It's been a long time coming, but vocalist Verna Chan is happy to present her first album, Restless, that she will launch this Saturday, March 22, at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt.
Why the title? Chan is a restless person, in a sense. She's restless creatively with many different interests: she knits, does crafts, has performed in theatre, leads people in fitness training, does some vocal coaching and has worked for years in radio broadcasting.
In the 1980s she toured B.C. as a musician, met lots of folks on the road who told their sad or funny stories, and her lyrics reflect this story-telling.
"I like creative things," she said.
Chan wrote eight of the tunes on the album, although she notes that not all the original songs on the album are autobiographical. She also covers two famous songs: Blackbird (Chan has a more powerful voice than Paul McCartney and tends to knock the melody line for a loop) and a heart-tugging version of Cold, Cold Heart, familiar as a Hank Williams tune.
Chan is also known as one of the organizers of Sunshine Coast Idol and Youth Idol, popular competitions for several years that had audiences and judges (Chan was one of them) voting for their favourite local singer.
"I miss Idol," she says now, recalling some of the best moments. (Among them was a performance by 95-year-old Robert Grimsdick, recently passed away, who took his booming voice through the first round of judging. Chan remembers him fondly.)
Shows like these make the music scene flourish and bring out fans and friends who can help with a musician's career. For Chan's new CD, she is thankful for the many friends who helped on the way, such as Phill and Susan Murray.
"Phill shoved $20 in my hand one day and said, 'this is for your new CD,'" she recalls, and that started her on her way. "It's hard to believe it took so long," she said, but the timing and financing of the venture is probably about right for a self-produced and self-managed album.
In a way it's been 13 years in the making, since that's how long Chan has lived on the Coast and been part of the musical community. Susann Richter sings backing vocals on Restless and other musical professionals also perform. Sacha Fassaert arranged the music.
"He took the basic song and added beautiful chords," Chan said.
Paul Steenhuis on guitar and bass, with Karen Graves on saxophone, round out the complement of locals. Walter Martella on keyboards really tears it up on Nothing in Common but the Blues, making for some glorious bluesy moments. Chan's clear, vital voice is suited to the blues, but she also loves soul and R&, calling Dee Daniels one of her favourite performers.
The title song, Restless, is based on a story of a grandfather who visits as a ghost. He can't settle, and that reflects elements of Chan's own life. "I like the mood of the songs to match the lyrics," she says.
The CD launch is this Saturday at 7 p.m. The band for the evening will be Fassaert on guitar, Martella, keys, Steenhuis, bass, John Tipping, drums, and Richter on vocals. For the opening set, guest singer/songwriter Ashley Hautala will take the stage. A donation of $5 is requested and albums will be available.
Restless is also available at Swish in Gibsons and the Halfmoon Bay Café.
© Coast Reporter