Aimee-Jo Benoit's New Album is Fire. Period.
Q1) Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be an artist
A1) I think I’ve always been a musician. I’ve always loved music and dancing. I used to
irritate my siblings so much on car rides with my singing (and talking…) I learned to sing
by mimicking my favorite pop artists while growing up and learned harmony in church
and school choirs-but as an artist-I can’t say that this really happened until after I had
kids and started to carve out a niche for myself as a necessity for survival.
Q2) I have to ask – are you related to David Benoit?
A2) No ;)
Q3) The Album: “BORJONER is an album of loosely arranged, somewhat improvised
selection of tunes closest to the heart of the vocalist's musical journey. They embody the
sprouts of inspiration that come when the band plays together.”
qa) All Apologies – The words! Can you tell me more about the significance
of this opening track and what it means for you?
aa) Nirvana has always been on the periphery of my musical journey. I was always
intrigued by the contrast of darkness and light in Cobain’s writing. The MTV
Unplugged album was where I really fell for him, however his death didn’t really
impact me until much later. All Apologies feels real to me. It feels like-what else
is there but apologies?
qb) I Love You – really dancy and groovy – What came first for this
composition? The piano keeps demanding my attention, and I like it, I
would love to hear more about the roles in this piece.
qb) This is a tune by Daniel Lanois- and it’s one that Simon and I have done as a
bass/voice project before we brought it to the group. It’s a very simple
structure-but because of its simplicity it allows for a really meditative groove. It
was a last minute addition to the album in the studio-as one of the other tracks
was given us such a problem-we decided to record a couple takes of it just to get
our groove for the second day. The amazing thing about this tune is this: Simon was calling out chord changes and leading us into the fray with his bass line. Both Simon and I are ardent Daniel Lanois fans-and I think the fact that we have internalized the original song so well, while Robin and Sheldon only know the shape, makes it really special. It ended up being one of the better tracks on the
album in terms of how much it represents what we do. We take flight based on
our trust in each other and how well we listen to each other. It truly is an improvised arrangement.
qc) This Flight Tonight – You remind me SO MUCH of Joni Mitchell here –
would you say she is an influence in your work? Why or why not? I love the
“Star Light” section it really takes off! Was that a compositional choice?
ac) Joni Mitchell is definitely an influence. I feel such a kindredness with her writing,
the contrast of complexity and simplicity. She makes the songs sound so easy to
play-when in fact her chord structure is quite complicated. Blue is an album I turn
to over and over again, and This Flight Tonight took on many lives before we
settled into this groove. I also fight against sounding too much like her-I want it to
come across as authentically me while still paying homage to her vocal choices.
Where the Star Light chorus takes off, it’s completely unplanned and
improvisational. I very rarely plan a scat line, but this one happened quite
naturally and it shows just how comfortable and supported I feel with Trio
qd) Norwegian Wood - Love the lilting feel with your vocal quality – it’s
such a lovely feeling (reminds me of Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown
ad) Thank you! This track was one of the first tracks we did for a
concert as a quartet. It’s much more structured here than it is when we play it in
concert. I wanted it to feel like a daydream.
qe) Alfie – oof! Such a solid Jazz Standard, and one of those tunes that
feels timeless and iconic as the years go by – What does this tune mean for
you right now? (mmm the brushwork )
ae) Alife was a very pointed choice, and we wanted to play it really subdued. Robin
really plays the crap out of being delicate. We came together by the death of a
dear friend, colleague and mentor at his wake. He was always trying to get me to
sing this tune, and when I was younger I simply didn’t get it. It was too showy for
what it was saying-cause it’s really quite a tragic tune for me as my friend died
when I wasn’t there. He had so much love to give, and I hope he knew how much
he was loved. “When you walk, let your heart lead the way-and you’ll find love
any day.” The entire album is in memoriam of him and what he taught me about
music and life.
qf) Lonely Lonely – Tell me about the opening – how did you go about
arranging this tune? Planned or a special improvised moment? So much
going on here with the repetitive riff in the piano and the splashes of
cymbals against the Bass work, what was the inspiration?
af) I’ve played this tune in a variety of configurations over the past 15 years. I love
the dynamic between the quiet and the crash. Feist is just such a brilliant lyricist,
and she took Tony Scherr’s song and brought it to a place of wonderful emotional
impact. I often felt lonely when I first started playing this-and so it resonates with
me on a deeply personal level.
Musically, so much of what we do is improvised. Timing, length of sections, we
wait, we respond, we listen. I trust the Trio implicitly.
qg) Repetition – “I like to think I could quit you anytime”. This piano and
vocal soli(?) is such a provocative sound! Again the words, I’d love to hear
more about the story behind this tune! (Beautiful bass solo in this, man,
something really special with that careful drive by the drums and piano in
partnership with it)
ag) My dear friend Michael Feuerstack is one of the best kept secrets in this country.
He is a genius lyricist, storyteller and singer. I am first of all honoured that he
allowed me to record this tune. As a hardcore romanticist, this song always sunk
me as I was a bit overzealous when it came to love as a young woman. It’s hard
to quit love-especially the kind of love that isn’t really real. Mike’s version of this
tune is short and sweet-our version is based on an arrangement by another
friend and Vancouver Mainstay Dan Gaucher the he did long ago with Cat Toren
and Evan Arntzen. We just gave it our special twist. Kinda feels like going to
church in the end-which makes me very happy.
qh) Midnight Sun! Done with a Samba feel – The lyricism in this tune is just
so delicious – what was the decision behind making this up beat? It works,
and holds this interesting place for the lyrics to be interpreted.
ah) Again-this tune had to be whipped a bit to get it right. I kept saying, no, let’s
leave it off, it's not right, forget it. But the guys didn’t let me get away with letting it
go. They knew how much I love this tune so we worked it out. The feel was
Simon’s idea-and it really helped make it our own. I didn’t want it to feel too old
school, but I didn’t want to go completely off course either. It’s important to me
that lyrics and feel match each other and feel cohesive.
qi) Exquisite Corpse – TELL ME THE STORY BEHIND THIS ONE – the
drum and bass pattern off the top resolving to the piano harmony later on
is really powerful.
ai) Exquisite Corpse is off an album that I basically know by heart, ‘O Witness’ by
Chris Brown and Kate Fenner. It was a challenge as there were some parts that
were really a struggle to embrace as a group. I knew it so well, almost to a fault.
The guys didn’t know it at all. Finally, on the last take, we cut a portion of the
tune, and tightened up the end section, and it all came together. It was tricky
being in the studio, isolated in different rooms, because we are used to being so
closely in communion with each other, so with Simon’s help he led me through
the changes till we got through the mud. It turned out to be perfect. We couldn’t
be happier with it. The ending is chilling.
qj) One More Colour – Do you have perfect pitch? You’ve got lots of
moments in this album where it’s you on your lonesome and it’s quite
impressive, how do you go about feeling comfortable in these moments?
ai) Probably not. I have to work pretty hard to make sure I’m hitting it
where I want. I’ve had such a change in my vocal/breath strength over the past
couple years since I started working with Tenor and Vocal Instructor Leon
Leontaridis. I also have a bit of a problem with my eustachian tubes which makes
hearing myself clearly a bit of a strain.
I do feel very comfortable with this group of humans, because I feel so supported
as an artist and individual. They have walked me through this entire process,
guiding and allowing me to take the reins. So, for me to be “alone” in the
moments is quite an honour and I take it very seriously.
One of the things I love the most about how we work is all the space we give
each other. No one is walking all over each other, inching into one another’s
sections or solos. We are really working together to bring out the best in each
Q4) Why this collection of songs for your album?
A4) These are all songs I love. They hold a place in my memory, heartache, joy, childhood,
friendship. They have to have meaning to come across sincerely. And at my utmost, I
want to be genuine. Anyone can be a good singer, even a great singer, if they have the
time. But I want to reach into people’s hearts and take a seat there. I want to be
remembered for being genuine, not for having a pretty voice.
Q5) Trio Velocity – how’d you meet and why this ensemble for this project? They
sound like they’ve been playing with each other for years (their pockets).
A5) HMMMMM> Well, we’d been swimming in the same pond for a while, and had never
played together as a group until our friend had passed away. Robin and I , as well as
Simon and I had played together, but I had never played with Sheldon and we had never
played as a foursome. It was thanks to Keith, that we came together. I can’t say how
long they’ve played together, but they are the salt of the earth and damn fine musicians.
They bring the best out in each other and in me.
We have been playing together for the past 4 years, developing material and when I
finally got the nerve to write a grant application for it, I had no more excuses!
Q6) Tell me about the place you recorded – was it your ideal? Why?
A6) This album has quite a story. Initially, it was recorded as a livestream session via
YOUTUBE at BUCKINGJAM PALACE, which is a unique venue here in Calgary. It is a
heritage home, which hosts regular concerts and has such a beautiful, sometimes haunting energy. Lisa
Buck (the owner) runs it, along with a Board and Advisory Committee, and they offer it to
musicians at no cost for rehearsal space and recording. I wanted to record there for so
many reasons; the closeness we were allowed to feel as a band, the beauty of the space
itself, how accessible it was to us. However, once we reviewed the audio with my mixing
engineer, we realized that it just wasn’t a strong enough capture to take it to radio and
put money behind it. So, in the new year, we decided to go into the studio at OCL.
Spencer Cheyne took over as engineer, and he mixed and mastered the album. Simon
took the reins as producer and got everything to where he knew it needed to be. It was
seamless. I was able to hear everything, and while we couldn’t be close as we usually
like to be, somehow the magic was able to come through. In some ways, our listening to each other just became more intentional. I seem to always go for the hardest option first-and I think it’s because I was blocking
myself from any measure of success. Like, the studio represented me taking myself
seriously because of its cost. But, wow, I am so happy I did it. The album is exactly what
I wanted it to be. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q7) What would you like to say to the women/children studying jazz right now?
A7) It is up to us to make noise, to take our place and lean in, as well as hold space for
others to lean in. It is up to us to stop being divided as women and stop competing with
each other. We have to teach our daughters and sisters that there is room for everyone
to bloom if we get out of our own way.
Women are every bit as capable as men are in bandleading, composing, arranging and
performing. As someone who has very little theory (not because I haven’t tried:)), I don’t
read music well, but I feel it. And that is as strong as someone who can read the
music, or knows the right changes, or can tell me what note I am singing. I have
stopped apologizing for my “lack” and started realizing that I have every right to be there.