Julie Doiron has been a familiar name within the Canadian indie folk-rock scenes for decades. Since forming Eric’s Trip in 1990 in Moncton, her modest and cute demeanor paired with her songwriting talents have been captivating her audiences for years, especially after nine solo albums and plenty of collaborations.
Though she’s clearly left her mark in New Brunswick (and even in Saskatchewan where the town of Bruno has declared Julie Doiron day for June 7), Doiron moved to Toronto about a year ago, and it has quickly become a positive scene for her musically. She doesn’t play often, but when she does, they are bigger shows at the Horseshoe. So when she decided to do a residency every Thursday night this month at newly liquor licensed Saving Gigi, it sent a bit of a jolt through her Toronto fan base. With only 25 seats and tickets available Friday mornings from the venue, Doiron’s shows have become so in-demand and fun that she’s decided to extend the residency to once or twice a month for the future. It’s a nice treat for music lovers in Toronto, and it even pays the artist back, as Doiron has picked up shifts working there.
In this interview with Doiron the afternoon before her second show, we discuss her residency, living in Toronto, working on her next album and connecting with her audience.
Dork Shelf: How has the residency been so far?
Julie Doiron: So far it’s been great. Last week was with Daniel Romano, and it was really fun. It was really low-key and pretty relaxed. I know Dan pretty well. I think at the end, when people asked me how it was, it was great, but it’s kind of a whirlwind for me too because I had never really planned anything like this before or realistically hosted people like that with this idea and setting. Tamara of The Weather Station, who is my guest tonight, we rehearsed all day yesterday and today so I think it’s going to be really good. She’s wonderful, a beautiful singer and songwriter so it’s going to be nice.
DS: It’s kind of a routine you’ve got to get yourself into, right?
JD: Totally! It’s interesting because it’s one thing to do your thing and know your songs but then to do a set together is out of your comfort zone, you have to come up with something good and accompany someone and it’s a good test for me for sure.
DS: Do you have planned who is going to be joining you in the future?
JD: Yeah but we’re not announcing any of the guests until the tickets go on sale. For this month it’s every week and after, I’m going to do it like once or twice a month. So either every other week or once a month, I’m not sure.
DS: What made you want to do it at Saving Gigi?
JD: I had been hanging out there quite a bit when they were still a café and then they started brainstorming because they were on the verge of getting their liquor license, which they had been trying to get for a long time. So we brainstormed the idea of me doing the residency there. It’s a celebration of their new hours, them being open later in the night and having their liquor license so I just thought it could be something I could do to help get the word out. I love them, they’re really great to me. I go there a lot.
DS: So is it like your hangout spot in the city now?
JD: Yeah, I just live nearby so it’s a place I go to quite a bit.
DS: What’s it like being a musician in Toronto now?
JD: I really love it here. Of course it’s really hectic because I don’t have a job so I haven’t been playing enough shows. Obviously the living expenses were more than I was used to but I’m getting it together. Oddly enough, Saving Gigi just hired me to work a few nights a week. I love it here, I really do. As a musician, so many friends of mine who are musicians live here, so it’s really cool in that way too. It’s really easy to be able to get together with people.
DS: Where are your favourite places to go and play?
JD: I haven’t really been playing that much here. I play at the Horseshoe a lot but those are bigger shows. I just recently started going to an open mic night at the Tranzac on Mondays. I teach yoga literally around the corner so now I just pop over there and do two songs. That’s fun. I haven’t been out in a while, but I have been known to go to Ronnie’s, which is in the Market. I don’t go out that often, actually. Up until recently, anyways. And lately I’ve been hanging out at Saving Gigi because it’s very comfortable there.
DS: You’re very affable with your audience. Does being in this small café/bar make it a lot easier for you to connect with people?
JD: I guess so. It’s a really small room, so we can only sell 25 tickets. So the shows are all really small, so yes it’s quite intimate but sometimes those shows are more terrifying than the big ones because there’s still a lot of pressure. Everyone’s really listening. Which is great, that’s a dream for a lot of people, to have an audience that’s just listening. So you can connect with them for sure because when you make a joke you can hear everybody laugh and no one’s talking, but it is intimidating a little bit, which is also good to put yourself in that situation.
DS: You let people request songs a lot. What are some of the most frequently requested?
JD: There are specific ones. I get a lot for “Me and My Friend” and “Sweeter.” A lot of times “Snowfalls in November” gets requested. There are a few hits!
DS: What do you play the most at these shows?
JD: I’m playing a lot of new songs because I’m in the middle of recording a new album so I play those quite a bit and I sort of touch on all the records, I do a little bit of each.
DS: What’s the plan with the new album?
JD: I’m not sure when it’s coming out, but I started recording it just before Christmas, and right now that I’m doing this, I’m taking a bit of a break, but I’m going back to doing it in February. So I’ll hopefully be able to get it finished then.
DS: What’s it about?
JD: It’s about my life. And I think it’s going to be really good! I think the songs are really good.
DS: That’s a good way to sell it. Are the people that you’re bringing on for the residency all Toronto musicians?
JD: Pretty much. So far, everyone’s based in Toronto or just near Toronto. It’s hard to get people in from out of town.
DS: Who are some of your favourite local musicians?
JD: I think Tamara is really great, I think Jennifer Castle’s really great. There are a lot of great people here. There are a lot of obvious choices. $100 are really good, there are all kinds of great bands and musicians here in Toronto. I obviously love The Sadies.
DS: What’s on your Dork Shelf? What kinds of books or music are you into these days?
JD: The book I’m reading right now is actually Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. I’ve been listening to a lot of Daniel Romano, almost non-stop, his last record Sleep Beneath the Willow is amazing, I listen to it at least once every day. I also have just been listening to a lot of Neil Young and Willie Nelson and things like that. Shotgun Jimmie. The Weather Station. I don’t have a lot of records here right now.
DS: What else should we know about Julie?
JD: Not a whole lot. I’m feeling really good, I’m feeling really happy. Pretty motivated right now. Working really hard. Teaching yoga now a couple times a week. Basically just writing, recording and trying to work hard. Trying to be a better person.