For Cathleen Lesperance music came later in life than for many performers, but she’s making up for lost time hitting the road in support of her latest disc ‘Brilliant Bright’.
“I first started to teach myself guitar when I was about 23 or 24 with an old guitar my father had given me that he bought at a pawn shop in Winnipeg,” said Lesperance who has resided in Saskatchewan the past decade. “I picked it up now and then but didn’t really start to consider learning to play for a number of years after that. I don’t have any musical background or training and so I play and sing by ear, however my father taught himself to play guitar and accordion and my mother had a lovely voice so I would guess the musical inclination comes from my parents.
“It wasn’t until I was 27 or 28 that I really sat down to teach myself chords and try to write a song. I credit the apartment I had in Edmonton where I was living at the time for my start in singing. The apartment had this cool little room under the stairs with great acoustics and I would sit there and sing and write. It was a great confidence builder because anyone would sound great in that little room.”
While not taking up the guitar or writing early, Lesperance who plays at 5th Avenue Cup & Saucer in Yorkton Friday, said she has always appreciated music.
“I grew up learning to enjoy all kinds of music,” she said. “My older brothers had an extensive rock album collection and I can remember falling asleep to the music of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Hank Snow.
“As an evolving artist, my own style leans towards folk/rock and alt country. I call it muddy music because I don’t think it fits into just one genre and I think that is a good thing.”
Lesperance is now becoming a veteran of the studio.
“I released my first CD ‘Gypsy As I Go’ in 2008 and primarily play coffee houses and house concerts around Saskatchewan as well as a few small local summer festivals,” she said. “I travelled to Iceland in 2010 and played a show with a local artist and played last years’ 2011 All Folk’d Up in Montemarte.
“With my new CD ‘Brilliant Bright’ released this past April, shows have included Prince Albert, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat along with a few small local festivals.
“It was actually amazing that I played any shows this past spring because I had a fall and broke a bone in my left hand and had to cancel an Alberta/BC tour I had booked. When I did eventually get out to play the 10 or so shows this past spring with some talented guitar players, they were dubbed the ‘Sticks and Stones Broken Bones’ mini tour.
“In fact, my next few shows are as a duo with me on vocals and light percussion and a guitar player with me while my hand gains strength.”
Lesperance said the new recording brings to completion a series of songs, some of which have existed in limited form for a while.
“Some of the songs from this newest CD have been around for a few years but weren’t fully realized in my mind as songs for an album,” she said. “’See or Grows Flowers’ would be a good example of that evolving process.
“A few wrote themselves very quickly and felt ready very early on.
“Song writing tends to happen that way for me. As either a brief flash of inspiration and I need to have pen and paper ready or they come as pieces that I mull over for sometimes months or a few years. I’m probably quite slow in my process because I’d rather not rush a song and prefer let it evolve as naturally as possible.”
Certainly getting a song to the studio is different from performing it at a coffeehouse, but Lesperance said that too becomes something of a naturally evolving process.
“I generally perform solo with an acoustic guitar so the presentation of my material is quite different in a live setting than the studio version of a song,” she said.
“That being said, I usually hear in my mind what that particular song also needs as a studio recording.”
For the new disc Lesperance said she was fortunate to receive a recording grant from Saskatchewan Arts Board.
“Although I had originally thought to record it out in Halifax where my husband is from, I had a change of heart and recorded it in Prince Albert at a studio called Mosaic Music. I wanted the CD to be all acoustic and feel as natural as possible. Some of the vocal tracks are first and only takes (‘Standing Still’ and ‘Kettle On’). I wanted the live and studio versions of the songs to be closer together than they were on my first CD and I generally wanted to give the songs more breathing space.”
The process is one which as an artist Lesperance said satisfied her.
“I’m really very happy with the finished product,” she said. “Rich McFarlane at Mosaic Music who co-produced and played lead and rhythm guitar on the recording is just easy to work with. He is such a great musician and communicator.
“When it came time to recording vocals, he would pretty much leave the room and let me do my thing. It was very relaxed.
“I think this newest recording captures my growth as a songwriter and overall musical growth. Artists grow over time and evolve into their own sound and I’m happy with the direction I’m headed.”
The doors open at 5th Ave Cup and Saucer at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with the show starting at 7.