Genre-Hopping Singer-Songwriter Great-Aunt Ida Has a New Album

Great Aunt Ida is the vehicle for singer/songwriter Ida Nilsen’s quiet yet lush folk/jazz melodies.


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When: August 24, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Centennial Lodge, Queens Park, New Westminster


Great Aunt Ida is the vehicle for singer/songwriter Ida Nilsen’s hushed yet lush folk/jazz melodies.

A veteran of such celebrated local bands as the vibrant Radiogram, experimental group The Beans, and the Buttless Chaps, Nilsen launched her solo career in 2003 and released her debut Our Fall in 2005. For the next several years, Nilsen was a regular on the Canadian scene moving to Toronto and then Detroit. At this point, the trail fell silent for nearly a decade.

In 2021, Great Aunt Ida returned with her fourth album, Unsayable.

The eight-song collection ranges from the opening track Shoes, which balances lyrics that plunge into a state so exhausted It’s all I can do/To put on my shoes against a deceptively upbeat piano riff, to the sneaky beat of Promised Land, powered by trumpeter JP Carter’s trumpet and Nilsen’s Wurlitzer organ.

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In keeping with previous releases, the new material has more literary lyrics and expansive production.

The free time seems to have been well spent, creatively speaking.

“When I got married and moved to Detroit, it was to try to find a place to settle down and have the opportunity to be able to buy something,” Nilsen said.

“We did it, but it turned out to be much more complicated than expected. Detroit was much harder to find my place musically as someone new to town than that, and I was also very focused on trying to make a living, which is the flip side of cheap real estate that isn’t advertised as much. There aren’t many jobs and they don’t pay well at all.”

In the end, none of the plan worked. She went back to Vancouver to start over. This included going to UBC for a degree in English Literature, which explains the sharper lyrical approach of his new material, and the title borrowing from the poet Rilke’s Ninth Elegy, a poem that delves into the depths of English literature. human experience.

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School proved to be a full-time activity, so music was still on the back burner as Nilsen pursues a master’s degree in architecture.

“Architecture had been my goal all along, but getting a master’s degree in literature was always on the back burner, as words have always fascinated me. But the design classes I took for my undergraduate degree were always my favorites and I love the emotional experiences people have with places and spaces.”

His experiences with spaces also form a component of the new music.

“Personally, I was going through a lot of different things writing Unsayable,” he said. “Coming back to Vancouver was weird because I had to come to terms with who I was before I left and what parts of that life fit with who I am now. It took me a little while to figure out where I felt at home and what I was going to do, to try to feel out of my comfort zone. I went back to making music during my summer off during my undergraduate degree, which was easy and fun.”

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Nilsen worked on the album with his main trio of bassist Mark Haney and drummer Barry Mirochnick. At first, it was easy. The project then stalled for a few years as the sound developed with many contributions. In addition to the trio, the album is rounded out with guitar parts by Jonathan Anderson and Dan Goldman, trumpet and effects by JP Carter, strings by Meredith Bates and Sarah Kwok, backing vocals by Mirochnick and Patsy Klein, and some exceptional woodwinds by Krystal. Morrison and Jennifer. Vance.

“We recorded in two parts, with bed tracks as a trio, and then we’d go do overdubs at Afterlife Studios,” Nilsen said. “Then we sat on it for two years and I just couldn’t figure out how to make it sound the way I wanted it to. But I was lucky enough to have some help from old friends and collaborators who came to my aid with arrangements that proved to be the inspiration I needed to get it done.”

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As someone who was deeply involved in the long-gone and much-missed venue, the Sugar Refinery on Granville Street, Nilsen had extensive experience presenting music in non-traditional spaces. This seemed to fit in with his artistic output, which is often accompanied by a quiet side that doesn’t do well in loud nightclubs. His recent appearance at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival took place in the casual and relaxing confines of Performance Works.

The launch show for Unsayable takes place in a new space in New Westminster that Nilsen is excited about.

“I’ve never played a jazz festival before and I never expected us to be a band that would fit in with that, but genres are always expanding and I’ve never played with cellist Peggy Lee before,” Nilsen said. “So that was pretty exciting for a first comeback show. The room in Queen’s Park looks really beautiful with a whole wall of windows looking out over the park and we have an expanded line-up with JP on trumpet and John Anderson on guitar.”

Follow Great Aunt Ida in it website.

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