Slean times

She recently released a new album, published a poetry anthology and starred in a musical, but if you think sarah slean is about to slow down, you have another think coming: her to-do list starts with moving to france. Shannon webb-campbell checks in for

photo Dustin Rabin

Sarah Slean is shedding skins, leaving pockets of herself all across the country before she flees to France. She stops in at Ginger’s Tavern on December 7 and 8 to peel off a few more layers.

“It is true,” says Slean, with a hint of a French accent, on an early-morning conversation from Edmonton. “I am moving to France. I am going to rent l’appartement and continue to promote Day One. I also have plans to start working on the next record.”

In the midst of an existential meltdown in the summer of 2003, Slean took to the woods to figure out the meaning of life. What dawned on her was Day One, an album which emerged from a crippling uncertainty and evolved into a call for renaissance.

“I am more brave and personal in terms of exposing myself musically and emotionally,” she says. “People who are fans seem to be much more into what I’m doing now; however, I have read more bad reviews about Day One than Night Bugs. Critics seem to have wanted me to write the same record again, which is pointless.”

Day One is a slight departure, as the drums and bass are kicked up a notch, though it is still in the same vein as her previous works Night Bugs (2002), Blue Parade (1998) and Universe (1997). Slean muses that music is contingent on time and says that’s why she’s a touch leery of the recording process. Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of catching her live performance—she may look like an idiosyncratic, Victorian-esque pixie, but she can exhaust a grand piano any night of the week.

“I’m never satisfied with my recordings, it just seems so final,” she says. “That’s why I like playing live because I can change and morph the songs. When you record it’s kind of like making a piece of art, in a sense, as it hangs on the wall and can never be changed.”

Aside from her brief sabbatical in the cabin outside of Ottawa, Slean has been touring around the clock for the past few years. Her intellectual piano-pop melodies have come a long way from small clubs on the outskirts of Toronto. In between gigs she’s penned a pocket-sized poetry anthology dubbed Ravens; starred in Black Widow, a musical that pays tribute to the film noir cinema of the 1940s; received Juno and Gemini nominations; written an online travelogue for Maclean’s and served as the honourary presenter for the Giller Prize.

“There are so many things I want to make before I die,” says Slean. “Anywhere from symphonies, to musicals, to classical records. I want to give something to the world; an experiment that is peculiar, sad and a bit strange. I know it sounds a touch morbid, but we are all so purposely invited to life. We’ve only got a brief time before we croak.”

It seems Slean has adjusted to her current position here on earth; she finds painstaking beauty in art and philosophical literature. Her aspirations could hardly be called minimal—she has thoughts of producing a musical, exhibiting her paintings and publishing another compilation of thought.

“I’m so in love with the art of words,” she says. “My favourite writers and painters hit their stride when they were in their 60s. I hope I live a long life, there is just so much I want to accomplish. I would like to write a novel, maybe when I’m in my 50s. I’ll have a little more life under my nails then.

“Some days I think I’d really like to live in one place, grow plants and have a dog,” she says. “I suppose I am tightening who I am. People think it’s about growing into you who are, but it’s more about unveiling yourself.

“It’s like Michelangelo, the sculpture is already in the rock, it’s just a process of meeting yourself.”

Sarah Slean, December 7 and 8 at Ginger’s Tavern, 1662 Barrington, 10pm, $25adv/$30 door, 494-3820.

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