The last time Sarah Slean played the Kelowna Community Theatre, showcasing the popish Land album of the 2011 Land & Sea dual album release, she was wearing punchy purple with a trendy red lipstick.
There was no missing her and she knew it for her pre-performance ritual is all about creating this face for the world.
“I think you have to come to terms with the stage,” she said. “You define what you need to be comfortable on it and that takes time.”
In her case, this pre-performance makeup routine is akin to putting on this game face, though with ruby red lips not football black smears, and when she sets out on stage, it’s quite clear this is a performance in the strictest sense of the word.
Where others might prefer a laid back, kitchen party approach to their concerts or a conversational, coffee house-style under the spotlights, Slean is poised and polished, jazz seductress meets ballerina in feel.
Campy in her comedic banter, she is an undeniable creative powerhouse on the Canadian artistic scene and it doesn’t escape one in the stage performance, as the generally shy, independent musician shakes the dust out of the last crevices of her piano.
Slean is her own composer and songs come to her when she least expects them, floating in on the breeze as she’s washing dishes or vacuuming.
“Part of the reason I travel is for the break from familiarity,” she said in a Skype interview from her European tour earlier this month. “It’s the recipe for new ideas, new inspiration.”
One can imagine this collection was a confusing melange when first conjured up.
With producers like Hawksley Workman and her husband Royal Wood working the one album and composer Jonathan Goldsmith on the other, dissecting the sounds coming forth into two separate camps would seem overwhelming to anyone else.
In Slean’s world, Classical underpinnings have long courted her penchant for pop, one going hand in hand with the other.
“I can trace back my interest in orchestral music. It started at exactly the same time that I fell in love with popular music,” said Slean. “I’m kind of realizing both strains are in my music and always will be.”
And so it is that musicians from the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra will be joining Slean on stage as part of a nine-piece string selection she will use to perform Sea. Slean doesn’t play a string, and never has, but they are her favourite instrument to write for, she claims.
“The core of it is just knowing what you want to sing. What lines you want, what course. You can write for any instrument if you know the language of music,” she said.
Thematically, the albums are aptly named, Land tracing terrestrial, physical things like the difficulty of being a specific person as in the song Girls Hating Girls or the disillusionment excess breeds in Society Song.
The Sea portion was lyrically focused on the intuition that we all have, how similar we are to one another rather than our differences.
She references the monk Thich Nhat Hanh who says that while we may all be waves in an ocean comparing one another for size and shape, the waves are all made from the same water.
Slean will try to build on this “flow of good vibes” concept with the tour’s Joy Jar.
“The Joy Jar is basically a blog to pass along a random and empowering or inspiring message to a total stranger, creating a flowering of good vibes that proves how connected we are, and how tremendously important and powerful every single thought is,” her publicity explains.
She is calling on her fans to provide beautiful, positive, inspiring thoughts short enough to fit on an index card. Fans can also bring their own creations to the shows, create their own at the merchandise table, or tweet their image with the hashtag #joyjar.
The notes will be hand-beautified by Slean and her bandmates.
Slean is also a visual artist whose drawings and paintings and sketches –can be found on her website sarahslean.com.
All of these shining messages will go in a big jar on the merchandise table so people leaving the show can select one and spread the love. Slean will photo blog all of the messages online at http://www.joyjar.us/about.
Sarah Slean brings Sea to the Kelowna Community Theatre with Sarah Slean with Strings on Tuesday, March 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28 available through Select Your Tickets, selectyourtickets.com