Elizabeth Shepherd – Five Questions With

Elizabeth Shepherd

“THREE THINGS” Remain on Jazz Virtuoso Elizabeth Shepherd’s New Album

A classical pianist who came to jazz through her love of old-school hip-hop, velvety-voiced Elizabeth Shepherd is among the new wave of jazz-influenced musicians bringing the art form to a younger generation of music fans. The six-time JUNO nominee and two-time Polaris Prize nominee has released seven widely acclaimed records featuring collaborations with such musicians as Lionel Loueke and UK producer Nostalgia 77

Elizabeth is an improviser at heart, playing off of whatever is around her. During the pandemic, she suddenly found herself stuck at home with nobody to create with. Having to find another way to ride her creative wave, she improvised. Elizabeth took inspiration from sounds around her – typewriters, garbage cans, records skipping, birds, people talking – you name it. She then wove them into snippets from old recordings of jams with friends, turned stuff upside down, added layers and synth parts, and came up with the new full-length album, THREE THINGS.

THREE THINGS remain faith, hope, and love. But of the three, the greatest is love. Nothing else matters.

Frenetic focus track “TIME” uses a skip from Elizabeth’s copy of a Rickie Lee Jones record to backdrop a song about the controlling construct that runs our lives. “Time is the unit of our transformation, the end of presence where we stop and take stock…”

Watch the video for “Time” below and learn more about Elizabeth Shepherd via our Five Questions With segment.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m a soul-jazz keyboardist/singer-songwriter/producer out of Quebec. I live deep in the woods and am a bit of a lone wolf. I was one of those weird kids who would hear sounds around me and mimic them back (like the door squeaking) because, to me, it sounded like music. I’m still doing that, only now I make albums with those weird sounds. Music is everywhere if you can just hear it. I’ve been nominated for 6 JUNOS (aka 6-time JUNO loser, I joke, and people usually laugh at shows) and twice long-listed for the Polaris Prize. I have two kids who mean everything to me and keep me grounded.

Tell us a bit about your most recent release.

THREE THINGS was penned during lockdown – it was intense in Quebec; we had a 6-month curfew where we couldn’t leave home after dark, couldn’t travel outside our region, let alone get together with other musicians. So I started jamming with anything I could – bird songs, records skipping, my old typewriter – and used those sounds as the basis for songs. So it’s this quirky, playful, funky album that doesn’t really sound like anything else. It’s jazz, but for some reason, as soon as you say that in Canada, people get ideas. It’s way more like Kendrick Lamar than Diana Krall (critic’s words, not mine, but I agree). The pandemic highlighted so much inequality and division among us and also distilled what’s really important, so I wanted to sing about the things that surfaced as essentials for me – love, acceptance, making space for everyone, even if you don’t like them (especially if you don’t like them).

Where do you tend to pull inspiration from when writing?

From everything and everywhere, sonically. Lyrically? From silence, solitude, meditation, reflection, and spiritual disciplines that keep me sane.

Do you have any upcoming shows you’d like to tell us about?

Yes! The Montreal album launch is March 16 at the Studio TD; the Toronto album launch is March 23 at 3030 Dundas; the Edmonton album launch is March 25 at the Yardbird.

What’s your goal for 2023?

To keep growing.

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