Canadian Musician - March / April 2018 - Page 41

MATT MALTESE Chess gems. “I made some discoveries like singer Sugar Pie DeSanto, who I hadn’t heard of, and her great song ‘Going Back Where I Belong,’” she reveals. “Sugar Pie is playing into her eighties, still going strong. And then Betty Wright, who still features on records of major hip-hop artists decades after her huge ‘Clean Up Woman’ hit, she gave me so much inspiring advice. Her presence was integral to my studio per- formances. So, there are a few inspiring women on this project whose careers are enviable. We should all be so lucky.” Recorded in New York and Toronto, it was a very collaborative process as she and the musicians worked off of “musical blueprints.” “It was really a group effort,” she recalls. “Especially with a track like ‘Who Do You Love.’ The first [version] we recorded, a lot happened spontaneously in the studio. That ‘nah-nah-nah’ part, I was just riffing that on the microphone, and now that sounds pretty cool. Then the breakdown in the middle of the song just sort of happened, and now it’s one of my favourite moments on the album.” Another example of the wonderful serendipity that weaves through this record involved the song “Long Lonely Nights” by Lee An- drews & The Hearts, a doo wop quintet. S-Curve’s Greenberg somehow managed to get eminent musician/producer Questlove to contribute because singer Andrews was actually his father. LeGrow, who’s refresh- ingly honest, quips, “Much to my pleasant surprise, Questlove came in and played drums, and it felt like a dream, with me on my mic and watching him through the glass. It was memorable. Steve made a lot of things happen; he’s that kind of guy.” So, this young lady, who once did the impassioned indie rock thing, now seems like a new character in her own story — smooth and cool, with an Anna Wintour bob haircut and channeling her style icon, Uma Thurman’s character Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction. I personally remember talking to a young pop star named Alanis at the Juno Awards in Toronto in the early 1990s. Then, a few years later, I caught up with her in her new home of Los Angeles, and she’d morphed into the Jagged Little Pill indie grunge rock star. From the outside, it was a stark transfor- mation, but that new side had always been inside her. It’s a similar case with LeGrow, the singer who’s sung everything from jazz and soul standards to rock, and who suggests, “It’s kind of a fallacy that anybody is just one character. Look at real life. You’re a parent, a lover, maybe a teacher, and when you go to work, you’re not the same person that you are at home. It’s just a different part of yourself. As an artist, you get an opportunity to do that. Part of me is a little rough around the edges and rock and roll, and part of me is a little softer, sweeter, and more romantic. Both are just as real and true, but different parts of myself. I feel that you get a sense of that variety on my new record.” Even though she admits to being a “pretty low maintenance girl,” a lot of her new onstage visual style is inspired by fellow Canadian singer Geneviève Marentette. “I’m lucky to have people like Geneviève in my life, my best friend and my resident stylist,” LeGrow says. “She’s a fabulous singer who travels a lot and is sourcing at vintage stores, where you can find beautiful, high quality clothing, which is often more durable and frankly more beautiful.” As for performing, the place where she just comes alive, she keeps her band configuration flexible depending on the venue or country. “Sometimes it’s just me and a guitar player, and we can do many of the songs,” she explains. “The ideal situation is to have a big live production with horns. The background singers I’ve been working with are like angels, and I feel like I’m in the presence of a divine force when they’re up on stage with me with their gorgeous harmonies, but it’s not always possible.” One thing that has stayed consistent during her various incarnations, which is more than evident on Playing Chess and when she’s perform- ing live, is LeGrow’s passion for music and, of course, her voice – evoca- tive, emotional, sometimes raspy, and always unique. We know who we love. Ashley Jude Collie is a Canadian journalist/blogger/author based in L.A. who’s interviewed musicians from Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Who’s Pete Townsend, Queen’s Brian May, Yes, Kiss’ Gene Simmons, Rush, and Ice Cube, to Juno winners for Canadian Musician. Others include George Thorogood, Levon Helm, Brian Setzer, Heart, Paul Anka, and too many Canadians to remember… C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 41