“Who knows who we could be if we weren’t so afraid of being who we are?”.

~Lorraine Segato

World Pride Toronto 2014

I had the distinct pleasure of attending Lorraine Segato’s “Invincible Decency” CD release party, which was not just great music and fun, but an opportunity to see her influence on others as the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at Regent Park. She brought young talent onstage and it was an absolute treat.

Inquiring about her start she explained,” I remember begging my mother to take guitar lessons so that I could learn an instrument and write songs. Songwriting was a way of making sense of all the alienated and impossible to understand feelings I had as a teenager. Playing guitar and writing songs or journals was my survival mechanism. In the early years it was not my dream to be singing or to become a singer, but then it became clear that somebody had to sing those awful early songs I was writing so I then began the long process of teaching myself how to sing.”

Lorraine knew from this that she was “always going to be a creative”. In the mid-seventies she went to Media and Film school at Sheridan College.

“I had announced to my chagrined guidance counsellor that I wanted to study music recording and she suggested I take a more rounded approach by studying Media Studies. There in my first year of college I chose to major in film-making instead of studio recording. It was at that moment that I realized I would be a creator for the whole of my life. Film opened my eyes to the larger world and deeply affected the way I made music. For the first time I understood that rhythm, colour, narrative, lift, and all the elements that made a good film, would also make a good song.”

And good songs she has made! I asked her about how she met David Gray who has now produced “Invincible Decency”.

“When The Parachute Club was in its earliest moments of getting together, we were looking for a guitar player who would play on our demo for the record company. Dave was playing in a whole bunch of funk, R&B, groove-oriented bands. I remember going down to a club and listening to him play and thought he was one of the funkiest guitar players I’d ever heard. He played on our demo and joined the band, and the rest is history. I have worked with him all through the years including all my own solo projects, either as a co-writer or a musical partner we are now in someway tied to each other in a long musical marriage. I’ve had two really important musical marriages. One is with David Gray and the other with my (recently deceased) co-founding partner in The Parachute Club, drummer, Billy Bryans. ”

Lorraine gave Billy a shout out last night, and observing her interaction with her band mates, guests and audience, I was struck by her warmth and huge smile. There is a sense of humour she chided herself out loud for enthusiastically slinging her guitar over her shoulder before remembering it wasn’t working  ” Don’t worry”, she joked” I am a professional !”

Laughing, she shared with me a “particularly funny yet extremely embarrassing moment when we were playing the Dawson City Music festival . It was an awesome festival and you had to travel for hours and hours by all manner of vehicles to reach there. The sun doesn’t really set in the  summer time in Dawson until 4am-ish, so people are up until all hours gambling in the saloon or hanging out.

We were set to play a show and some workshops the day after we arrived, but because we were up partying we were pretty tired from travelling and such. Lauri Conger (the keyboard player) and myself had noticed there were a couple of bouncers who were arguing and trying to wrestle one of the guys to  the ground. He happened to be a First Nations gentleman and Lauri and I  thought they were discriminating against his entry onto the grounds, so we  threw ourselves on top of the bouncers pounding and kicking trying to get them off of the poor guy. Lauri was yelling  “Hey, you can’t do that. That’s  not nice” . If you knew Lauri you would laugh because she is so sweet and diplomatic trying to talk sense into these bouncers while I’m on top of them like a frenzied maniac trying to pull a bouncer off of another guy. We didn’t stand a chance and when the scuffle was over, I looked up to see all the guys in the band and laughing at us and the whole crowd had encircled us and was cheering us on.”

Another embarrassing but hysterical moment that’s hard for her to forget was on tour in Germany on one of the biggest shows on German television. It had a viewership of millions of people much like “Top of the Pops” in Britain. They had some elaborate set for them that included many thousands of bubbles being spit into the air. During the rehearsal, the bubbles would naturally burst and the soap made the floors really slippery, so they were sliding all over the floor.

“It was really quite treacherous and frightening”, Lorraine says, “So Lauri decided to try on her best German (that she’d probably learned the day before) to see if we could remedy the situation, because honestly who wants to die in a freak bubble accident on a German TV show right? So she goes up to one of the tech guys and says, Excuse me sir, Ich bin haben eina problemin wid di Blasen, or something like that and she is thinking that she is saying we are having a problem with the bubbles, but in fact she’s telling the guy that we were having a problem with gas!”

Heading out taking a chance on her own after Parachute Club was both frightening and liberating for Lorraine.           

” I didn’t really want to dismantle the band and do a solo career, but I could not see how to sustain the group through it’s challenges at the time.  Now I would know what to do, but back then I was just tired and disillusioned with the  business and the people in it and I just wanted to try something else. I also left not so much to start a solo career, but to go a journey of learning and further explore the other parts of my creative mind. In that piece of the journey it was  liberating not to be defined by what I’d always done. The frightening part was that people had expectations about what they thought I should do or sound like or evolve into, and those projections were often uncomfortable because I had made a choice to walk away from my career  right at the peak.  It was a brave and scary moment, but it had to be done for me to become who I am now.”

She is still an artist yes, but one who is now also a mentor.

“I was asked by Mitchell Cohen who is the CEO of Daniel’s Corporation if I was interested in becoming the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at Regent Park. I saw how they invested not only the money to revitalize the area, but a great deal of emotional and financial commitment to supporting the residents, agencies and communities that live there.”

Being able to see that first hand and see the commitment on the ground level was very appealing to her. “I just came in and listened and looked and tried to take the time to see what was happening there, to see how I might be able to come up with projects that might also augment and enhance what was already going on. I thought that would be a great project to take up, as it would allow me to continue learning and also allow me to utilize my contacts and experience to support what is already going on there. As a creator …one can never stop learning, that is for sure!”

Lorraine  will be there until January 2016, and is currently programming the 2015 slate of activities,

“Two of the events that I began in December, The Legacy Salon- Spirited Conversations with Cultural Guardians, and the five-part Wild Women (Don’t get the Blues) will continue throughout this year. In all of those instances I am trying to incorporate as much talent as I can from the Regent Park area along with other performers.”

Lorraine also joked about a question she keeps being asked – Why she waits so long between albums?

“As much as I love technology I often find the recording process a painful one. I find I go into a mindset of being super critical and less spontaneous than I am when I am writing or performing material. Completion is always an exhilarating feeling. It is a feeling like not other, and yet I’ve been holding onto the release of this album for some time that I’m just starting to get that feeling now. Above all else though I love live performing. The connection to the audience is what does it for me.”

She had been working on the one-woman show for several years on and off, along with other projects. The music started to arrive in a surprising way to augment what she was writing, and so then it became important for her to record as soon as possible. Lorraine has taken some risks as well.

“Dave and I had talked for years about doing an Italian song. It was my very first language when I was a child. I was learning how to speak English as my parents were also. Once I’d learned English I spoke less Italian because my parents where wanting to practice. As years went by, the beauty of the language ] flow and the way it sounds has always evoked a memory, and a particular feeling in my body. Although I don’t speak Italian fluently now, I  understand it quite comprehensively. I had always wanted to sing at least one song. But I also wanted to set it against an uptempo groove and I wanted to sing something that was really light and playful, so I wasn’t trying to take myself as a serious Italian singer. You know, to honour the language, but not pretend I was an expert at it.”

I can tell you that that song was a big hit for the audience members, and many people want to know if she will be performing more live shows.

She replied “Yes, I think in the spring I will start bringing out the music live, but I am also focusing on the moment in preparing the play to be able to workshop it this year. Both things will happen in tandem with each other, and can feed off  each other too. “

So there you have it, there’s more Lorraine Segato on the horizon with  many creative endeavors, which will make her many adoring her fans very happy!

About the Author

Cat Grant OCAD is a multimedia artist. A published poet currently writing a book,she contributes to Hone Life, Jingobox and her blog for theBUZZ Kitty Indacity. Painting, sculpture, photography/video, choreography/dance & costume design also make her days. Cat has worked with Deadmau5, Panasonic, Sony, Konami and volunteers for many queer organizations.