“I feel real lucky that this is what I get to do with my life so I can’t help but be excited,” smiles Basia Bulat on the phone as we discuss the singer/songwriter’s life in music and pending return to Hamilton this weekend.
It’s easy to get swept up in Basia Bulat’s excitement in music. A quick telephone conversation can quickly turn into an hour without even knowing it because Bulat is so engaging and speaks with such energy and conviction. The young performer grew up in Etobicoke but cut her musical teeth while attending university in London, more so because of getting involved with their campus radio station, CHRW, and exploring a wealth of international sounds. Her first performance was opening up for Julie Doiron and at the cajoling of a friend who believed in Bulat’s talents. Now seven years later, many fans believe in Bulat’s talents and she’s become a presence on the national stage with her own quirky and inventive folk songs.
But it was when old friend Owen Pallet (otherwise known as Final Fantasy and Arcade Fire one-time member) was enlisted to score some music for an orchestra that Bulat would also get involved in taking her music to new symphonic levels. The experiment then came to Hamilton where Bulat recreated that original score with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and that pairing proved magical. While it was meant to be a one off, the event was recreated for Supercrawl in 2011 and everyone involved just felt so excited about the project, a possible future recording is in talks and Bulat returns to Hamilton again to perform with the HPO but this time at a larger room.
“Once we did the first time with the HPO, I was happy that I didn’t screw up that bad,” laughs Bulat. “It’s a whole different skill set performing with that many people. It’s beautiful to be able to spend time with all of these amazing musicians who are really inspiring. It’s another world with the level of musicianship so I always feel I have to step it up. I’m thrilled to be invited back. Now I’m a little bit more aware of what I’m doing and not be as much of a deer caught in the headlights and I can play a little more with it.
“I know that the HPO has a cool program that is doing with a lot of different artists but I guess sparks flew after our first performance and then we played Supercrawl together,” adds Bulat. “Now we’re playing Hamilton Place and it’s a little bit daunting because even though I’ve done this performance a few times, it’s not something that I get used to. The stakes are high when you’re playing with the Philharmonic. Playing solo, you’re in charge of your own destiny on stage. With this large of a group it’s a whole different kind of performing. It’s scary and liberating being part of a big team. Especially with this type of concert, the fun of it is the spontaneity that comes from different types of music coming together. There’s a bit of a tightrope that you’re walking.”
Bulat’s innate ability seems to guide her best in these daunting situations and while she’s tentatively scheduled her own new album of songs for next year, the singer is bristling with energy to return to play with her old friends in Hamilton. Bulat will be offering new songs with a band she brings to town to add to her symphonic explorations with the HPO and if things work out, perhaps a new recording with the HPO could happen sometime in the future.
“We would both like to make a recording happen but it’s more based on just figuring it all out now,” confides Bulat. “I’m excited to just be performing with all of my old friends. Marty Macdonald, who was there for my first time performing with an orchestra in Halifax, will be conducting this time out so that will be a fun little reunion. He’s done lots and he’ll be the real judge if I’ve grown at all in this environment.
“I’m also going to be playing some new songs, which aren’t as folky, weaving them in and out of the symphonic parts to create a bit of a narrative arc to the show,” adds Bulat. “It’s just so exciting to be performing with these people again. I don’t get to do it that often but hopefully I get to do it more. We hope to make it exciting for us and hopefully for the audience as well.” V
Basia Bulat will be performing with the HPO, Martin MacDonald, conductor, on October 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm, Hamilton Place.
Click on www.hpo.org