Eliza Bourgault is a classically trained harpist, pianist and singer-songwriter who is returning to Fringe World this year to launch her debut full-length album, The Girl in the Mirror. Bourgault wrote and performed all twelve tracks on the record, making it a solo album in the purest sense of the word, and its live launch with a one-off show at St Andrews Church on Friday, February 12 (get more info and tickets here) all the more special. MICHAEL HOLLICK caught up with Bourgault to find out more about her album, what inspires her music and what to expect from her upcoming performance.
What made you want to launch your first album at Fringe World?
The Girl in the Mirror was released in November of 2020, but I didn’t get to launch it properly at the time due to COVID, so I thought performing at Fringe World 2021 would be a nice way to do that.
Can you tell me more about the album?
There are 12 original songs on the record that I composed myself over the last couple of years. It is truly a solo record, as I am the only one featuring on it. I sing on all of the tracks, and there’s three songs where I accompany myself on the harp, where as the other nine have piano accompaniment.
Do you have a preference between the piano and harp?
I prefer piano, I don’t know why. I have been playing it for considerably longer, but I think mainly it comes down to the fact that I just find it easier to compose for piano. It comes more naturally. When I sit at the harp I feel that I can’t really improvise and I have to think about it a lot more, but when I’m at the piano, it just comes out, it’s more spontaneous.
In what way do you find the piano more “spontaneous?”
I think it may have to do with the way the actual instruments are. On the harp, if you want a sharp or a flat, you have to move a pedal so all the time you have to be consciously thinking, “oh, okay, if I need a different note then I have to move this foot to this pedal and move it up or down,” which definitely gets in the way of being spontaneous.
What has been the connection between you and Fringe up to this point?
I performed in 2018, time goes so quickly, and that was with Daryn Santana who plays guitar. We recorded an album together, and similar to this time around for me, we were releasing that when Fringe was starting. Just as I do now, we both saw a real synergy between our music and what Fringe offers.
What are you memories of your first Fringe?
It was a little mixed to be honest, it was quite challenging. Performing was great, but we were placed at Babushka in Leederville, which is an upstairs venue and there is no lift, so it was not ideal for me as I had to carry my 40-something-kilo instrument up and down each night we played there. But as I said, that was only a minor blemish, the performances were great and so were the audiences. I am really looking forward to sharing my music to an audience again.
So I am assuming there are no steep stairs at this year’s venue, St Andrews Church in Subiaco?
(Laughs) No, no, nothing like that. It should be a lot easier this time around!
And what made you pick St Andrews Church as a venue?
It happened a bit by accident. I regularly sing there as part of chapel choir two or three times a month on Sundays for services, so I’m very familiar with the church but I didn’t know that it would be available for Fringe. This time around, I was also looking for a venue with a piano, and so when I saw St Andrews on the list of prospective venues for Fringe artists, I was certain that this was the place for me. They have also been very kind and helpful to me so far.
How are you feeling about your upcoming show?
I am quite confident, and I am also glad that I have just the one show. I think it can be quite hard to sell out your shows if you have a lot of them, and spending time on promotions and that sort of thing really takes me away from the one thing I truly want to do, the music.
Thinking about other Fringe shows, what do you think makes your show stand out?
I think it’s just about the character and feel of the show. I’m there to share my music and share my message and it’s not so much about the spectacle of the show, it’s more about the sharing of my own story which makes it quite an intimate, personal show.
Do you find it difficult to be emotional and share your feelings when on stage?
Yes, for sure. I mean I haven’t done the show yet obviously, but most of the songs of the album were written with myself in tears at the piano, these songs are very real to me. What you hear on the album and when I play live is me genuinely getting in touch with my emotional side and relishing the ability to reveal that side of myself in the form of music.
Did you find it difficult to get to that emotional point within yourself when playing?
Yes, definitely. When I was younger, I sort of wanted to be sad, or some kind of heavy emotion, so that I could reach that certain feeling. I really like the lyrics that I write and how they help me understand myself and the outside world. For me, music is one outlet. With music, I can just be with myself and not have anyone tell me or try to help me feel better. It’s the music that helps me feel better.
Would you say music has a healing property? And that when you share your music that it has a similar response in others?
Yes, definitely. I have had some people tell me that they get teary when they were listening to my music, some emotions are universal. We of course all have different emotions, but things like grief or loss, do seem to be consistent across the world. This is why I am so excited to share this music with others.