“I was born in San Rafael, California, the accidental third child of Esther and Stanley. My mother always said I came so quickly that the party atmosphere in the delivery room must have been the reason I was born a happy kid, and still am. Music came from both my parents - my mother was raised in a social culture where piano lessons were a given, and my father, well, he simply had it in his blood. He played recorder as a way to unwind from his banking job, and was the one who saw that light in me. He died when I was only 10. I think the gift came from him, while my mother, who soldiered on with 3 kids to raise, was a huge example of independence (if something needed fixing, doing, or building, she did it herself). I think her example is largely responsible for my tenacity on a career path that is both utterly "choice-less" and requires a bullheaded fortitude.
I was a child of the 60's in the San Francisco Bay Area, which leaves a lot implied about the influences of my early years. They filled me with The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and a long list of the folks who still inspire generations. And yes, I still have a hippy heart hiding in there.
I bolted to Canada when I was 18 when Kent State rocked the world of those protesting the war in Vietnam. After stints backpacking and bicycling around Canada and the US in search of my place and path in the world, which included performing with my siblings in the San Francisco Free Theatre, I finally surrendered to the realization that music was undeniably IT for me.
I've been incredibly fortunate on this road. I've released lots of albums (26) and been in lots of trios (3) with remarkably talented, handsome and wonderful men - Rick Scott and Joe Mock of The Pied Pumkin, Bill Henderson and Roy Forbes in UHF, Barney Bentall and Tom Taylor in BTU, and, of course, a gaggle of them in The Hometown Band and now The High Bar Gang. Lucky girl. But my solo career, which began when the Hometown Band's tour support was suddenly cut off by A&M in 1977, the night before we won a JUNO for Best New Group, has been my main path. And that's all about songwriting.
I write about what I know and what I've lived. Some of it is stuff people don't like to talk about, but seem hungry to hear. I didn't intend to be that kind of writer - it just comes out that way.
The rest is about being a musician, and trying to get better at it. I pretty much left the sax and flute behind with The Pied Pumkin, but the violin, which I started playing in grade 4, remains my main instrument. Everything else I've just picked up along the way - piano, guitar, dulcimer and mandolin - all of which I use for writing too.
I've released music in all ways: from the days of Pied Pumkin when we financed our first recording by collecting the names, addresses and $5 from fans, recorded the album, then mailed it off to all those trusting souls who had pre-paid (I'm pretty sure the Pied Pumkin's Squash Records was Canada's first "Indie Label", long before such a term existed); to being signed to world-wide record deals with A&M and MCA; to having my own label, Esther Records. Now I’m back on a label, the highly regarded Borealis Records which makes me very happy.
I've toured every way, too - from traveling across the US and Canada in a fancy tour bus with Valdy and The Hometown Band, to packing a PA, a piano and the dog and driving to Saskatchewan. I've played Maple Leaf Gardens, Massey Hall, Michael and Kathy’s living room, and everything in between. And I've loved it all.
I've won JUNOS (2) and not won a whack of awards. I have a BC Entertainment Hall of Fame star at Granville and Robson where more than a few drug deals and other nefarious transactions have surely taken place. In 2014, I was awarded the Canadian Folk Music Award for English Songwriter of the Year.
Inarguably, my shining prize is daughter Julia, who has grown into a gem of a human being and musician. The musician part was her call, though again, with the genes from both sides (her father is singer-songwriter and visual artist David Graff) and being on the road with me since she was 6 weeks old, certainly left its imprint. But the hard work of becoming so accomplished on violin, piano, guitar, accordion and mandolin, is all hers. (My secret? Try not to nag, bribe or otherwise badger them to practice! As a Psychology Major she told me it allowed her "intrinsic motivation" to develop. I would probably define that less as good parenting and more just a happy accident and benign neglect. Either way, it's fantastic to behold.) She got her Masters degree in music in sound recording from McGill and is working non-stop as a music editor, engineer, producer, videographer and photographer. (There’s nothing like a successful launch as a parent!) She engineered and co-produced my last three albums, more recently, along-side her partner and equally gifted engineer, James Perrella. OK, enough about her! Back to me!
This life in music has lead me down dozens of tangential paths I would never have pursued otherwise: scoring documentaries; TV hosting (including co-hosting CBC's Futurescan with David Suzuki and writing and hosting Inside Trax for BCTV); teaching songwriting - both in the workshop setting and at Humber College, UBC and the VSO School of Music); musical theatre (starring in Carole King's Tapestry and writing and starring in Baby Boomer Blues); and have been able to give voice to many causes and crusades over the years.
In June 2019 I release my 9th solo album – Back To Shore– on Borealis Records, and aim to extend my reach farther abroad.
In short, it's been a remarkable way to go through life and I have never, ever, for one day, lost my sense of gratitude for all that music brings, is, and continues to be. I love the people I play with and for. I love doing something that brings joy, escape, and sometimes tears, to the hearts of listeners. It's taught me everything I know about humans and getting along with them. And it's damn fun. See you out there!”