Friday, April 5, 2013

CMW 2013 | Interview with Jesse Labelle

Jesse Labelle has taken part in many Canadian Music Weeks in the past, but this year has definitely stood out from the rest. Not only did he get to perform at the Canadian Radio Music Awards at the Kool Haus on March 22, he also walked away with the award for Best New Artist.

Born and raised in Toronto, singer-songwriter Jesse Labelle has been in the music industry for a long time and has been working on creating music that truly shows the world who he is. We met up at a Tim Hortons in downtown TO to chat about his musical evolution, his recent win at the CRMAs, and his favourite spots in the city. (These are just selected tidbits from the full-length interview)

You just performed at the Canadian Radio Music Awards, how was that?

It was awesome. I think that was the best single-song show I’ve ever played. It was like as if they took the MMVAs and they put it inside a concert hall. I’ve wanted to play the Kool Haus my whole entire life. To me, as important as it was to play the Radio Music Awards, it was a chance to play at the Kool Haus. It’s where I’ve seen all my favourite bands. It was amazing. It felt like playing The Grammys, the way it was all set up was really cool.

And you won an award – congrats! How did that feel?

I won an award for "Heartbreak Coverup" and that was for New Artist or Group of the Year at Hot A/C Radio. I wasn’t sure I was going to win it, but they asked me to perform that song. And right before I had played, Victoria Duffield played and she won the award for that. I was a little nervous and I was like oh shoot, if I’m going to win an award, the performance has got to be bang on. But it was awesome. To win an award is really nice. I’ve never won, and I’ve got a gold record for this song, but never won an actual award in front of a group of people. I was a little speechless and I didn’t really know what to say, but it was great to have my peers in the industry to recognize that song. I’m really proud of it.

You mentioned "Heartbreak Coverup" even went gold – how did you feel when you got that news?

That was crazy too. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’ve always wanted something like a gold record. I’ve always thought that if you work hard enough at anything, you should succeed in it and this last year I’ve finally started to feel that I have some success in what I’m doing. It feels really good. 

How has your sound evolved from your first record to your latest album, Two?

It’s changed exponentially from the first album. The first record was one that I wrote mostly when I was a teenager. And I got signed to a record deal in my mid twenties, and most of the songs on that first record were written from the time I was 18 til I was 25. They were songs that I wrote in my bedroom and I didn’t really co-write many of them with anybody. They were really honest, but they weren’t developed quite so much. In between my first and second, I toured a lot and got comfortable with my own voice. I got comfortable with a couple different instruments too, like I play a ton of piano on the second record as where the first record was completely guitar based. So the second album is a step in the right direction and I don’t even think it’s where I need to be yet, but it’s getting there. It’s like climbing a ladder and I feel like I’m comfortable climbing the ladder now. I’m really excited to make the third record because I feel like I’ve been continually growing. The second album was the first time I really got a chance to go into myself and pull out who I was at that time instead of who I was at 18.

Favourite part of being a musician?

My favourite part of being in the industry is probably the life that comes with it. You’re allowed to create and make a life around creating. And when you’re lucky, going to work, you get to be celebrated for it. You get to play for crowds of people who connect with you and sometimes they know the words to your songs. They make you feel like the stuff you created out of nothing is validated and it means something to them and that’s an awesome feeling. I used to love the studio, but now I love the performance aspect. I love performing in front of the crowd and seeing them react with you because if you can elicit an emotion or a feeling out of them that they otherwise might not have had, you may do something that can enhance their life. Even if you can enhance it for a moment, you’ve done something good.

What’s up next for you?

"Heartbreak Coverup" was just released in the UK and it’s playing on BBC Radio now, which has a huge listener-ship. I think there’s going to be a lot of European stuff going on.  It’s a whole other part of the world and it’s a market that most Canadian musicians don’t go over to. A lot of people stay within the boundaries of Canada and I’m really big on spreading the music further. It’s a huge world out there. I love Canada and being from Toronto, but we’re not the only people out there who want to hear music so I’d really like to focus on the UK and see where that ends up taking it.

Check out his latest single "How Long" -

Fun Four:

1. Where are some of your favourite Toronto hotspots? If you were to give me a tour of the city (as someone from Vancouver), where would you take me?

I’m big into food. There’s a restaurant, my favourite restaurant in the entire city, its called Playa Cantina. It’s Mexican and it’s in the area called The Junction and I actually made friends with the owner. I went there so much, I had to have an ‘in’ there. That place is a must-go. You also have to walk along the entire waterfront, especially being from Vancouver. Right down by the CNE Exhibition Place, there’s a path and there’s one of those rock statues, an Inuksuk statue that feels just like English bay. When you walk down there, for a second, you feel like you’re in Vancouver. I really like it down by the water. There’s also a castle called Casaloma, it's a real castle, something worth checking out.

2. Top three artists you'd love to work with:
Bono / U2
Paul McCartney

3. Something you can’t live without:

My instruments.

4. If I gave you 1 million dollars right now, what would you do with it?

I’d give a quarter of it to a school I work with in Africa. I’ve always wanted to do something in my life where I’ve given something that will last far beyond the lifespan that I have. I’d like to create something or build something, something that will last. I worked with a school in Africa and to this day I raise money for them. So I’d give a quarter to the school there. Then I’d pay off my home so I’d own my home. And I’d probably have half a million dollars left and with that, I’d travel a lot. I’d build a larger studio that wasn’t in my living room. I’d save the rest.

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- Christina
Follow my adventures on Twitter: @christinaaa28

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