Singer-songwriter Jonathan Davies performed on Sept. 11 at the Centre culturel Frontenac as part of its “Soirée Création” concert. He spoke with The Journal about his first in-person show since the pandemic began and his experiences as a Francophone musician.
After growing up in Alberta, Davies has spent the last ten years in Ontario. He currently lives in Toronto but spent many years in Kingston. He remains a frequent visitor.
“I still feel quite connected to the community,” he said. “I was quite involved with the Centre culturel [during my time living in Kingston], and that’s where I did the gig last weekend.”
The pandemic limited Davies’ opportunities the same as most musicians. Saturday’s soirée marked his first live performance since COVID-19 overtook the world. He performed his set alongside several friends and shared the stage with another singer-songwriter, Sarah Howard.
Davies raved about the experience, praising the venue and the Kingston crowd following some rather underwhelming virtual shows.
“The show was great. It was a lot of fun,” Davies said.
“The Centre culturel is a real gem for Kingston. It’s one of those places that’s a best-kept secret. Some of the best shows I’ve seen have been there. It was refreshing to be on a proper stage with nice lighting, nice sound.”
Davies isn’t the first musician to speak highly about the scene in Kingston. He recounted meeting his good friend and Saturday night co-performer Alex Terry at the Elm Café located on Montreal St– a fortunate occurrence brought about by the city’s vibrant arts community.
Kingston’s many micro-communities provide artists with opportunities to play their music for eager and engaged audiences across several unique venues. Davies doesn’t believe that musicians need to seek out the big city to find meaningful experiences.
“I think people often think of cities as places to go where you’ll find more opportunity in music, but for whatever reason, Kingston gave me a lot of that,” he said. “I’ve always been impressed by the array of talent and the number of interesting things that are happening.”
Be it in Kingston or elsewhere–Davies has carved out a lane for himself in Ontario’s broader music scene as an artist who releases music in both French and English.
“English is my first language,” he said. “There’s no question that lyrics come easier to me in English, but I’ve always really enjoyed the process of writing in French. There’s a bit of idiosyncrasy to my expression in French. It’s often a little bit quirky.”
Davies has also stuck with French because of the doors it opens.
“If you’re a French speaker in much of Canada, there are some interesting opportunities and venues, especially in the cultural centres. [Writing in French] gives me such interesting opportunities that you don’t get writing in English.”
Davies combines folk and jazz influences with his background in classical piano to accomplish his main musical goal of telling stories through song.
He feels he’s just now hitting his stride as a bilingual musician. He released a collection of French songs back in the spring of 2020 and intends to release an English EP this fall.
“I’d like to get a few live shows together for Toronto and Kingston, and maybe a few stops in between,” Davies said on his plans for the future. “I’ll keep on writing, recording, and performing and see where that takes me.”
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