Books

Polaris Prize finalist Charlotte Day Wilson found reading Maggie Nelson's Bluets opened her mind and heart

Toronto-based R&B singer-songwriter Charlotte Day Wilson, shortlisted for the 2022 Polaris Music Prize, shares her book recommendation with CBC Books.

The Toronto singer, songwriter and producer is a 2022 finalist for her album Alpha

Toronto singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Charlotte Day Wilson recommends reading Bluets by American writer Maggie Nelson. (Othello Grey, Wave Books)

Toronto R&B singer-songwriter/producer Charlotte Day Wilson's soulful voice has been entrancing listeners as far back as 2012, when she began releasing her first solo songs. But it wasn't until 2021 that she put out her debut full-length, Alpha.

Turns out that taking a little time (to echo a lyric from her breakthrough 2016 song Work) to get it right made it worth the wait — Alpha was hailed as one of the best Canadian albums of the year, garnering Wilson her first Polaris Music Prize shortlist nomination (after making the longlist twice for her previous EPs in 2017 and 2018).

Alpha is one of the ten albums shortlisted for the 2022 Polaris Prize, which celebrates the best Canadian album of the year. The winner, who will receive $50,000, will be announced on Sept. 19, 2022. 

Alpha showcases Wilson's signature sound that blends buttery-smooth R&B, soul, jazz, gospel and folk, with evocative lyrics that explore love and personal identity from a queer perspective.

Part of a collaborative Toronto music scene that includes BadBadNotGood, Daniel Caesar and River Tiber, Wilson also produces all her own music and launched her own record label, Stone Woman Music, in 2018, to take creative and financial control after years of self-financing her music by working odd jobs.

Cover artwork for Charlotte Day Wilson's 2021 album Alpha. (Killbeat Music)

Wilson has had a big year in the wake of Alpha's release, playing legendary Toronto venue Massey Hall and landing three 2022 Juno Award nominations for Songwriter of the Year, Producer of the Year and Traditional R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.

Wilson told CBC Books about reading Bluets by similarly genre-defying American writer Maggie Nelson and why reading about an artist in their "blue period" can help creatives better understand the depths of tapping into their own imagination.

Inspiring ideas

"A couple trusted friends recommended this book, so I had a feeling it would be a good read for me. 

"I had never read the type of poetry/prose that Maggie Nelson used in this book and it really opened my horizons to a different writing style — one that felt so relatable and similar to my own inner dialogue, yet one that would take left turns in places my mind would never fully allow itself to go to.

This book really opened my horizons to a different writing style — one that felt so relatable and similar to my own inner dialogue.

"Her obsessive desire to draw connections between inanimate objects, colours and life gave my imagination and my heart a real explosion. My creative brain felt seen and I felt inspired."

Tangled up in blue

"I had always noticed that there was a theme among many great artists to have a "Blue Period," and it was something that always intrigued me. 

Many great artists seem to have a 'Blue Period,' and it was something that always intrigued me.

"I loved Maggie's interpretation of that phenomenon, and in turn her own exploration into Blue, and the lengths the imagination can go to find meaning."

Watch | Charlotte Day Wilson performs at the 2022 Juno Songwriters' Circle:

Charlotte Day Wilson | Juno Songwriters' Circle 2022

5 months ago
Duration 9:13

 

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