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.

winter jazz festival review/interview roundup

REVIEWS

Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival mini-reviews (of the Renée Yoxon, Grace Kelly and Sicilian Jazz Project shows) by Peter Hum:

The young, Montreal-based, Ottawa-raised singer is progressing nicely. She meshed well with two veteran Montreal accompanists, pianist Jeff Johnston and bassist Fraser Hollins, and impressed me with the spin she put on some well-chosen standards. They included Billy Strayhorn’s A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, the standard Where Or When and the Jobim tune If You Never Come To Me.

Music, Embracing: Renée Yoxon Opens Winter Jazzfest 2014 on Strong Note by Curtis Perry:

The songs were diverse, a pick from Sweeney Todd comfortably rubbing shoulders with her original material. The arrangements made the classics come alive, and the contemporary timeless.

INTERVIEWS

 

Jazzy little number by Julie Cruikshank:

“I’ve been really putting a lot of myself into [this performance],” she says. “It’s a little bit of a departure from what I think I’m known for in Ottawa. I’ve done a lot of jazz standards and it’s still that in a way, but I’ve taken inspiration from old musical-theatre songs as sung by some contemporary jazz singers.”

Five questions for a Montreal-based Renée Yoxon by Peter Hum:

“On Friday I’ll be playing with Jeff Johnston on piano and Fraser Hollins on bass. The set we’ll be playing will be completely new to my regular listeners. It was inspired by Norma Winstone, Abbey Lincoln, Irene Kral, and Mark Murphy. It will be dramatic, dark, and introspective. It’s a mix of uncommon standards, old musical theatre numbers, new jazz originals by modern composers, and a few of my own originals.”

it’s time for a blogging hiatus

Hello again, my fabulous readers. Thank you so much to everyone who stuck around, commented on, read, and shared my posts over the last year.I have had a wonderful time blogging and it has brought me new friends and new opportunities. That is why it is with a heady heart that I announce that I will be taking an indefinitely long hiatus from blogging.

With all the changes I’ve had in my life, and especially in the wake of Creativity Self-Help Month, I have found that more and more I am craving a private life of routine where I can continue on my personal, creative, and health journeys alone without feeling accountable to anyone but myself.

Of course, I will continue to post news like upcoming performances. Eventually I will be altering my website to reflect the blogging hiatus but I will leave the archives up for future readers.

The reason the hiatus will be “indefinitely long” is that I have plans to return to school this September. That’s only seven months away and once it’s started I definitely won’t have time for blogging. I don’t have any long term plans aside from school but I want the private space to take stock of my life and decide where I should be putting my energy.

Lots of love,

Renée

upcoming performance: winter jazz festival, feb 14

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Hello fabulous readers. I know my events calendar has been a little sparse as of late but I will be explaining this in a future post so expect that very soon. On the bright side, I’m happy to announce that I have a performance coming up in Ottawa on Friday, February 14th at 5pm, at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage as part of the Winter Jazz Festival. I’m really excited about this performance because I will be joined by Montreal’s own Jeff Johnston on piano and Fraser Hollins on bass, and I have prepared an entirely new set of material. It will be strongly influenced by Norma Winstone, Irene Kral, and Abbey Lincoln. It will be dramatic and sorrowful and introspective. In other words – a perfect valentine’s day date!

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Ottawa Jazz Festival website. More information here.

creativity self-help month recap

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As January draws to a close so too does the first Creativity Self-Help Month. I’d like to thank everyone who read and commented and I like to extend a very special thank you to my four guest bloggers, Emma Frank, Averil Parker, Edel Meade, and Kevin Sun. I learned so much from everyone involved.

Check out the list below to view all the Creativity Self-Help Posts at a glance.

What lessons did you learn this month? Let me know in the comments below.

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creativity and the mind-body connection by emma frank

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[ guest post // creativity and the mind-body connection // emma frank ]

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that before peace comes suffering, that one must go deeply into their suffering before peace is possible.  I’m no Thich Nhat Hanh and I hesitate even to write a blog post that begins with his name but on a difficult day, I walked into a bookstore and found a friendly yellow cover entitled You Are Here.  I started reading it and the simplicity of his voice spoke to me.

The difficulty of my day was simple.  It was also complex. On the surface, there were complicated dramas, all the reasons that people are who they are and do what they do.  All of the sadness attached to those dramas and to the individuality of my suffering.  That difficult day, however, I was trying my best to let go of those dramas and to experience the difficulty within my body.   From inside myself, those difficult emotions were no longer difficult, they simply were.

You Are Here, by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a wonderful book and if you have the time, maybe you’d like to read it.

It used to be that when I suffered, I was afraid of actually feeling. Listening to recordings from that period, I can hear the negative effects of an overly dominant mind.  My voice sounds so cut off from my body as my mind tries to override my body’s needs and instincts.

For me, the practice of songwriting, like yoga, or meditation, or many other kinds of spiritual and artistic practices, thrives on a strong mind-body connection.  When I write a song, I tune in to the connection between my emotions and my mind, and the language that I choose to narrate my emotions with.  By connecting to my voice, I bring myself into my body.  I am neither all body or all mind but a fluid interaction of both.  This process of drawing the body in to the mind and the mind in to the body – this mindfulness practice – has helped to draw me away from harmful thinking habits and obsessive analysis and into a practice of love and compassion for myself and others.  I feel more able to write songs that express what I feel, not what I wish I felt or how I wish I sounded.

Now, when something hard comes up, I try to actually feel it.  I try to be compassionate with myself, to accept the feeling, to welcome it.  Coming from a culture of academia and psycho-analysis, my brain is often swarming with thoughts, some more helpful than others and some downright harmful.  But, knowing that I am not my thoughts, I feel more in control when something negative comes up.   Where so much had once felt hostile and cold, now most everything feels infused with warmth and love.  Not to say that I don’t go through difficult periods.  Life is always presenting challenges.   But now, when I go in to whatever feeling comes up, whether joy or sadness, my creativity unlocks.  I don’t worry about whether a lyric or melody is good or bad because I am fully connected to it and it is fully connected to me.

I often feel lucky to write songs.  I know there are billions of awesome practices in the world that allow people to explore the meaning of being here and to become more truly themselves.  In my little world, how beautiful to feel a hard thing and explore it with music and words until it unlocks and blooms into a song that you can keep with you, like a deep realization, whenever the next hard, beautiful challenge presents itself.

[ Emma Frank is a singer/songwriter living in Montreal. She will be playing at Le Verre Bouteille on February 16. More details at emmafrankmusic.com ]

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songwriter’s inspiration and resources grab bag

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Without a doubt, the hardest thing about being a songwriter is finding inspiration. I have found that I have the most success when I’m writing as many songs, or song seeds, as possible, regardless of how inspired I’m feeling. When I show up to the page with regularity, inspiration usually follows. Below you will find a list of songwriting inspiration, games, and jumping off points. I have used them all myself at one point or another and they are in no particular order. Enjoy!

  • Write a song based on a painting that inspires you. Need some help finding an inspiring painting? Here are some pinterest boards to get you started.
  • rewatch your favourite movie or reread your favourite book. Write down lines that speak to you and use them as song titles or jumping-off points
  • Browse through book titles at the library and write down titles that would make good song titles
  • Interpret objects or architecture musically. Go for a walk and try to “hear” the scenes that pass you.  (Fun fact: This is how I wrote the song Watching)
  • Create songwriting constraints based off of other songs, for example Bye Bye Blackbird and Skylark could translate into “songs with an AABA form and a bird title.” (Fun fact: This is how I wrote Canary)
  • Go people watching. Visit a crowded place like a coffee shop or an airport and write down scenarios and characters based on the people you see interacting. Use these ideas as plots for songs.
  • Browse newspapers or magazines for song ideas.
  • Set a poem you like to music.
  • Write a questions-title song (Fun fact: This is how I wrote Have We Been In Love Before?)
  • Try and write the worst song you can possibly imagine.
  • Copy down the rhyme scheme of a poem or song you like and write a song that uses the same rhyme scheme
  • Choose an interval. Make that interval the theme of your melody.
  • Find a common word or phrase with multiple meanings and work both meanings into your lyric (Fun fact: This is my favourite thing to do and how I wrote So Far)
  • Write a song based on an idiom or figure of speech.
  • Write lyrics to an instrumental song.

Bonus! Here are my favourite songwriting resources from this enormous writing resource masterlist.

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a nonjudgmental practice by averil parker

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[ guest post // a nonjudgmental practice // averil parker ]

It is a perfectly normal for our minds to produce judgements and evaluations. It is part of the human existence, it is what the mind does. Using language, our minds produce judgements and evaluations and attach them to people, objects or experiences. However, it is problematic to proceed as if these judgements were real, unchangeable aspects of reality.

Before someone hipped me to self-compassion, I had what I would say was a problematic approach to practicing. I used stress and criticism to motivate myself to work hard and accomplish my goals, and I would beat myself up if I fell short. Instead of reevaluating my standards and problem solving I would attribute my perceived failures to some sort of mysterious character flaw IE: I am inadequate, I am not talented, I am not good enough etc. This type of oppressive judging was somewhat functional, but blocked so much beauty and progress.

I started integrating a less judgmental approach into my practice out of necessity rather than intuition. About a year ago life severely kicked me in the ass. No longer really able to stand my own criticisms, negative self-talk or perfectionist habits I had to find a new way of dealing with challenges. There was a grieving period. For a while I felt like I was walking through the shadows of dreams I used to have. But, as I let go of the person I wished I was, fear eventually gave way to curiosity, acceptance and simplicity.

My practice changed from a space where I was constantly imposing negative judgements on myself to a space which is flexible and creative. A space that allows for happiness, excitement, anger, sadness, loss, beauty and kindness; that, rather than excluding parts of life I don’t like, is big enough to hold it all. Every moment blossoms into the next, pregnant with promise and chaos and hope, and I try to give myself completely and spontaneously to this process. There is so much joy, so much contentment to be found.

It is important for me to return to practice daily. Even when I am frustrated or don’t feel like it for whatever reason. Especially when I don’t believe in it anymore, that is when my practice will comb me into it’s fabric and fold me over and in on itself until there is no distinction between me and music, until there is only happy surrender.

My practices happen to be music, meditation and yoga. These are the actions through which I practice acceptance and compassion, the experiences which teach me to be curious, humble and patient. The action isn’t important, whether one reads or writes or runs or drinks coffee or makes love, to me a nonjudgemental approach is having the courage to lean into an action with awareness and to gently hold the moment with a compassionate heart. When this approach is applied, viewing judgement as fact becomes completely beside the point.

A very wise teacher once told me: when your heart and your mind is filled with music, there is no room for anything else.

[ Averil Parker is a saxophonist, composer, and yogi living in Montreal. Her new album, Project Pigeon, is due to be released in February 2014. More details at averilparkermusic.com ]

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book love: the songwriters idea book // 04 [repost]

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Welcome to the 4th installment of Book Love: a series in which I tell you all about the resources, guides, and inspirational books that I love. Today’s book is The Songwriters Idea Book: 40 strategies to excite your imagination, help you design distinctive songs, and keep your creative flow by Sheila Davis.

This book was recommended to me by the wonderful and talented Megan Jerome, herself a great songwriter. Megan is a wealth of songwriting information and resources and this will not be the last Book Love inspired by her.

Sheila Davis is well known for her books on lyric writing including The Craft of Lyric Writing and Successful Lyric Writing, but The Songwriters Idea Book is an invaluable resource for anyone looking for lots of different ways to get inspired and seed new songs.

Book Love: The Songwriters Idea Book // 04

This is a great book for songwriters of any experience level who wish to keep up a regular practice of songwriting. I mentioned in my post on my songwriting process last Friday that regular work is way more effective than only writing when you are inspired. This book has a ton of jumping off points for you to work from included a variety of title strategies, plot devices, and wordplay.

My favourite title strategy found in this book is “book title titles” where you write a song with the same title as a book. I will often go to the library and fill a page with interesting book titles I find and then try and write songs with my favourite titles. It doesn’t always yield my best results but it certainly gets the creative juices flowing.

Book Love: The Songwriters Idea Book // 04

Book Love: The Songwriters Idea Book // 04

That’s it for Book Love // 04. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments below. You can also check out other book love books on the book love index page.

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