Back in the year 2007 when music journalism was mainly printed on paper and sold as monthly magazines, the author of this lines was one of those guys who really enjoyed to buy exactly that kind of media. Actually he still do so. The most exciting feature these days, were those magazines who brought free CD Sampler with every issue. While it has become harder these days to get publishing rights for that more or less non-commercial way of releasing music, that bigger difficulty is to choose music that wasn’t already released by the artist itself in various ways, and of course to find music that wasn’t hyped to death already.
So why to take this very personal and seemingly irrelevant look back?
Well, without these kind of cd samplers, the author hadn’t find the the famous Canadian artist BASIA BULAT and her beautiful song Little Waltz. He had never bought her debut album Oh, My Darling, which contains much more beautiful songs. And finally he probably wouldn’t be interested in writing these lines about her and her new album.
Fortunately destiny brought us together back then, and gave me six years later the opportunity to do an interview with this lovely lady.
I call Basia on a quiet cold and cloudy day. Usually that’s nothing spectacular in Berlin in Autumn, where she spends the day for some promotion stuff. And even if I once decided to never start an interview with a typical smalltalk question about the weather, I ask her how she feels on such a day. Of course that’s just the pretense for a more specific question. What I asked myself, and what i asked her in the following is why most of her shy, minimalistic and cosy songs are often described as a kind of winter music, as a sound for the darker days. After a short moment of quietness she starts laughing and tell me “Propably because I’m from Canada.” and so our little chat starts.
Raised up in Ontario as part of the polish community BASIA BULAT released her first EP independently in 2005, followed by her first longplayer Oh, my Darling. That first album also contained one of her most beautiful songs called “Little Waltz” which later become more and more famous through an Australian advertisement for a car.
After my little story of finding, and soon afterwards, loving her music by accident on that CD sampler, she’s incredibly interested in the whole tracklist. So we start talking about compiling such samplers or let’s call it such mixtapes. On the question which song she would choose as an opener, she tells me about the new single of the band U.S. GIRLS. At the end she says “That has to be a longer one. Like some BOB DYLAN maybe. Oh yes that’s it, Sad-Eyed Lady From The Lowlands”.
From BOB DYLAN who inspired her, it isn’t as far away to talk a bit about her musical influences. “There are so many great country and folk singers. Those who are really influenced me are NEIL YOUNG, DOLLY PARTON and JONI MITCHELL”. Especially the last one, the Canadian Singer Joni Mitchell seems to be one of her role models. Basia pay’s tribute to her when she sings her own songs with that kind of clear and sometimes really powerful voice, which we can mainly hear on the more rarely instrumented songs of Tall Tall Shadow. Five, Four is one of them that starts softly on a handpicked guitar until it raises bigger and bigger, but always without becoming pathetic. It can’t be you again put her unique voice in the main focus. These are the moments when she definitely stands in one row with Mitchell or other famous strong woman in folk music like JOAN BAEZ.
On the other hand of that ‘a woman and her guitar’ concept she’s easily able to bridge into a more band fitting sound. In this case her highly emotional songs suddenly swing between pop melodies, sweet as sugar and some kind of powerful ballads, which show her as a band leader. Therefore songs like Promise To Not Think About Love as well as Wires are surprising when bringing freshness into that bunch of usually quiet and simple folk songs. On Someone she even combines some more electronic drum sounds and strings, which lends to something really new and unexpected.
This band behind her is mainly, so told me Basia, that circle of friends and family who already appeared on her other albums as well. Even if she still writes her songs alone.
“It just comes out of me, like an itching or twitching” she says when I ask her how she writes her songs.
Finally that’s what describes her music very well. Her songs are mostly soft and gentle, sometimes they are simple little pieces of chamber music, sometimes they are catchy shaking pop songs, played by a band. Inside the gaps, there are tickling and twitching moments of beauty and emotion, of clapping and stomping. At the end everything comes down and it’s just her. Her voice, her guitar and her stories.