Juno Award winning musician Laila Biali will be sharing new songs from her soon to be released album during a special Blenders concert at the Art Gallery of Swift Current on February 15.
Biali, who was previously in Swift Current back in October 2017, is currently touring in support of the album Out of Dust which will be released on March 27. Her Swift Current concert is one of just three Saskatchewan stops on her 13 show Winter Tour 2020. After her album is released she has concerts scheduled in the United States, France and Germany.
Biali’s fifth album, her self titled 2018 release, won the Juno Award in the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year category. She says this new material is a fitting follow-up to that award winning body of work.
“It’s similar. I would say it’s a continuation of the last release for sure. It’s an appropriate follow-up stylistically,” Biali admitted during a recent phone interview.
“Some who’ve heard it who are familiar with my work have said ‘oh, this is more mainstream’ and others have said ‘oh, this is more jazz’. And so it kind of just depends, it is kind of in the ear of the listener as it were.”
“The subject material is really very, very personal on this one. And I do think there are elements of it that are fresh and new and different. But I think that it continues to represent an artist who is exploring the nexus of jazz and other perhaps more mainstream styles of music.”
Music on her new release delves into emotional topics of optimistically overcoming ongoing political upheaval around the world, climate change, women’s rights, addiction, illness, and loneliness.
She shares that her dear friend Wendy Nelles succumbed to cancer in 2018. Nelles had been a big champion of hers for over a decade and supported her in many ways, and was hugely excited when Biali was nominated for a Juno Award in the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year category.
“She was so excited about it. But unfortunately she passed away before I won the Juno. She didn’t get to see that happen. But when I was at her bedside when she was in hospital, and I actually was with her when she passed away, I was holding her hand and told her that I would dedicate the new album to her.”
“It was a very profound moment,” Biali said. ”So she really is at the heart of this album.”
A few months after Nelles’ passing, Biali was at the Banff Centre working on her new album, and the first song that came to her was ‘Wendy’s Song’, a singer and songwriter tune in memory of her friend.
The recording of Out of Dust dealt Biali a life-changing health issue when a previously undiscovered mould issue caused her health to take a tumble.
“It kicked my butt,” she admits of the autoimmune diseases of severe asthma and alopecia she developed as a result of mould in the rental home she and her husband were exposed to while recording the album.
“It’s wild that in the midst of recording the new album, including the vocal tracks as we were recorded in our basement studio, we actually got displaced. And thank God upstairs was much better. But we ended up having to relocate to the living room and had a makeshift studio set up in our living room.”
While dealing with health issues her condition was also complicated by a tight deadline to complete the album.
“It was a scramble but in some ways it was the music that was driving us and helping me to stay focussed as I was kind of falling apart. So music has always been a place where I find purpose and healing, as cliche as that might sound.”
“And our home issues and health issues are still not resolved, but we are on our way towards moving into a better situation, and I do think my health will bounce back. But it has given me great empathy towards people who suffer and struggle, especially when it comes to autoimmune illness. It really effects a person’s daily life, and there are a lot of people out there who are dealing with some form of illness.”
Biali said her songs have also been inspired by material she hears while hosting the CBC Radio 2 show Saturday Night Jazz. She has hosted Saturday Night Jazz since September 2017, and the music chosen by her producer for the four hour show is often a surprise and a delight. The fourth hour is dedicated to jazz that crosses over into R&B, Hip Hop, and explores the more urban side of jazz.
“I would say that a lot of what I hear in that fourth hour does inspire me because its jazz musicians who are pushing the boundaries of the genre stylistically.”
During her February 15 concert in Swift Current, the audience will enjoy a special Valentine’s treat.
“We’ll of course be playing songs from the Great Canadian Songbook, songs that are familiar that people can sing along with and enjoy. And then we’ll have songs from the last record which won the Juno. And then of course we’ll premier a bunch of songs off the new album. And we’ll have pre-release copies to sell on site, so people will be getting those before the album is even out.”
“And some Valentine’s songs of course because it’s Valentine’s weekend. There will definitely be songs for lovers as well as jilted lovers. You can’t just assume everyone there is in a lovey dovey zone so there will be songs for everybody’s mood,” she said.
Advance tickets for the concert are available at Pharmasave in Swift Current or at eventbrite.com. More concert details are available at blendersmusic.ca.