Starting work on new album
WHO: Siobhan Duvall
WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 5
WHERE: SkateSpace Stage (4 p.m.), Boot Pub (10 p.m.)
Starting my job as Pique s entertainment writer seven months ago, I came from a background of straight radio news reporting. My experience in the entertainment industry was limited to time spent doing theatre, television and music in my teens and early 20s. Although there was a time I longed to be a professional entertainer, I had never come in close contact with artists really living the dream.
Siobhan Duvall (pronounced Sha-vawn) was my first Pique interview. I recall receiving the press pack from Vancouvers "power pop punk princess." Pink folder. A pink CD entitled Star . And a photo of a blonde bombshell sitting in front of a mirror, striking a seductive pose as she applied lipstick. She was everything little girls dream of while playing dress up, singing into a hairbrush.
But seven months ago, Duvall, too was entering unfamiliar territory. She was no rookie to the scene, spending numerous years as the guitarist for Bif Naked and then several more promoting her own EP, but Star was Duvalls first full-length solo songwriting endeavor. She suddenly found herself thrust into the position of singer, songwriter, front women and business woman.
I caught up with Duvall to discuss the music industry, an outsider and insider, both with new insight. I wondered, if for Duvall, the world was still coming up pink.
Pique: How have you been faring the last seven months, relying solely on your own material?
Duvall: Its been interesting. Ive been getting a lot of attention from the media but I think the main thing Ive realized is how much I have to approach this as a business. It is an artistic venture, but thats only half of it.
Pique: The last time we spoke, your focus was just on getting the record made and getting out to promote it.
Duvall: Thats right. When you get all those things together, you think "Great, everything will be fine now." But now you have to learn how to deal with pieces of paper with numbers on it. Before I was concerned with getting myself together musically and visually, like choosing the graphics and layout for the CD. Those things alone can be quite stressful.
Pique: Thats all the personal and emotional stuff.
Duvall: Yeah, and once those were finished I realized I hadnt even done a quarter of the work necessary. As an independent artist, Ive had to learn to do a lot of things I dont think I ever wanted to learn. (Laughs) I dont like all the tedious stuff. What Ive been learning lately is how to balance being on the phone all day and dealing with numbers with being a musician. You can really get sucked into just doing the self-management work and forget about "Oh yeah, Im supposed to go play."
Pique: You really have to delve into different parts of your brain for each of those responsibilities.
Duvall: Its true! Its not natural to be a good artist and a good business person. Doing the business side can be very stressful and take a hell of a lot more out of you than playing your music.
Pique: Something that continues to surprise me is the sheer number of artists, just in Vancouver alone, that are doing exactly what youre doing, and having to become their own business just as you are. Is that market competitive?
Duvall: Oh yeah. Its competitive and it can be really frustrating because I know a lot of people who are at exactly the same level. Some people get to make the jump to the next level and others dont, but there is so much you can do independently. I think its a mistake for people to sit there and wait for a record company executive to fall out of the sky, but if you grew up in the early 80s or 90s, you still have that paradigm. If your goal is to be massive and rich, youre probably in the wrong industry. Ive been doing this a long, long time. I do it because I love it. Its like breathing.
Pique: The most obvious thing Ive learned is even bands that have gone on to secure record deals experience a lot of problems. Theyre not necessarily coddled the way they thought they would be. It creates a lot of room for uncertainty about their abilities. Theyre still really out there on their own.
Duvall: A Canadian record deal?
Duvall: Well, thats pretty frightening in itself because its really hard to make money in Canada for any band. I have a couple of friends who are famous in Canada and still cant make the rent. I think the perfect situation for me would be like the band SuperSuckers. They have a really solid grassroots fan base. And they can tour and tour and Im sure theyre making enough money to live off that.
Pique: What kind of touring have been doing this year?
Duvall: Just in and around Vancouver, Nanaimo, Whistler. Ive been doing some acoustic shows, which is something that I always wanted to be able to do and its absolutely terrifying because youre really naked up there when you dont have a band. I opened for Tegan and Sara and I think that was one of the funnest shows Ive ever done. Sometimes Im pretty funny, but I was a complete comedian. Now I know I could hop on a bus with just a guitar.
Pique: Ultimately, that must have just been you getting comfortable with yourself.
Duvall: Yeah, just me and a room full of people who were fairly sober, which is not really like Whistler, and is a little scary!
Pique: Remembering your pretty pink press package, and glamour shot of you inside, that is what little singers want to grow up to be. Do you still get excited about that dream, despite all the business crap?
Duvall:(Long laughter) Totally. When Im sitting waiting to go on stage, or doing a sound check, or getting dressed to go on stage, thats the only time I feel Im where Im supposed to be. That I feel really right with the world.
Pique: Whats the next step for Siobhan Duvall?
Duvall: Well, I have to continue with the business side, get things organized. Im taking care of my US immigration so I can work the entire West Coast as well as looking into Japanese and European licensing deals. I think its wise to look into exploring other territories. But aside from going on and on about business, lately I can also feel my next CD taking shape. Which is cool because Im not nearly done working with Star , but Ive been getting a new feel. Music is sort of like colours to me. The shape of the next record is starting to come to me so maybe that means Im feeling more settled with the business side of things.
Pique: It must be a relief too. Star was your first song-writing endeavour. Did you have doubts whether you could do it again?
Duvall: Totally! I had written a lot of those songs three years before I made the record. I havent been writing since then and I suddenly started thinking "Oh, my god! What do I have left to say?" A lot of the subject matter from Star , Im not in that headspace anymore. But just in the last few weeks, I get these flashes like "I know Im going to write a song about that or I know what thats going to be called." The colours are starting to come to me quite naturally.
Pique: Will the next CD be pink?
Duvall: I think that everything I do will be pink!