Interview: Chantal Kreviazuk

(2009) A true renaissance woman, Chantal Kreviazuk is a singer, songwriter, actor, model and humanitarian. Since her humble beginnings in Winnepeg to headlining stages around the world, the things that are important to her haven’t left her focus for a moment. She’s had top selling albums and has penned songs with tghe likes of Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani. Married to “Our Lady Peace” frontman Raine Maida, she continues to juggle family life and her career with an emphasis on family first and industry second. (Something I was to learn first hand as my interview was bumped twice due to a sick child). I spoke with Chantel from her home about family, songwriting and dancing in front of the mirror….

Mb: You know Chantel, my first question was going to be “How does family life and the music business mix?” But, I think I now know!
CK: (laughs) Here’s how it mixes (calls to her daughter) “Heather can you shut the door? I’m doing an interview.” So, that’s how it effects things. There’s always action. They’re number one and that’s it. They encompass everything. Our studio is at home so the door’s open… most of the artists we work with are cool with that, but some of them have not been. (laughs) I sort of feel like, when it comes to kids, I had my chance. I was a child and I was given a wonderful childhood and now it’s their turn. I think they deserve to get every bit of love and attention and they get it. Sometimes it compromises my vocation but I think it’s wonderful.
Mb: How do they like growing up in a rock and roll household?
CK: Oh my God. Again, the word ‘encompass” comes to mind. I think it’s actually defining who they are now. They enjoy singing and dancing. They’re already getting comfortable at instruments. I don’t know if they even know anything otherwise, other than you write songs and you express yourselves and you play music. That’s kind of who they are.
Mb: So they haven’t figured out that you sleep in buses in northern Ontario and eat too much fast food…
CK: Well, they’ve figured out the bus part, but they think that’s a party and love it. I don’t think they realize the amount of work it is bringing them on the road or living on the road as an adult, but as a child, from their perspective, it’s pretty fab! I don’t know if they know you get fat on the bus just yet, but they are enjoying some great catering!
Mb: So how’s this new record coming?
CK: I can finally say “fantastic”. Because we’ve been working on so many other projects in between our own solo projects and Raine’s band, it takes awhile to recognize when you’re in fifth gear and all of a sudden you go “Oh my god, my record’s closed out. It’s done! I just have to do some “i” dotting and “t” crossing and my records done.” I just have to do some odds and ends and then we’re moving into the mix next week.
Mb: And how do you feel about it? Is it going to be different from the last record?
CK: It’s different from the last record. It’s different from any other record I’ve made, definitely. It’s interesting because it takes more risks on the one hand because it’s simpler and more “poppier” than ever, in some areas, and then it takes more risks creatively in others. It is a bit more focused. Part of the album has a lot of jazz influence to it, which is just kind of inside of me. Even if you listen to my earlier stuff you’ll hear some of that. There’s some blatant homages to the jazz genre and it’s really exciting. The album’s called “Plain Jane”. You’re the first person I’ve told that to! (laughs)
Mb: Hey! I got the scoop!
CK: “You got the scoop”
Mb: So as you’re writing a record, or a song in general, are you thinking “These are songs for me” or are they for someone else, because you’ve written for so many other artists.
CK: That’s a really good question. For example there’s a song that I wrote for an un-named “Uberstar”, I can’t say who right now, until it makes the record. But I was secretly hoping she would not “cut” it, because I actually fell so in love with the song and wanted it for my own album. I knew it was a good song when I wrote it, and when I wrote the chorus and sang in to Raine and we continued to finish the song together and present it to this artist, I didn’t know how much the song meant to me. There are words in it that relate to commitment. In particular… I have a newborn, an infant anyway, and you know at night, in the middle of the night, when your child is sick and you can’t put them down, a sick baby wants to be held even while it sleeps, It’s very exhausting. And there’s a lyric in the song that says “Keep running into my arms, I’ll be careful with your heart, I’ll be your shelter, I’ll shelter you so hard, keep looking into my eyes, I see everything that you are, when you need to be carried, I’ll carry you so far” and I was singing this lyric, those words, to my child in the night when he was sick, for weeks. It actually motivated me to carry my baby. I couldn’t pull my strength from anywhere but this song and the song became so important to me and now I’ve given it up! It’s like “Oh my God, I think I didn’t mean what I said and it’s my song and I want it on my record.” So I’m secretly hoping she’ll cut the song but that she won’t put it on her record so I can put it on my record. We’ll see what happens. But that isn’t always what happens. Sometimes I write a song and it’s a great pop song and it’s not my song. Do I appreciate the song? Hell ya, but it’s not my song.
Mb: So you have no problem moving out of yourself and looking at another artist and…
CK: No problem at all. I remember this one time Bryan Adams and I were doing an event and we were rehearsing and I said to Bryan “Are you planning on singing “Heaven”?’ and he said “Ya” and I said ‘You know when I was a kid I used to stand in front of the mirror with a brush, and I had actions, and I sang “Heaven” in the mirror over and over and over again. Will you fulfill my rock and roll fantasy and let me sing it with you?” and he was like “Sure”. So I got up and sang “Heaven” with Bryan Adams! The reason I tell that story is that, when you love music and embrace all kinds of music… I’m like a jukebox. I play any song you ask me to, that’s the way my ear works and I’m not saying that in a haughty way, it’s pretty much the only thing I think I’m good at; being a mimic! (laughs) Because I can love all kinds of music it’s not difficult for me to sit down with an artist and realize who they are, what kind of music they represent and to emulate that in the moment when we’re trying to create the right song for them. It doesn’t mean that I’m always successful at it, I’m not. That’s just the planet I was born on. I’m a visionary for that artist, do you know what I mean?
Mb: Is that the actor in you?
CK: You know, that’s interesting. Maybe, because I also find acting really easy. It’s no problem for me to be in front of a camera and do what I’m suppose to do. I would have no problem taking on that job either. Definitely when I walk into the studio, when that artist is there, given the right incentive, given the right ingredients and recipe, that’s what comes togther. Being able to embrace that genre of music. I always tease Raine “Come on, let me in on an Our Lady Peace writing session, I’d love it” but of course they won’t let me.
Mb: Why not?
CK: I’m not going to be Yoko Ono!
Mb: (laughs) I see that you’re out playing a benefit with Diana Krall and I’ve also noticed you do a lot of philanthropic work.
CK: We’re putting on a concert and it’s for awareness of heart and stroke. Though that’s not my main charitable outlet, I do have a close connection because I lost my cousin years ago, who was my dearest mate in the world so it brings a lot of joy to my heart, literally, to be a part of something like that.
Mb: And what is the most dear charity to your heart?
CK: Warchild Canada has historically been our main focus. My husband I both traveled to nations that have programs setup by Warchild Canada, Darfur, Iraq and Ethiopia, so we do as much work as possible for them; concerts, albums, travel, awareness. It’s always a balancing act. Being part of the world always ends up being the best part, you know? It’s good to make sacrifices and be part of something bigger than yourself. That’s really become who we are and the way we live our lives.