New album a family affair for Canadian singer/songwriter Ulrich
Singer/songwriter Shari Ulrich hails from Bowen Island. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)
Shari Ulrich, one of Canada’s preeminent singer/songwriters, celebrates the release of her eighth solo LP, Everywhere I Go, with a performance Friday night at St. James Hall in Kitsilano. Joe Leary spent 24 Seconds with the Bowen Island resident.
24: You’ve certainly been doing this a long time. Do you remember hearing your music on the radio for the first time?
SU: I suppose I should be able to recall exactly that moment that I heard myself on the radio, but I can only deduce that it was in 1976 when Hometown Band released its first album and Flying was in heavy rotation. I didn't start writing until '77, but there is no doubt that hearing your music on the radio is a thrill — whether it's the first time or anytime.
24: The Canadian music industry has come a long way since. What’s your take on its current state?
SU: In some ways I miss the days when the record labels were the gatekeepers. If you didn't have a record deal, you didn't record — period. Although that narrowed down the creative spectrum considerably and the independent movement empowered some remarkably important artists to rise, it also lead to a huge glut of music — a lot of it, dare I say, rather mediocre. So that makes everything a lot more crowded. Festivals get thousands of applicants now rather than handpicking 15 from the popular crop. But don't get me wrong there is a lot of great stuff out there. So forgive me for sounding so elitist. It's just the reality. We live in a time now that every young person looks at being a recording artist as a viable option for a career. So that's both wonderful and occasionally annoying. It's also created a celebrity culture that is more about celebrity and less about culture.
24: As a songwriter, has your process changed much and have you evolved a lot over the years?
SU: When I first started writing I was very intentionally aiming for radio and writing songs on the side that I just wanted to come out that I never intended to record. Fortunately, I was working with a very wise producer, Claire Lawrence, who understood that those songs were who I really was as an artist. We recorded the pop songs to make the label happy and the songs that were my real ‘voice’ to make us happy. Those were the songs that my audiences still request today. So when I was no longer on a label, I knew I wanted to write honestly and from the heart … whatever came out. That's when I really started evolving as a songwriter. But the craftsmanship I learned writing for radio really served me well too. So yes I'd certainly like to think I'm continually growing as a writer. The process has remained pretty much the same other than collecting my ideas on my iPhone rather than a cassette Walkman! I still do a lot of my writing while I'm walking. And this latest album I only had a month to write, so I've now learned that I may write better when I don't have time to second-guess everything.
24: Your latest release, Everywhere I Go, it really is a real family project.
SU: It certainly is. My daughter, Julia Graff, just finishing off her masters in music sound recording at McGill, engineered and produced it. She has been playing violin in my shows since she was about 12 and more recently contributing mandolin, guitar, accordion, piano and vocals as well. So working with her in this capacity was a whole new and fantastic experience. It was surprisingly easy and I was more than happy to hand the reins off to her. From all reports, I'm not the only one who thinks the production on it is great.