Sensible songbird

Basia Bulat sings her experience and reflects on inspiration

Bulat cites her goal of self-growth as fuel for her vision of musical creation.
Bulat cites her goal of self-growth as fuel for her vision of musical creation.
Credit: 
Supplied

The name Basia Bulat evokes thoughts of adventurous arrangements, snapping rhythm and a warm and rich vocal accompaniment that wraps and weaves through each song complementing every melody.

Don’t feel sheepish if you haven’t heard of Bulat. Take this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the gifted Canadian artist who seems to get so much out of making music, she might make you consider quitting your day job.

Hailing from London, Ontario, Bulat began making music at a very young age.

“I played music since I was about three or four,” she said. “My mother was a music teacher so I was constantly surrounded by it.” Bulat’s musicality seems innate and effortless. After speaking with her for only a few minutes, I immediately got the impression she makes music because of the gifts it brings her, the fun she has doing it and because of her passion for it. Her sunny disposition makes her a breath of fresh air in an occasionally pretentious and intimidating industry.

Becoming a professional musician wasn’t a conscious decision for Bulat.

“Music was always something I wanted to do, though it’s hard to make a living of it,” she said. “Whether or not I meant to go in this direction I don’t know, I just assumed I would always be playing music. I don’t know if I anticipated it or if it just happened.”

After releasing a self-titled EP in 2005, she began to make her mark on listeners.

Her 2007 debut album Oh My Darling floated Bulat into the indie scene, illuminating her as a strong artist whose music can be likened to other female singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan and Nina Nastasia.

Bulat has spread her unique and inventive take on music by touring. Performing has yielded countless fans and admirers of her work.

“It’s been really beautiful to have it reach so many people. It’s something that I spent a lot of time on and without any expectations for people to hear it,” she said. “Suddenly people did hear it and wanted to hear it and that’s so special to me.”

Despite the years gone by since the release of Oh My Darling, the excitement and interest surrounding the record hasn’t dwindled.

“It’s amazing to go to a place that’s quite far away and have people react to the music,” she said. “It’s hard to convey how special it is and how grateful I am when people I’ve never even met have their own connection to a song. It’s a really overwhelming thing, going on the road and playing songs a few years on and finding that people are responding.”

Bulat’s latest release Touch the Hem of His Garment is a modified throwback to times gone by. With countless influences and sources of inspiration, Bulat with the suggestion of producer Howard Bilerman decided to cover soul music pioneer Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” Released in seven-inch vinyl format, the record features a sublime reading of Cooke’s classic. The other side of the record offers up a totally new and extended version of Bulat’s “Before I Knew.” Playing with a band comprised of friends and family, it’s easy to see how pleasurable Bulat’s touring experience is. The group supports with a plethora of instruments ranging from ukulele, varying percussion, piano and strings.

“I love playing with my brother because he’s an awesome drummer, and I love playing with my great friend Allison because she’s an awesome violist, every show is different, sometimes it’s the more the merrier and sometimes it’s a more solitary experience.” Bulat has the ability to play several instruments and uses them in differing ways according to her hopes or expectations for a song.

“It’s like asking if you have a favourite pen to write with, you might have a favourite pen but that might change because when it really comes down to it it’s not about the pen it’s about you the person writing with it.”

A constant supporter to up-and-coming acts in Canada, Bulat is quick to point out that places are packed with talent across the country and beyond.

“There are so many great musicians out there it’s fantastic,” she said.

Citing names such as Ohbijou, the Diamond Rings, Katie Stelmanis, Laura Barrett and The D’Urbervilles, having fun and experiencing as much that music offers as possible is clearly on Bulat’s to-do list.

Bulat has remained an original and constant force in the independent scene.

“I’m just really being myself and I’m so happy that people are responding to that and appreciative of it.  All you can really do is be yourself.”

Basia Bulat plays The Grad Club Saturday, Sept. 19th at 9:30 pm.
Tickets are available at ticketscene.ca, The Grad Club and Destinations. 

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