Singer songwriter Kaya Fraser plays in the Central Library courtyard. Fraser plays a house concert March 3.

Turning hardship to harmony with Kaya Fraser

Victoria musician finds inspiration in the tougher times

Victoria-based musician Kaya Fraser knows from recent experience just how tough life can get.

Things turned for her in 2011, a year which saw Fraser lose both her mother and her marriage within a six-month time period. Music went on the back burner for about two years as she struggled with the events.

“I had to stop for a while,” Fraser said. “I was still playing and singing, (but) I just didn’t have the energy. Being an independent musician, you’re running the whole business end of things as well. And I was exhausted.”

Recently Fraser began to get back into the musical swing of things. She has a new backing band and has been booking gigs around Victoria, and is working on new songs with an eye to putting something out in the near future, whether an album, EP, online release or something else.

A Victoria transplant, Fraser comes with Montreal roots and a London, Ont. post-secondary education in English. It was while working on her PhD at Western University that Fraser started spending more time in the music scene and writing her own material.

Fraser had grown up playing guitar and singing in choir, and comes from a musical background. Her father was one half of the now cult-classic folk duo Fraser and DeBolt, who put out two albums in the early 1970s.

“My dad has written some incredibly beautiful songs, and I think I sort of grew up in the shadow of that a little bit,” Fraser said. “I was a little bit self-conscious of writing my own stuff. I didn’t think it was going to be my medium.”

Almost despite herself, Fraser found when she started to write music, the songs just kept coming.

And that was it for her. She quit her PhD program and turned her attention to her music.

“It was a tough decision,” Fraser said.

A first album came to fruition in 2007, titled Tremor and Slip and live performances surrounded its release. The following year Fraser moved with her then-husband to Victoria. In 2010 she released her second album, Open Horizon.

Much has changed since, including Fraser’s songwriting, which she sees evolving under the influence of life experiences and her present surroundings. She finds she’s still touching on the same subjects lyrically, with life and love at the forefront, but from a different perspective.

“When you’ve lived through it, it’s different. It puts more honesty in the lyrics,” Fraser said.

Coming from the vibrancy of music scenes in places like Montreal and London, Victoria can come off as a little sleepy, Fraser said. Rather than finding inspiration in a vibrant, bustling arts community, however, Fraser is happy finding her muse in natural surroundings, wildlife and the beauty of the city.

“What it lacks in that sheer activity level, there’s a peacefulness here that, for me, really feeds my introspective tendencies,” Fraser said. “Inspiration is coming from the place, the feel, the environment.”

She finds West Coast imagery seeping into her new songs, including the mountains, the ocean and wildlife. A new song “Raven,” for instance, features the titular character, which Fraser asks for guidance as she navigates her recently tumultuous life.

And the three-piece backing band has also brought out Fraser’s country-rock side.

“More sort of a Kathleen Edwards, Lucinda Williams Americana rock sound,” Fraser said.

Fraser and special guest Dan Frechette plays Victoria House Concert B (1726 Stanley), March 3 at 7:30pm. Tickets, $10 advance/$15, available at the door. Contact randrewbriggs@hotmail.com or 250-598-8047 for more info and kayafraser.com for updates on new material.

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