After writing tons of new songs in recent months, singer-songwriter Lena Birtwistle can’t wait to get playing for people.
And she’ll get a chance Saturday, Feb. 8 when she performs at In the Beantime Café in Ladysmith with PixElle.
Birtwistle, who lives in Cassidy, says she hasn’t played at the Beantime for a long time, so she’s excited to get back, and she has a lot of new material to share. This will also be her first show with John Androsky on drums.
“He’s got a really good feel,” said Birtwistle. “He’s a really intuitive and sensitive drummer, so I’m really excited to work with him.”
Birtwistle, who is a member of Kendall Patrick and the Headless Bettys and has performed with Sid Johnson as The Adamantines, is getting ready to release a new solo album.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I finished recording it at the end of 2012. I thought I was going to release it last year, but it didn’t work out.”
She’s now busy putting the finishing touches on the album, and she thinks they will be printed very soon.
Since recording the album, Birtwistle says she has been writing “a ton.” Since last April, she’s been writing two good songs a month. And now, she’s really ready to play them for people.
“I really want to play right now so bad,” she said. “I’m really wanting to book house concerts. I’ve got all this new material I’m excited to share.”
Even while sticking to a two-song-a-month pattern, Birtwistle says she doesn’t necessarily sit down and try to write.
“It’s more like ‘something’s coming, and I need to go figure it out right now,’” she said. “Sometimes I’ll get a melody in my head, and I’ll go try to figure it out musically. Sometimes I’ll get words and an idea. Sometimes I’ll go to an instrument and I’m feeling something so intensely that I’ll play what I’m feeling like. I tend to write really honestly, so the original words that come out are not as interesting, just raw thoughts and emotions. I’ll take each line and figure out how I can manipulate each line to either have more imagery or be more interesting.”
Birtwistle performs an eclectic mix of rock, blues, jazz, reggae, pop and a bit of country, and she says she recently wrote a song with a Latin feel and one of her news songs sounds European.
“My strength, I think, is epic rock ballads, but between all my originals, especially my new stuff, I might call it Americana or Canadiana,” she said. “I like so many different styles of music that I get inspired by all sorts of different sounds. Each song that comes out sounds way different from the last. I would kind of describe it like a bunch of kids from a mixed marriage — they’re all family, but they don’t look alike.”
Birtwistle is inspired by a lot of local artists and musicians like Ben Folds Five, Buddy Guy, Damien Rice, Feist, Fleetwood Mac, Jamiroquai, New Pornographers and Peter Gabriel.
“I really like people who are really strong, independent people who go outside the box and go against the grain,” she said. “I really like people who follow their heart and their gut.”
One of Birtwistle’s favourite bands is Metric.
“I really like Emily Haines; she’s one of those strong female role models who follows her heart,” she said. “She does all the songwriting in her band too.
“I work with Kendall Patrick too, and that’s one of the things I admire about her — she’s such a prolific songwriter. Her lyrics and music, everything about her is so inspiring to me. I think working with her has helped my music to grow.”
Birtwistle and Patrick played in the band Ah, Venice out of Nanaimo for about a year and went on tour with them, and she found them inspiring as well.
“Their music was so creative and so full of amazing harmonies; I think that also opened me up to new music,” said Birtwistle. “Everyone in the groups I had been working in was so positive and nurturing and supportive. Everyone would be so into everyone else’s ideas and so willing to help and offer feedback. We were always jamming together. This is the first time in my life I’ve had so many musician friends.”
Outside of playing, Birtwistle also teaches music at Arbutus Music in Nanaimo,
At In the Beantime, Birtwistle will open for PixElle, a trio of female singer-songwriters who came together after jamming together. Individually, Cara McCandless, Naomi Payan and Tanya Gillespie all pursue musical endeavours of their own. When they come together as PixElle, the combination of musical styles, capabilities and influences is what makes them unique, according to their bio.
Birwsitle and PixElle perform Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at In the Beantime Café at 18 High St. Tickets are $15 or $30 for the show and dinner. Call 250-245-2305 to reserve your tickets, or buy them at the coffee shop.