Starting to happen

Singer-songwriter Allison Lickley is from Sudbury and based in Montreal. But what she really wants to be, she tells Ian Gormely, is a Haligonian.

Homeward bound Allison Lickley likes what she hears about Halifax.
photo Rob Fournier

Allison Lickley wants to move to Halifax. Currently living in Montreal, the singer-songwriter is using her current month-and-a-half long pseudo-tour of Atlantic Canada as an opportunity to quiz anyone and everyone about our fair city. The thumbs-ups she's received are encouraging.

"Not everybody feels that way about their hometown," she says.

Lickley's desire to move here is hardly impulsive. Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Lickley's family vacationed in the Maritimes when she was a child and when it came time to choose a university, Lickley picked Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick, where she studied chemistry: "There's something about the feel of the east coast that just really appeals to me."

Though she was "very studious" while at school, Lickley still found time to play gigs around town supporting the self-titled nine-song record she put out in 2001. While in Sackville she shared stages with In-Flight Safety, whose members were still students but well on their way to conquering the east coast, and Jill Barber.

Though Lickley didn't release another collection of her own songs until last October, she has continued writing and enjoys reading books about her craft. A current favourite is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron who talks about unlocking the inner artist. Lickley describes herself as more of a "cerebral" songwriter, but since reading Cameron's book, she says she's trying to branch out.

"I'm working now at just being a bit more free-flowing with it," she says.

She admires the way Randy Newman writes. Though he mostly composes film scores these days (most notably for Pixar films like Toy Story), Lickley says the eclectic singer-songwriter wakes up every day, turns off his phone and writes for five or six hours. She admires his discipline and structure. "I dream about having that kind of life," she says, compared to the frantic chaos of managing and promoting herself.

Following her stint at Mount Allison, Lickley spent three months in Europe, travelling through Italy, Spain and France. But rather than going the traditional hostel route, Lickley used, a networking sight for travellers looking for couches to crash on in foreign towns. It was while surfing one particular sofa in Paris that Lickley decided music would be her calling.

"I stayed with this couple in Paris one night," she recalls. "They made me this beautiful meal and to thank them I played a little concert for them. It was actually a moment during one of my songs that I was just like, "Yeah, I have to do this for my career.'"

Returning to Canada re-purposed, Lickley moved to Montreal, choosing the city partly because of its geographic proximity to both Ontario and Atlantic Canada—handy for touring.

"It was a huge leap for me," she says of the move. Lickley had grown up in the country and Sackville, despite a vibrant student population, is still a town of just 5,500 people. "I didn't know if I could live in a city and I thought Montreal was big enough that I'd get an idea if I could do that," she says. "It was a good challenge."

Montreal has been good to Lickley. "I find it buzzes," she says. A pair of producers from McGill's Music Recording program, Robert-Eric Gaskell and Jason O'Connell, happened to see her playing in a bar one night. O'Connell approached her about recording for a class project. The resulting sessions yielded last fall's Late September EP. She's just completed work on a full-length she plans to release in November with Gaskell. Lickley will be spending four days in New York prior to her show at One World Cafe shooting photos to accompany the record.

Like her current EP, Lickley's LP will be released 100 percent independently. She sees Late September as more of a demo and didn't really consider trying to get the record on store shelves, selling it at shows instead. She hopes the LP will get a more proper release.

"It's really fun work and you're in complete control," she says. "You care so much about what you're doing so you really push."

Allison Lickley w/Megan Lickley and Jane Ehrhardt, August 24 at One World Cafe, Agricola at West, 7pm, $5.

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