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The singer/songwriter talks about her 1,300-member group and her nostalgia-tinged new First Move EP
STACEY with BABYGIRL at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West), Wednesday (September 20), 8 pm. $10. ticketfly.com.
Like so many modern relationships, STACEY’s latest record owes a lot to the plucky boldness of a stranger – and a smartphone app.
For a year, the Toronto-based singer/songwriter hunted for a producer to work with on her sophomore EP, cold-emailing top names like Rick Nowels, who has produced Lana Del Rey, Fleetwood Mac and Madonna.
Then out of the blue in the summer of 2015, she received a message on Instagram from Alan Day of the Massachusetts pop-punk band Four Year Strong. Day was intrigued after stumbling across a grainy, black-and-white video of STACEY singing the moody piano ballad First Move alone in her bedroom.
“Alan messaged me and asked, ‘What’s going on with these songs, are these your songs?’” STACEY explains over the phone. “I told him I was looking for a producer, he said he was trying to produce a little more….”
It turned out Day was coming through Toronto on tour and suggested they try co-producing a song together at his friend Derek Hoffman’s Fox Sounds studio.
Anyone who’s dated in the post-swipe generation knows that just because two people have a common goal doesn’t necessarily mean there will be chemistry. But STACEY, Day and Hoffman (whose studio serendipitously happened to be across the street from STACEY’s Parkdale apartment) instantly hit it off, and by the end of the first day they had finished First Move.
That song became the title track of STACEY’s Day and Hoffman-produced First Move EP (out September 20), a five-song collection of lush, nostalgia-tinged pop based mostly on personal romantic experiences.
“When I’m writing, it’s like stream of consciousness. I’m trying to capture a specific moment as accurately as possible,” says STACEY. For example, Trouble Is (which has a Lana Del Rey level of sad-girl sublimity) is about a night at the Horseshoe, making eyes with a crush who was stringing her along.
STACEY writes her songs on piano, which she’s been playing since she was seven. She grew up in Carlisle, Ontario, a one-intersection small town between Hamilton and Guelph, and moved to Toronto to study industrial engineering at the University of Toronto.
In 2013, she released her first self-titled EP of stripped-down piano songs paired with soulful, clear-eyed vocals and began trying to make inroads into the city’s music industry. After playing a show with Martha Meredith of synth pop band For Esmé in 2014 and chatting with other fellow musician friends, STACEY decided to throw a barbecue for all the women she knew in the industry, which at the time totalled six people.
“We had this really magical night, sharing experiences and tips, things to celebrate and things that are hard to navigate,” says STACEY.
She started a private Facebook group to continue the discussions and planned monthly get-togethers in her living room.
Now, the Toronto Women in Music (TWIM) group has more than 1,300 members and regularly hosts women-fronted music showcases (past performers include Blunt Chunks, Beliefs, Vallens and Etiquette) and meet-ups featuring a range of speakers from the industry, including CBC Radio 2’s Raina Douris, Charlotte Day Wilson and reps from labels and FACTOR, the non-profit music grant program.
In July, TWIM hosted legendary pop songwriter Shelly Peiken, who has written for Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, as well as the Meredith Brooks’s song Bitch. “It was so cool. Shelly sang Bitch along with like 60 Toronto Women in Music members,” says STACEY.
Another speaker was Carla Ciccone, who wrote a blind item about receiving unwanted advances from Jian Ghomeshi for the website xoJane years before he was arrested and acquitted for sexual harassment and assault.
Although TWIM began as a support network for women hustling in the music industry, it’s since grown into a space where women can openly discuss everything from songwriting and publishing to misogyny, diversity and intersectional feminism.
“Sometimes it’s just about sharing knowledge and learning how to further your career, and sometimes it’s really heavy-hitting” says STACEY. “But the feeling you get after you’re at one of the meetings is always inspiring.”
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