Musician bringing old-time music to audiences
Music: Annie Lou combines bluegrass, country tunes for Beneath the Arch
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 01:48 pm
Many musicians boast a musical background that takes them back to their childhood, but that wasn’t the case for one Vancouver Island musician.
Although Anne Louise Genest’s love of old time music goes back to her younger years, the 50-year-old singer/songwriter didn’t pick up her first instrument or attempt to write a song until she was 30.
While living in the Yukon, Genest made friends with musicians who got her singing, writing songs and playing the guitar with them around the kitchen table.
“It made me realize I could play these songs I loved to sing along with on the radio,” she said.
Genest spent the next 10 years jamming with friends and performing at local shows.
“It was a slow growth,” she said. “I wrote songs based on what I could play, which was a basic singer-songwriter strum.”
Genest’s musical talents began to improve and music quickly became a big part of her life.
“The Yukon provided me with a great environment for writing because there was so much space and openness and lots of room to figure out who I was and how I wanted to be in the world,” she said.
Genest released her first album ‘Trouble’ as a solo artist, with backup from some local musicians in the Whitehorse area.
She said the album was a mixed bag of songs and it wasn’t until after it was released that her producer’s love for bluegrass began to rub off on her.
“I was listening to what he was listening to and I was really captured by it because of the energy of it, the musicianship and eventually bluegrass led me to old time,” she said.
Genest began exploring with other instruments besides the guitar, including the mandolin and banjo.
“I’m obsessed with the banjo now and learning a bit of the fiddle,” she said. “It was a welcome discovery. It’s always a journey to discover new things and I feel that I’m still doing that.”
Genest became part of an all-girl old time collaborative ensemble and started recording albums and performing at concerts and festivals around the world.
“Sometimes I wished that I had been playing as a kid,” she said. “You learn a different way when you are young and your brain gets set for certain patterns. It’s more challenging as an adult to learn so I feel that’s been not a terrible struggle. It’s been a very joyful process.”
During the last five years, Genest evolved into a solo artist, allowing her to take ownership of the material she was creating.
Genest’s songs and compositions are driven by her love of old-time mountain, traditional bluegrass and country music.
“There is something about the culture and history of that music that comes from people who led very difficult lives,” she said.
What Genest loves most about the music is that dark and terrible stories can be set to happy, upbeat instrumentals.
“That was a way for people to cope with really difficult lives,” she said. “Some of my songs are pretty dark but set to a more rolling rhythm and happy melody sounding.”
When writing her own songs, Genest delves into both literal and ambiguous writings. She said the more ambiguous stories allow the opportunity for listeners to interpret them at their own will and relate to them based on their own experiences.
“I don’t want to say too much because I’m telling people what to think,” she said. “I will write something that speaks to me but might also speak to you about something you might have experienced in life.”
Two years ago, Genest moved to Vancouver Island with her husband for a change in lifestyle, and feels the move could have some influence on her music.
“It’s all part of my evolution as an artist,” she said. “Inevitably your environment influences you that way.”
Genest currently works with Toronto musicians Sarah Hamilton, Andrew Collins and Max Heineman, who are joining her on stage in Turner Valley.
Now under the name Annie Lou, Genest performs a range of old-time bluegrass and country music that’s made its way across Canada and on March 15 will reach Turner Valley’s Beneath the Arch Concert Series in the Flare ‘n’ Derrick Community Hall at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Alberta,” she said. “I’m not a real road warrior. I like to go out a few times a year. I really like my life at home too. I try to have a really good balance.”
Genest performed in Diamond Valley a few times in past years and is glad to be back for her first performance in the Flare ‘n’ Derrick Community Hall.
“I’m really looking forward to being back and being able to play at Beneath the Arch,” she said. “I’ve heard about it for years and am totally thrilled to be able to play.”
This weekend’s concert will feature some of Genest’s new original songs, as well as some from her previous albums and traditional tunes.
She is heading into the studio with an assortment of new songs this spring to create another album.
Tickets to see Annie Lou perform are available in Turner Valley at Coyote Moon Cantina and Espresso Bar, Black Diamond’s Bluerock Gallery, Okotoks’ Bluerock Café, the Millarville General Store or by calling 403-933-7040. Tickets cost $25 for teens and adults, $10 for children and youngsters under six years are free.
To learn more about Annie Lou go to www.annilou.ca