Volume 96, Issue 95
Friday, March 28, 2003

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Holly McNarland is a lot cooler than your mom

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

"Did you see that cop?" Holly McNarland asks excitedly. "He was pretty!"

Aboard a tour bus with what sounds like a football team, she heads towards her next destination: the booming metropolis of Barrie, Ontario.

Despite the seemingly never-ending driving, McNarland sounds perfectly content. She alternates her answers to the interview questions while cooing at her four-year-old son, and talking at great lengths to her bus-mates about the physical prowess of our nation's law enforcement officers.

For a woman who has been deemed one of Canada's greatest voices by the media and fans alike, McNarland comes off as surprisingly down to earth. Then again, she's probably mastered the laid-back, on-the-road attitude necessary for trekking from coast to coast in a small bus packed with 11 other people.

"I think I'll feel more successful when I can bring my son on the road with me all the time, and I won't have to worry about crowding him in a small bus," she jokes wryly.

Her modest bus may not yet match the massive fleet heralded by such musical giants as U2, but McNarland is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars shining in the tradition of the most successful and talented singer-songwriters in Canada's rich history.

Her 1994 debut EP, Sour Pie, exposed her as an "angry young woman," and she was quickly grouped with Alanis and Co., due to scathing songs such as "Mr. Five Minutes," which described the shortcomings of a lover. Her debut full-length release, 1997's Stuff, went platinum in Canada, and McNarland steadily developed a reputation as one of Canada's most powerful live vocalists.

McNarland's latest tour is big news for fans of the raspy-voiced singer, as it follows a career hiatus that lasted nearly five years.

"I think I was getting sick of being on the road all the time and just wanted to concentrate on having my son," she explains.

As soon as she mentions her family, McNarland's voice loses its initially defiant tone, as she stops to consider the changes her life has undergone over the last decade.

"[Before the hiatus], I was becoming tired of everything being about me all the time," she confides. "I wanted to make some sacrifices."

During this period, McNarland and her husband moved away from a bustling life in Toronto to a more mellow existence out west in Vancouver. Now that her son has turned four, McNarland says she is ready to return to what she truly loves: making music.

Her latest album, Home Is Where My Feet Are, was released last year to enthusiastic fan response. However, despite the positive majority, there were a few sour apples who complained that she has gone "soft" because she's all but shed her "angry young woman" persona and adapted the role of rock 'n' roll mom.

When asked if she ever lets such criticism get to her, McNarland lets out a short, sharp laugh. "No, not really," she says. "I know my live shows still rock, so it doesn't really matter what [the media] thinks. I guess I've probably gotten a little bit softer anyway."

McNarland sounds sincerely happy, and she's adamant that life on the road is much more fun and rewarding with her family in tow. She admits that she's glad to be back on tour after such a long break.

"I really enjoy playing live," she enthuses. "I love playing and writing music. I like meeting fans and love to go out after the show and talk to people. Sometimes [talking to the] media can be fun, but it's probably most fun when you first start [playing music]. Eventually, you get used to it, but sometimes you're just so tired you don't feel like talking anymore."

Holly McNarland plays at Call the Office on Monday, Mar. 31 with Emm Gryner. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Doors open at 9 p.m..

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