By Luigi Meliambro
Gabrielle Giguere is an Ottawa-based multi-instrumentalist. Under the moniker Her Harbour she is ready to release her sophomore LP Go Gently Into The Night Feb 3 through E-Tron Records. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Gabrielle at an obscure cafe in the back of the Fairmont Confectionary in Hintonburg. We ate delicious Thai food at Sam’s Cafe and spoke about playing Europe for the first time, the true meaning behind Her Harbour, and the possibility of moving to Montreal.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Cheezy Luigi: What is this place? I thought you were going to pick up milk and a lottery ticket.
Gabrielle Giguere: Haha, I use to live around the corner—it was my too go spot. There’s Thai submarines, appetizers, salads, and noodles.
CL: Very cool spot!
GG: What shall we get?
CL: Wanna split the shrimp rolls?
Lady behind the counter: We have a new special pad thai.
GG: Oh I wanna try that.
CL: I want the seafood salad.
GG: Wanna split everything?
CL: Perfect, let’s sit down. So your first time playing Europe, how many shows did you play?
GG: It was 15 shows in the end; when I signed up it was 9. I owe it all to my friend Isaac Valentine. He’s in Treviso (Italy) doing design and he’s also a musician under his own name. He was putting together this tour and asked me if I wanted to come.
CL: You opened for him? And you were solo?
GG: Yes, we were both solo, so it was the world’s easiest tour. We both had one suitcase and one instrument and we were travelling by train.
CL: What was the response?
GG: It was great! It was such an amazing thing, to do the thing you love the most somewhere you’ve never been and play for a room of attentive people. It was the best time ever . . . my favourite show of the tour was in Ghent (Belgium). A super neat community of artists, half art space, half music venue.
CL: So small intimate spaces.
GG: Yeah, varied in size as well . . . Ghent was one of my favourite shows for Her Harbour where you just felt that you were really connecting with everybody in the room and it really felt like we had something in common.
CL: What was in common?
GG: There was this neat exhibit going on, I really got along with the people, they cooked this amazing meal, they have a boat out front where they host musicians in . . . people doing really neat things, but it wasn’t pretentious at all, it was a nice environment. People were going against the grain, it was mostly a volunteer-run space. I know when I’m feeling something that’s going on around me, which I felt very strongly that night and was lucky to feel that a couple of times on the tour.
CL: Were there any shows where you thought “this isn’t working,” where people were just looking at you wondering what’s that thing on her lap?
GG: Haha definitely . . . That was everywhere, a lot of people hadn’t seen an autoharp before and so I was answering questions about what I was doing. You experience every audience differently. German audiences were quite polite and very silent and they’re not expressive. The first show I had no idea if they were enjoying it or not, but they were buying records so I guess they liked it.
CL: Are we going to have some of these rolls?
GG: Yes, it’s like torture looking at them.
CL: So, you’re thinking Montreal?
GG: Yeah, I grew up in Ottawa, but I’m originally from Montreal. It’s always been a nice place to play and I did mix and master the last record there and I’ve been enjoying the people I have had a chance to work with.
CL: Do you think your music will have a better chance in Montreal?
GG: It’s based around rent and my excitement being there and the roots that I have with family, but I always feel inspired being able to pop into the Museum of Modern Art. There’s also personal history. It would be nice to collaborate with some new people. We will see—I do have a soft spot for Ottawa.
CL: You’ve been playing solo for awhile.
GG: Yes, I was playing solo for the last year or so.
CL: How did that go?
GG: It’s really hard and easier in some ways. There’s a little less structure when I’m actually playing , so if I want to extend a part or I wanna change my mind what I’m going to play next and that’s done fairly easily.
CL: So your back with a full band for the new record?
GG: I wouldn’t characterize it as a band on the record itself. There’s lots orchestral, percussion, there’s choir and strings, but there’s not really any drums at all.
CL: So you’re going to change the line up as you tour?
GG: It would be really nice too tour with a string section and choirs . . . but I’m open to experimenting.
CL: This is really good food.
GG: I’m glad you are enjoying it.
CL: I like the seafood salad, nice clean flavours.
GG: I was blown away how affordable the food was in Europe and how good it was. The best sandwich I ever ate was with a napkin and a glass of wine standing in an alleyway—that’s because that’s how everyone else was eating and it was lovely.
CL: Do you see yourself playing a different style of music in the future with Her Harbour ?
GG: I’ve played in different projects, but I’ve been concentrating on Her Harbour which is my diary right, it’s my personal writing. I have been craving playing other kinds of music and so I’m looking forward to that. But as far as what happens under the moniker Her Harbour for instance I think it would be naive of me to say that it wouldn’t change because who knows where I’ll be at.
CL: So there’s a chance there can be a Her Harbour trip-hop record?
GG: Hahaha maybe my life will take a crazy turn when I move to Montreal and my diary will be in a trip-hop voice.
CL: But you’re open to that?
GG: For sure, I have to be.
CL: So the obvious question—”Her Harbour,” where did you get that from?
GG: I wish I had a cool answer for that, but I was in the van with my bandmates on our way to play in Toronto with another project and a bandmate said something, he might’ve been saying ‘’hot dog’’ but I heard Her Harbour and thought that’s perfect.
CL: So it means nothing really.
GG: There’s no way of making it sound cool, without sounding cheesy but music has been such a refuge for me in life and I think my songwriting in particular has been sort of a beacon, like a life force and the propelling thing for me long before I was making it public and it sort of suited it. I like the sentiment of it and I like the imagery. On the first record I wrote a lot of songs when I lived in BC and my front yard was the ocean and my back yard was the forest, so kind of harbour area, kind of a cheesy answer. I never know how to answer that and sound cool.
CL: You sounded cool.
GG: Okay then. •