Home Feature The Chat Room: Deanna Knight

The Chat Room: Deanna Knight

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Deanna Knight has always believed in music’s healing power. Over the course of a career now into its third decade, the Ontario-born vocalist and songwriter — now residing on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast — has developed a sound that encompasses folk-rock, Soul and jazz, with lyrics aimed at empowering listeners through messages of hope and spiritual awakening.

That’s all contained on Every Little Spark, her second solo album, recorded in Spring 2023 at Toronto’s Union Sound with co-producer/guitarist Les Cooper (Jill Barber, The Good Lovelies) and an all-star cast consisting of keyboardist Simon Kendall, bassist George Koller, drummer Davide DiRenzo and Grammy and Juno-nominated arranger and multi-instrumentalist Drew Jurecka.

The timing of a Spring release for Every Little Spark is no coincidence as many songs on the album promote a strong environmental message, including the first focus track “Blessed to Witness,” a celebration of the natural beauty we all must work to preserve.

Although Every Little Spark is the long-awaited follow-up to Deanna’s debut solo album Shadow of a Star, she’s been extremely busy in between. Along with being a proud mother and top-rated B&B co-owner, she’s also been a familiar face on B.C. stages with other musical projects such as her popular Gypsy-swing ensemble Hot Club of Mars, her “genre-fluid” Deanna Knight Tree-O, and the Grateful Dead tribute band GD/BC, which carries on the spirit of Deanna’s work with the popular ‘90s Canadian jam band the Fat Cats.

She describes her journey to this point as one of understanding how to use her voice in the most uplifting way possible, a notion embedded within other songs like “Free to Be Me”—a line from which became the album’s title—and “My Own Creation,” inspired by her own personal mantra. Other standout tracks are the heart wrenching “Carry Me Home” and “How Do We Love,” which Knight describes as her “Bond theme” because of its lush string arrangement and cinematic vibes. It’s all part of the new musical tapestry she has developed over the past four years.

Deanna Knight’s Every Little Spark is now her gift to all of us, an album that reaffirms music’s place at the centre of all good things life has to offer. Every Little Spark is officially released on May 24, and for more info go to deannaknight.ca.

 

You’ve been involved in the Canadian music scene for a long time, but Every Little Spark is only your second solo album. What’s motivated you to share these songs now?

My debut solo album was a major step for me into the world of songwriting, especially since I had been on stage from the age of five singing other people’s songs. I put a load of time and expense into Shadow Of A Star though, and as soon as I had it in hand, I fell in love and moved from Ontario to B.C. I slipped into an already established gypsy-swing band and somewhat shifted my focus to plant medicine and motherhood. I was proud of how I honoured my first collection of songs, although I find the vulnerability that comes with performing my own compositions a challenge. I was much more comfortable playing a character as Vancouver’s gypsy-jazz chanteuse in a highly bookable band that was a load of fun. Over the years, several songs bubbled up and would not go away. When 2020 hit, I felt like my songs were medicine for me and perhaps would do some good in the world. I always felt like I had more songs to write but rarely gave myself the time and space to allow them to come through. I decided to learn some ukulele and it wasn’t long before I had a new collection of songs speaking to love, hope and healing.

You recorded Every Little Spark in Toronto with some very accomplished players. How did that all come together?

It took me a while to choose my producer as I wanted to keep my team small and was looking for a producer/engineer/musician who resonated with my songs and my message. I was hopeful to record in B.C., but each time I came to making a decision, it came back to Les Cooper. We knew each other from our Toronto jam-band days, and I had watched his career blossom with Jill Barber and the Good Lovelies. I knew with his of love of Daniel Lanois that he would help create lush soundscapes for the songs that called for it and had a sensitivity to the variety of genres we would be exploring. He brought his wonderful banjo, mandolin and guitar playing to the table as well as his outstanding engineering with big ears and a big heart. Our friendship picked up right where it left off 30 years ago. He and I spoke a few times before I made the decision to fly Simon Kendall to Toronto and team up with another of my all-time favourite musicians George Koller. Simon was the first person to learn my original songs in Vancouver and he and I performed a few shows a year since 2010. George and I experienced a deep connection when I hired him for one day in the studio while making Shadow of a Star and serendipitously, he ended up co-producing the full album with me. I knew George had to be on this record so either I was to fly to him or fly him to me. Davide DiRenzo had a friendship with both Les and George and I had heard only good things through my friend Danny Michel. He won me over very quickly when he asked for lyric sheets, so he could understand the message of the songs, which is what every songwriter wants to hear! So there we had the core band that hit the studio for three days with no rehearsal. Les wanted to capture every piece of magic from the get-go and we hustled to track 11 songs in that time, 10 of which made the cut and a cover that I will release down the road. Drew Jureka and Karen Graves were added to spice things up on a few tracks. A serious dream team!

There’s a strong theme of addressing the climate crisis on many of your new songs. What message do you hope people will take from that?

I hold great reverence for our beautiful planet and all of its beings. I believe our thoughts become our reality and encourage us all to envision a future that we can sustain with systems that support humanity for generations to come. We had best be conscious consumers with every purchase and understand that each choice we make has an effect on our world. We are all connected and part of this planet. Letting go of our dominance over the natural world and shedding the ego that leads us to such greed and destruction is vital right now. There is no way to be perfect, but we can all strive for progress rather than perfection. It seems we are at a crossroads, a tipping point, a spiritual awakening perhaps. My hope is that this collection of 10 ‘soulsongs’ will ripple love and positive change into the hearts and minds of humanity. It speaks to our collective vision, our unique spark of goodness and how blessed we are to witness the beauty of this world. I understand that it is often difficult to see the light in such strange, dark and divisive times. There is so much fear and attention given to all the problems of the world and not to belittle these issues, but my purpose is to inspire more compassion, kindness and joy. To shine some light on the solutions and to help create more balance through the healing power of music.

You describe your sound as “genre-fluid.” What does that mean to you specifically?

I thought I coined the phrase myself, although when I searched it, I found a few references. Songs come to me with strong melodies and a sense of style. One of the new songs called “How Do We Love” has always sounded like a James Bond theme song in my head, so we produced it that way. Another was clearly a tango, so we brought in guest Drew Jurecka to heat it up with outstanding violin and bandoneon. Others felt folky, jazzy or R&B. This was a journey to honour the songs and more fully realize them in the best way possible. If that makes the album or me as an artist tricky to label, I’m okay with that. It seems we live in a world of singles now and the song leads the way for me.

What are some things you have in the works to support Every Little Spark?

I have two very special release concerts set with a fabulous Vancouver-based band supporting my songs, and a cabaret of talented friends kicking off the Rogue Folk Club in Vancouver and the Heritage Playhouse Theatre in my hometown of Gibsons. I built a brand new website after archiving my musical journey of well over 20 years of shows, recordings and fun. My former site now lives at www.SheMoon.ca and I’m pretty happy with the new site that I built using Bandzoogle. I decided to press CDs and LPs even though I know most people will stream the songs as singles and I even took on the design of those packages myself. The days of making $20 a CD are basically over and replaced with a very hopeful 5,000 streams for the same return. It is a crazy time in the music industry with so much opportunity to share your songs far and wide. That comes with a whole lotta time at my computer which my body doesn’t enjoy and I’m still learning some skills. Selling merch is on the rise so I have designed a series of ‘wordmarks” using song titles and lyrical bits. I will use a print on demand service where my fans can purchase these wordmarks on various eco-friendly products. It seems my song titles make for some great stickers like Blessed to Witness, Free 2B Me, I AM my own creation, Feed Your Heart and one of my favs: i’m a little spark of love, of light, of goodness.

It is kinda nuts how many balls we juggle and hats we wear as indie artists. I am very fortunate to run a successful B&B on the Sunshine Coast of Canada that supports my passion project. Secret Beach B&B Suites allowed me to invest in making this album and I feel very grateful for that. I have the pleasure of inviting some of my most treasured songwriting friends to join me on my garden stage each summer for the SoulShine Garden Concert Series. After 30 years of hustling gigs, I now delight in hosting the likes of Valdy, Stephen Fearing, Luke Wallace, Dawn Pemberton, Rebecca Jenkins, Rick Scott, Oliver Swain, Chris Ronald and many more. Perhaps this album will stir up some fun live performance opportunities since I now have a Toronto band and a Vancouver band who know these songs. We will see what the future holds. Right now, I am exhaling after two long years of birthing this special album.

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