As a jazz singer, what's more difficult: Hitting the high notes or telling people how to pronounce your name?
"Definitely the latter. It's extremely rare if someone pronounces my last name right - it's GHEE-you, like the Indian butter 'ghee' (with a hard G) and 'you,' as in a person. Guillou is a French name originating from Bretagne (where my grandfather was born), and there is only one other professional musician with the same last name, a famed composer and organist, Jean Guillou."
Growing up in North Delta, did music strike a chord with you at an early age?
"Yes, it totally did. I became involved with dance, music, singing and acting at a very early age.. My mother put me in Orff-Kodaly music lessons when I was four years old, and she admits that although I did have a lot of natural talent, it gave me incredible skills and tools that planted deep musical roots."
Did your cousin, country sweetheart Lisa Brokop, have anything to do with that?
"Oh my gosh, absolutely! Lisa was my hero when I was a kid. I would perform mini-concerts for her in my basement every time she came over because I wanted so badly to impress her. She was one of my idols. We did a tour recently and it was my first time performing with her. It was a highlight of my career, for sure."
What was your first reaction when you won the CBC Galaxie Rising Star award at the Vancouver jazz fest in 2009? "I felt stunned yet at ease. I hadn't really been taking myself that seriously about jazz because I was a bit too afraid to jump right into the deep end. I knew I wanted exposure and recognition, but when I got it I felt surprised, calm and hopeful. It was the best kind of encouragement I could have received at that point."
If you could have dinner with one musician, living or dead, who would it be?
"Wow, that's a tough question because there are many people who have inspired me that I want to meet. But these days I think about vocalese, the art of writing lyrics to pre-existing jazz standards, and so Kurt Elling comes to mind. He is one of the most extraordinary singers who uses the full range of his voice, singing with lots of depth and colour."
To date, what has been your most memorable experience in concert?
"I went down to Tacoma, Washington, for a rare intimate house concert by Sheila Jordan, and it completely changed me in so many ways. I was quite depressed and down in the dumps at the time, but after seeing her performance I felt completely healed. She is an 83-year-old singer, one of the very first singers to be recorded by Blue Note Records, and performed a concert for 25 people as a duo with her bass player.. While she sang, I couldn't stop weeping out of incredulous love for her rich soul and the beautiful sounds she was making. She touched me very deeply and displayed the most honest and true performance I've ever seen."
If you could bring three albums to a deserted island, what would they be?
"Nancy King's Live at Jazz Standard, Joni Mitchell's Mingus and Betty Carter's I Can't Help It."
Finish this sentence: I'd rather have a toenail ripped off than listen to....
"Pop music. There are some pop singers and bands I like, but very few. Mostly the thing that I find extremely annoying is that their voices sound like robots, which takes away the whole element of human vocals. It sounds so computerized. I know it's supposed to be 'feel good' music and not complex like jazz or anything, but sheesh, you think they could still make the voices sound normal."
And this one: If I didn't sing and make music for a living, I'd be...
"A massage therapist and/or naturopath. I've dealt with a ton of injuries throughout my previous career as a dancer, and now with my career as a musician (I also play piano). I am always consistently trying to figure out how to heal myself and relieve the pain."
What's next for Jaclyn Guillou?
"My show in White Rock on Oct. 12! I will be performing at First United Church with my quartet, which features my amazing piano player Bruno Hubert (he's recently become quite famous from a movie that was made about his life), James Meger (bass player born and raised in White Rock) and Andrew Millar (drummer extraordinaire from Summerland). I'm also gearing up for a show at The Vogue for Vancouver Eco-Fashion Week, some shows in Haida Gwaii and a TV feature on the Food Network. Things are busy busy, which keeps me happy happy!"
- as told to Tom Zillich
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