NOVEMBER INTERVIEW with Western Canada’s musical sensation, Felicia Harding.
Featured photo by Annemaries Photography.
Deb: Good afternoon and long time no see Felicia, since you toured as Isobel Trigger and gigged on your way through Peterborough, where I had the pleasure to have hosted your show at The Historic Red Dog on May 9th, 2015 alongside award-winning Nathan Jackson, and Brian Black’s act Jagged, what a fun night that truly was. I have the pleasure to ask you a few questions today, so are you sitting comfortably, here we go!
Felicia: Hello my dear! Ok, my answers are long but I really enjoyed taking my time thinking about these great questions!
Deb: Q. 1) Felicia, can you highlight aspects of your cultural background that makes you and your work unique? Felicia: A). “Interesting question! I was born and raised here
Deb: Q. 2) Did your upbringing prompt a specific reference point with your music? Like, is your music informed by certain concepts or themes from your childhood background, socio-economic status, where you lived, or were raised? In general, how does all this impact how you see the world and how you create music? Felicia: A) “Absolutely! I had a very interesting upbringing as I was homeschooled here in Vancouver Island along with my 3 younger siblings, grades 1 through 10. I went to school in grade 11/12 and went on to post-secondary from there! We never had a lot of money growing up but we were never short on creativity, and I was always encouraged to be expressive and self-driving. In my family, it was important to think outside of the box and find a unique path. I often felt like an outsider and afraid that my smarts wouldn’t measure up to the other kids; I was constantly drilled by peers and their parents trying to test my intelligence. This gave me a lot of anxiety (as you can imagine) and I felt a greater need to prove myself when I finally went to school – I pushed hard to get as. To socialize
Deb: Q. 3) Tell your fans what your songs aim to say? Many artists would consider this a loaded question. The purpose of this question, however, is to assess how aware you are of what audiences see in your work and what it provokes, and why you make music. Felicia: A) “I love these questions! My songs all have very different energy and themes. I have never been able to settle on one sound so I have nurtured several music projects over the years. I suppose would say some common themes include “the journey”, self-exploration, empowerment, and sexuality. My favorite songs often talk about flipping perception and perseverance. In Fortune Killers my song “Fool’s Gold” is about the chase, and how there’s no “arrival” in life. We NEED to chase something and the “arrival” can often bring disillusion. In “Into the Well” (via my new project The Sleeves) I talk about the need to connect and the power we each hold in our emotions/energy; be careful as what you put in is what you get out. In Belle Miners, my song “Junkyard” talks about letting go of the past and focussing on your intentions/self-love. In Isobel Trigger’s debut EP you can hear similar themes in “Carry on” and “Dust and Bones” – “I want you to keep trying. I want to know you deeply; how you feel about life and death”. I have always been interested in how different people perceive the world and hearing all sides of the story.”
Deb: Q. 4) Some of the most historical and revered music always plays a deeper role in the transformation of societies. Some consider how their work relates to the current sociopolitical landscape or how the music can address these themes, Do you think some of your masterpiece originals touch on current social or political issues? Felicia: A) “I think it’s impossible not to reflect the times, as music and all art is shaped by our experiences as artists, which in turn shapes the landscape itself, and so on it goes. The answer is yes and no. I’d be lying if I said I saw myself as any kind of revolutionary but I do feel passionate about empowering people to make positive changes and come together. I think we desperately need to try to understand and support one another and to understand and support ourselves. I’m the type of person who never deletes anyone, I want to see all sides of the story, even though it overwhelms me. I see so many people struggling and in need of connection and self-acceptance and I see so much shaming, blaming, and division. I encourage people to perceive my music through their own lens and draw their own conclusions. We are all on our own journeys and I am so inspired by the human experience.”
Deb: Q. 5) Who would you say has influenced you the most musically now and then? Felicia: A) “In my early years definitely Sarah McLachlan, WEEZER, Alanis Morrisette, and BJORK! Bjork especially captivated me with her unique and playful expressions and vocals as well as her beautiful whimsical lyrics. The Tragically Hip and Tom Petty really captured my attention after that, followed closely by Florence and the Machine, Justin Timberlake and METRIC, who I was absolutely obsessed with. In more recent years I’ve loved Sylvan Esso, Aurora, Phantogram, and Jenn Grant, among many others. I especially have always loved unique and distinct voices and whimsical energy.“
Deb: Q. 6) Contrary to popular belief, ‘making it’ in the art of music isn’t merely a game of luck. It requires talent, strategic, and determined effort based on your vision, goals, etc. Share with your fans information about your creative writing process, studio work, and about any awards you have received. As well, how have you developed your career? Felicia: A) “Absolutely true! This has a long answer so buckle up! I started out playing open mics just after high school and taking voice lessons and when my teacher told me I was “good enough to get into a college music program” I became fixated on that. I think fixated is a good word to describe my relationship to music, writing, and the key to my personal successes. I have always loved writing, from a young age I would write little songs and poetry. I love how songs are like emotional time capsules that you can share with others. Writing is a cathartic and therapeutic experience and also something I must MAKE myself do, which is funny because I love it so much. In school I remember my peers making fun of me because once I get into it I can’t stop; I so often didn’t go to the parties and stayed at school late on a Friday night nerding out on my compositions. I was very social but I was obsessed with music and that always won! The two best pieces of advice I ever got were “find a place to suck” (Paul Deviliers – producer) and “get out and meet those people who intimidate you, buy them a beer, get to know them” (my dad). I’ve done GREAT at the first one (haha) and played more scuzzy bars and dives then I can count BUT I honed my skills as a performer and that earned me many great gigs down the line! I struggled with the second piece of advice because I was easily intimidated and felt like an imposter talking to “real musicians” for a long time (PS I still do) but I eventually learned that if you don’t put yourself out there to those who are really killing it in the field, you’re only playing half the game. Getting members and keeping a band together became my next fixation and the struggle was REAL. It seemed like whenever I got a member another would leave and we went on that way for…. well, years. Isobel Trigger (my first band) self-produced an album (big thanks to my first guitar player Brett Faulkner and bassist Dave Ruigrok on that one) and when it came time to release it we had no idea how to promote it and fizzled. It was a long road of trial and error but I’ve always liked figuring things out the hard way (*cry-laugh emoji). Despite the hair-pulling, I still believe two heads are better than one, and I love working in teams. My bandmates over the years have been HUGE supports (as well as huge pains in the ASS) and I couldn’t have gotten here without them! It wasn’t until I clued in to hire a professional producer (who was in the SCENE) to produce our next single that we started to gain momentum. Even then, our drummer quit a week before our big release show and I was horribly sick but we pulled through and did our first little tour (first of many I would book). Shortly after that, Ariel (Fortune Killers drummer) joined the band and everything changed. She really helped focus us in the administrative department and she knew how to run a business! It was right at that time when Dust and Bones was getting noticed locally and we were headed for hometown success. That track finally got us featured as the Zone 91.3’s (local commercial radio) “band of the month” and through Ariel’s relentlessness, we also got interest from a local label – Cordova Bay Records. They signed our EP “Nocturnal” and taught us a lot about the industry. We were a great team and worked hard to shape and culture our band, eventually going on to change our name to Fortune Killers and receive a FACTOR grant (on our 3rd application) to record our first full-length studio album Temper Temper. We toured across Canada, we even got featured as “Victoria’s best up and coming band” by Rolling Stone, it was all going so well! We hit a snag when we came up against mental illness and got really sick of each other on (and off) the road. That band was our LIFE but we had become unhealthy as individuals and it was time to take a step back. During those years I had also begun touring Australia with my folk-pop trio Belle Miners for 6 weeks every January/February (shout out to Jaime for booking those tours)! Belle Miners also received a grant and FACTOR funding (props to Marina for all her hard work on that!) and produced a studio album a few years ago. We recently toured Europe and brought our favorite Australian drummer/sound-tech Daine Spowart! Along the way, he and I formed a new indie-duo called “The Sleeves.” Studio? It’s an art form in and of itself. Getting those songs and parts to sound amazing under a microscope is a fun and often deep adventure. It’s different than the live show and takes a lot of focused energy to get things just right! Creative writing process? I just write and write and write. I could talk for days about songwriting; music school and working with producers helped me refine my skills but the most important thing is showing up. Learning to song-write is just like learning an instrument – it takes time and practice. I use writing as a therapy and I love/need it but I also need to show up and do it when I don’t feel like it. I’ve written a lot of bad songs and also, a few good ones! I am very much still learning. Being a professional musician is a test of patience, optimism, and sheer endurance but the rewards are rich!”
Deb: Q. 7) What does success mean to you?
Felicia: A) “Success is cultivating satisfaction and happiness via doing what you love for a living! For me that’s traveling and performing my original music live, sharing musical experiences with others, and helping people find and love their voices. I also love sharing my music via recordings or performances online. Really I have truly been living my dream and I’m so grateful to be an independent artist/entrepreneur in the world.”
Deb: Q. 8) Some artists seem reluctant to speak of just how frustrating and baffling the whole experience of navigating the general music realm is, let alone add in Covid-19, or how hard they try to still be ambitious about getting their artwork seen or sold. Felicia: A) “Oh yes! It is a LOT of work to put yourself out there and push your way to the top! What people see is really the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be honest here and say I had a downward spiral when it really hit me and there have been many ups and downs (definitely more downs). I actually haven’t even written a single song since COVID hit! I have always taken pride in being an optimist and finding the silver lining or the lesson (and this experience is no exception) but my heart has been very heavy through these times with several personal as well as professional challenges. I had booked a tour of Western Canada for The Sleeves (our first here) and had plans to tour Europe in the Fall and Australia in the Winter (with Belle Miners and The Sleeves) and record/release several new songs throughout that timeframe. Of course, I could see all the positives and was counting my blessings (Victoria has been really lucky so far) but
Deb: Q. 9) Explain briefly how you’re currently pursuing your career and going after opportunities and some of the ways you’ve chosen lately to engage with your legions of fans, whether that’s within the top echelon of international art circles or based on your involvement with your local community despite the challenges musicians face trying to bring their art to the new formatted audiences, especially at home, thanks to the Corona Virus. Felicia: A) “After about a month of silence I started a Twitch account and found a lot of enjoyment in building an international following along with a solo project (something I never really considered a priority). The Twitch community has been so supportive and I have really loved exploring myself as an individual, after so many years working in groups. I honestly felt very insecure performing solo at first, as my various projects are expressions of different sides of me and I’ve never tried to hone a clear direction as a solo performer. I don’t feel my solo show is up to the standard I have created for my other projects (YET) but I am learning to take pleasure in the progress. As of right now, The Sleeves are focussing on recording our debut album (sending tracks back and forth between Canada and Australia) and I am also recording a solo album while still streaming regularly. I have had a few international solo steam performances including, most recently a music festival in Brazil! The Belle Miners are not touring this year (after 7 straight years of tours) and well, we’re each doing our own thing and trying to decide when to release the tracks we recorded on our last tour! I played a few socially distant solo shows in the summer and it was very cathartic – I need music and performance in my life to feel whole. The only constant
Deb: Q. 10) What’s next for Felicia Harding?
Felicia: A) “I can feel a grande metamorphosis taking place and I’m excited to see where it leads! Artists thrive on emotional trials and so much beautiful art will blossom from these times. I will be releasing a few singles over the coming months both through my solo project and The Sleeves. The Sleeves debut album is due for release in April 2021 and I hope I will be able to see my bandmates and tour again by that point. The Sleeves are poised to resume our world-tour ambitions as soon as we get the green light and I cannot wait for that day to come. I am also excited to share my new found solo project with the world and hopefully will have the opportunity to perform again soon!“
Deb: Q. 11) Where can your fans stay in tune with you?
Felicia: A) Right now the best places to catch me are on Instagram @feliciahardingmusic and Twitch @feleeseeya! You can also follow The Sleeves @thesleevesduo and Belle Miners @belleminers. I will be launching a website for my solo project in the coming months and so keep in touch! As well, http://www.belleminers.com
Felicia: “Thanks so much for all these thoughtful questions! I really enjoyed answering them Deb.”
Deb: Well, Felicia, it was my pleasure keeping up with you, let’s not wait another 5 years! When the green light comes, hope to see you live once again in Toronto or Peterborough. Stay safe and keep the faith.