Music therapist heals with tunes
Mike Bell, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, April 16, 2011
"I'm late because a four-yearold coerced me into playing one Bob Marley tune."
In any other context, from any other person, Sarah Vann's apology might sound a little, um, odd. But not when you're aware that the local singer-songwriter's day job is as a music therapist who works for a private practise as well as at the Children's Hospital, where she helps to heal, treat, rehabilitate and otherwise relate with the ill or afflicted on a sonic level.
It's a vocation that, not surprisingly, feeds into her after-hours artistic pursuits. "It's a highly skilled profession," says Vann, sitting in local cafe Kawa Espresso Bar. "People work really hard to be creative, come up with different things that are going to work for people, you have to keep your repertoire up and learn all kinds of music, and you get exposed to stuff you never thought you would. "I work with somebody who listens to a lot of anime music . . . I listen to a lot of pop music because I work with a lot of kids, and need to keep up with them. "I get exposed to so much music, so it's a big influence for me."
All of those influences and more can be heard on Vann's debut Deafened, a warm, floral roots record that also makes use of the country music she grew up with in her rural Alberta home, her classical piano training, her early love of jazz and the rest of the sounds she discovered during her explorations throughout Canada and travelling abroad. In other words, the album, which was recorded in town with producer Lorrie Matheson and a collection of stellar local players such as Jay Crocker and Chris Dadge, is very much an honest and genuine representation of who she is and the life she has led.
"That was really important to me," she says, giving a great deal of credit to her studio relationship with Matheson. "It was very important to me that there was a certain sound. I didn't want anything that was plastic. I wanted something that felt very relatable. And I wanted something that, because of my experience as a music therapist, I want to engage with people."
Lyrically, the songs, too, reflect Vann's personality -from the earnest, heart-hurting yearning of the sweeping title track and the optimistic outlook sailing through the trip-hop-y Stars to the fun, flirty number The Library Song, which acts as an invitation to hot-'n'-heavy romantic interludes among the Dewey Decimal sorted books and periodicals. She laughs.
"That absolutely wasn't me -it really wasn't. But there's been a really good response to that song. It's quite a sweet song . . .," she says, explaining that it was written about a friend when she was going to school at Acadia University, and she witnessed a charming kiss between he and his girlfriend.
And now -public displays of affection aside -Vann is finally ready to get the real her out there, with the Saturday release of Deafened. Why now, why she's ready to finally to put herself out there now despite years of songwriting and performing, Vann explains as being partly because, after only four years living in Calgary, she's felt the encouragement from the community of musicians and friends. And the other reason, naturally, is because it's just who she is and what she was feeling.
"I'm somebody who lives with an (attitude) that when I think about things later in life and I look back, what would I regret?" she says. "If I don't make a record, am I going to look back and think, 'I really wish I had done that?' And that's how I live."