Coming to the historic Caffe Lena stage on May 30 is singer-songwriter Abigail Lapell. The Toronto-based artist is celebrating the release of her latest record, “Anniversary,” which came out on May 10, and boasts a slightly more involved electric sound than records past have featured. Joining Lapell that night on vocals and violin is Emily Baker.

For those that wish to catch the show, they may learn more about the concert, as well as purchase tickets to the event, by going to www.caffelena.org.

I had a chance to sit down with Lapell prior to her show at Caffe Lena. What follows is our conversation, edited lightly for content and clarity.

Lucas Garrett: Hey, Abigail, thanks for taking time to chat tonight. Your album, “Anniversary,” [just came out] on May 10, and you have a show coming up to celebrate that on May 30. Tell us a bit about that show.

Abigail Lapell: It’s my first time at Caffe Lena, actually. I’m really excited; I’ve heard so many great things. It’s going to be an intimate set: I’m performing as a duo with a violin and vocal accompanist, Emily Baker. She’s a fiddler and songwriter from near Boston, Massachusetts. We’re teaming up for some of these northeastern U.S. dates. I’m also doing a bunch of dates with a full band this spring, as well as some dates solo. It’s kind of all over the map.

It’s fun and new for me, because I haven’t performed a lot of these new songs live yet. It’s been really interesting to see how they come together in different formats. For Caffe Lena, there’ll be a lot of harmony vocals and songs and stories from the road.

LG: From what I’m able to tell, there seems to be a lot more electric guitar instrumentation on the new record. Was that happenstance or was that more of a deliberate sonic change?

AL: My previous projects have been a mix of more stripped down and acoustic instrumentation with some electric. For this one, it didn’t feel like a big departure, but I did have the idea that the album would be full band songs in some form. All the songs would have drums and bass as a minimum.

LG: What made you go that route?

AL: The way we recorded it was in an old church, which was really cool, and all live, off-the-floor, standing around and playing. There wasn’t any reason for it. I wanted the songs to work in different formats. For example, with my last album, there’s some tunes I only play solo. I had the idea for this album. I wanted the songs to work either way: they could be solo; they could be [with a] full band. It’d be more versatile for touring.

LG: You’re known as a multi-instrumentalist, but what do you feel most comfortable with?

AL: Vocals are my first love — I love singing. I’d say guitar is my primary instrument by a pretty wide margin. I play a little piano; on the new album I play some.

LG: Are you all self-taught?

AL: All self-taught. I took some piano lessons as a kid but not for very long. I never had vocal training, but I did sing in a choir. That was very helpful.

LG: Where did the name of your upcoming album come from?

AL: One of the songs is “Anniversary Song,” sort of a title track. The album is all love songs: some of them are spooky; some of them are dysfunctional; some of them are super sincere, lovey dovey. Because I had the theme of love songs, I like the idea of calling the album “Anniversary.” Literally, the word “anniversary” means returning yearly. I loved that idea that you’re marking the passage of time.

Music, too, as a way of marking out milestones. Not only good anniversaries — weddings, funerals, these big life events. That’s what all these songs revolve around in different ways. I like the idea of that one simple word to capture all of that.

LG: With a more electric record, have you found it hard transitioning between electric and acoustic? If I’ve been playing acoustic for a month, I find I end up playing the electric way too hard when I go back to it.

AL: I know what you mean. I find the opposite, too. My electric guitar is really easy to play; it’s easy on the hands. When I switched to acoustic, that was the biggest thing I noticed: it’d hurt my fingers or my wrist because I was used to this buttery guitar. It can be challenging. On this record, there was this 12-string guitar, which I’m not used to playing. That was really challenging.

I don’t switch a ton: I’m not a huge [guitar] collector. I have one electric, and one or two acoustics that I like.

LG: When you play out, do you play electric or acoustic?

AL: I play electric. Even for solo shows, I bring a little amp and play electric. It’s nice; it’s a little different.

LG: Right, when you hear singer-songwriter, you expect acoustic.

AL: Yeah, it’s what I’m used to. I like that it’s a little different than the typical singer-songwriter. It gives me more dynamics in some ways.

LG: What got you started with music, Abigail?

AL: I always loved singing, and like I said, I sang in a choir when I was younger. I was always singing and making up songs. I still do. I’ll walk around my house singing about changing a lightbulb or whatever is going on. It’s a great way to be alone and connect with myself.

LG: How long have you been working as a musician?

AL: I’ve been playing as long as I can remember. As far as touring and doing this as a primary career, it’s been five, six years. My 2019 album is one I started touring full-time. I was always playing in bands all through my 20s; I’ve always had one foot in it, in some way.

LG: Over those five, six years of doing music full-time, you’ve amassed a devoted following on Spotify. Even over a pandemic. That’s pretty impressive. Do you have any words of wisdom for those that are interested in getting into the business?

AL: I wish I did. Specifically, for Spotify, it’s so odd. Everyone complains about that model with streaming; it’s really tough to make a living or make a fair wage. I’ve had a lot of good luck with that platform, but I don’t know why. I think it was the luck of the draw. I don’t want to get into the weeds because it’s a boring topic.

It’s just hard. I think it’s becoming so much tougher. I heard some stat the other day about how many songs are uploaded to digital surfaces every day. I can’t remember the number, but it’s tough to break through. All you can do is do what you love. I’m telling myself that all the time. If you’re not able to find joy in what you’re doing, then there’s not really too much of a point to it. It’s such a cliche, but I mean that in a cynical way. You have to be happy with the journey: there’s always going to be one more tier; someone that’s more successful.

LG: Have you ever had a day where you thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore?”

AL: Yeah, that’s why I’m saying this. I had a day like that recently. You can be making a lot of money, and selling out nice venues, and you can still have a bad day. If you’re not going to be able to enjoy the journey, there’s no destination that’s gonna make you happy if you’re not already happy.

LG: How do you get through those bad days?

AL: I have a partner who’s really supportive — I’m lucky. I’ll reach a point where I’m getting sick of myself complaining. I’m so fortunate; I’m lucky to be able to do what I love to do. It’s hard to even take care of yourself, sometimes, as a musician and touring artist. I’ve been trying to meditate. As far as how to get through it, it’s friends, or my partner, or my bandmates that I really lean on for help. Other people on my team can be really encouraging, and hopefully I’m able to provide that for other people.

LG: Besides the album release, what are you most looking forward to, this year?

AL: I have some nice festivals coming up this summer. I’m going to Dawson City Music Festival up in Yukon up here in Canada. That’s a festival I’ve really wanted to play for a really long time.


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