Grapevine Questionnaire: Gabrielle Papillon

by Susan Wedlock

Hailed as “one of the finest new songwriters in Canada” (Tom Power, CBC), singer-songwriter Gabrielle Papillon sings stories real and imagined. Her latest album was voted 2015 Music Nova Scotia Awards’ Recording of the Year. Gabrielle recently played at the Evergreen Theatre in Margaretsville.

What are you most proud of?
That’s a tricky one, actually. Personally, there are two moments I can think of offhand which make me proud. The first is the moment my thesis advisor came out of the room, minutes after the panel deliberated, to tell me my Master’s thesis (in American History) had been approved. It was like passing the hardest course of my life with flying colours after years of work, and the feeling of accomplishment I had, for weeks afterwards, was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. I was also pretty floored, and still am very proud, of winning the Music Nova Scotia Award for Recording of the Year this past November. My parents were there, and I had told them that if they came, I likely wouldn’t win anything. It was pretty wonderful to be able to accept that award with them in the room.

What would you tell your seventeen-year-old self?
That boy you like is a ninny and not worth the heartache. Keep writing those songs. Go to school and study a thing that is not art, then keep making art. Read all the books. Find a sport you love for your own sanity’s sake. You don’t actually want to be an actress in Hollywood.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would that be?
I’d worry less. I’d live in the moment more. I’d feel less awkward in new social settings.

What music are you listening to this week?
I’m not! I can’t. I’m writing a record and my brain is a sponge and I need to leave room for the notes in my own head. BUT, as soon as I’m done, I’m going to listen to the new Radiohead album, the new Matthew and the Atlas record, and this new discovery Santigold. She’s poppy and dramatic.

What makes you happy?
Making people laugh. Rowing at the Halifax Rowing club with my rowing pals. Riding bikes with my person and my friends. Touring and playing shows with my band (unless it’s winter. I do not enjoy touring in winter). Spending time with my folks and my siblings and the people I love. Good chats with dear friends.

Do you have a motto?
Mmmm… not really? I tell myself to be kind. I try to be the sort of friend I would like to have. And I’m really loving this bit of wisdom I got from a heart-to-heart with Christina Martin recently: “Try not to take things personally, even when it’s personal.”

What do you dread?
Confrontations.

What makes you excited?
Lots of things! Releasing a new record is exciting. I get to play for a lot of wonderful audiences, in beautiful spaces, and share the stage with amazing artists, and tour to great places with my bandmates who are also dear friends. I’ll get to see my siblings at the end of June and we’ve not all been together for several years now, so currently that is also very exciting.

What is your favourite material possession?
Currently it’s a 1940 Gibson L5 that has been in my family since the early 70s. I get to have it for a while. It’s magical.

If you could be anything you wanted to be what would that be?
Well I’m kind of doing it already. But I wish I could also be an internist, a professor of history, an economist, and a ballet dancer. And a detective! I’d also like to be a detective. In another life.