Louise Burns, a Canadian singer-songwriter and former member of the girl band Lillix, just completed a month’s residency in Dawson City as the songwriter in residence.
The Vancouver musician says it was her boyfriend who found the opportunity online.
“I’m always complaining I have no time to write music, so when he saw the opening in Dawson, I thought it would be the perfect chance to explore songwriting and have time to be inspired by the surroundings.”
After looking at the impressive roster of former musicians in residence, she applied and was excited when told she had been accepted for the month of January.
“I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Dawson,” she says.
Burns has been writing music since she was 11 years old. During high school, she was part of a basement band named Tiger Lily. In 1997, when she was 15, the band was discovered and signed to a major label: Madonna’s Maverick Records. Burns, and her re-named band Lillix, hit the big time.
“It was an extreme experience,” she says. “We toured North America, Europe, Canada, Japan… it was a hell of a ride.”
She credits her rustic, rural childhood in Cranbrook, BC in helping her stay straight during those crazy times.
“We had chickens, a horse, a garden, and 10 acres,” she says. “When you’re shovelling manure, you stay grounded.”
But at the age of 19, Burns decided to go solo.
“I had grown up on the road and didn’t know who I was or if I liked music anymore,” she says of her decision to leave the band. “I needed to find myself.”
Over the next several years, Burns experimented with different types of music. Her favourite was girl band style music of the 50s and 60s, but she also tried her hand at punk, indie, folk and country music.
“I love all genres,” she says.
B//urns is releasing her third record this year, and the residency allowed time to write new songs. It also allowed her to focus.
Burns recognizes that by being versatile in her music, it is difficult to peg her style.
“I guess my brand is created by people drawn to my music,” she says.
She likes to write in a moody style about the darker side of life without being ashamed of it. A kind of happy/sad genre, she says.
“I like to embrace the dark side. I want to feel things you’re not supposed to feel and say it’s okay.”
She says she can’t explain why sad music makes her happy.
“It makes me feel something. I love all kinds of music, but I really love the contemplative stuff.”
Along with her solo career, Burns is also part of a band, called Gold and Youth, that will soon be putting out their second record. She also writes music for other musicians, has been a freelance music journalist and an announcer for CBC Radio 3.
And a much as she loves music, Burns admits that being a musician isn’t always financially viable. But she says that back in her Lillix days, she traded music integrity for dollars and is not interested in that now.
“I’m not that kind of performer anymore,” she says. “I know that if I work extra hard, I can make it work.”