Signalling a new definition of jazz

Being Elizabeth Shepherd means many things: being a singer, a songwriter, a pianist, a mother, a bringer of jazz to a new generation.

Being Elizabeth Shepherd means many things: being a singer, a songwriter, a pianist, a mother, a bringer of jazz to a new generation. Her fifth album The Signal is also an amalgamation of many inspirations she’s drawn from over the last few years.

The cover itself depicts this, with Shepherd wearing antlers in front of a brilliantly lit up motherboard.

Shepherd said that she was inspired to “connect two new realities” — the idea of the Internet and its influence on human interaction and development as well as humanity’s animal side — into one.

“My daughter is growing up without ever having known pre-Internet days and I don’t think we even realize the extent to which that is shaping us and that’s precisely what makes it an experiment. There’s this hyper-connectivity where we are aware of everything that’s going on around us at any given time and yet everything is also experienced by proxy and highly removed when it’s presented to the world,” said Sheperd.

Of the albums content, Shepherd describes it as her most “honest” album yet, as she finally felt comfortable with shedding the pressures she used to feel would mould her sound.

“I think the main thing is that I’ve just become more grounded in myself,” said Shepherd. “I don’t care so much what people think anymore about whether I should be clever or witty or anything, really. That it has to be jazz, funky or more soulful. Whatever pressures that might have been there before, I don’t feel them anymore.”

The singer attributes this feeling of freedom and self-assuredness to the birth of her daughter.

“It’s a huge transformation, becoming a parent,” she said. “You have limited time, limited resources and a perspective shift where what is really important becomes clear and what isn’t just fades away. I would say trying to fit into a mould or trying to please people just isn’t important to me anymore.”

But that doesn’t mean Shepherd shies away from her jazz roots.

“Jazz is an incredible art form. It’s a sophisticated genre that requires that you give something of yourself in order to really, fully appreciate it. In Canada, the ‘jazz’ label is like a curse. People have these terrible notions of what jazz is. And I feel like that’s because they don’t really know what jazz is. So if I can broaden that definition into something ‘cool’ then I’m honoured to be contributing in that way,” said Shepherd.

On stage, Shepherd said she loves being a storyteller and bringing the audience into the emotions that went into each song she plays.

She played Fernie’s Arts Station stage on Tuesday, December 2.

“I try to create something that people need time to sink into. But I think that’s good and I think people are missing that from their lives and it’s a gift you’re giving to people. It really gives people a moment,” said Shepherd.