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After nearly 10 years in music—that’s six albums, two home bases, countless cross-Canada tours, dozens of flights across the ocean and back—Gabrielle Papillon is looking at a life in music differently. She’s pulling the balance back, away from endless touring and grant paperwork and toward her favourite part about music: The creation of it.
Gabrielle has shared the stage with Ron Sexmith, Amelia Curran, the Head and the Heart, the Strumbellas, Arkells, Ria Mae, Old Man Luedecke, and Hey Rosetta! among others. She has also licensed her music for film and television in Canada, the United States, and Australia with 15 placements over the last three years, including Rookie Blue (USA), Offspring (AUS, Netflix), and This Life (CAN).
Gabrielle has in recent years turned to co-writing with other writers and producers for their own projects, for sync placement, and to present to other artists. That process includes taking those trans-Atlantic flights to write with multiple producers and songwriters in the UK, finding a special knack with Jonas Persson, and back home in Halifax, Nova Scotia with the likes of pop mastermind Corey LeRue.
What has happened, quite unintentionally, is a new passel of songs for her own catalogue, in addition to the more than 30 collaborations she’s worked on. Writing songs for strangers—culling from Gabrielle’s own life experiences—has offered an openness writing songs solely for herself had not. There is no expectation of genre, or voice, or theme: All that matters is this song, in this moment. So she’s kept some for herself.
Without the framework of an album to consider—though that will come, stay tuned—Gabrielle approached each new track as its own record: What was the song’s intent? What is the sound it needs? Who would be the right producer to get that sound? Why wait two years to have a finished album when you can build it one song at a time, offering the songs as a whole work once they’ve had time to marinate? As she’s reframed her life in the music business, so too has she reframed the making of the music itself, and she’s found a new freedom.
“I am a songwriter first, and I am happiest when I am writing,” she says. “That is my greatest skill. And in this new journey of harnessing it for projects outside of my own artist career, I’ve found some amazing collaborators and discovered a new and unrestrained way of writing for myself. I’ll always play shows and be a performer, but I don’t see the sense in touring for the sake of touring. I want tours and shows to be special and worthwhile.”
Find your freedom in the song, in this moment. It’s the same voice, it’s just getting bigger.
Gabrielle has been very fortunate to have consistent national radio play and support from CBC Radio, in Canada, with songs in regular and high rotation. She has also had a few spotlight plays on BBC Radio 6, and her last album charted on Canadian national campus radio, CBC Radio 2, and the international iTunes Singer-Songwriter charts.
Gabrielle has been touring and playing music full time since 2010 and does particularly well in Halifax, Montreal, and Toronto, usually playing 120 to 200 cap rooms in those three cities. She also plays larger venues and festivals in other cities though often as part of another bill.