Ladies of the Canyon singer releases solo French album
For Westmount resident Maia Davies, her journey in the music business has been a rocky road, punctuated, like many great country songs, by heartbreak and disappointment, success, fame, and a lot of life lessons.
She went from almost giving up on the music industry to finally finding success as a member of Ladies of the Canyon, a female country-folk quartet whose debut album, Haunted Woman, put the group on many lists of artists to watch.
Now, Davies has released an album of a different sort: the solo, mostly French-language album Héritage, containing deeply personal tracks about her family, lost loves and life on the road.
Maia said that the inspiration for the album came when the Ladies of the Canyon were touring Quebec. Since she is fully bilingual (her mother is Québécoise and her father is Anglophone), she became the band’s contact point between the fans and promoters.
“I had a really positive experience playing in Montreal and Quebec, and I just rediscovered my French side,” Maia said. “The audiences were awesome, and it made me fall in love with them, and with where I’m from.”
The album’s sound is very different from the upbeat country her band plays. She describes it as a “modern folk record,” which draws inspiration from the great Québécois artists she loved as a child.
“I wanted to take the chansonnier tradition that was really prevalent in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and do it in a modern way,” she says. “I wanted to use acoustic guitars and storytelling, but also real instruments and a few programmed instruments.”
The songs, all written by Maia herself, range from “Anticosti,” which explores her family’s memories, to “A la radio,” about making it as a singer, to “All the best roses,” about a boyfriend she had in New York, and the tragic end to their relationship.
“Ok, the word ‘tragically’ might be a bit of an exaggeration,” she admits with a laugh, “but it felt like it at the time.”
Looking back, Maia still marvels at the way her career has unfolded. She studied classical music at Vanier College, but dropped out in her last semester “because I wanted to be in a rock band,” she says. But after a couple of failed solo projects, she became disillusioned with the cutthroat nature of the music business, and almost walked away.
“I had a really positive experience playing in Montreal and Quebec, and I just rediscovered my French side,” Maia said. “The audiences were awesome, and it made me fall in love with them, and with where I’m from.” Maia Davies
“I joined Ladies of the Canyon because I just wanted to play music again for fun, and to do something different,” she said.
“The twist of fate is that it became a full-time job with 150 shows a year, with managers and labels and all. I wanted to get away from it, and it came back to me.”
She moved away for a time, to Toronto and New York – living out of suitcases, and singing in different places every night.
“It’s been an insane learning experience, because this is a crazy job.”
Now, she’s moved back to Westmount, where she grew up. Her album cover, taken at a local park, shows her holding her grandfather’s sword, as a way of connecting to her past.
But, although she’s happy to be home, don’t expect her to stay put forever.
She has a tour in the works, in addition to finishing work on the next Ladies of the Canyon album, due next year. One day, she would like to become more involved in the business part of the industry, producing or developing music. She likes to keep busy.
“I have a short attention span and I have to keep doing different things constantly or I get bored,” she said.
“But I’ve gotten to see and do a lot. I’ve gotten a lot from the different places I’ve been, and brought that back home.”
Heritage is available from Studio 9 records.