“Do you know if there are any gluten-free places in Nelson?” asks a curious voice through a crackly telephone.
The voice belongs to Jenn Grant, the Halifax-based folk pop songstress who has been steadily wowing listeners and peers since her debut album, Orchestra for the Moon, first came out six years ago. Now, four studio LPs, a number of EPs, countless collaborations, and a side project or two later, Grant is finally coming through Nelson. And if a friendlier town for gluten-intolerance exists in Canada, then modern day cartographers haven’t mapped it yet.
In fact, a good case could be made for Grant being awarded honourary Nelsonite status, even though she hasn’t been here yet. There’s her fierce and fearless sense of communal music making — even while straying from the folk-pop sound that she’s made her signature — from her scene-stealing guest spots on a number of hip-hop artist’s Buck 65’s tracks, to her genre-bending electro-leaning collaborative project AquaAlta with producers Charles Austin and Graeme Campbell.
There’s also her aptitude for the visual arts: Grant is a holder of a BFA in painting. “It’s a luxury to be able to paint,” she says. “Painting is an exercise that strengthens you and makes your mind more open to creating music. It’s using a muscle that then triggers something, and you become more open to art.”
She also used the previous leg of her tour to showcase works by artist and printmaker Charley Young, who specializes in architectural monoprints of condemned urban facades. Though Young’s work is no longer touring with Grant, that doesn’t negate her artsy bonafides.
But Grant isn’t coming to Nelson alone. She has recently joined forces with Canadiana pop titan Ron Sexsmith to tour the country both promoting her latest record (last year’s sublime The Beautiful Wild) and trying out some new material. “To be honest, I kind of felt like the album cycle was short-lived for this record,” says Grant. “I feel it deserves a bit more time to get around the block.”
If her restless touring and creative schedule were interrupted, there’s good reason. “My mom passed away while were making it [The Beautiful Wild], as we were finishing recording. She loved the record and it’s really a tribute to her in some ways so I wanted to honour that.”
When asked if it was difficult to return to these songs, just over a year later, at the risk of bringing up heavy feelings, she doesn’t balk: “Oh yeah, definitely… but it’s been therapeutic. I didn’t know if I’d be able to, but it’s actually been a really beautiful thing. I’ve felt a deeper connection to the feelings that I had before. It’s been special.”
Jenn Grant and Ron Sexsmith will bring their distinct brands of thoughtful folk pop to Spiritbar this Tuesday, October 8.
And when informed that she wouldn’t be able to walk through downtown Nelson without bumping into something that was gluten free, Grant laughed: “I’m so happy. I want to go there now!”