About Renée

Renée Yoxon is a twenty-something jazz vocalist, composer, and lyricist from Canada's capital. Her second album, Here We Go Again, will be available December 2012.

letter to a chronically ill artist (from a chronically ill artist)

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In the last few years I have been very fortunate to connect online with other young people with chronic illnesses. It’s a really special experience to support and be supported by people going through the same things I am. I recently received a letter from Hayley Beth, a fellow chronic illness babe and amazing singer/songwriter. She asked “when it comes to being a musician/performer, how do you deal with fatigue, pain, depression and general lack of motivation?” I wrote her a lengthy reply and when I was done I felt that other sick artists might get something from it too:

First, I totally totally feel your frustration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself “this is hopeless, why do I bother, I’m useless as a musician, a singer, a songwriter, I’ll never realize my aspirations” and so on and so forth to varying degrees depending on the demands being made of me and how sick I feel. But no matter how shitty I am at practicing, or writing, or even how painful singing becomes, I can’t seem to leave it completely. I always come back to music.

As for how I deal with these feelings… well, reading Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner was a big help. That book taught me that it doesn’t matter if I stop singing tomorrow, the world keeps turning. And that freed me to make music for me instead of worrying about if others like my music, or even if I’m any good.

Also, I took a year+ off from being a musician very recently in order to regroup and learn how to be a sick person who eats well and cleans her apartment and exercises. Only now am I trying to tackle how to be a sick musician, and it’s not been easy. I find myself purchasing new back braces in order to do full gigs, taking many breaths where other singers only take one, and basically doing whatever I need to do be as comfortable as possibly while I make music no matter how unusual or unorthodox.

Second, I love your music. I don’t know why I haven’t told you this but I’ve listened to your records on BandCamp multiple times and I think you’re totally amazing. If you can’t write new songs right now, that’s ok because your old songs are great and I want to listen to them over and over and your fans probably do to. People come to see your shows because they love you and want to support you, not to judge you. New songs are a bonus and it’s really ok if it takes you a lot longer than usual to write new stuff or progress as a musician. You’re amazing, keep it up.

Third: practical stuff. If you want to keep progressing as a musician and writer even when you’re sick, the trick is to find ways to make it part of your every day life effortlessly. For instance 1. listen to music that sounds like how you want to write. Pick one album and listen to it all the time and absorb it’s power. 2. Teach. You can do it from home, students energize you and keep you singing and practicing, and you make money doing it. I’m sure you’re more than qualified. 3. Collaborate. Get together with other artists and work on projects. If you’re too tired to finish something, they can pick up the slack.

Most importantly, go easy on yourself. Being an artist and chronically ill are hard enough separately but they’re even harder together. We’re on a very difficult path and it’s definitely not a linear one. Embrace the moments of inspiration and productivity and nurture yourself during the rest of the time.

two shows in montreal this week

Hello friends! I am doing two performances in Montreal this week, one with a huge ensemble of singers, and one with a very small one. I’m very excited about both shows so if you’re in Montreal this week I would love if you would join me. Details are below:

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Cole Porter: Rearranged – Night and Day

Come spend a night listening to the music of the great Cole Porter (1891–1964), a famous pianist and prolific songwriter. All his pieces will be arranged and sung by the students of Ranee Lee.

Venez redécouvrir la musique du fameux Cole Porter (1891-1964), un célèbre pianiste et compositeur prolifique. Ses pièces seront réarrangées par les étudiants et étudiantes de la classe de Ranee Lee.

Vocalists: Sarah Bakirci, Michelle (Mimi) Klein, Sarah Rossy, Emilie Samson, Robert Stefaniuk, Denise Trimm , Emma Elbourne – Weinstock, Asia Harvey Wright , Leon Yu Xinzhuo, Renee Yoxon

Instrumentalists: Michael Go (guitar), Thomas Sauve (drums), Chris Tauchner (piano), Francis Viau (bass)

Tuesday, February 10, 8pm
Tanna Schulich Hall, New Music Building, 555 Sherbrooke Street W, Montreal, QC
The concert is free and no tickets are required.
Le concert est gratuit et vous n’avez pas à vous procurer de billets.

Click here to RSVP on facebook.

Accessibility: No steps to get into The New Music Building but the door switch doesn’t work on the way in. There is an elevator to the second floor where people usually enter, but there are no seats in the very back. You can enter on the ground level and sit in the first row with a mobility aid but sometimes the doors are locked. Access can be requested on the 2nd floor.

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Marie-Claire Durand + Renée Yoxon au café Résonance

21h: Renée Yoxon (piano/voice) et Francis Leduc-Bélanger (trumpet)
www.reneeyoxon.com

22h: Marie-Claire Durand (piano/voice) et Joel Kerr (bass)
www.marieclairedurand.com

Musique et chansons originales, en français & en anglais !

Friday, February 13, 9pm
Café Résonance, 5175A Avenue du Parc, Montreal, QC
PWYC

Click here to RSVP on facebook.

Accessibility: Résonance has 7 steps down into the venue. The restaurant mostly level (there is one small raised seating section). There are booth seats and chairs with backs. The washrooms are large but there are no guard rails or door switches. Street parking only.

upcoming concert dates

Hello friends! Just popping in to let you know that I’m playing in Pointe-Claire four times in the next two weeks and you’re invited! Also in February I’m playing a solo set to open for Marie-Claire Durand, a fabulous singer/songwriter/pianist. And I know it’s a bit early to be announcing this but in June I’ll be playing at GigSpace in Ottawa! I hope to add more dates around that June date so stay tuned!

Friday, January 23, 7:30pm
Renée Yoxon, Tim Nolan, Pierre Françoise at 40 Westt
2305 Route Transcanadienne, Pointe-Claire, QC

Saturday, January 24, 7:30pm
Renée Yoxon, Tim Nolan, Pierre Françoise at 40 Westt
2305 Route Transcanadienne, Pointe-Claire, QC

Friday, January 30, 7:30pm
Renée Yoxon, Tim Nolan, Chad Linsley at 40 Westt
2305 Route Transcanadienne, Pointe-Claire, QC

Saturday, January 31, 7:30pm
Renée Yoxon, Tim Nolan, Pierre Françoise at 40 Westt
2305 Route Transcanadienne, Pointe-Claire, QC

Tuesday, February 10, 8pm
Cole Porter: rearranged – Night and Day at Tanna Schulich Hall
555 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, QC

Friday, February 13, 9pm ($8)
Marie-Claire Durand + Renée Yoxon at Résonance
5175a av. du parc, Montreal, QC

Saturday, June 13, 7:30pm ($20)
Renée Yoxon, Chad Linsley, Joel Kerr at GigSpace
953 Gladstone Avenue, Ottawa, ON

 

photos from musideum + an upcoming release!

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A few weeks ago Chad Linsley and I played at Musideum in Toronto. It’s a beautiful space and I’m so happy to finally be able to post some photos from the show on my blog.

For those of you who were at one of the concerts on the tour, you know that Chad and I hope to one day record a studio album of the material we presented. In the mean time I’m thinking about releasing a digital live album of the concert at Musideum! I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to release the whole concert, only part of it, or only a few songs, but the wheels are definitely turning on a new release.

Keep your eyes peeled because it will soon be available on CD Baby, iTunes, Spotify and more. How many of you buy your music digitally these days? Are you holding out for my next physical album? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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musideum1Photos by Donald Quan, edited by me.

 

Download the Here We Go Again liner notes

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I’ve been doing some business housekeeping lately (in anticipation of some big things that are happening around here that I can’t talk about yet but that are so exciting!) and it occurred to me that many of you purchased my last release digitally. If you bought Here We Go Again through iTunes, Amazon, or CD Baby then you did not have access to the liner notes. This is a shame because Jessica Comingore designed the liner notes (as she did all of the album artwork) and they are very beautiful.

Nearly three years after the release I have finally come to my senses and posted the PDF online for all to enjoy. Click here to download the liner notes. Inside you will find all the album artwork, lyrics, thank you’s, and more.

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there’s no secret to improvising (or what I took away from Ingrid Jensen’s masterclass)

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Yesterday Ingrid Jensen came to McGill and gave a masterclass. I’ll admit, I’m often wary when it comes to masterclasses run my horn players. I know how amazing Ingrid Jensen is but I didn’t know if what she had to say about playing would resonate with a singer.

I definitely had no reason to be wary.

She didn’t say in so many words that there is no secret to improvising but I left the class with a whole new lease on practicing. We played a tune by Kenny Wheeler called Heyoke:

Someone asked how to start learning to improvise on a tune like this one. Ingrid said to find the thread of consistency, the strongest modal choice, and start weaving lines around that. But what really hit home with me was when she said “If you hadn’t worked on your Lydian going up in major thirds – you’re screwed!”

And that’s when it dawned on me that I will never magically unlock something in my brain and instantly become a good improvisor. What Ingrid said really said to me that all music is made up of discreet sonic cells and you just have to work through whichever ones are important to you. If that is ii-V-I then you go sit with ii-V-I for a week. If that is Lydian scales ascending in major thirds, then sit with that for a week.

After her class I went home and I put on a Lydian dominant drone and I did what she calls “sacred interval study.” I just sat with all the intervals over the drone and felt what each one felt like. Then I started combining them into patterns and shapes. At the end of the session I wasn’t a much better improvisor but I had one more sonic cell in my bag.

Somehow this actually makes me a lot more excited about practice. I feel uplifted and grounded at the same time.

Can’t get to Montreal tonight? Catch the concert live stream!

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Tonight marks the beginning of my three-city mini-tour! Hooray! If you live in Montreal you should definitely join me, Chad Linsley, and Joel Kerr at Upstairs Jazz Club. If you live in Ottawa or Toronto you should definitely come to our shows at the Tiny House Mansion or Musideum.

If you can’t make it to any of these places then fear not! You are in luck! Tonight’s concert will be live streamed at upstairsjazz.com. Just tune in at 8:30pm, 10:15pm, and 12am to catch all the action.

See you tonight!

lovely lyrics: my ship

My ship has sails that are made of silk
The decks are trimmed with gold
And of jam and spice there’s a paradise
In the hold

My ship’s aglow with a million pearls
And rubies fill each bin
The sun sits high in a sapphire sky
When my ship comes in

I can wait the years ’til it appears
One fine day one spring
But the pearls and such they won’t mean much
If there’s missing just one thing

I do not care if that day arrives
That dream need never be
If the ship I sing doesn’t also bring
My one true love to me

- lyrics by Ira Gershwin, music by Kurt Weill, from Lady In The Dark (1941)

upcoming concerts: montreal // ottawa // toronto

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Hooray! I’m happy to announce three amazing concert dates in three amazing cities. I’ll be playing with Chad Linsley in Montreal on September 26th, Ottawa on October 4th, and Toronto on October 11th. Full details can be found on my concerts page.

For the last few months Chad and I have been working on music that reflects on childhood. We collected tunes from film adaptations of children’s stories and songs about magic, dreaming, and the urge to run away. The music is imaginative, intimate, vulnerable, carefree, questioning, and melancholy. I’m so excited to share this project with you.

Here is a recording of Chad and I playing Little Prince, the title theme from the musical adaptation of the book Let Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.


All three venues have limited seating so please reserve your seat early. If you have any questions about any of these dates please leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you right away.

highlights: first week of school

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I’m a student! I kind of can’t believe it. I spent the whole first day of classes floating around the halls of the Schulich School of Music completely flabbergasted by my surroundings and my life. I have a very vivid memory of myself from two years ago saying “Fall of 2014 is when I’m going to be at McGill. That is the plan.” and now I have executed the plan and all that’s left is three years of follow through.

The thing is, I didn’t really know what that follow through was going to look like until now. I’ll be taking three or four classes per semester, things like Jazz Materials, Ear Training, Jazz History, Arranging; I’ll be in ensembles, mostly classical choir; and I’ll have a jazz combo every semester. I’m happy to inform you that all these combos and ensembles will have regular performances that will be open to the public – very exciting!

I had my first private lesson with Ranee Lee which was very illuminating. She gave me that binder full of stuff you see in the photo above. So much to work through! It’s great.

And as if I didn’t have enough newness in my life, I started working at a music school in the West Island on Saturdays. I’m teaching all ages and I get my own little room with a piano, mirror, and metronome! The photos below were pulled from my instagram. On the left is me getting ready to teach and on the right is the jam session meet and greet that happened at McGill on Wednesday.

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I’m happy to be reviving my highlights column. I won’t be posting every week, instead I’ll likely post whenever I have highlights to share.

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