By Jen Pearson
Incest is at the forefront of Sarah Slean’s thoughts when she contemplates the Canadian music scene. Tired musical ideas are constantly over-exploited and redundancy within genres is a constant disappointment here, she says.
"Music coming out of Canada stinks," Slean emphasizes. "No one is doing anything different."
She believes most of Canada’s talent has yet to be discovered and because they are not signed to a major label, they are not getting the exposure they deserve.
"There are small pockets of a scene," Slean describes. "But it is so spread out. The cities are so far apart."
Slean acknowledges smaller cities may be one of our national strengths, but she finds it undeniably less advantageous here for performing artists than in the United States. There, people are everywhere, she says, and the cities are much closer together.
Part of the Canadian scene since she was 17, Slean began piano lessons at the age of five. Although she has no formal vocal training, her clear, strong voice is impressive.
"I was a Cheshire cat in grade four," Slean laughs, when asked about her first performance.
At 21, Slean is attempting to keep her career dynamic, still touring to support her second release, Blue Parade. Her unique meld of harmony using piano and voice have earned her a strong fan base. While reminiscent of Emm Gryner or Mae Moore, her casual grace and vocal range sets her in a unique class.
Though signed to Warner Music, she was granted permission to release the record on her own label. The follow-up album was recently recorded in New York, with its release scheduled tentatively for spring 2001.
Her touring habits are erratic but she often has the luxury of choosing her openers.
"I usually like to tour on double or triple bills because you can share expenses," explains Slean. "You can tour with people that you like, that you have mutual respect for."
Slean’s respect is hard to come by as she finds the scene nebulous. Her audiences often get a taste of the music Slean deems progressive. Radiohead’s "Climbing Up the Walls" is a welcome surprise in her set.
"I’m completely obsessed with Radiohead. I’m a little off-balance when it comes to my obsession," Slean jokes. "They are brilliant. They write a fine lyric, like no one else, and Jonny Greenwood’s melodies are incomparable."
Slean has collaborated with many artists, including Sarah Harmer, Hawksley Workman and Noah Mintze. She has gained recognition for her talents; her song "My Invitation" played on Dawson’s Creek, and she was included on the Women in Song compilation CD.
Slean will bring her own particular brand of incest to the Engineered Air Theatre Sat., Nov. 18.