MARTINA SORBARA performing at Indigo (2300 Yonge), Friday (April 12), 7 pm; at Indigo (55 Bloor West), Saturday (April 13), 2 pm; at Indigo (Eaton Centre), Sunday (April 14), 2 pm; at Chapters (142 John), April 19, 7 pm; at Chapters (110 Bloor West), April 20, 2 pm; at Chapters Yorkdale, April 21, 2 pm. All in-stores free. www.martinasorbara.com
martina sorbara's lyrics hingeon moments when some simple truth forces you to deal with, rather than wallow in, pain. That, despite what others might say, makes her songs strong and more self-aware than sad. "When I first read that my songs had been interpreted as sad, I was kind of shocked," says the Maple, Ontario, native, too wired to order coffee as we sit at Café Lettieri on Queen West.
"The songs aren't sadder than anyone else's stories, really, it's just that their translation from emotions to words makes them feel intensely personal."
Her first major-label release, the evocative The Cure For Bad Deeds (Nettwerk), features piano movements heavy on the minor keys, the echoey-soft sound of two guitars (handmade by Sorbara herself from from raw Mississauga wood) and a rich voice that can growl the blues as easily as it evokes a mature range of folk-inspired roots rock and pop. Fresh off her record launch last Tuesday, she'll deliver the goods at a series of in-store performances this week and next.
Sorbara confronts heavy topics but has a sophisticated knack for complementing that vibe with teasing melodies, sexy croons and an ability to look inside herself and accept responsibility for what she sees.
Superimposing two photos her sister shot for the liner notes to created the effect of "me and myself sitting there," the young singer's artistic vision suggests self-awareness beyond her years. And she has been able to find collaborators who, because they really know who she is, also know how to tap into that vision.
"Adam Hay had been my drummer for the past three years," says Sorbara, her speaking voice lilting and crescendoing as if she'd rather be singing.
"We figured all those songs out together, the arrangements and the feel they have. So Adam was super-important before those songs were even recordings.
"Producer Jian (Ghomeshi) was a stabilizing force throughout the process. We had fun because it felt safe. We knew each other really well, and I wasn't scared of being misinterpreted, where it's, like, "Oh, that's nice, but it's not me.'"
Sorbara cloaks bad-deed details in sophisticated arrangements, thoughtful melodies and dry wit. She challenges the notions that an ugly experience is always pitiable, that feeling bad means feeling sad, that a chick with a guitar won't blame herself for her troubles.
She never lets go of her folk-rooted sound, but is resourceful enough to chase the pop train with a remix of the inevitable single, Bonnie And Clyde.
So is the music itself the cure for feelings stirred up by bad-deed-doers and desires?
The 23-year-old tugs at a torn-just-right Harley Davidson T-shirt and arches an eyebrow.
"There is no cure," the sweet voice insists more wisely than you'd expect. "There is no cure. And anyways," she adds slyly, "it's fun to do bad deeds."