGS NEW ALBUM, BABY INTO THE WORLD
Elizabeth Shepherd strips standards down and adds her unique spin on Rewind
This spring, Elizabeth Shepherd is celebrating the birth of her new record, which also happens to record the birth of her daughter. The singer/pianist created her new album, Rewind, while pregnant with her first child. The timing was perfect for the jazz musician’s first record of cover songs.
“I wouldn’t label preparing for motherhood as exactly fun. It’s a big deal so it was nice to have something light and enjoyable to work on,” she said.
The impetus for Rewind began in Japan, where the Toronto-based musician has a strong following. In fact, that’s where she started her last tour.
While there she was approached by Japanese label JVC about doing an album of standards. A cover album wasn’t in Shepherd’s immediate plans but when the tour for her previous record, Heavy Falls the Night, ended she was four months pregnant. The immediacy of becoming a mom lit a fire under Shepherd, but she knew she wouldn’t have enough time to complete an album of originals.
“I realized I had five months to get something done. Pregnancy’s a weird time where you feel a certain amount of pressure because you don’t know what’s coming,” she said. “I felt this certain pres-sure to create something, both to deal with the weirdness that is pregnancy and also to feel like I had something after pregnancy to look forward to in addition to the baby.”
Rewind is her first album of “standards” but don’t expect Shepherd to have chosen anything as predictable as My Funny Valentine or Summertime. (She does include a very unique, uptempo version of Feelin’ Good though.)
The singer chose tunes that meant something to her, from a pair of French songs that pay homage to her upbringing in France and Montreal to songs that got her into jazz music.
Shepherd said she loved the experience of choosing the music, but recording while pregnant, from months four to eight, came with a unique set of challenges. While recording the dark and moody Kurt Weill song Lonely House, her unborn daughter got a case of the hiccups.
“My body was just bouncing, and there’s this constant awareness of someone else being in there,” she said.
Shepherd performed her last gig in her eighth month of pregnancy. By then, she felt like she couldn’t fully catch her breath and she had to sit at the very edge of the piano to play comfortably.
Sanna, a little girl, was born shortly after and will be accompanying Shepherd on the road.
“I have no idea what to expect,” she said with a laugh.
Shepherd worked hard to put her own stamp on each of Rewind’s songs. To do that, the singer stripped each piece down to its most basic form.
“The key for me is to get into the essence of the song. It’s really about the core structure of it. I like to sit down and plunk out chords and sing the melody and treat the song as if I’ve never heard it before. I don’t give it any flair or embellishment, no bossa nova treatment or swing or anything, just absolute minimal structure. Then I can see where I feel it going from there,” she said.