Interview with Canadian Country Artist Elyse Saunders
Today on What On What’s Good with Host Jovin Tardif, I am here with Canadian Country Artist Elyse Saunders. Elyse is celebrating her new music video for her current Canadian radio single, “Free” . In our interview, topics include producing her debut album, performing at events, her new song ‘Free’, vlogging and more.
1. What inspired you to get into music? How did it all start?
Music has always been a part of me!
I was the kid on the block that would round up the other kids and put on choreographed singing and dancing shows. I grew up watching my mom singing and writing songs in the kitchen. Both my parents were big believers in pursuing what I loved and once I finished high school, I jumped into the world of music just by doing it.
I would be performing on any stage I could. Anything from contest stages, showcases and music clubs – even underage! My dad was a big believer in finding opportunities where I could be exposed to real stages with entertainers who were killing it! He would get me in the door at well-established music clubs for an early part of the evening with an artist I had just met, with musicians I had never played with before and in front of an audience, I didn’t know! I would do my best to bring it and then we’d get out!! I did this on and off for a few years until I started booking my own shows.
2. Describe booking your own shows.
I’d say that it was a huge influence on my flexibility as an entertainer and where I really learned to be an entertainer, not for myself but for the people! For the early part of my career, I was like a sponge and was fortunate to be surrounded by professionals who believed in giving me a chance to learn from their experience.
3. Can you discuss what it is like being a songwriter?
I learned to be a songwriter by writing with people I looked up to and I’ve learned to be a businesswoman by going through the motions and learning along the way. I was also super lucky to have a father who would always ingrain the importance of not just being a creative person but a smart business person and I’ve learned to have a passion for the business because of it!
4. Who are some of your musical influences?
My influences have been the village of people I’ve learned from and have found my unique place as a country artist in it all. It’s important to me that I’m always growing and becoming the best version of me as both an artist and a person.
Artists who I look up to are Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash. I take different things from each of them as entertainers, vocalists, songwriters, and the messages they share.
5. How would you describe your voice and sound?
I’ve been told that I have a soulful, warm, and powerful voice with a unique mature tone.
Over the years of experience and vocal training work, I’d say that my voice has become pretty versatile in the range of where I can go! I love growing my vocal like it’s a muscle!! (Big kudos to my vocal coach too!)
My current sound really showcases that versatility in range and I’ve found a place in creating songs with an empowering somewhat anthemic feel (for the most part)… but I also love throwing in a song that’s a little more vulnerable once in a while, too. My songs’ productions are bold and produced with a country-pop thread.
6. What was it like producing your debut album with producer Cyril Rawson? Any fun stories or memories from the studio?
When I think of that album, I think of all of the incredible amount of learning I did. From working in his home loft studio to recording the album in Nashville.
It was my first time in Nashville and I couldn’t have had a better person to introduce me to that world. Cyril was one of my first mentors and taught me what it was to expressively sing a lyric so that it would tell a song’s story. He was a veteran in the industry and would always tell it the way he saw it. I can’t say Cyril was ever easy on me – haha – he demanded professionalism and my best “real” performance and made it pretty clear when he wasn’t impressed by something. He wouldn’t have to say it, it was a look, it was a vibe! Haha.
I would work very hard to meet his expectations, which I believe is a big part of why I’m a bit of perfectionist when it comes to recording my vocals in the studio now. I’m always listening back to a vocal or music production and thinking, ”Does this tell the story? Does this sound like a real, honest conversation?”
That’s what country music is all about – real stories that could be told in a conversation. Through that experience, I also did a bunch of demo singing for Cyril’s songs. By singing each lyric by lyric and learning to phrase it in such a way that it would accurately tell the story, I was also learning about who he was a songwriter. It made a big impression on how I write songs today, too!!
7. You have performed at over 350 shows. Can you describe the energy of the crowd?
I love being an entertainer and I think that shows on stage. I put a lot of work into my live show and always want to create a dynamic, high-energy show with memorable moments for my audience. It’s important to me that they feel involved and we feel like we’re all friends… good vibes only! It’s the best feeling when you can see that people are there with you, connected and having a great time together.
My purpose of being an entertainer is to give people those moments, so that they can leave feeling happy, pumped, inspired. My favourite type of show is when I’m up there with my full band and we’re having a ton of fun together. I enjoy acoustic, intimate performances too, but full band, full crowd is definitely where I come alive.
8. Was there an event that you were particularly excited to be a part of and why?
I’m excited about all of my shows for different reasons, but one that stands out is a show at Sunfest Country Music Festival on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I arrived there a week earlier for some writing appointments and exploring, and then took a ferry over from the city to the island, picked up a rental van and then picked up my band from the airport. We stayed in a beautiful serene spot in the wilderness, had a family BBQ the night before our big show, and then played in an incredible location surrounded on a stage that surrounded by picturesque mountains and all-time country music lovers! It was pretty cool to really take in that experience in a new place and have so much fun. Terri Clark and Jason Aldean played that night too… so I mean that was also super awesome!!!
9. Your latest song is ‘Free’. What messages are you conveying in this song? Can you describe some fun moments creating the music video ‘Free’?
I wanted to create an upbeat summer song that would share picturesque snapshots of those summertime memories that take you back to a place of freedom and being in the moment.
A bunch of the lyrics are inspired by my youth and a time when the summer is all that mattered (for the most part). I personally find that my life can get pretty busy and fast-paced. In order for me to recharge and stay inspired, I know how important it is to schedule in that time to let loose, soak up the beauty around me, and be out in fresh air. It’s those kinds of times where I can feel free of worries and ground myself with what’s important to me. Being free of responsibilities is pretty fleeting, but when you can feel that way even for a brief time, it can be pretty freeing!
I hope that people can listen to ‘Free’ and feel pumped up as well as nostalgic, so it reminds them to slow down and celebrate life. Time flies and it’s important to work hard to reach our goals. But you gotta stop and smell the roses sometimes, too!
10. With live shows on hold due to COVID-19, please describe your weekly vlog series on YouTube and Facebook live chats.
When the pandemic first happened, my life turned upside down. Like many others, I didn’t know what the next few months or year was going to look like. I felt pretty overwhelmed. My life is music every day and something I’ve been working towards for most of my life.
I also knew that shows were going to be non-existent for a while, which was pretty disheartening. After a few talks with my team, we came up with the idea of connecting with fans online. I wanted to make it a bit more personal and start conversations with them on Facebook.
As for the YouTube vlogs, that was a learning curve for me but also really showcased a new side of me and my music. By sharing these parts of me I was able to give my fans a side that they haven’t really seen before. So between COVID-19 and my song, I wanted to create topics that could fall under the umbrella of what “Free” was to me. I talked on a range of subjects from mental health, writing songs, staying motivated, a day in my life and what I’m doing during the pandemic, behind the scene & more.
These weekly vlogs were what gave me purpose again. It really brought a whole new side to sharing my song to the world. I’ve learned that people are looking for online connections more than ever right now, so it’s been pretty amazing to see how my music has touched people in a new way and something I’ll be taking forward with me as I release more music in the future.