selection Vriend explains that she was aiming for songs that would stand the test of time . “ I always have a backlog of songs waiting in the wings ,” she notes .” I tried to find ones that belong together , melodically , lyrically as well as musically . So that is usually the determining factor , what goes on a record and what doesn ’ t . You want to have some that are upbeat , and some of that are more ballads and different groups and different keys .”
The walls of Vriend ’ s office are decorated with pictures from some of the queens of soul and gospel , most impressively , a picture of Sparkle era-Aretha Franklin in her 1970 ’ s heyday as well as Mahalia Jackson , among others . While studying her music and talking to her , the profound connection she has with soul music and African American culture is palpable — reminiscent of the late “ ivory queen of soul ” Teena Marie .
“ I ’ ve been noticing that everyone ’ s got a different definition of soul ,” she says . “ I think [ it ’ s ] anything that ’ s sincerely meant . That could be anything from Celtic music to bluegrass because it ’ s so soulful . But the [ soul ] genre is , I guess , a sexualized version of gospel music . A lot of African American soul artists always come from church , either Pentecostal or Baptist , from Mahalia Jackson onward . Sam Cooke , Aretha Franklin , Ray Charles , Stevie Wonder or Beyonce , it really doesn ’ t matter what generation of soul solo artists you ’ re talking about . It ’ s just the commercial sexualized shorter versions of the bigger longer revival tent song . And , you know , with record labels like Motown or Stax Records they were taking what they ’ re doing in church and making it sort of sellable to commercial radio . But the influences are absolutely there — backup singers are always from the choir . And the structure is , heavily influenced by blues music as well .” With award season in swing , Vriend takes a moment to reflect on her definition of success . “ Everybody ’ s always got an opinion of awards , and who should and shouldn ’ t get them and why ,” she says . “ About five years ago , I read a tweet from a friend of mine in town who is a really great musician . She ’ s amazing . In my opinion , - like the best musician in the city and very successful . And I remember her receiving an award and saying something like ,’ it ’ s so great to get this external validation , blah , blah , blah .’ And then , I just sort of focused on that term external validation . Because wait , what is that ? It really just sort of caught
my brain . And I thought about it . If you define your success , almost always , by how other people define you , or how the music industry defines you or how your peers or your fans define you , it ’ s a very insecure way of investing in that world because it ’ s completely out of your control . Whereas if you have your own internal goals of what you want to do with your career , your music , your sound , and your brand , and then you achieve them , then you can be like , great achieve them . Some of the things I ’ m most proud of are the things that nobody ’ s ever noticed . And some of the things I ’ ve gotten the most accolades and awards over , I ’ m like , I don ’ t think that ’ s my best thing . It ’ s very arbitrary . And , you know , [ it also ] has a lot to do with when I did or didn ’ t have a budget to promote it , or who promoted it . And lastly it has to do with maybe the quality . Since I ’ ve read that tweet by that artist , I ’ ve been trying to just focus on being proud of what I ’ m doing myself , and not letting anything out the door on a record or recording until I am .”
With plans to tour with her group the Inner City ( who were formed during the “ Porch Concerts ” which along with Vriend , features Debbie Houle , Johanna Alleyne , Crystal Eyo , Alenka Lundell , and Jenn Dahlen ) AV is at an exciting juncture in her career . “ My promise to myself right now is just to be very firm about my internal compass of success . And then the chips may fall within , you know , you never know where your music will land or how it works with the timing what ’ s happening in the world , what our other artists are doing , so that ’ s kind of what I ’ m focusing on now .”
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 41