Jane Lewis

Sound Bites: A Q&A with Canadian Singer-Songwriter Jane Lewis

In Making Music, MfP Stories by jan_mfp

Jane Lewis

Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri

With her trademark curls and gutsy stage presence, Jane Lewis is often compared to the legendary hitmaker Carole King. “I take it as a compliment,” says the Canadian singer-songwriter, whose own material exudes a certain hippie bliss. “I admire strong female musicians like her, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone. Many of my influences come from that era and from the ‘80s pop-rock I grew up with.”

During a recent exchange from her home in Guelph, outside of Toronto, Lewis recounts how she gave up a promising writing career in 2009 to pursue music full time. Lewis admits that she paid her dues as a backup singer before taking center stage as a soloist and one half of a duo called Gathering Sparks, which has been recognized at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

“My evolution has been pretty organic, but I’ve always been drawn to the creative side of things,” explains Lewis, who also leads vocal meditation workshops and weekend music retreats for women. (More information about her music and workshops at http://www.janelewis.ca.)

We caught up with the award-winning multi-instrumentalist to discuss how Music for People (MfP) impacts her life, artistically and otherwise.

Are you new to Music for People?
A couple years ago, [MfP founding board member] Jim Oshinsky posted something about Music for People online. I joined the mailing list and waited for the right time to attend an event. It turned out to be this past summer’s “Art of Improvisation” workshop.

And that led to your involvement with the Musicianship and Leadership Program, right?
Yes. I am new to the program, but, already, it has opened some doors for me. I now improvise on the piano and other instruments with greater freedom and comfort. Previously, most of my improvisation had been vocal.

What else do you like about MfP?
The fundamental philosophy aligns with my work—the idea that everyone can access music. I love bringing people together, with music as the connection point. MfP exercises and techniques benefit many groups that I facilitate.

Music creates connection, fostering communication that is so desperately needed in the world right now. It gives me hope for healing on an individual and a global level.Jane Lewis

Are you self-taught?
I took Royal Conservatory piano lessons as a kid, but I quit because I wanted to improvise and play “real music.” I sometimes regret that I wasn’t able to keep it going, but I found my way back to music later in life.

Today, I play keyboard mostly and accordion occasionally. I also can strum a few chords on the ukulele and guitar.

You’ve studied improvisation and circle singing [a community-singing practice] with Rhiannon and Bobby McFerrin, among others. What did they teach you?
How to listen within to my own music, to step through fear and to trust that the music will always be there when I need it. That’s the short answer.

What can music teach us about ourselves?
I didn’t find my voice until my thirties. It was a life-changing experience, and it has been an ongoing one. It has given me a sense of strength and purpose as well as a connection to my true self. Improvisation takes it to an even deeper level.

Music creates connection, fostering communication that is so desperately needed in the world right now. It gives me hope for healing on an individual and a global level.

Author: Robert Enslin