joanna_border

Joanna

Posted on
|| Musician ||

Joanna

 It’s a very saturated industry. It’s hard to break out and be heard, especially in a field that is social media heavy. The record industry won’t look at you unless you have 20,000 followers. It’s less about the quality, more about quantity and what sells. That worries me the most, you know? Finding a space for my music to thrive and for people to hear it.

— Joanna

I’ve been singing all my life, but I got serious about music when I was in my last year of high school. [I had to chose] either steady jazz or steady classical. I ended up going the jazz route at Humber college. I auditioned, got in, and met a lot of the people I play with today.

When I was young, I started piano at 6 and vocals at 13. Both were more classically based. [It was later that] I branched into the jazz world, R&B and soul. At Humber, they started a contemporary Bachelor of Music degree that incorporated styles like pop and country; that’s the program I studied. My first two years was strictly jazz fundamental stuff and the last few years I got to record my own EP of original soul and R&B work.

I play in the St. Royals and a band called The Digs. I do a lot of session work as a background singer in KC Roberts & The Live Revolution, a fantastic original music funk band. I used to play in a band called The Daft Punk Tribute, but we’re not really playing that much anymore. They’re all different projects, and I think in this line of work you need to be in a bunch of different things.  Of course I also have my own original stuff that I put on hold for a few years, but now i’m ready to get at it again.

Is there a moment that defines you?

Forming strong bonds with my peers at Humber who are now some of my closest friends. I trusted them with my original music, which is a very vulnerable thing. When I put out an EP of my work, it was received really well. The excitement it generated was an encouraging thing, especially since I do a lot of cover gigs. Those are rewarding, but it’s even more rewarding when you can do your own original work and say what you want to say.  

What’s something you’re scared, worried or fearful about?

Again, with the original music, it’s a very saturated industry. It’s hard to break out and be heard, especially in a field that is social media heavy. The record industry won’t look at you unless you have 20,000 followers. It’s less about the quality, more about quantity and what sells. That worries me the most, you know? Finding a space for my music to thrive and for people to hear it.

The more I think about it, maybe I don’t want to break into the mainstream, maybe I just want to stay true to my art, be more of a small time artist and maintain my integrity.

What is a place in Toronto that you feel connected to?

I wasn’t born and raised in the downtown core; I grew up in Scarborough. On weekends in the summer we would always come to Kensington Market. It has changed a lot. It used to be less hipster, you know, there was the old meat market and a really good roti place that closed down. Whenever I come to Kensington, it reminds me of my childhood. There were lots of fish markets too. I used to hate it. My grandma would always take me into those stores and I’d complain,“it stinks.”

Anything else you want to share?

I’m working hard this year at getting out some new stuff, pumping some fresh blood into my existing material. I’m trying to compile a list of songs that I’ve written. I’ve written so many, but haven’t recorded them. I’m thinking about how I want to record it: acoustic, soul or more of a band thing?

Portrait photo: graffiti in Kensington Market