(Bio info courtesy of the Justin Time Records website)
With a voice that glistens like a snowflake caught on a spider’s web in the late winter sun, warmed by a quilt of meandering musical threads that envelope even the most weary music fan, Coral Egan may well be Canada’s next international diva-in-waiting. Known predominantly in Quebec as a jazz vocalist, the release of My Favorite Distraction will serve as a captivating introduction for mainstream audiences to this beautiful and talented artist.
Jazz, R&B, folk, pop, soul, reggae – Coral has explored them all, and it is that eclectic approach to music that has shaped the sounds found on My Favorite Distraction (Justin Time Records). Hers is a unique, hybrid style, accented by bittersweet melodies and a certain solemnity, but lifted by a healthy dose of humour and observation.
The songs are incredibly personal, with lyrics that have something to say, and although rooted in her jazz heritage, Coral incorporates such a mélange of sounds on her first original recording that it makes it difficult to pigeonhole her to a particular musical genre.
Produced by longtime collaborator Charles Papasoff, whom Coral met when she was 16 and has worked with ever since, and recorded in Montreal’s Studio Frisson, My Favorite Distraction is in every way Coral’s project and demonstrates her completeness as an artist. Coral wrote the lyrics, composed the music, participated in the arrangements and played both piano and guitar on the album. Although taking the leap to recording her own material came with some trepidation, she wholly embraced the process. “It’s definitely the most challenging thing I’ve done,” she claims, which is saying something when you consider that she has performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, recorded a Jazz Box special for Musique Plus, and is a top-flight player on the Quebec Sr. beach volleyball tour. “People hearing me as a singer-songwriter is a lot more terrifying than people hearing me as a jazz singer.”
Her longtime association with Papasoff and his understanding of her needs as an artist was both a comfortable and reassuring element in the studio. “Charles did a wonderful job of letting me find the styles and the colours that I wanted for the songs,” Coral states. “Neither of us had done anything like this project before so it was very much new territory and every day we were learning. We didn’t want to limit ourselves, and I’m not sure we would have known how to.”
Unlike her first album, the 2002 Juno-nominated collection of jazz standards entitled The Path Of Least Resistance that was also recorded by Papasoff and completed in essentially a couple of weeks, the recording process for My Favorite Distraction ran from May-September 2003, including six-weeks of pre-production and nearly two months recording time. Many of the songs that would eventually appear on the album were drafted during the pre-production sessions, allowing for greater input from the musicians she worked with on the album.
Working with a core group comprised of respected Montreal musicians Gilbert Fredette on drums, Remy Malo on bass guitar, and Guy Kaye on guitar, the songs were recorded digitally through an analog board, to give the final outcome “as organic a feel as possible,” Coral explains, and rather than treat individual tracks as a part of the project, they approached every song as its own entity, using the vocal and melodies to link the pieces.
“We worked on each song in respect to its nature and didn’t necessarily focus on the continuity of the entire thing. Charles allowed me the room, the time and the space to really choose what I wanted for each song. I’m very easily influenced by the people I work with and he knows that so he really tried to give me the opportunity to get what I wanted to out of each song.”
Although the inevitable comparisons to other artists expanding the reach of jazz-based music – Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Sade to name a few – are likely to be made, Coral is comfortable with the connection. “If I’m going to be related to them, if I’m going to be brought into the pop world by association, and because the music’s accessible enough, then I will consider myself extremely lucky. It’s not something that you can anticipate with this kind of album.”
Growing up around music and the industry, it is not surprising her path has led Coral to this point. The daughter of well-known Quebec singer-songwriter-arranger Karen Young, who, while best known for her jazz recordings, over her career has increasingly incorporated a mélange of sounds from around the globe, creating an diverse and constantly evolving style of music. Coral drifted into music naturally, or as she puts it, “I always did it by interest and occasion.” She began singing occasionally with her mother in concert when she was only 11 years old, and was performing on her own by 16, but it would be more than a decade after her initial taste of stage life before she would see the inside of a recording studio for the first time.
“My mother didn’t try and turn me into a star. In fact, she was probably a little wary of it,” Coral says. Instead, she took her time and moved forward with pursuing her passion at a pace that made sense for her. The added maturity borne of having been involved in the business since such a young age brings an ageless beauty to her work that is captured in the grooves of each track on My Favorite Distraction.
“I always wanted to do music for the enjoyment of it,” she explains. “The last year has been incredibly enjoyable, and also incredibly committed. I’ve finally realized what I have to gain from immersing myself in this. I look at this as a crossroads, a beginning for me. Where I want to go is limitless if I’m given the opportunity.”