British Columbia

Bowen Island jazz star Christie Grace channels family in 'Golden Thread'

Christie Grace joins host Margaret Gallagher on CBC's Hot Air to discuss her new album, how she got into singing, and what it was like retracing her mother's "out of the box" steps.

Grace celebrates the release of new album at VSO's Pyatt Hall with intimate show

Bowen Island's Christie Grace celebrated the release of her new album Golden Thread on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Pyatt Hall. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, but Bowen Island jazz star Christie Grace tried to find light in the darkness with her newest album Golden Thread.

The title track of Grace's latest offering celebrates the life of her mother, who called her daughter "her golden thread" while on her death bed.

Grace says a lot of effort has gone into producing her latest work — and it's been worth every beat.

"It's the most fulfilling and releasing experience that I could ever articulate," said Grace. "I feel like it's a brand new day, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

Modern jazz, pop and rhythm and blues

The album was recorded with 20 other musicians, and is a unique blend of modern jazz, pop and rhythm and blues. Saturday marks the official album release, headlined by a live performance at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Pyatt Hall.

"It's going to be a really remarkable evening. We've poured so much into this album, and we're basically taking that energy and that love and that intention into this concert. We're providing a container that's going to very properly birth these songs and set them free," said Grace. "It's going to be very intimate, and also a huge celebration."

Grace joined host Margaret Gallagher on CBC's Hot Air to discuss the album, how she got into singing, and what it was like retracing her mother's "out of the box" steps.

Margaret Gallagher was joined by Christie Grace on CBC's Hot Air — B.C.'s Jazz show since 1947. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Margaret Gallagher: Where does the title of your new album, "Golden Thread," come from?

Christie Grace: It comes from the title track, which was a song that was written after my mother had passed away, when I was going through a particularly dark period.

It's no secret that we had a lot of ups and downs in our history, but later in life, we really reconnected, and bonded deeper then deep.

She had called me on her death bed — she called me her golden thread. That was the biggest gift she could have ever given me, for very personal reasons, and that song is probably one of the more emotional ones on the album. I was reaching out to her in that song.

And you were inspired to do this as you undertook a journey retracing your mother's steps. Tell us about that.

My mom was a very remarkable gal. She was a visual artist, a teacher, an educator, a mother of three children, and a wife to a passionate musician. She kind of went out of the box really early on, [and] went to Esalen in Big Sur. It's now become an internationally known retreat. But back then it was like: 'Where are you going, and why are you going there?'

It totally revolutionized her life. So my revisiting ... Esalen specifically was to find out what it was all about, as well as it was right at the time in my life when I really knew that I needed to face myself, and face some unfinished business inside myself.

How was your experience at Esalen?

Esalen is an unbelievable beautiful and very special place. I felt like mom was with me the whole time. I had dreams, she visited me in dreams. I felt very guided to be there. And all the experiences — both great adventures and a few misadventures too which makes it all fun.

How did you begin singing?

I actually kind of was born singing. I emulated my father. He was a professional big band jazz singer from Thunder Bay. He was absolutely my idol. I just wanted to sing like him. So that's when I started, when I was five. I started on playgrounds, and then I started singing professionally when I was 17 on the guitar and started going around to folk clubs in southern Ontario, and it kind sort of evolved into jazz and that's how it all began.

What was it like growing up in a jazz family?

I was very fortunate. Of course you just don't realize it at the time because it's just your life, but our home was just a constant playground — constant music, musicians, and artists.

I have a wonderful memory of my dad singing the Ink Spots, we three around the piano at 3 a.m. Things like that that you never forget.

What was it like writing this album?

Intense. But you know, that's me. It was a commitment though.

I wanted it to be personal. I wanted to risk opening up the curtain. I want to pull back that curtain and I want to actually reveal things that I think, although they're deeply personal, I think there's kind of like a line — what's personal to me it becomes personal to you. Maybe it's my experience — but it's a universal experience.

With files from CBC's Hot Air.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Christie Grace on how her latest album Golden Thread is deeply personal