Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Music has inhabited Florence Foxwell’s soul since she was a young child. She started out singing in her school choir in Saskatchewan at the age of eight before she picked up the flute and learned how to play it. Her family moved to Alberta and she had to put the flute down for a few years.
As a young teenager, Florence taught herself how to play the guitar. She explains, “I’m the youngest of seven kids and all of my siblings are very musical. They either played guitar, piano or drums and sometimes more than one instrument. My oldest brother was a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan and his playing had a strong influence on the style of guitar that I play because I use fingerpicks like he does. I found my own style at that point.”
She put the guitar away for a while after getting married young and moving to the Alberta prairies. The deaths of her father-in-law in 1997 and both her mother and father in 1998 helped draw her back to music. She says, “Their deaths were a major part of why I decided to move forward with recording my first album and it continues to be a major part of me continuing on my musical journey.”
She elaborates, “The first song that I ever wrote was Open Windows and it was about change and how we perceive change as a negative thing, but sometimes you don't see the positive side of it until later. I was going through all of these personal changes and it sparked my creativity.”
Within a short time after starting to write songs, Florence amassed enough material that she decided it was time to record an album from the songs that she’d written.
Living on a farm is a double-edged sword as far as she’s concerned. Florence explains, “It can really prevent you from getting out there and getting known, but it’s also enabled me to create the songs that I've created. It’s my life, where I live and what I do that allows me to stay grounded and connected to spirit. It lets me write my songs.”
The advent of easily accessible Internet and social media has helped Florence overcome the challenges of isolation. She says, “Things are all changing now. Technology and the internet has allowed me to do so much more.
Her songs usually start with the music being written first. Florence says, “I don’t really sit down to write music. The songs come to me, I don’t seek them out. It’s kind of a magical, mysterious process. I write the music first. I struggle with my lyrics. It usually takes me a long time to get my lyrics down.”
Initially Florence had to work hard to meet the challenge of juggling her kids, life on the farm and her musical career. She points out, “At the time when I first started writing, I’d drive to Edmonton to the folk clubs and I’d do open mic nights. From that I got my first paying gig which was opening for Aengus Finnan and Brad Bayley at the Northern Lights Folk Club in Edmonton back in 2001. I got a few paying gigs over the next five years but my daughter didn’t like it when I was away at the time. In 2007 I kind of put my music away but I’m back at it again.”
One positive change that she’s noticed over the last ten years is the amount of helpful information that’s now available. Florence says, “There is a lot of help out there and a lot of information that’s very helpful to you on the Internet. I think it’s really promising for young musicians starting out. It’s very exciting for independent artists because you can do so much now.”
Florence is optimistic about the future of folk and roots music. She says, “I think people are hungry for more organic music. I think we’re starting to see a switch that will continue on. There’s so much you can do now with house concerts and social media.”
One area of concern for her is the rise of music streaming services. Florence explains, “I won’t put my songs on those services because I think that it really devalues music. They’ve made the public expect their music for free and expect to have it yesterday. Good music isn’t just cranked out like that. Good music takes time to produce.”
She adds, “I really think we need to change the mindset of the public and the only way for that to happen is for musicians to quit putting their music on so many streaming platforms and to stop giving away their music for free.”
In the future, Florence plans to get back into touring and setting up some gigs. She says, “I’m going to get some gigs set up with Becky Moonen. She’s been singing backups with me from day one and I’m going to try to get some gigs set up with her as a duo. I have entered my song Human in the U.S.A songwriting competition. We’ll see how that goes, but you can’t win if you don’t play.”
Having some time to herself is something that she values as a way to recharge her creative batteries. Florence points out, “I went on a ten day tour here in Alberta by myself, driving over 2,300 kilometers and I was so drained by the time I got home, that I had to have four or five days to myself. I spend time by myself at home to recharge.”
© 2017 Karl Magi