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Interview with Canadian singer/songwriter Ann Vriend (Includes interview)

Ann Vriend’s new single, specifically chosen to be released in Australia, is called “You Can Have Me” and her new album is entitled For the People in the Mean Time. Both clearly demonstrate her talent as a pop/soul/funk diva of the very highest calibre and I began by asking about the single.

“Musically, it’s kind of a soul, funk sound with a slight Latin feel underneath it,” she explains, speaking to me from a blues festival in her hometown, “and basically just the influence of funk bands like The Meters – and on the bridge there’s like an old-school gospel chord progression…

“Lyrically, I guess it’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, while also being serious about being realistic with people, rather than trying to find this perfect model that never makes any mistakes and is a hundred percent wonderful.”

Despite hailing from Canada, Ms. Vriend, a highly skilled pianist who has also toured extensively in Europe, is a regular visitor to Australia and performs a number of shows Down Under every year (she was last there in February and March and is off again in September).

“I don’t know, I think you’d have to ask them!” she replies, when asked why audiences there have embraced her as one of their own. “Part of it is the persistence of coming back every year and now I’ve got an Australian label supporting me. It’s a lot easier now because before I used to try and coordinate it myself, which is pretty crazy…

“I think my record is soul and funk and it’s very danceable and upbeat and fun. It’s still got some serious songs on it too and it’s not vacuous, but from what I can see from Australian culture, people like to have a good time and they like soul music. I don’t really understand anybody who doesn’t like soul music, frankly!”

“You Can Have Me” is the third track off the quirky songbird’s latest album (her sixth) released last year. As mentioned previously, the LP is called For the People in the Mean Time and Ann, whose first album Soul Unravelling came out in 2003, filled me in on the meaning behind the title.

“I was definitely trying to go for the play on words between ‘meantime’ being one word and two, and hopefully getting more than one meaning into that… I separated the words because I was going for the idea that for some people in the world, the time period that we’re currently in is hard, economically and politically.

“I’m in a neighbourhood in Edmonton where there’s a huge homeless population and a lot of really hardcore addicts, so I see that every single day looking out of my window. Thinking about that – and also my own life – I thought that these are hard times in some ways, and then I was thinking about how I love soul music…

“I wanted to make a soul record and the origins of soul, gospel and blues, all that comes out of people who had really hard times as well. To me, they were joyful because they needed an outlet and a way out of the discrimination and everything. I guess I applied that to my own situation and what I saw around me.”

Ann Vriend

Ann Vriend
Brad Gibbons

Discussing her pick of the bunch among the 11 tracks on the CD (my personal favourite is track two, “A Need so Wide”), the sassy star remarks, “That’s a hard one… We were so meticulous with each one and I don’t feel that there’s any that are weak, that I’m ashamed of or anything – and they’re all different from each other…

“This album turned out well, I think, and there are some songs that are stronger in terms of being singles and there are some that are more adventurous and ‘out there’ than others.

“‘You Can Have Me’ is a little whack, for sure. There are probably others I could have chosen to be a single, like for instance ‘Invisible‘ or ‘Those Records’ – ‘Rush of Your Wings‘ is a favourite of a lot of people…”

Vriend’s impressive set of pipes has been described as an “enchanting cross between the girly timbre of Dolly Parton and the blues-filled prowess of Aretha Franklin.” What does the effortlessly cool artist herself have to say about these lofty comparisons?

“Well I think I know where that comes from, in the sense that I have a higher-pitched voice than a lot of stereotypical soul singers, like Etta James or Irma Thomas – or even the really famous ones like Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse

“I think people hear that girliness in my voice and they think of Dolly Parton because she has that really high, clear voice, and then Aretha too… Aretha, for being the Queen of Soul that she is, does have a higher voice than a lot of those women that I just mentioned.

“She has a lot of finesse, but a lot of power at the same time too, and that’s what I’m going for with my voice. If I can draw comparisons with her, that’s the biggest honour ever!”

Ann Vriend’s new single “You Can Have Me” is out now.

Both the single and the album For the People in the Mean Time are available from iTunes.

For more information, visit the singer’s official website.

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