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Lois Gillespie: Canadian Singer/Songwriter Profile

Updated on October 6, 2017
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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

Lois Gillespie
Lois Gillespie

When I spoke to Lois Gillespie on the phone, she told me that music has always been an integral part of her life. She explains, “I tried to find other jobs and do other things, but I kept coming back to music. I decided to formally study music when I was a bit older, so I went to music college. I continued to write songs and sing. In that time, I got steady work with Artists in Healthcare Manitoba. It brings music into health care settings. I sing and play in hospital hallways and waiting areas. It’s been steady work for a very long time.”

Her first album was recorded in 2005 as a grassroots effort a friend’s home studio. Lois says, “That album was kind of a success in that I got it done and learned a lot. I did a bit of playing around and promoting the record. I learned a lot about promotion and marketing doing that. I kept writing and making connections in the music community.”

In 2010 Lois applied for and received a grant to make a demo from Manitoba Film & Music. She contacted one of Winnipeg’s most sought after producers, Murray Pulver, to help her record the demos. She says, “I did a couple of demo songs and got a FACTOR grant to do a single. I did some promotion around that. I decided that I was going to do a full length album. I wanted it to be really professional.”

Lois concludes, “When I decided to record Entanglements, I had a specific vision in mind. At that point, I was done with grants. I didn’t want to do them any more because they were taking away from my creative time. I financed the album myself and it took 5 years. I was saving up money, I did some crowdsourcing. I released the album in March of 2017.”

Good songwriters of all stripes are a major source of inspiration for her. Lois says, “Joni Mitchell is a brilliant songwriter. I draw from Leonard Cohen as well. In the pop genre, they get several writers in a room and they collaborate on a song. I find that a really inspiring way to write. I’m learning a lot of Sia tunes right now. I think she’s a brilliant writer. I draw a lot of inspiration from the idea of co-writing. It gets you out of your own song writing rut and puts a different perspective on things.”

People’s personal stories are a major source of inspiration for Lois’ lyrics. She says, “I’m one of those writers who sits in coffee shops and overhears other people’s conversations. I find people’s stories really fascinating, so I’ll often hear snippets of conversations, think of a lyric and write it down. If I’m listening to podcasts or watching news feeds go by, things will be sparked by that too.”

The emotional content of her songs is another strong aspect of writing for her. Lois says, “There’s an emotional connection with everything that happens in the world and in people’s lives. I tend to write from that perspectively naturally. I’m into the emotional layers of things.”

Lois’ latest album Entanglements is an exploration of the many different kinds of human relationships. She says, “I didn’t have a clear vision of what the album would be until the songs came together. I realized that all of the songs were from women’s perspectives and that they all were about relationships, but not just the typical romantic relationships. I looked at parental relationships and friendships as well.”

There are many challenges for independent musicians. Lois points out, “When I started making the CD, I already knew that CD sales were in decline. Five years later, people just are not buying CDs any more, they’re streaming now. While I do have things on streaming sites, the renumeration is pretty small. That’s not where my livelihood comes from. I perform a lot of solo gigs because there’s little overhead. I’m not appealing to the 20-something crowd, mostly it’s 35 and up. That demographic is still buying CDs especially if you perform live.”

Another challenge that’s unique to the Winnipeg market is the lack of medium-sized venues in Lois’ view. She adds, “A lot of the venues have closed, particularly mid-sized venues that are listening rooms. It’s a smaller city so there’s more competition for places to play and for audience attention."

On the bright side, she says that she’s started to do more house concerts. Lois elaborates, “Many artists in the acoustic genre are doing house concerts. It’s a great way to get to know people who are interested in your music and to sell your product.”

Generally Lois is quite happy to be based in Winnipeg. She explains, “Winnipeg is jam-packed with amazing talent. There are so many talented writers, players and vocalists. I’ve lived here my whole life and it has always had a thriving music scene which Is great. It’s a good home base for a musician because you can afford to live here and you can afford to keep writing, playing and doing things that you’d have to have seven jobs to do in a bigger city.”

For now, she’s keeping her future plans modest, while she pays off the cost of making Entanglements. Lois says, “I wanted to hire really great musicians. I wanted to support the working musicians in the city and that costs money. I wanted to pay them what they were worth and get the best players!”

She adds, “I’m building up a music account. I’ve been wanting to refuel that so that I can think about a small tour. I wouldn’t do more than 12 dates. For now, I’m still promoting locally.”

Ultimately Lois wants to make another album that delves deeply into her artistic expression. She says, “I want to do an album that explores looping and other ideas. At my core I’m still an acoustic folk/roots performer but I’d like to incorporate elements of technology.”

There are a number of different things that she uses to recharge her creative batteries. Lois says, “I find a change in environment helps. Winnipeg is good for that because of the change in the seasons. I do a lot of walking and that’s where song lyrics and ideas come to me. I also go see live performers when possible. Going to see good live music reminds me of why I do this. If I go see a musician and I’m moved, that really inspires me.”

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