New indie label brings Siberry full circle in musical journey

from the Ottawa Citizen; July 22, 1996
By Tom Harrison
Southam Newspapers

The voice that answers the phone belongs to the president of Sheeba Records and to the company's sole recording artist.

Jane Siberry sits in her Toronto office, taking phone calls and meeting appointments. So far, she is enjoying the challenge and advantage of being her own company.

"I only have to sleep with myself to get to the top, which is a big improvement," she jokes.

After eight years with the Warner Bros.-owned Reprise, Jane Siberry has opted out of recording for a large corporation with all its attendant pressures in order to cater to her fans in a more immediate, personal fashion.

This means she soon can publish songbooks of her previous eight records (not counting contributions to various anthologies and soundtracks such as The Crow, which has yielded her biggest hit, It Won't Rain All the Time), as well as her poetry and offer "more bang for the book" with each Sheeba release.

First is a collection of recordings of songs Siberry wrote between the ages of 16 and 20, suitably titled Teenager. It will be followed by a "live" album and then an album of new material.

"There's an extra irony to starting out a new label with songs that are even older than my first record," notes Siberry, who performs free Wednesday evening as part of a series of summer shows at Rideau Falls Park.

"They're more than 20 years old now and there's no reason to record them other than, perhaps, that I'm looking back at them now that I've crossed the line of 40."

Chances are she might not have recognized the person who sat alone, cross-legged in her bedroom, strumming her guitar, but must have liked her anyway - enough to record an album's worth of her under-ripe art.

"I didn't recognize the person who wrote those songs sometimes," the songwriter admits, "but in a way that helped because I wasn't so emotionally attached to them. In fact, I deliberately tended to choose the naive songs and innocent songs and rejected the songs that sounded 'old.'"

When Teenager is released, it will complete a circle. If art imitates nature, it sometimes also imitates business. Not only have Siberry's records passed through stages of complexity to more subtle levels of expression to the reclaimed innocence of Teenager, she once again is the only act on her label.

"I hope one day to put out records by other artists," she says.

In the few months since Sheeba started, Siberry has been on the receiving end of press kits and demos from hopeful recording acts. With her experiences of both indie and major labels, it has given her cause to consider the commitment she's made.

"The last thing I want," she says, concern in her voice, "is to have people look at me the way I looked at a record company."