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Heather Gibson. Photo provided.

Talking Albums: Heather Gibson

By John McDonald on May 23, 2020









We’ve turned to creativity and the arts during these stay-at-home days. We’ve plunked ourselves in front of a monitor and binged on Netflix. We’ve grabbed those 800-plus page books that have gathered dust on our shelves and were at the top of our “to read” lists. We’ve Googled “how to play harmonica” and reignited our interest in watercolours.

And we’ve turned to livestreams. Music and song hosted from cars, front rooms, and porches.

And we have turned to the National Arts Centre and its #canadaperforms – livestreams of music, workshops, theatre, and more.

In this Talking Albums, Heather Gibson, NAC’s Executive Producer, Popular Music and Variety, tells us about the music she’s listening to, and how she and her team addressed the sudden shutdown.

Heather Gibson:

The NAC’s last day before lockdown was Friday, March 13. I had just returned from a vacation the day before so hit the ground running. As a member of the senior management team, there were a lot of meetings and decisions to contemplate as we moved into lockdown. On the Monday, Facebook contacted me and asked if they could help musicians some way – they had been reading a lot about the concern the industry was having for musicians and the abrupt shutdown of touring and therefore, for many, an income. On Thursday, March 19, we launched Canada Performs. Those next few weeks were a bit of a blur as we processed over 6,500 applications from artists across the country in music of every genre, comedy, theatre, and dance.

A few weeks later I had a very interesting couple of days with Margaret Atwood, who helped to launch the addition of authors to the program. Then we added workshops and teaching musicians and made the family offerings more fulsome.

We have just surpassed 4.1 million viewers of Canada Performs. It’s been quite an amazing program to lead. As the emergency portion of Canada Performs comes to an end on May 31, I am now spending my time planning our national digital engagement activities for June, Canada Day, and the summertime.

Heather Gibson. Photo by Kelly McDonald.

In addition to Canada Performs, we have been dealing with cancellations and postponements, like everyone. I’m also in a lot of meetings about when we might open and what it might look like.  But we are planning – earlier this month we rolled out the change of our department from NAC Presents to NAC Popular Music & Variety. NAC Presents still exists and is a part of the overall vision for what we will be presenting and producing. We will continue to heavily support emerging Canadian musicians and their development, but we will also be presenting the best music from around the world. The name change came with a new website and social media look, so that was a fun project with the team. I’m really happy how it turned out.

On the personal side, I seem to be spending a lot of time planning meals to keep things interesting in that department, and I’m exercising more than ever. So that’s a good side of this!

As far as two albums that I’ve been listening to, honestly, I’m not really listening to a lot albums right now. I’m seeing about 10+ livestreams a day. Some of them have led me to seek out more from those artists.

One of the artists who I spend a lot of time with, online streaming and with her latest album, Inscape, is Alexandra Stréliski. Alexandra is an interesting choice for me because I’m quite lyrically focused but her compositions are inspiring, magical, a bit mysterious, but also calming.

I’ve also gone back and am spending some time with Mariel Buckley’s Driving in the Dark. She’s an artist who I was expecting new music from in the near future but, of course, don’t know what her plans are now. Mariel is a great emerging voice from Calgary. I love the aesthetic of the arrangements and her songwriting.

In the land of digital release, I’m completely in love with NQ Arbuckle’s single “Love Songs for the Long Game.” The video is full of people I hold dear and, at this time, it was rather emotional to see them all. But aside from the personal connection, the lyrics in this song are as stellar as every song Neville writes – and incredibly relevant to the situation we find ourselves in right now.

About Alexandra Stréliski’s Inscape

This release was named Album of the Year at the Independent Music Awards, and was included on the 2019 Polaris Music Prize Long List. Exclaim wrote that Stréliski’s music has a “cinematic quality” with touches of “melancholy and yearning.” Inscape now has more than 52 million streams worldwide.

About Mariel Buckley’s Driving In The Dark

There has been much praise for Calgary’s Mariel Buckley and this album. PopMatters wrote that “there’s an inherent poignancy in the way she carries her smoky vocals across nostalgic arrangements and thought-provoking lyricism.” Wide Open Country said that the “songwriting is a precision-guided missile aimed of truth.” Those who have supported her on Bandcamp have mirrored those thoughts. Patrick Begley stated that “she will be Canada’s new superstar … she has what it takes,” while Bucky felt that the album shows that “Canadians know how to country rock with the best of them.”

About NQ Arbuckle’s “Love Songs for the Long Game”

This is the first new music in six years from this Toronto roots-rock combo, the brainchild of singer/songwriter Neville Quinlan. Fyimusicnews wrote that “it is one of his more subdued and philosophical offerings, showcasing his skills as a lyricist.”

More about Heather Gibson:

NAC biography



NAC Popular Music & Variety on Facebook