By Jake Sherman, special to the Revelstoke Review
Laila Biali returns to the United Church for the second time in two years on April 19th. Set to showcase her first album of original material, House of Many Rooms, Biali looks forward to giving Revelstokian’s one of the first tastes of her new material.
Performed live only four times to date, the pop-inspired album draws on current events, her time on the road with Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole and Sting, the experience of motherhood and everyday life in New York City.
The record marks a turning point in the 34-year-old musicians life — it is the first time she’s arranged for strings and a gospel choir, something she found she had a particular knack for.
Biali has been playing piano since she was four. As a classically trained musician, she developed a particular affinity for jazz and began to play professionally in her late teens.
The foray into original adult contemporary pop was brought about by her experiences touring with professional artists whose music, though heavily influenced by jazz, draws upon traditional folk and pop-rock influences.
“Musicians are inherently very spongy and we absorb everything around us, especially sonically,” said Biali, “I couldn’t help but be influenced by what I was hearing.”
The release of the record was an extremely intimate experience for Biali, who recently had her first child. The vocal and piano tracks were done in her home studio in New York while the rest of the record was completed in the Queens West district of Toronto. Her son’s heartbeat, recorded originally on her husbands iPhone at a checkup during her pregnancy can be heard on the track Home.
Zach was born at the peak of Biali’s musical career, just after she had been hired to work with Sting. Little Bird, written on the subway, profiles Biali’s experience of childbirth — it probes the life she might have led had she not had her child.
The record also touches on friends she’s lost. “I’m always looking for that silver lining,” says Biali, “I’m a glass half-full person innately. As I write songs about friends I’ve lost and friends who’ve lost friends, I acknowledge the darkness of it, but am always searching for the light.”
Biali promises to take her listeners on “a cinematic cathartic journey” and is increasingly excited about letting these songs breathe through the experience of live performance. She feels that songs are dynamic and take on the unique personalities of the individual band members and venues they are performed in. In that way, her music retains some of her classical training in jazz; a certain spirit of spontaneity Biali calls a “psychological training in presence.”
“We really want to take people on a journey and we want it to be fun,” Biali says. “We like to make people smile and engage them. We take them on a ride where they can experience the full burst of emotions that are in this album. We want to give them everything we have. Hopefully people are impacted by it in a personal way”
Laila Biali performs with her band The Radiance Project at the United Church on Sunday,