It’s always fun to check in with former Edmontonian musicians to see how well they’ve done since leaving Edmonton. Usually it’s pretty good.
For Daisy Blue – the former Daisy of the early-2000s local folk group Painting Daisies – it took a move on her own to Vancouver in 2008 to find both her musical and lifestyle direction.
“I owe Vancouver so much for this,” she says, talking about how being on the road with a rock band can be bad for you. “I have such a healthy lifestyle now. I swing kettle bells, I’m taking martial arts and I’ve turned myself into this incredibly health-conscious person. It’s taken just as much time to do that as it did to find my sound. It’s like they’re parallel.”
Daisy Blue is back for a free afternoon show at the Black Dog on Saturday – sounding and looking a little different than local fans may remember her.
Finding the right producer was crucial to hitting the next level, the singer says. Not only can a good producer lay down the best sounds, but will work with the arrangement to bring out the best in a song, and bring out the artist’s true character and unique sound. That becomes the artist’s trademark.
Blue met up with the Grammy-and-Juno-nominated Victoria producer Joby Baker shortly after she ensconced herself in the Vancouver scene. It happened that Painting Daisies had hired Randy Bachman to produce their last album, and he lives on Salt Spring Island. Joby Baker is another one of these Island guys who’s been instrumental in the Canadian West Coast music scene. Often literally. He’s worked with acts like Cowboy Junkies and Tal Bachman, Son of Randy, so there’s a connection. Baker can be heard all over Blue’s solo recordings, including the latest, Buried in the Sky. It’s an indefinable sort of bohemian sound, a gritty slice of lo-fi garage groove rock with hints of high tech and a sheen of New York avant-pop. It’s a little hip, a little rock, a little folk, a little bluesy, a little electro, a cross between Suzanne Vega and Bonnie Raitt. Industry people call this sort of thing “adult album alternative,” or AAA, which is what they call something when they don’t know what to call it.
People who have been following the Painting Daisies should be able hear hints of the new in the old. What had been attempted with the Painting Daisies is starting to come full flower in the new Daisy Blue – who gives credit where it’s due.
Painting Daisies 2005
“I think it has everything to do with the producer who hears the essence of the song,” Blue says. “Joby is a genius, a great producer, amazing player, too. I think what you’re hearing is his grasp on the songs and his playing.”
Using unconventional sounds in recordings is a challenge to bring to the live stage. Blue, who recently moved to Toronto, has a strict “no tracking” policy. Her ban extends to loopers, on which you’re still tracking even if you just recorded the tracks yourself three seconds before you use them.
“I’m about conveying something different with music,” Blue says. “When you’re playing very honestly and very raw and there’s no fronting – that’s what I’m trying to do. That’s always interesting for an audience to watch, and you can never go wrong with that.”
It’s been 10 years since Painting Daisies disbanded. Blue’s former songwriting partner Rachelle Van Zanten went in a more activist folk direction. In 2011, she filmed a music video for her pro-environment song My Country at the site of a protest in Northern B.C. between the Tahltan First Nations and the Shell corporation.
They keep in touch, says Blue, and even if Van Zanten is voted the musician “most likely to chain herself to a tree,” Blue would be right there to back her up. “I would be the PR agent,” she says. “Rachelle would chain herself to a tree and I would make sure everybody knows about it.”