|Jaclyn Guillou is busy raising money for Okanagan food banks, having already performed at fundraisers over the past week at West Kelowna Yacht Club, Summerland Yacht Club and the Vernon Yacht Club. She performs at the Kelowna Yacht Club on Thursday.|
In the Okanagan, it's jazz diva Jaclyn Guillou who will sing so others can eat.
"It was actually my Dad's idea," said Guillou during a phone interview from her home in Vancouver.
"He went into the food bank to see for himself what shape they were in," said Guillou. Realizing they needed help, he asked her if she'd be willing to do a fundraising concert for them.
Somehow the one concert turned into four different shows that benefit five different food banks throughout the Valley.
"The Okanagan is like my second home," said the singer, and as such, she's happy to help.
She performs at the Kelowna Yacht Club on Thursday and over the past week already did food bank fundraisers in West Kelowna, Summerland and Vernon.
Growing up in North Delta, Guillou said most of her family wasn't musical at all. However, her cousin just happened to be country singer Lisa Brokop.
"I was I about five years old when she got her first record deal and began singing on the big stages," said Guillou.
She recalled going to watch a show in Surrey and "following her around like a little puppy," being completely taken with what her famous cousin was doing.
But the desire to sing professionally didn't come right away and she actually reached a point in her teens when she wanted to quit singing altogether.
"My cousin Lisa told me not to give up, to keep going. She was a really good role model."
After high school, Guillou's parents moved to the Okanagan and she took off for Sheridan College in Toronto to study musical theatre.
Her move back to B.C. came when the Arts Club flew her to Vancouver to perform with them in a contract six years later.
"I was so happy to be back on the west coast, I just wanted to stay. I talked to them and they said they'd have a lot of work for me if I stayed."
Although things had gone very well for her in Toronto, she said, "I knew I could continue living in the big city working as fast as I could, or I could come back to Vancouver and work with an amazing theatre company and really be able to be more involved in the process instead of running around a big city."
She also felt the need to relax a little more, away from the fast pace life in Toronto. "The west coast is amazing for that because it's a lot more chill. There's less work because it's smaller, but B.C. is a really entrepreneurial place that supports independence in the arts," she said.
It also brought her closer to her family again.
The jump from musical theatre to jazz was something none of her friends or family saw coming.
"I began to feel fenced in and wanted to do my own thing," she said.
That's when she began going to jazz festivals, meeting jazz musicians and discovered a connection.
"I realized I connected better with the musicians than I did with the actors," she said.
The more shows she saw and musicians she met, the more she wanted to be there. "So, I jumped into the deep end, learned a bunch of tunes quickly and booked a bunch of gigs."
If she'd been looking for some kind of sign that she'd made the right decision, it came almost instantaneously when she not only received a booking with the 2009 Vancouver Jazz Festival, but proceeded to win the CBC Galaxy Rising Star award.
"It was great," she said, "and it also gave me the funds to put together my debut CD."
Although she's now known primarily as a jazz singer, Guillou is still exploring other types of music, including the genre that made her cousin Lisa famous - country.
"I'm also trying to get back to the roots of music in general and why I first wanted to sing, so I've started doing some country songs and more popular music," she said.
At the Kelowna concert, she'll sing covers of artists such as Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison and Elvis.
"They're songs my dad used to play when I was growing up and I'm feeling a connection to that old music," she said, but noted, "it definitely still sounds like jazz, as I use the jazz vehicle in the popular sense."
In the last year and a half, Guillou has been out widely touring the world promoting her debut CD, To The City, which she released in March 2011. From Poland to Mexico, she also played the Birdland Jazz Club in New York and did a full tour of Europe.
"The European audiences are so cool. They fill the house. It's a different vibe than in Canada because there you're part of the culture."
She's also heading back to New York and the rest of the U.S.
And while she does love to be home in B.C., touring here just isn't the same. "What's great about the U.S. and Europe is, you travel two hours and hit another big city, whereas touring in B.C., you drive five hours and hit another small town."
She's currently working on two different albums. The first will be a follow up to her debut, with a mix of covers and originals. The second one she's hoping to use as a fundraiser to help sick children charities and treatment centres.
The Kelowna show starts at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $25, with all net proceeds to the food bank. People are also asked to bring non-perishable items for the food bank's shelves as well.
"My dad learned that every dollar donated gets turned into $3 when the food bank uses it, so if I'm able to donate $5,000 from the show, it will work out to be $15,000 worth of food."
Who: Jaclyn Guillou
Where: Kelowna Yacht Club
When: Thursday, Dec. 6
Tickets: $25 at the door