Just about all professional musicians everywhere have had to deal with the drought of opportunities to perform over the last 22 months. That has meant no supplemental income, no chance to put new material to the test, and none of that special exchange of energy with an audience that can make even the humblest gig worthwhile.
Singer-songwriter, producer and new Sunshine Coast resident Susana Williams has missed all that performing upside, too, but she’s not complaining about the pandemic.
“COVID kind of gave me a kick in the pants to look for other avenues to continue to be creative and continue to connect with people,” Williams said in an interview prior to her appearance with her flamenco dancer-wife, Andrea Williams, at Roberts Creek Legion on Dec. 17. “I found myself in a position where I had to find ways to continue to be creative that didn’t depend on the traditional way of doing business.”
The traditional way for Williams, in addition to solo performances, meant playing with the popular Latin-jazz orchestra Goma Dura and fronting the band Rumba Calzada, both of which she still does.
“During COVID, I co-produced an album of mine, I produced an EP (extended play recording) of mine and I produced an artist here on the Coast. I got into composing music for film and TV, and I got signed by a company in Australia (music distributor Melodie Ltd.),” Williams said.
Williams’s own album, “We’re a Memory,” is her third as a solo artist and was released in June. In November, Sechelt teacher and singer-songwriter Mariel Yglesias released “La Distancia,” a five-song EP produced by Williams and now on Spotify. It was news that Yglesias was eager to share in an email to Coast Reporter.
“One could assume that to create and release an album in Sechelt is not easy and one would need to find producers in Vancouver,” Yglesias wrote. “[Williams] is not just a producer…she coaches people to ‘come out of the closet’ with their art and guides them until they are ready to release their music into the world.”
Williams built her home studio in ts’ukw’um (Wilson Creek) after she and Andrea moved to the Coast in February. “The Sunshine Coast just ticked all the boxes for us,” she said. “It’s a place where I find myself feeling a lot more peaceful. It creates a lot more not only personal space, but spiritual space, as opposed to feeling like I’m under stress all the time.”
Williams emigrated to Vancouver from her native Venezuela, where she started writing tunes and singing professionally in bands when she was just 13. She built a thriving career there for nearly 10 years before personal and political circumstances necessitated leaving her homeland with her young daughter. It was a harder transition than she expected.
“The most difficult thing to leave behind was my music. I naively thought that I was going to be able to just move here [and bring] all I had done,” Williams recalled. Instead, coming to Canada wasn’t just a move back to square-one, she said, “it was to square zero.” She’s way past those days now.
“I am working on my on my fourth solo album, and that’ll be released next year,” Williams said. “And I have a lot of shows coming up. I already have three shows in Vancouver in January. I’m leaving for Europe for three weeks and then I already have shows in Vancouver as well in March.”
Coast audiences’ next opportunity to hear Williams will be at an upcoming Thursday Jazz Night at the Creek Legion over the winter.