By Jenny Henkelman
Ingrid Gatin’s got a piano, an accordion, and a tear-jerkingly beautiful voice. All of these things are perfectly suited to the average living room recital or concert at the café down the street. But something in Ingrid Gatin keeps pulling her out of her comfy Wolseley environs. To a cabin in the Saskatchewan woods; to a train crossing the lonely stretches of Northern Ontario; to a transformed gallery space in the Exchange.
Gatin’s first migration took place when her family moved from small-town Saskatchewan to Brandon, where started up in the musical way early. She’s studied piano since age four, and says she’s always benefited from a “hugely musical” family. “There’s always singing and music playing going on on both sides of my family,” she says. “I was always involved with choirs. A good, wholesome music upbringing.”
With that groundwork laid, Gatin was soon sucked into the music scene in Winnipeg when she moved here after high school two and a half years ago. Her friend Ida Sawabe played stand-up bass in a bluegrass band, and soon dragged Gatin along to practice. “They gave me a mandolin and they said, ‘Here’s how you play C and G and D. There, you know every bluegrass song!’ Ting, ting, ting! And then I was in a bluegrass band, the Magnificent Sevens.”
Maybe some would’ve been happy to be in a super cool roots band, plucking away on the mandolin, but not long after, Gatin added another instrument to her repertoire. “I love the accordion. There’s nothing better. I wanted to be an accordion player, so I bought one. I took two lessons and then I just played it.”
Even in these days of dwindling government funding, there are grants available—but if you want a chance at them, you’ve got to put in some elbow grease. Or at least some serious paperwork. “They make you work for it… you have to jump through hoops” Gatin says of the various grant programs she’s benefited from, including one that paid for her to spend a month in a cabin in Saskatchewan writing new material.
It’s Gatin’s determination and adventurous thinking that’s taking her places—literally. In June, she and Montreal’s Miss Emily Brown took an eastbound tour by train. A pricey train ticket can become free when you arrange to play shows in the recreation car along the way. Of course, you have to wade through a good amount of bureaucracy before the “All aboard!”, but Gatin says it’s well worth it. “We developed a great relationship with VIA and are going to do a few longer train trips, and play music in more of Canada.” Though Brown and Gatin had never met before Brown flew out to Winnipeg at the start of the tour (they met first over MySpace), the tour went swimmingly. “Emily and I were different enough to have a diverse show with just the two of us.”
It was a bit of a scramble to get her EP, Tin Heart, ready in time for the tour, but ready it was. The five-song disc is waltzy and heartfelt, and places heavy emphasis on Gatin’s vocals and the vocals of her background singers. “I’m really interested in the human voice as an instrument,” she says. “I like to keep the focus on the voice and the harmonies.”
Now that she’s back in town, Gatin’s keeping busy. In July she played a show at ace art with Bill Beso. The show was designed to take advantage of the sonic and spatial potentials of Alexandre David’s installation. “The installation piece takes up the whole gallery in a big curve shape, and ace art was looking for artists to explore this space in different ways. Everyone was into it. We all danced, I crawled under the structure and played eerily from underneath. There was candlelight, slow dancing, and improvised percussion, as well as of course the tuba, and a tambourine,” she says. “It was super.”
Train tours, experimental performance art—at this rate, Ingrid Gatin might just take over the world. Or maybe just more of our fair country. “My next dream tour idea involves crossing Canada in support of my new album, Broken Tambourine, where I will be touring small portions with several different musicians.” And there’s no doubt she’ll make it happen.
By Jenny Henkelman