Maria Was All In Her Head ... So She Just Let It Out

by Katherine Monk
Vancouver Sun, p. C3
24 Aug 1995

For a woman of small stature, Jane Siberry's presence looms large in any room.

An odd phenomenon considering that her voice is often difficult to hear over ambiance, that her frame has a fine Victorian delicacy and that her music is often so loose it drapes over structure instead of fitting any defined form.

Indeed, Siberry's power doesn't seem to come from any place familiar. It comes from somewhere deep inside and out of her two piercing blue eyes.

Before a scheduled interview to discuss her new release, Maria, which hits the store shelves next month, Siberry critiqued the previous broadcast interview session.

"I don't think it went too well," she told the director who was a bout to pack up.

"I think the questions were too general, that you were too far away from me ... that we should do it all over again."

Without anger, the request had a heft that was impossible to brush off. The entire interview was re-taped -- because Siberry believed it should be.

And these days, what Siberry believes is what Siberry knows -- is what Siberry is.

"I no longer question what's in my head ... I think I've finally found the self confidence to just go ahead and believe in it -- believe that what comes out is okay and I don't have to doubt it any more," she says once our session gets under way in one of Yaletown's fashion gnosheries.

The lesson, Siberry says, was a long time coming. But Maria marks its translation into action. She recorded the entire album in just three days, without deliberation.

"It was in my head and I knew what I wanted and all I had to do was get it out there. I never wanted to make a jazz record, but that's what it turned out to be, so I just accepted it for what it is."

The recording process was so fluid she didn't even enlist the services of a producer.

"I didn't need one. Everything was there," she says, taking another bite of her meat-free munch -- punctuating the answer with a big fat mental period.

The confidence just seems to pour off her now as she waits for the next question -- making a visible effort to throw her shoulders back and square, still training her eyes on mine.

The reasons for Siberry's apparent spiritual self-centering are varied. She met someone in Washington, D.C., is in the process of moving to New York to be closer to the new love, released a lot of internal pain that she'd been carrying for years and discovered the relationship between her body and soul through exercise and yoga -- and sex.

But before she indulges questions about any recent revelations, she's distracted by a long-haired reader who's taken a seat next to our table.

"He's too close. It's not right. I don't want to continue because he seems too alert."

She's right, of course. Most people in the restaurant noticed her walking in -- too cool to approach, but glancing over every few minutes.

She gets up and asks him politely to move. It's his lucky day: kicked out of a seat by Jane Siberry.

She comes back to the uncomfortable metal chair, pulling down her tight T-shirt with the gesture of tidy accomplishment.

Back to business.

"I've discovered that there are really two sides to myself.

"There's a side of me that's excellent at organizing things. And I'm quite good at that -- very good at that. Things like getting things ready for the studio and taking care of the business side of things.

"I don't like to say things more than once," she says, her face somehow curling up in a smile, radiating energy through her surprisingly freckled skin.

"But I find that mind space really tiring. I'm happiest when I'm creative -- I know that. That's when everything about me comes together," she says, blue eyes locked on thought.

Everything Siberry is saying you can hear on Maria, a soaring musical experience that brings spontaneous, acoustic rhythms together with Siberry's newly liberated voice.

"It's true. I notice it more in the interviews that I have to do; that I speak with a deeper voice, that my face changes shape and opens up -- and when I'm singing, that means my vibrato is rounder and deeper.

"It's all related to my growth as a person."

Maria is officially to be released in Canada and the U.S. on September 12. Siberry expects to tour to promote it sometime in the fall with a Vancouver date expected around November.

[Black and white photo: "Jane Siberry: Happiest when being creative."]