I have been finding out more about Grizzly Coast…
and her latest single, Zuzu’s Petals. I was keen to know the song’s origins and when she realised music was the career for her. Alannah (Grizzly Coast) talks about her musical progression and which rising artists we should spend a bit of time investigating.
I ask which artists she was hooked on growing up; whether there are gigs booked in the diary; what she hopes to achieve by the end of the year; what it is like being on stage and performing – Grizzly Coast tells me which artist she’d support if she had the chance.
Hi, Grizzly Coast. How are you? How has your week been?
Feeling fine! My week’s been really exciting. Just anticipating the single and video release.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure. My name is Alannah Kavanagh but I play under (the name) 'Grizzly Coast'. I’m a Toronto-based Folk-Rock musician using music as a vehicle to tell stories. While the core of the project and its lyricism remains solo and very personal to me, this year Grizzly Coast has been growing into a full-band live act; so people can move with the music in a new way.
How did that moniker come to be? Is there a story behind the name?
There is! I lived on Vancouver Island as a teen and I kept visiting back for a few years after I graduated. The whole time, I was really struck by the natural landscapes of the West Coast. The lifestyle there was so lovely. We’d go down a winding road to the beach, pass goat farms and skip stones. Some summer days we’d just sit by the fish hatcheries, go for a hike or swim in the river before getting a burger at the food truck and going to a backyard campfire party at night.
There was a band in the Cowichan Valley called No Don’t Stop and they had a song called Grizzly Coast which I interpreted to be about how peaceful and lucky it felt to live there. I ended up making the title my Instagram handle years before I started playing music publicly and it got to the point where people associated those words with me. When it came time to name the project, it seemed like the natural fit! Since I live in the city now, the name is a reminder to slow down; appreciate my surroundings and tune into myself.
Zuzu’s Petals is your new single. What is the story behind the track?
Zuzu’s Petals is something I wrote when I felt like I had, to my earlier point, tuned back into myself. I was in a relationship that ended around Christmas last year and while watching the holiday movie It’s a Wonderful Life, I started thinking about one scene in it. I won’t spoil but, basically, the main character goes through some hardships and he finds these petals from his daughter Zuzu’s flower in his pocket and realizes that everything is going to be okay.
Lyrically, the song isn’t so much about the breakup but the exploration of the newfound relationship I forged with myself after going through that low. I felt really boundless and hopeful about what I could accomplish after bouncing back and aimed to evoke that happiness in all aspects of the song.
Your debut album, Gold Lined Path (2017), mixes your love of music and poetry. Was there a point where you knew you had to pursue music and record?
It’s interesting to reflect on that because I knew I wanted to be a musician since I was a child. It’s just something I always felt strongly about. I used to play piano and guitar and write corny-preteen songs all the time in my bedroom after hockey practice and stuff.
It wasn’t until late in university though that I recognized that I wanted to pursue music and tell people that something I was totally scared to come out and say. I slowly developed a group of friends around me that were in the music scene and seeing all of them release their tracks gave me the confidence to do so myself. I was just beginning to learn about songwriting when I released Gold Lined Path; tracks that were essentially poems set to music.
I released that album so quickly. I basically just wrote my first songs and, once I had enough for an album, recorded them. This time around, I’ve been heavily focused on learning more about songwriting and production in an effort to solidify my sound before my sophomore release.
Which artists did you grow up around? Were you hooked on music from a young age?
Yes. I definitely was and, strangely, I was super-into Rock and Roll. It weird to think about now how in middle-school I was obsessed with AC/DC. I just loved them. But, I was also super-into bands I still enjoy like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Doors – I had their posters all around my bedroom.
Around that same time, I had an older family friend, Katie who played in a band and I asked her to make me an ‘Indie’ mix C.D. I don’t think I even knew what that word meant at the time. She gave me a C.D. with Feist, Hawksley Workman; Broken Social Scene, Joel Plaskett; Joanna Newsom, Beirut and way more artists that I just became obsessed with.
Katie really influenced me since she was a few years older and I wanted to be just like her. So, I started playing the guitar, writing songs and emailing her the lyrics. And so it began!
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Another single recorded, this time for the next full-length album; another video, a ton of live-shows and to begin recording my next album which we’re aiming to release in 2019!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
It’s a toss-up between two things I’d say…
It always means so much to me when people, especially people I have no real-life connection to, reach out on social media to tell me how my music has impacted them. That’s honestly so affirming.
But, I think my favourite moment so far was when I played at the Burdock in February. I had taken a break from live-performances because I’d developed a very bad case of performance anxiety. So, leading up to that show, I really worked on getting over it through visualizations and just a lot of practising the songs. The show was phenomenal; the room was packed and I felt so grateful and, like, cured.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
The Year of Hibernation – Youth Lagoon
I listened to this album when I was seventeen and it was a soft place to land at a time in my life where things felt very hard. I used to listen to it while walking around on the island. There’s a lyric on the song, 17, that says: “When I was seventeen, my mother said to me “Don’t stop imagining, the day that you do's the day that you die’” and my Emo-as-hell teen self was really eating it up.
Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
Man. This album is just otherworldly in its exploration of what you can do production-wise with Folk-y music and also the topic of grief. Sufjan is such a diverse explorative artist. I’d give him my kidney for everything; all his sonically-unique albums have brought to me. My vavó was dying and we had always been so close, so listening to this was like a shoulder to lean on.
Let it Die – Feist
I used to listen to this on my iPod to fall asleep as a young teen and Feist sort of became a model for me - of a talented woman songwriter releasing music and really just killing it in the music industry. The album is full of amazing tracks like Mushaboom and Let It Die. When her song was in that Apple commercial and more people began discovering her I was annoyingly like: ‘Oh, yeah, Feist? I’ve been listening to her since grade-six’.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Damn. I could really go off with people I dream of touring with. But, I’d have to say Feist because she’s Canadian too and I feel like I could learn so much from her wisdom and years in the industry.
And…for the rider? Probably Perrier, beers; doughnuts and fresh flowers. Yeah, definitely those things.
Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
In the process of booking a bunch of shows but the ones set in stone are: Queen West Art Crawl on September 22n; Indie Week 2018 in November.
How important is it being on stage and seeing your music connecting with people?
You know…I don’t purposely set out to play sad songs but, oftentimes, I find that the lyrics I write are quite detailed and honest and it’s not uncommon to see some tears in the audience at my shows. It’s really special to me that my personal experiences and lyrics can evoke others to reflect on theirs and feel vulnerable and cathartic in public.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Don’t be shy about owning the ‘musician’ label: you are a musician. Everyone starts somewhere. Keep chipping away at small goals until they keep getting bigger. Try to not compare your first songs against someone else’s years of practice. A painter doesn’t start off making opulent and stunning pieces…you’re learning!
The person I was two years ago would be truly astonished that I released the Zuzu’s Petals video, and am playing live shows every month. You have to go out there and do it, not sit at home and think about doing it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Oh Geronimo/PHOTO CREDIT: Unfrozen Photography
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
IN THIS PHOTO: Modern Desert
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I really do my best to stay balanced at all costs so I definitely take time to chill because I want music to remain something I’m doing because I love it not a task to complete, you know?
I meditate every day and I really like going for walks in the park. Also; going for pho by myself with a good book or podcast in my headphones is basically my other hobby.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Chelsea – Phoebe Bridgers
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